LIBERATING FOOTBALL TRAVEL

Fulham

Riverside club of long and charming tradition

A fan’s guide – the club from early doors to today

Scenically set by the Thames, Fulham stayed in the Premier League in 2022-23 for the first time in a decade. With the Riverside Stand now open, raising capacity from 25,000 to nearer 30,000, the extra revenue should make the buoyant club ignore the prospect of life without prolific Serbian striker Aleksandar Mitrović, another potential Saudi import.

Formed in 1879 and based at picturesque Craven Cottage since 1896, the Cottagers played top-flight football for most of the immediate post-war period, their game dictated by ‘Maestro’ Johnny Haynes, a supreme passer of the ball for Fulham for nearly two decades. Fellow stalwart, full-back George Cohen, was a 1966 World Cup winner.

Although by then stuck one division lower, Fulham attracted the likes of George Best, Rodney Marsh and Bobby Moore to entertain packed crowds in the mid 1970s. Fulham even made their only FA Cup final to date, a 2-0 defeat to West Ham in 1975. Thereafter, the club sank to its lowest ebb and nearly went under.

Bought by Egyptian millionaire Mohamed Al-Fayed in 1997, shortly before his son Dodi died in the same car crash that killed Princess Di, Fulham saw money flood in, and the likes of Ray Wilkins, Kevin Keegan and Jean Tigana were hired to take Fulham back to the top flight. It was Tigana, and his fellow Frenchman, striker Louis Saha, who guided the club to the Premier League in 2001.

And there they stayed, coach Roy Hodgson leading a near-unbelievable campaign to avoid relegation in 2008. One season later, they even made the inaugural Europa League, reversing a 3-1 away defeat to Juventus to beat the Italians 4-1 at home thanks to a heroic chip by Texan Clint Dempsey.

Defeat in extra-time to Atlético Madrid in the final was cruel – but Dempsey, Danny Murphy and Zoltán Gera had proved that Fulham could hold their own in Europe. As Martin Jol attempted to match Hodgson’s success, Dempsey was replaced by Dimitar Berbatov, whose unmatched class stood out on many occasions. Berbatov’s departure halfway through the 2013-14 campaign proved ominous, and Fulham were duly relegated.

Changes were already in the air when Al-Fayed sold the club to US-Pakistani billionaire Shahid Khan. He made one immediate decision: to remove the bizarre statue of Michael Jackson erected by Al-Fayed for the most cloudy of reasons. Sure enough, after relegation, Al-Fayed was the first to blame the statue’s removal for Fulham’s demise.

Noted disciplinarian Felix Magath stayed on for a winless first month in the Championship and it wasn’t until former Yugoslav international Slaviša Jokanović had his feet firmly under the table that Fulham picked up. Scottish midfielder Tom Cairney gained his first cap as he scored vital goals to take his club into the 2016-17 play-offs. With teenager Ryan Sessegnon earning global praise and a Euro under-19 winner’s medal for England in 2017, Fulham overcame the disappointment of a play-off defeat to go on a 23-game unbeaten run in 2017-18.

Sessegnon and Cairney combined for a superior Fulham to score the only goal of the 2018 Play-Off Final against Aston Villa. With Serbian international Aleksandar Mitrović on the books and 2014 German World Cup winner André Schürrle on loan, Fulham should have had too much firepower to drop out of the Premier League in 2018-19. 

Sessegnon soon moved to Spurs but Mitrović and Cairney remained, along with motivational manager Scott Parker, determined to lift the club where he saw out his playing days. This he achieved in the most dramatic of circumstances, an extra-time win at Wembley over resurgent local rivals Brentford. A brace from Joe Bryan, including a long-range free-kick, sealed the deal. 

Way off the pace in 2020-21, Fulham replaced Parker with Marco Silva and witnessed Mitrović hit a stupendous run of form for club and country, scoring over a goal a game at one stage and taking Serbia to the 2022 World Cup. For half the season, Fulham even looked like European contenders, before an eight-game Mitrović ban saw form nosedive in the spring.

An average home gate of 23,000-plus in 2022-23 should be augmented by the extra numbers provided by the expanded Riverside Stand, although spiralling ticket prices and corporate touches may yet lead to Fulham losing its cachet as a quaint, old-school retreat by the Thames.

Ground Guide

The field of dreams – and the story behind it

Craven Cottage is one of the most beautiful grounds in the UK, with the Thames on one side, a lovely old red-brick stand on the other, and a walk through Bishops Park beforehand. The stadium is oriented north-south along the riverbank. The Johnny Haynes Stand on the eastern side of the pitch, along Stevenage Road, was built in 1905 by Archibald Leitch. 

Opposite, the rebuilt Riverside Stand beside the Thames now offers stunning views over London from the higher rows, the upper half now open after the lower was unveiled before the 2022-23 campaign with a friendly against Villarreal. The reconfiguration not only raises overall capacity to near 30,000, these extra (padded) seats should increase match-day revenue significantly. 

Outside, the riverside walkway is now uninterrupted, while above, a rooftop pool is open to the sky, Fulham aware of the importance of communal use.

Between the southerly Putney End and the Haynes Stand, a house with ‘The Fulham Football Club’ written on its gable-end stands has balconies viewing the action: this is the Cottage, so-called after an 18th-century hunting lodge that once stood where the centre circle now is.

The riverbank side of the Putney End is reserved for away fans, though the so-called neutrals zone alongside is no longer in operation.

getting here

Going to the ground – tips and timings

Most take the District line (Wimbledon branch) to Putney Bridge, then it’s a 15-min walk, most of which is through lovely parkland. Turn left out of the station, then right along Ranelagh Gardens. Turn right past the Eight Bells pub, then left on Gonville Street for the Putney Bridge approach road. At the foot of the bridge, it’s a Thameside stroll through the gardens of Fulham Palace and Bishops Park to arrive at the stadium.

The sat nav code for Craven Cottage is SW6 6HH. There is no parking at the ground and street parking on match days is a no-no. Pay & Display bays are limited to 1hr time slots and traffic wardens are draconian. The only nearby alternative is the car park at Fulham Broadway Centre (SW6 1BW), which closes 2.5hrs before kick-off and only reopens 1hr after the final whistle, meaning that drivers must pay at least £17 for a 6hr stay. It’s right behind Stamford Bridge, two Tube stops from Putney Bridge.

getting in

Buying tickets – when, where, how and how much

Tickets are available from the office (Mon-Fri 9.30am-4.30pm, from 9.30am weekend match days, from 9am weekday matches) on the Stevenage Road side of the stadium, over the phone (0203 871 0810, Mon-Fri 9am-5pm) with a £1.50 levy per ticket and £2.50 per transaction and online, which carries a £1.25 fee per ticket. To do that, you need to create a OneFulham account.

For a typical home match, tickets go on sale a month in advance to members, then to season-ticket holders two days later, then those with a previous booking history (up to four per person) four days later. Membership costs £50, £30 for under-17s and allows a £5-£10 discount on all areas of the stadium including the Riverside.

For those overseas looking to buy tickets in the neutral zone, email enquiries@fulhamfc.com.

The cheapest seats in the family zone of the Johnny Haynes Stand start at £25, £20 for seniors and 18-21s, £10 for juniors. Prices along this long sideline go up to £41-£59, £35-£53 discounted, £18-£35 for juniors. Behind the goals in the Putney and Hammersmith Stands, it’s £35 across the board, £25-£30 discounted, £10-£18 for juniors. 

Seats, from Bronze to Platinum, in the new Riverside Stand cost serious money, around £100, £80 discounted and £55 for juniors. The upper level is the most premium of the match-day hospitality packages.

what to buy

Shirts, kits, merchandise and gifts

Facing the back of the Johnny Haynes Stand, the modest club shop (Mon-Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 11am-4pm) has long queues outside on match days. Once you get inside, you’ll find the 2023-24 home kit of white with black sleeves lined with Adidas piping of alternate white and red. The wording on the back of London’s Original Football Club might irk a few opposing supporters.

The away choice of luminous pink, the same shade as a STABILO felt tip, is rarely a wise move at any club. The retro range includes 1975 era with actual collars and the Italianate 1989-90 shirt with the Teleconnect sponsorship in italicised lettering, back when designers knew what they were doing.

stadium tours

Explore the ground inside and out

As befits this friendly football club, the tour (£25, 5-15s and over-65s £20) is a personal affair, cheerfully delivered. It starts from the Johnny Haynes statue, pointing out memorabilia, changing rooms and entertainment area, and taking you to sit in the dug-outs, with plenty of facts and context along the way. 

Tours generally take place three times a day, at 11am, 1pm and 3pm, can be booked online after registration.

Where to Drink

Pre-match beers for fans and casual visitors

The most popular stop-off, after a cup of tea at the authentically retro River Café opposite Putney Bridge Tube, is the Eight Bells round the corner, mobbed with away fans on match days. Close by, where Fulham High Street meets the New King’s Road, a cluster of pubs should be less busy – The Temperance with TV sport and craft beers, the somewhat chic Kings Arms and the family-friendly Golden Lion.

For a riverside pint, over the bridge the venerable Duke’s Head, where the Boat Race sets off, has been serving beers for 150 years or more. In similar vein, the other side of the bridgehead, The Boathouse has a large terrace overlooking the Thames. Away from the river, just off Putney High Street, the Coat & Badge is tucked away behind a laurel hedges.

On the other side of Stevenage Road from the ground, halfway to Hammersmith Bridge, The Crabtree also welcomes away fans, with a beer garden and river views.

At the ground, The Flag operates behind the Johnny Haynes Stand on match days with a limited number of places available by registration. The fee of £10 goes towards a drink and hot snack. 

CITY

LOCAL CLUBS

AWAY DAYS