Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Fulham FC - Craven Cottage

15th April 2000

Fulham 4-0 Sheffield United

There were surprisingly few matches in London to choose from on this particular Saturday afternoon, so I plumped for Fulham as I had always wanted to see the wonderfully incongruous brick cottage in the corner of the ground.  

Fulham at this time were still steadily making progress up through the leagues following Mohammed Al Fayed’s purchase and subsequent heavy investment in the club, three years earlier.  

It was over thirty years since they had last enjoyed life at England’s top table and, I am assuming, this lengthy period in the lower echelons was the reason for an inordinate amount of interest being paid on the terraces to the fortunes of Brentford FC, rather than the club's more geographically natural rivals Chelsea or QPR.   

Looking along the Stevenage Road.

The wonderful Cottage Pavilion, designed and built by Archibald Leitch in 1905.

This particular game against Sheffield United was taking place on what the club had apparently designated Fulham Football Club’s Racial Harmony Day.  The only obvious outward sign of which, was the presence of a Caribbean steel band pleasantly bing-bonging away on the pitch when I entered the ground.  Mind you, we later had Egyptian Al Fayad introducing manager-in-waiting Frenchman Jean Tigana (who would take over from caretaker-boss German Karl-Heinz Reidle in the summer) to the Craven Cottage faithful which, I suppose, did lend a multinational aspect to the proceedings.

Pre-match entertainment.

The stand on the river side.

The Putney End - replaced by covered seating in 2004.

The game itself turned on the ordering off of United’s central defender Shaun Murphy early in the second-half.  Prior to that point there had been little to chose between the sides, Terry PHELAN having converted Fulham’s one real opportunity on 12 minutes.

But once the visitors were reduced to ten men, Fulham’s Lee CLARK netted twice in as many minutes to stretch the score to 3-0.  Andy MELVILLE’s 72nd minute header compounded the misery for those hardy souls from Sheffield who had already been obliged to stand in the pouring rain on the uncovered visitors’ end.

Panorama of Craven Cottage, Fulham.

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