Fulham
Craven Cottage




Ground No. 94
Visited - Sunday 7th May 2006
Result - Fulham 1-0 Middlesbrough
Competition - FA Barclays Premier League
Attendance - 22,434

With the 2005/06 season quickly coming to an end, I had a number of venues planned to visit before the summer, and the last one on the list was Craven Cottage, home to Fulham.

When we last played Fulham away, they were ground sharing with QPR at Loftus Road, which meant that I’d never had a chance to go to Craven Cottage with Wolves, so this was a ground I was quite looking forward to visiting.

As usual, I got the train down to London, with the journey going well, arriving into Euston at just gone midday. From there, it was a quick couple of journeys on the tube, before emerging at Putney Bridge station in the bright sunshine. As anyone who has visited Craven Cottage will know, the walk from Putney Bridge up the banks of the Thames and through Bishop’s Park has to be the most scenic route to a ground in the entire country. Of course it helped that it was a nice day, and early summer, but it’s ironic and perhaps surprising that one of the most peaceful and refreshing treks between station and ground is in the UK’s largest and most built up city!

After arriving at the ground, it was another pleasant sight that greeted me, in the form of the Stevenage Road Stand. The pictures that I’d seen of it online or in books really didn’t do it justice, with it being easily the most impressive fa├žade of a stand in England, on a par with Leitch’s other masterpiece, the Main Stand at Ibrox, both of which are a lot better than the vastly overrated East Stand at Highbury.

The rest of the exterior, although less steeped in history, is equally impressive, fitting into its surroundings well with the two new ends both looking quite pleasant, although on closer inspection, obviously temporary in nature. With the ground pressed right up to the River Thames, it wasn’t possible to see much of the Riverside Stand, but the rest of the ground made up for that, and with the surrounding area, the ground really did strike you as a great place to visit.

After having gone to the club shop, there was still a fair bit of time to wait until the turnstiles opened, so I decided to go back to the tube station, and make the short journey westwards to Stamford Bridge, having a look around there before coming back again, ready in time to be one of the first people in.

In the days leading up to the game, I’d decided to purchase tickets in the Putney End, partly due to there being less obstructive pillars in the way, and after entering through the turnstiles, it seemed to be a good choice when going up to my seat and seeing the perfect view it presented. Despite being a temporary structure, if it wasn’t for the scaffolding underneath, and metal/wooden floors, then it would have been difficult to tell that the stand wasn’t permanent, with it being an impressive size, and well covered by the large roof above.

To our left was the Riverside Stand, which was a good looking stand, all-seated and raised above pitch level with executive boxes at the rear of a single tier. Opposite was the Hammersmith End, similar in design (and age) to the stand that I was in, and it did indeed look impressive, despite it also being of a temporary nature. Finally to the right was the Stevenage Road (or Johnny Haynes) Stand, which was the oldest structure at the ground, having two tiers of seating, covered by a pitched roof with a nice looking gable in the middle. Of course, one final structure that can’t be forgotten about was situated in the corner to our right, the famous cottage. Having seen the back of it on the way in, the front was just as impressive, with an ornate balcony being the most visible feature. Unfortunately, a lot of it was hidden from view by the rake of the new Putney Stand, so that was a shame, but it was certainly a nice addition all the same.

Despite having tickets for the neutral area, one surprise was that with Middlesbrough fans to our left, and Fulham to the right, there was in fact absolutely no segregation between the two sets of supporters at all. I was able to walk all over the stand taking pictures, so that was good, and even underneath, both sets of fans were mixing, with thankfully there being no sign of any trouble.

After having taken enough pictures, the game eventually got started, with the two teams coming out and having to do the ridiculous line up and shaking hands, that has now become a feature of Premiership football.

With the UEFA Cup Final only three days away, understandably Middlesbrough had elected to field a rather inexperienced side, but what was a bit of a (nice) surprise was later when it was revealed that 15 of the 16 man squad were born within 25 miles of the ground. Certainly a rare thing in today’s game, and that’s not even mentioning that the other member of the squad (Malcolm Christie) was also English!

Thanks in part to their less youthful line-up, Fulham started the brightest and had a couple of chances to take the lead early on, but for poor headers by Bocanegra and Collins John. Middlesbrough weren’t content to sit back and attacked themselves, but for the majority of the opening period, it was the home side who looked most lively, and would have been disappointed to go into the break still at 0-0.

Early on in the second half, ‘boro managed to get the ball in the back of the net, only for the referee to disallow it for handball, and after that it went back into the pattern of the first half, with Fulham bossing the game against their younger opponents. Unfortunately, despite a couple of chances for the home side, the game looked to be petering out, so when in the 84th minute Heidar Helguson was bundled over in the area, it was a relief to see a goal scored, with Helguson himself converting the spot kick to give Fulham the lead. Other than Colin Cooper coming on to warm applause, playing what looked like the final game of his career, there was little else to get excited about, and the game finally finished 1-0, sending the Fulham supporters home in a good mood.

Throughout the game, the atmosphere had been mixed. The neutral area where I was sitting was mostly made up of Fulham fans, but with a lot of them being families then the atmosphere around me wasn’t especially great, and bordering on annoying thanks to the widespread distribution of balloon type things that fans hit together to make a ‘tinny’ sound. The travelling Middlesbrough fans made the occasional noise, reciprocated by the home support in the Hammersmith End, but on the whole, the game (and crowd) had a rather laid-back feel to it.

After leaving the ground, I eventually went back into central London for a few hours before getting the train home.

Overall, it had been quite a good day out, despite not being the biggest venue, it was certainly one of the nicest that I’ve visited, and I’ll look forward to going back one of the days. Despite vague plans to see some of the play-off games, this turned out to be my final match of 2005/06, drawing to a close a season that had at times been testing, both on the wallet in terms of increasing ticket prices, and also the patience thanks to Glenn ‘tactical genius’ Hoddle, but as ever, there had been some interesting grounds seen along the way, and Craven Cottage was right up there with the best, so roll on 2006/07!




Rear of the Stevenage Road Stand


Rear of the Stevenage Road Stand


Some of the detailing on the Stevenage Road Stand


The Club Shop


Rear of the Hammersmith End


Rear of the Riverside Stand


Rear of the Putney End


Putney End/Riverside Turnstiles


The Cottage


The Cottage


A closer look at the Cottage


The Riverside Stand


The Hammersmith End


The Stevenage Road Stand


The Gable on the Stevenage Road Stand


The Stevenage Road Stand


The Hammersmith End


The Riverside Stand


Craven Cottage Panoramic 1


Craven Cottage Panoramic 2




 

No comments:

Post a Comment