By the banks of the River Thames in London sits what is arguably the most picturesque football ground in England. We take a trip to Craven Cottage, home of Fulham FC.
With its wooden seats, riverside setting and elegant redbrick Edwardiana, 25,700-capacity Craven Cottage – home of Fulham FC – is a glimpse into football as it used to be. Florescent corner flags, advertising hoardings and shirt sponsorship look as out of time here as a cell phone in a Goya masterpiece.
Fulham is one of London’s wealthier addresses, and its football club – hemmed in between a mighty river and attractive housing, has long lived in the shadow of its more illustrious neighbours up the road in Chelsea.
But while Stamford Bridge has its cantilever stands, tiers of blue bucket seats and an annual foray into the Champions League, Craven Cottage comes loaded with a charm that is hard to rival anywhere in England.
Fulham’s trophy cabinet might be threadbare in comparison and the club currently languishing in the second tier of English football, but there have been high points. In 2010 Fulham made it to the Europa League final, where it was narrowly beaten 2-1 in extra time by Atlético Madrid. [Continues…]
A Short History of Craven Cottage
Work began on what is now Craven Cottage stadium in 1896.
The ground is named after a former royal hunting lodge, which stood on what is now the centre circle for more than 300 years. The current ground – designed by Archibald Leitch, who also designed Rangers’ Ibrox stadium in Glasgow – cost £15,000 to build at the time and included the current ‘cottage’ pavilion at the Putney End.
Craven Cottage hosted several football matches during the 1948 London Olympics and has also been used for numerous internationals by Australia, USA and Republic of Ireland, and for the Women’s Champions League final of 2011.
When new ownership in 2013 ushered out the reign of Mohammed Al-Fayed, so too went the famous statue of Michael Jackson, erected to celebrate his one visit to the ground. The statue is now in the National Football Museum in Manchester. [Continues]
The Match Day Experience at Craven Cottage
The Johnny Haynes stand (formerly Stevenage Road Stand) is the oldest and most traditional of the stands at Craven Cottage. The wooden seats and pillars can make for uncomfortable viewing but it remains largely unchanged since it was completed in 1906.
The Putney End is the only non-segregated stand in England, permitted thanks to Fulham’s safe record with crowd control. It’s where away and ‘neutral’ fans gather and is arguably the most vocal, given the nature of visiting supporters. I often opt for the Putney End as it’s relatively easy to get tickets and you get to know away fans, plus observe tourists’ reactions to English football.
How to get to Craven Cottage
Is there a nicer approach to a ground anywhere in English football? Probably not. Alight at Putney Bridge tube station (District Line, Wimbledon Branch) and walk across the delightful Bishops Park, dubbed the ‘Green Mile’ by Fulham fans. It’s from Putney Bridge that the annual boat race between Oxford and Cambridge Universities sets off, so this corner of London has more than one sporting claim to fame.
Tickets for Fulham FC matches can be bought here.