One genuine story from the weekend however, our board going public on bringing ground capacity at Craven Cottage up to 30,000. I blogged the issue of Fulham's stadium both historically and projecting into the future a year ago. Find the story from 31/10 in Archive. Arguments for and against were posted then and remain pertinent. The substance as written has now come to pass. The old argument was that FFC first needed to be selling out home games on a regular basis with a queue backing up for season tickets. That's not been the case this season, not even for our first derby in a decade with QPR, while the Blackburn game was heavily discounted. So what's changed?
Not the size of our fan base from what I see. Prem tickets every other week for £40-£50 in this uncertain financial climate is proving a tough sell. ST holders have fallen away due to rising costs. Another run of Europa League games adds to the financial burden. Sure these games are on offer at bargain rates - but the cost of travel into London (highest in Europe), petrol prices, food & drink etc is the exact opposite.
What cheers me about the board's move is its intent. This is a clear statement of ambition on behalf of Fulham Football Club. Financially it's a risk. A return to the Championship and a fall off in gates down below 20,000 would seriously imperil the business model and, dare I suggest, deal a fatal blow to al-Fayed's commitment. But I don't see that happening.
Now let's all take a reality check to remember in 2008 we were but one dodgy bounce of the ball at Portsmouth from going down. Starting March this year we hovered just two bad results away from the drop zone until Bobby's return ignited our late momentum. Every single season since 2001 there have been so-called 'football experts' predicting Fulham for the drop. In 2007 the unlamented Ron Atkinson had us down to finish bottom!
Our one league win to date so far gives a false complexion to our league position. Last week I commented on the depth of talent in our current squad of players and I've seen the sentiment repeated since in tweets and blogs. I am old enough to have seen the late 50's side of Haynes, Macedo, Leggat and Langley that scored goals for fun and got us to the top flight in 1959. There were fine sides further back in time. And of course we are all familiar with the glut of foreign imports set off by Tigana's legacy and the chairman's loot. But in my eyes this is the strongest pool of talent ever seen in the history of the club. Look beyond the matchday superstars that make up our first team squad. Fulham elevens are winning at every level, reserve and junior. We have the likes of Trotta, Frei, Burn and Donegan showing outstanding promise. Stockdale and Briggs are two full England players of the future awaiting their chance. We've yet to see anything like the best of Gecov, Kasami or Ruiz.
As more people are coming to realise, this is a great time to be following the Fulham. Just as 1997 was a pivotal year with Mickey dragging us out of the 4th division - and with the resources he was given to work with never underestimate the magnitude of that achievement - then the arrival of Mohammed. So too was 2008 another turning point where Fulham somehow morphed from being perennial strugglers into a European force. As Bobby said this week on camera, 'under Roy Hodgson we were probably the most organised team in Europe.'
Mark Hughes maybe didn't win the beauty contest, neither did he derail Roy's reformation. Now in Martin we have, hopefully, another safe pair of hands to reward the board's act of faith. If the upward curve of progress is maintained, gates of 30,000 at a ground retaining all the unique characteristics our place by the River resonates, will make supporting the Whites immensely enjoyable for many more years to come.
What possibly focused the mind in the past week were stories of both Chelsea and QPR looking to move. Rangers new owner Tony Fernandes is replicating al Fayed, who also felt the old Craven Cottage did not match the size of his ambition. But after two uncomfortable seasons at Loftus Road al Fayed was forced to return the side to our spiritual home. Alternative plans, schemes and potential sites failed to add up, though not for the want of trying.
What's changed the landscape now are major redevelopments around West London that sees both QPR and Chelsea looking to relocate. Fernandes approached Fulham over ground sharing at the Cottage. Fulham were non-committal. But as BBC Centre is to be vacated early as a cost-saving exercise, Rangers have the perfect site for a new ground within 400 yards of their own (which let's be honest, is never going to be fit for Prem football). With the possibility of all three of the borough's teams rebuilding for the future FFC it seems have gone with the flow.
Fans and residents are being consulted in SW6 and from next month will have sight of the plans. My understanding is that the corners will be filled in and rows added to an extended Riverside stand to accommodate the additional 4,300 places. No sign of a 'singing and standing section' alas. (See previous blog).
Oh yes, congrats to Clint for a quality goal in Miami, giving Klinsmann his first win. But only 1-0 v Honduras..? Come on, Yanks - not good enough. You'll find Ecuador Tuesday night a tougher proposition.
Here's to our next win coming up at Stoke. Fulham - can you feel the Force?
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