F in Fulham

“Let’s all laugh at Fulham” was one song I thought I’d never hear in England (apart from at Loftus Road) but it seems that the Cottagers are quickly becoming the butt of jokes due to the going’s on at Craven Cottage.  Our roving reporter, Mike Miles, took the short trip to West London last week to see what was going on.

Fulham 0 Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 – Craven Cottage – Saturday 20th August 2014
Craven Cottage is only a 40-minute walk alongside the Thames from my Chiswick home, and for that reason alone has long been one of my favourite grounds to visit. Fulham were the last team to have standing accommodation in the Premier League, as Craven Cottage included terraces as late as the 2001/02 season-eight years after the Taylor Report outlawed terraces at that level. I have a fond memory of seeing Freddie Kanoute score a winner for West Ham whilst standing at the Putney End.

8431476952_3bbe5b4b42_zAs with terracing, the statue of Michael Jackson, like its subject, is alas no longer with us. The original Craven Cottage site was covered in woodlands, and allegedly, one plane tree survives today in a corner of the Putney End, the sole tree to be found in any senior British senior football stadium. Not the least of Craven Cottage’s continuing charms is the Johnny Haynes Stand. This wonderful structure is the oldest remaining football stand in the Football League, originally built in 1905 , designed by Archibald Leitch,  and is even a Grade 11 listed building. It even features the original wooden seating. You may not be as comfortable as in say The Emirates, but you are sitting on history.

Alas the current team show no signs of matching their historical surroundings. Pointless and ponderous, this is not how the season was meant to begin for Fulham. The club that slipped out of the Premier League in May are now joint bottom of the Championship after three matches, the latest defeat inflicted by an accomplished Wolves side who secured victory thanks to Bakary Sako’s early effort.

A penny for the thoughts of Shahid Khan the Fulham owner who was making one of his infrequent visits to the Cottage. It has been a summer of upheaval at the Cottage – skipper Scott Parker was the only player to start here who featured on the day Fulham were relegated at Stoke – and the results so far have been disappointing. £11 million was spent on Ross McCormack, but he was a pale imitation of the striker who had scored 29 goals for Leeds United last season.

There were some glimpses of quality but the new players and many youngsters have yet to gel. This division is no place for rookies to learn their game. In the end, Sako’s goal was enough but Fulham were in more danger of conceding again than scoring an equaliser, surviving a late penalty miss from Sako who hit the post in injury time.

Predictable cries of “Felix Out” (Fulham fans are a very polite lot) greeted the final whistle. And though I would willingly make that 40-minute walk to the Cottage again, I have a feeling it will be to see a Fulham team playing under yet another manager. Since Roy Hodgson took the Cottagers to the Europa Cup Final in 2010 they have had four managers, including three in 2013/14 alone, and the cumulative effect of all this chopping and changing was relegation to the Championship. Based on tonight’s abject performance they could be taking a similar downward trajectory to that once experienced by tonight’s visitors.

Wolves get their hunger back after Swans lose their paddle

Abi Davies was back on the road yesterday to Wolverhampton to see if Swansea’s away day blues could be banished.

Swansea made just one change to the starting XI that were compiled to a moral crushing 3-1 defeat at Carrow Road last weekend, as Mark Gower returned to the side in place of the more attacking Wayne Routledge who had to settle for a place on the bench, as the Swans went in search of their first victory away from home in The Premier League.

Swansea knew they would face a stern challenge to record a win at Molineux as Mick McCarthy’s side also had a point to prove on Saturday, having been condemned to defeat in their last five games.

Both Swansea and Wolves were eager to get back to winning ways, and this was evident from the outset as the game was played at a quick tempo with both sides searching for a breakthrough early on. Continue reading

My first game – Adam Bate

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Lincoln City
Football League Division 4
2nd May 1987

It is difficult to write an account of my first game without it feeling like a substandard Nick Hornby pastiche. Whether I like it or not, sentimental clichés and sepia images are all my mind has left of that May day in 1987. Fortunately, I do quite like it.

The match was Wolverhampton Wanderers versus Lincoln City in the old fourth division and the setting was Molineux. Not the post-Taylor report all-seater Molineux that exists today. This was old dilapidated Molineux with just one and three quarter stands open – the rest closed for safety reasons. Remarkably, it could still hold over 20,000 people thanks to the South Bank terrace.

Ah, the South Bank. At one time, of all the ‘Kops’ in England, only Villa’s Holte End accommodated more people. Not this day against Lincoln. The crowd was sparse – just 7,285 to be precise. But these were dark days for Wolves and a distinct lack of turnstile operators meant there was still frenzied queuing outside to get in the ground. I vividly remember my dad lifting me on his shoulders as he nervously alerted the drunken fans around us that a child (me!) was being caught in the crush.

The next thing I remember, we were inside. This was my first look at a football ground in the flesh and, despite Molineux’s tragic appearance, I thought she was magnificent. Wolves were already 1-0 up – not something that was to become a habit although it did explain the pushing and shoving outside.

Inside that vast South Bank my dad actually had to wander over to the nearest fan – a good ten yards away – and ask who had scored. The answer came back: Steve Bull. Unluckily for me, I had just missed his 13th goal for the club. No matter. I was lucky enough to see his second of the game moments later and most of the 102 that followed in the back-to-back title seasons that followed.

In all honesty of course, there have been plenty of lows to go with those heady childhood days. And my mum even insisted I sit in the family enclosure seats for the next ten years! But I’ll always remember my first and last game on that South Bank terrace with my dad. Perfect.

Adam Bate