A Saturday afternoon at the Cottage, Craven Cottage.
"Welcome to West London, Dominic."
Since moving to London I’ve been fortunate to visit a few grounds, probably not as many as expected, but my latest outing is certainly one I’ll remember. My trip to watch Fulham take on Stoke City last weekend through the company of Dominic Bliss (editor of The Inside Left), who happens to share the same name as me, was both an experience and education provided by the beautiful game.
Although we only naturally spoke about one topic, it never felt like I was heading to a football match. There were few fans wearing scarves on the tube, something which is unusual to me as I’ve grown up as a passionate sócio Benfiquista. The walk across Putney bridge felt more like a tourist guide of the city’s capital and the silent, chilly stroll through Bishop’s Park reminded me of a typical Saturday morning, not a football day. But the two of us, one clearly more wrapped up than the other, followed a stream of dedicated fans; we were going to see The Whites, as they’re called.
As we reached the end of the Park, a stadium proudly stood, not one of the grandeur of London’s Stamford Bridge or Emirates Stadium, but a place surrounded by delicate charm and history. Welcome to the home of Fulham FC.
The main stand is a landmark, known as the Johnny Haynes Stand, boldly surviving the test of its time. Its heritage has rightfully protected it as a Grade II listed building - meaning that it can’t be removed, and more interestingly, it’s an evident representation of fine British football architecture. The design belongs to Archibald Leitch, who has been visionary in dozens of stadium constructions throughout this entire island. These crafted foundations won’t be found at any modern ground as these bricks bear character.
And as we strolled through the ticket gates, the symbol of the stadium caught my eyes, the Cottage, an icon that dates back to the 18th century, which I’ve seen too many times on TV, finally rested in front of me. Inside were officials, guests and most importantly, the men dressed in white who were about to entertain ~25,000, as they always do.
It could have been a fictitious Winter afternoon, from the walk through the park to Cottage, I had been transformed into another world, almost as if I’d been dropped into an era of the past. But what did happen was Berbatov’s brilliant majestic match-winning volley. Welcome to Fulham, and I shall return…
Photography and words by Dom.
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