Thursday, September 20, 2007

History of Fulham F.C.

Amateur days 1879-1898
Fulham started its existence in 1879 as Fulham St Andrew's Church Sunday School, founded by worshippers at the C of E church on Star Road, West Kensington, which still stands today with a plaque commemorating the team's foundation. They won the West London Amateur Cup in 1887 and, having shortened the name to its present form in 1888, they then won the West London League in 1893 at the first attempt. One of the club's first ever kits was half red, half white shirts with white shorts worn in the 1886-7 season. Fulham started playing at their current ground Craven Cottage in 1896, their first game against now defunct rivals Minerva F.C.

Southern League 1898-1907
The club gained professional status on December 12, 1898, in the same year that they were admitted into the Southern League's 2nd division. They adopted a kit very similar to modern Arsenal colours in this period, which was worn during the 1900-01 season. In 1902-03 they won promotion from this division, entering the Southern League 1st Division. The club's first recorded all-white club kit came in 1903, and ever since then the club has been playing in all-white shirts and black shorts, with socks going through various evolutions of black and/or white, but are now normally white-only.[5] The club won the Southern League twice, in 1905-06 and 1906-07.

Into the Football League 1907-1949
Fulham gained admission to the national Football League after the second of their Southern League triumphs. The club's first ever league game, playing in the 2nd Division's 1907-8 season, saw them losing 1-0 at home to Hull City on September 3, 1907. The first win came a few days later on September 7, 1907 at Derby County's Baseball Ground, by a score line of 1-0. When they eventually found their feet in the division they impressed, ending up only three points short of promotion in 4th place. However, this was the best season they had in their twenty one year stay in that division, and after only winning 13 out of 42 games in the 1927-28 season Fulham were relegated to the 3rd Division South, which was created in 1920.

A highlight of that first season was an 8-3 away win at Luton Town in an FA Cup game. The club actually managed to reach the semi-finals of that tournament, where they were humbled 6-0 by Newcastle United. This is still a record loss for an FA Cup semi-final game. A couple of years later the club won the London Challenge Cup in the 1909-10 season.

During this period, businessman and politician Henry Norris was the club chairman and curiously he had an indirect role in the foundation of Fulham's local rivals Chelsea F.C.. When he rejected an offer from businessman Gus Mears to move Fulham to land where the present-day Chelsea stadium Stamford Bridge is situated, Mears decided to create his own team to occupy the ground. In 1910, Norris started to combine his role at Fulham with the chairmanship of Arsenal.

After finishing 5th, 7th and 9th (out of 22 teams) in their first three seasons in the 3rd Division South, Fulham won the division in the 1931-32 season. In doing so they beat Torquay United 10-2, won 24 out of 42 games and scored 111 goals, thus being promoted back to the Second Division. The next season they missed out on a second consecutive promotion, finishing 3rd behind Tottenham Hotspur and Stoke City. A mixed bag of league performances followed, although the club also reached another FA Cup semi-final during the 1935-36 season. On 8 October 1938 Craven Cottage saw its all-time highest attendance at a match against Millwall FC, with a crowd of 49,335 watching the game.

League and cup football were severely disrupted by the outbreak of World War II in 1939, with the Football League split into regional divisions temporarily, with a national Football League War Cup and a London War Cup up for grabs. Post-war, a full league programme was only restored for 1946-47. In the 3rd season of what is now considered the modern era of football, Fulham finished top of the Second Division, with a win-loss-draw record of 24-9-9 (identical to that which won them the 3rd Division South 17 years previously).

Promotion to the top tier of English football saw the club perform poorly, finishing 17th in their first year and 18th in their second. In only their third season of First Division football, Fulham finished rock bottom of the 22-team league in the 1951-52 season, winning only 8 of 42 games. On May 20th 1951, Fulham played one of their first ever games in North America in an exhibition match against Celtic F.C. at Delorimier Stadium in Montreal in front of 29,000.

A few seasons of mediocrity in the 2nd Division followed, but then the club reached the FA Cup semi-finals in 1958 and used this momentum to win promotion back to the 1st Division in the following season, having finished 2nd to Sheffield Wednesday. Graham Leggat joined Fulham in 1958 as well, who went on to score 134 goals in 277 appearances, (making him the club's fifth all-time top scorer). In the 1959-60 season they achieved 10th position in the 1st Division, which until finishing 9th in the FA Premier League 2003-04 was their highest ever league position. This accompanied another appearance in the last four of the FA Cup in 1962.

By this time the club were regularly playing in front of 30,000 plus crowds at Craven Cottage, despite struggling in the League. The club experienced several close escapes from relegation none more spectacular than in 1965-66. On the morning of 26 February 1966 Fulham had just 15 points from 29 matches. The last 13 games saw Fulham win 9 and draw 2 to reach safety. Eventually the club suffered relegation in the 1967-68 season having won just 10 out of their 42 games. However even that was not as catastrophic as the calamity of next season. Winning only 7 in 42, the club were again relegated to the 3rd Division. (Note that this is not the same as the 3rd Division South, as the regional 3rd Divisions had been removed with the 1959 creation of the 4th Division).

It is impossible to talk about Fulham's history without mentioning probably the single most influential character in Fulham's history: Johnny Haynes. 'Mr. Fulham' or 'The Maestro' as he later came to be known signed for The Cottagers as a schoolboy in 1950, making his first team debut on Boxing Day 1952 against Southampton at Craven Cottage. Haynes played for another 18 years, notching up 657 appearances (along with many other club records too), his last appearance for Fulham coming on the 17 January 1970. He is often considered as the greatest player in Fulham history, and never played for another team in Britain. He gained 52 caps for England (22 as captain), with many being earned while playing for Fulham in the Second Division. Haynes was injured in a motorbike incident in Blackpool in 1962, but by his own admissions never regained the fitness or form to play for England again, missing out on England's victory in the 1966 World Cup which he would have stood a chance of being selected for. The Stevenage Road Stand was re-named in his honour after his death in a car crash in 2005.

The aforementioned 3rd Division hiatus lasted only two seasons though, they were then promoted back to the Second Division as runners-up in 1970-71. This spell also saw Fulham invited to the not particularly prestigious Anglo-Italian Cup, which saw the club draw four out of four games in two appearances in tournament between 1972 and 1974. Thus started of a period of high-profile signings for the club under Alec Stock in the mid-70s, including Alan Mullery and Bobby Moore. The reward of this was their only ever FA Cup final in 1975, having won their first semi-final in five attempts. The club then lost to West Ham in the final. This gained the club qualification to another low-key European tournament, the Anglo-Scottish Cup, where they made the final, losing to Middlesbrough.

That run in the FA Cup saw the setting of an improbable record, that of the most games needed to reach the final, Fulham playing 11 games including replays. In the build up to the 12th game, the Wembley final, Tony Rees and The Cottagers released a single, "Viva el Fulham" (based on Manolo Escobar's "Y viva España") which is still played (and occasionally chanted) at Fulham games. It reached No.46 in the Pop Charts in 1975. The club set another record in the 70s, when they took part in the first ever British league game to be played on a Sunday against Millwall F.C. in 1974, which was staged at Craven Cottage.

George Best played 47 times for the club in the 1976-77 season. Rodney Marsh, who having grown up with Fulham in the 60s went on to play 1st Division football and play for England, rejoined the club in the same season, playing only 16 games. This capped one of the most successful eras in Fulham history.

The hangover from this meant the club were relegated again after winning only 11 in 42 in the 1979-80 season, which saw Bobby Campbell's sacking to be replaced by Malcolm Macdonald. With a strong squad during his 1980-84 period in charge (with players such as Ray Houghton, Tony Gale, Paul Parker, Gerry Peyton and Ray Lewington), they won promotion again in 1981-82 back to Division 2. In 1980, Fulham founded the rugby league club that is now Harlequins Rugby League designed to be an extra stream of income for the football club. Then called 'Fulham Rugby League', they played at Craven Cottage until moving away from the parent club in 1984.

Fulham narrowly missed out on back-to-back promotions, to the First Division losing 1-0 to Derby away on the last day of the 1982-83 season - although the match was abandoned after 88 mins due to a pitch invasion. The side which had shown so much promise was gradually sold off and broken up as the club had debts to pay off, so it was little surprise when the club were relegated again to the Third Division in 1986. The club nearly went out of business in 1987 and the same year saw the break-down of an ill-advised merger attempt with QPR. It was only the intervention of ex-player Jimmy Hill that allowed the club to stay in business as a re-structured 'Fulham FC 1987 Ltd.' In 1987 the club took part in what was one of the longest penalty shoot-outs recorded - it needed 28 spot kicks to sort out a winner between them and Aldershot following a Freight Rover Trophy match.

In 1992 the foundation of the Premier League saw Fulham's division of the time, the 3rd Division, re-named the 2nd Division. (There is a joke amongst football fans that at the end of the 1991-92 season they started to celebrate promotion, before realising all that had happened was that the FA had changed the numbers.) However the club were relegated from that to the new 3rd Division after a poor 1993-94 season, seeing the club in the basement of the Football League, with Ian Branfoot appointed as new manager.

Rock Bottom 1994-7
After a 7th place finish in his first season in charge the club hit its historical rock bottom with its performance in the 1995-96 season, finishing 17th out of 24th. This season included a loss against Torquay United, who were at the time rock bottom of the Division, with Fulham just one place above them. Branfoot was soon sacked as Manager, but remained at the club in other capacities for a short while.

However, in February 1996 the club appointed then-player Micky Adams as manager, and it was in the summer of that year that his revolution really took off. That signalled the start of the new era of Fulham Football Club.

Micky Adams was appointed as manager and oversaw an upturn in form that lifted the side out of what little relegation danger was present. The next season he engineered a complete turnaround in form and his side, captained by Simon Morgan, finished second - only missing out on first place due to the league dropping the old "goal difference" system in favour of a "goals scored" tally. (While Fulham's goal difference was one better than that of champions Wigan Athletic, they scored twelve fewer goals.) This was somewhat ironic, as the club's then Chairman Jimmy Hill, had successfully argued that goals scored should decide places of teams tied on points while sitting on an FA panel.

Rise through the Divisions 1997-2001
Millionaire Mohamed Al-Fayed purchased the club that summer and fired Adams in the aftermath of a poor start. In Adams' place he installed a managerial 'dream team' of Ray Wilkins (as First Team Manager) and Kevin Keegan (as Chief Operating Officer), pledging that the club would reach the Premiership within five years.

After an argument over team selection, Wilkins left the club in May 1998 to hand over the full managerial duties to Keegan, who steered the club to a spectacular promotion the next season, winning 101 points of a possible 138, captained by Chris Coleman - then the most expensive footballer outside the top two divisions of the English league. Keegan then left to become manager of the England team, and veteran player Paul Bracewell was put in charge.

Bracewell was sacked in March 2000, as Fulham's promising early season form dwindled away. Frenchman Jean Tigana was put in charge and having signed a number of young stars, including Louis Saha, he guided Fulham to their third promotion in five seasons in the 2000-01 season in emphatic style, scoring 100 goals in 46 games. That gave Fulham top flight status for the first time since 1968, which had only taken four years - one shorter than Al Fayed's pledge. During this season club captain and subsequent manager, Chris Coleman, was involved in a car crash which eventually finished his playing career. Fulham's run through the divisions saw many players come and go, but the only player to play for the club in all four leagues was Sean Davis, indeed he is one of few players to ever have played at every level of professional football with one team.

Fulham and Tigana in the Premiership 2001-2003
Fulham were widely tipped to take the Premiership by storm, with many pundits[19] predicting a challenge for the UEFA cup or even Champions League places (although others were less kind), but their first Premiership season was largely underwhelming; despite a couple of good games and some flashes of brilliance, the end product was a respectable 13th place finish. Fulham remain the only team in this millienium to host top-flight football with some standing areas. Due to restrictions on standings, Fulham decamped to Loftus Road, during the 2002-3 and 2003-4 seasons while their own stadium was rebuilt, but then returned back to Craven Cottage.

The following season saw Fulham dangerously close to the relegation zone, and chairman Mohammed Al Fayed told Tigana that his contract would not be renewed at the end of the season. But an awful run of results, culminating in a 4-0 home defeat by Blackburn Rovers led him to be sacked before the season came to an end with relegation desperately near. Jean Tigana made the club's record signing, buying Steve Marlet from Olympique Marseille for £11.5 million. He failed to live up to expectations playing only 54 league games in 3 years, and scoring only 11 goals. He was loaned out to Olympique de Marseille for 18 months when Coleman took over, with his sizeable contract still being paid by the English team, before it eventually expired.

Chris Coleman 2003-2007
Chris Coleman took charge for five games at the end of that (2002-03) season, earning Fulham 10 points out of a possible 15 and preserving a place in the Premier League for the next season. Coleman was given the manager's job on a permanent basis in the summer of 2003 and despite predictions that the inexperience of Coleman would result in Fulham's relegation,[21] he kept the club well clear of relegation, guiding them to a club record ninth place finish in his debut season. This might have been greater had the club not come under significant financial pressure to sell Louis Saha to Manchester United, for which they received a club record £13 million. The final day of the season saw them win 2-0 away to Bolton - a third goal could have seen them jump the Trotters into eighth place. Coleman notched up another impressive performance in the 2004-05 season and guided Fulham to a secure 13th place finish. The 2005-06 season proved a tougher affair, but safety was once again mathematically assured with three games left of the season and a 1-0 win over Wigan Athletic. There were three relative high points in an inconsistent season: a 6-1 rout of West Bromwich Albion, a 1-0 win over rivals and champions Chelsea in the West London derby, and a 2-0 win over 2005 European champions Liverpool F.C. Fulham's home form was the best outside the top six, with 12 wins from 18 games, while their away form was the worst in the entire league with one win and four draws from 18 games. A game they were winning away 1-0, versus Sunderland, was abandoned after 21 minutes because of persistent snowfall. Finally, on 29 April 2006, Fulham achieved a first away victory of the campaign with a 2-1 win over Manchester City F.C.. Despite the difficulties experienced throughout this season, Fulham achieved a 12th place finish - an improvement on the previous campaign.

Fulham did not get off to a good start in 2006-07, losing their first match 5-1 to Manchester United at Old Trafford. This result consigned them to the foot of the table and left them as the season's favourites for early relegation contenders with the bookies; but then recovered well and were riding as high as 8th at one point in December 2006.

Many signings including Vincenzo Montella, Alexey Smertin, Simon Davies and Clint Dempsey were brought during January. Between Mid December and May however, Fulham only won a single game, a 2-1 victory over Newcastle United. In the same time period Fulham drew 9 games and lost 4. Additionally Fulham were dumped out of the FA Cup 4-0 by Tottenham Hotspur. On the 10 April 2007, following defeats at the hands of Manchester City (3-1) and Everton (4-1) Fulham Football Club terminated the contracts of Chris Coleman and Steve Kean with immediate effect, while Northern Ireland manager Lawrie Sanchez and Les Reed were put in temporary charge.

Lawrie Sanchez 2007-present

Lawrie Sanchez's first match saw him lose away to Reading. In his third match, he looked to gain a much needed point against Arsenal when Simon Davies scored a 78th minute equaliser, but 2 late Arsenal goals saw Fulham lose 3-1 and stay 1 point above the Relegation Zone. [22]. Sanchez's next game was against a Liverpool side that rested many starters after a mid-week Champions League match; a Clint Dempsey goal ensured Sanchez's first win as Fulham caretaker manager. This win, in combination with the results of other matches from the same weekend, ensured Fulham's safety from relegation. On Friday 11 May 2007 Sanchez resigned from his position as manager of Northern Ireland to become the permanent Fulham manager.[23] On the 9th of July 2007, Sanchez made his first major signing for Fulham, buying Diomansy Kamara from West Brom for £6 million. During the summer of 2007 Sanchez has bought several new players after the Chairman announced more funds would be available to him to try avoid relegation. He has particularly focused on bringing in new blood to the defence. Players like Chris Baird, Paul Konchesky and Aaron Hughes all have signed to try and stop the defensive problems of the previous year. On the 5 July 2007 Sanchez signed midfielder Steven Davis for a fee in the region of £4 million from Aston Villa. It is clear that Sanchez has a lot of faith in Davis, as he is not only spending a large fee on the player, but he has also made him Northern Ireland's youngest modern day captain. Sanchez later moved to sign prolific Northern Irish Striker David Healy for a price of £1.5 million from Leeds United F.C. and highly rated QPR winger Lee Cook for £2,5 million. Healy has scored 29 goals out of 59 games for his country, most of which were under Sanchez. The last signings of the summer before the season started were those of Watford's Algerian international Hameur Bouazza, and Australian youngster Adrian Leijer. After a goalkeeping crisis, when Antti Niemi was injured before the first game of the season against Arsenal, and Tony Warner made mistakes leading to goals against Bolton and Middlesbrough, Sanchez made his 10th signing that of veteran US goalkeeper Kasey Keller. Youngster Nathan Ashton as the end of the transfer window began to loom, and on transfer deadline day, Sanchez brought in another 4 players - Dejan Stefanović from Portsmouth, Seol Ki-Hyeon from Reading and Danny Murphy from Tottenham on permanent deals, and Shefki Kuqi from Ipswich on loan until January.

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