Formed in 1879 by members of the church on Star road, West Kensington makes Fulham the oldest club in London. It was here that schoolboys kicked a ball around to each other on ramshackle playing fields that established the English club we all know today. Their first conquest in a Cup tournament was winning the – West London Amateur Cup in 1887 and 12 months later changed their name from the long drawn out, Fulham St Andrews Church Sunday School Football Club to the shorter name of Fulham FC. In 1893, they then won the West London League on their first endeavour but the club remained in amateur competition for another 5 years. Fulham moved grounds in 1896 to the now renowned Craven Cottage and then in 1897 completed their move in to professional football and playing in the Southern League. In 1907, with two Southern League titles to their credit they were accepted to participate in the Football League.
Fulham’s first fixture in Division 2 was at home against Hull City; unfortunately, they lost 1-0. This was only a minor set back as they raised their game and position in the tables and managed to finish their opening season in a respectable 4th place. The high hopes for the club to gain promotion to Division 1 were soon dashed and the comprehension of spending the next couple of decades in Division 2 became cemented with just run of the mill performances. Football or lack of it gave Fulham a crueler blow at the end of the 1927 season, seeing the club relegated to Division 3; officially known as the 3rd Division South. To a degree, the skills and football gifts of Fulham were more appropriate to this lower Division and it would require a fundamental change of the club to aspire to a better state of affairs. Modifying the basic principles of the club from top to bottom did not happen over night. Spending 3 seasons in Division 3 taught Fulham a priceless lesson in complacency and self-effacing. The 1931/32 season, Fulham rose to the occasion and were once again masters of their own destiny when they topped the tables with wins like 10-2 against Torque United and an impressive 111 goals scored that season they were promoted back to Division 2.
Fulham’s football gifts and newfound form continued in the following season as they worked their way up the table and a consecutive promotion was looking likely but with some good wins from Stoke City and Tottenham Hotspur they were squeezed into 3rd place.
In 1949, entering in what is described as the modern era of football, Fulham’s dreams and ambitions were becoming a reality when they got that promotion to Division 1. With this also came the responsibility of competing alongside adept football clubs who had world-class players at their disposal. Fulham’s debut season in the top tier saw them struggle and poor performances were regular and almost became the norm for the club. End of season could not have come sooner and miraculously Fulham did stay up finishing 17th in the table. More of the same followed the season after with the club managing once again to avoid relegation. Inevitably though, in the 1951/52 season their bottom of table finish meant that for the time been Division 1 had expired for them. w88 mlivethai
The several years that followed Fulham never really showed anything special until they found some form and gracefully reached the FA Cup semi-finals in 1958. This gave them that confidence serge they desperately needed. Another boost for the club came when they made promotion back to the top tier of football. Looking more self-assured this attracted the football gifts of Graham Leggat who made 277 appearances for Fulham and competently netted 134 goals, putting him in the top five goal scorers for the club. They did finish the season in a mediocre 10th place, which was their highest position in Division 1 at the time. During these periods Craven Cottage could attract crowds of 30,000 plus.
The 50’s brought other talent to the club, one player in particular is synonymous with Fulham Football Club and must be mentioned. John Norman Haynes, from the Kentish Town area of London was signed by the club when he was still a schoolboy and is widely regarded by many as the clubs greatest player with passing skills second to none. He was also given the nicknames of Mr Fulham and The Maestro and gained additional honours in making 52 caps for England, 22 as Captain. Haynes dedication and loyalty to Fulham was total, spending his whole professional football career with the club. He did have a short spell as a player with Durban City, a South African Club but this was after he had stepped down playing professional. In his years at Fulham the football gifts of Hayne made 658 appearances for the club and up until 1991 held the record for top goal scorer with 158 goals.
In the mid 70’s the club made some big signings with players like Bobby Moore and Alan Mullery. This had an impact on performance as the club achieved their first FA Cup final against West Ham in 1975. Regrettably for the club West Ham netted 2 goals within five minutes of each other and walked away champions with the score 2-0. In this same period the club made another final in the Anglo-Scottish Cup but lost to Middlesbrough. George Best had a spell at the club playing 47 times in the 1976/77 season.
However the 1979/80 season saw Fulham hit rock bottom again, once more relegated and manager Bobby Campbell been sacked. His successor Malcolm Macdonald restructured the squad with new signing such as the football gifts of Gerry Peyton, Tony Gale, Ray Houghton and others creating a stronger team and in doing so won promotion back to Division 2. Fulham were in fine form the season after but sadly losing away to Derby on the last game denied Fulham a consecutive promotion to Division 1. Unfortunately Fulham’s debts were crippling the club financially and the decision was made to sell off numerous quality players to keep a float a sinking ship. Now with the team in tatters and a half hearted squad left relegation on the heels of Fulham. In 1986 they conceded to the inevitable and were again back in Division 3. The club never really found a footing for the rest of the 80’s and early 90’s but did win promotion back to Division 2.
1997 gave the club some financial security when Businessman Mohamed Al-Fayed brought the club that summer and promised that Fulham would be in the top flight of football within five years. The first chapter for this was selecting Kevin Keegan as manager who had been Chief Operating Officer for the club. That season the momentum grew with Fulham winning game after game. They managed to notch up a tremendous 101 points and with it promotion to Division 1. This was helped by the signing of Paul Peschisolido; West Broms top goal scorer and the football gifts of Captain Chris Coleman. The only obstacle placed in front of Fulham was the FA offering Keegan the England FC managers post. A delighted Keegan accepted.
Paul Bracewell took charge of the club but not for long as Al-Fayed removed him in March 2000. French player Jean Amadou Tigana had 52 caps for France to his credit and was given the opportunity to manage Fulham FC, and did so with great success. All the hard work had finally come to flourish and past disappointments of relegation could now be put behind them. Blowing the opposition away with a 10 point gap between them and runners up Blackburn Rovers, top flight football was theirs for the first time since 1968. Agonizingly sad for fans and players alike and even more so for Chris Coleman himself was the serious car accident he became involved in. There was huge hope that he would make a full recovery to see him play again for Fulham but this was not to be. The fantastic team Tigana had strengthened could not maintain their super form in the Premiership. Even finishing in a respectable 13th place in the tables, this for many was an anti climax to what they expected. Things intensified for the Frenchman the following season with more not to favorable results and his demise came abruptly when they lost at home 4-0 to Blackburn Rovers.
Chris Coleman’s football gifts did make a return to Fulham but this time not as captain but as manager towards the end of the 2002 season which enthralled many at the club and fans. Under his reigns the club finished an all time record of 9th place the following season. Coleman watched his side have some tough matches in the 2005/06 season but with this came some awesome results at the expense of big clubs like Chelsea; beating them 1-0 and then Liverpool had a taste of the Fulham boys when the shocked scouse club finished the match with nothing but 2 goals put past them. Coleman’s talents on the pitch however were not quite up to the same level off the pitch and with a run of bad luck his services were no longer required in the 2007 season.
Three days after Christmas, 2007 Roy Hodgson was announced as Fulham’s new manager. Hodgson made some immediate signings in the January transfer window.