Thursday, 21 July 2011

Craven Cottage

Without a World Cup or European Championship it can be a long summer for football fans waiting nervously to see if the optimistic words of their manager's pre-season patter have any meaning in the competitive reality of Autumn.

West London is having a footie boom time just at present and any student joining us in September who wants to go and watch a match or two will find themselves spoilt for choice. Our nearest league club for as long as anybody can remember is Brentford - a short bus ride away from the campus. They've made steady progress since winning League 2 a couple of seasons ago and are now firmly established in League 1. The ground is blessed with four pubs, one on each corner. This year however the Bees status as our local team has been challenged by the miraculous rise of AFC Wimbledon, who nine years after having all their players rudely abducted to Milton Keynes are now back in Division 2 and playing at the modest Kings Meadow ground in Kingston.

From Richmond a short tube ride takes you to Hammersmith from where a twenty minute walk north or east will take you to the Premiership glories of either newly promoted QPR or punching above their weight Fulham... and then of course there's Chelsea!!!

Tonight on a balmy evening we drove to Putney, parked up, took a lovely walk through Bishops Park to the old world charms of Craven Cottage, where Fulham were playing Northern Irish club Crusaders in the second leg of a qualifier for the Europa League. Crazy to be playing competitively in July! I'd not been to the ground before and, even with it's agonizingly kitsch Michael Jackson tribute statue, its a brilliant throwback to a puritan age of meat pies, wooden stands and narrow turnstiles. The perfect place to watch football. Remarkably given the sold out oligarchy down the road, tickets were on sale for the first few Premiership games and at fairly reasonable prices as well.

Fulham played well and didn't really have to break sweat to record a 4-0 victory over the Ulster part timers. Still they played some decent stuff, certainly enough for their fans to go home happy, touching the bootlaces on Johnny Haynes' statue for luck and licking their lips in anticipation of the big kick off less than a month away.


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