I HAD BEEN communicating with Ed for a while in the hope of visiting this historic ground and taking part in the stadium tour of London’s oldest club. I got there in the end, and it was well worth the wait.
Fulham Football Club may be down the pecking order, what with the capital boasting an array of glitzy big name clubs, but there’s no doubting the authenticity and feel of this iconic ground.
Thanks to #bookbikelondon and my trusty Santander Cycle I was able to make it almost on time, dashing from Parsons Green and cycling through the “Green Mile” across the lovely Bishops Park. At the Johnny Haynes statue I met tour hosts Christian and Brendan and fellow guests, including Sunderland fans recovering from the League Cup beating from the night before at the Emirates.
Johnny Haynes is unanimously accepted as the club’s greatest player. The stylish inside forward played 56 times for England, 22 games as captain. The “Maestro” was a one-club man, and he holds the all-time appearance record and led the club scoring charts until Gordon Davies overtook him during the end of the ’80s. Pele described the Fulham legend as the best passer of the ball he’d ever seen.
We were treated to pitch-side views and witnessed the impressive work taking place on the Riverside Stand and Development, which will create a new, vibrant, modern and outstanding riverfront destination. The Cottage itself is a true landmark, and along with the Johnny Haynes Stand it is a designated Grade II listed building. It remains among the great sights in football – a testament to Archibald Leitch’s skills. The Cottage Pavilion also includes the manager’s game day office, changing rooms, a restaurant and a balcony from where the more wealthy guests can enjoy the game.
We visited both home and away dressing rooms and were reminded of the greats who had sat within them ahead of gracing the turf on matchday: Haynes, Bobby Moore, George Best, George Cohen and Edwin Van Der Sar. The small but classy VIP area was next, and we were told the lounge had been refurbished at a cost of £1 million in the last few years. This is an authentic Stadium and even though it was empty the atmosphere felt like there was still a crowd inside. It’s tight and compact, it’s homely and charming.
The tour commenced at a steady pace, and the hosts are informative and easy to understand. This is important – especially with the cosmopolitan population and make-up of tourists who visit London. Christian and Brendan work very well together and are great ambassadors for the club. A productive visit ended with a #bookbikeondon share of Diego Mag too.
●You can book your tour of Craven Cottage online, over the phone on 0203 841 9057 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
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