Ground hopping aka Cottaging by the River: Fulham v Newcastle United 21st January 2012

Saturday was spent partly in cottaging by the River Thames.

No, I’m not trying to be George Michael, although I’d like to be £1 behind him in the wealth stakes. Mind you I’d prefer him not to be behind me!

Enough about George Michael.

On Saturday I went, against my better judgement to see Newcastle play at Fulham. We rarely seem to play well there and to be honest I object to paying £40 to watch us under perform again. However, my mates Lee and his sister Lee-Ann manage to get me a cheap ticket albeit in the Fulham end. So I went along.

Craven Cottage, the home of Fulham FC is situated right on the riverbanks of the Thames. It has the river on one side, The Bishop’s Park behind one end and rows of very expensive terraced housing on the other 2 sides.


The ground is hidden away from public view. In fact it would be easy to be in Fulham most match days and not know there was a Premiership game taking place. However, that is never the case when Newcastle are in town as the local pubs and takeaway establishments are filled with heavy drinking takeaway munching Geordies.

I didn’t get over to Putney Bridge until after 1:30, so a quick visit to the off licence and then a few bottles of cider in the park next to the river…no doubt Lee and his wife Cathy are saying nothing changes at this point… anyway…. The reason I was so late getting over there was because I was performing my duties as Child Welfare Officer @ Lee Valley Youth Cycling Club who are currently based at Redbridge Cycle Circuit near Ilford. We had a total of 87 children at the club this week. This is a great turnout for a voluntary run club which does not advertise itself. I did of course ride over to and from the club venue. Would be a little hypocritical to drive the few miles to the cycle club when I could ride there.

Right, back to the football, strolling down the streets to the ground, the injured Fulham first choice goalkeeper, Mark Schwarzer is chatting to fans and posing happily for pictures. No prima donnas here. That is one thing about Fulham, it has always been a friendly club.

After getting my ticket off Lee-Ann and into the ground,  I took my seat in the Hammersmith End amongst the home fans. The risk of trouble there however is negligible.

Craven Cottage is a rather unique ground as one of its stands is a listed building. The stand on the Stevenage Road side was listed by the council and or English Heritage in the 1980s. This was mainly done to prevent an investment company who had bought the ground from being able to build on the ground. Now, this is perhaps a hinderance to the club as it means they cannot develop that side of the ground.

stevenage roadExternal View of Stevenage Road Stand

SAM_0018Internal View of Stevenage Road Stand


In the corner between the Stevenage Road stand and the Putney End is a pavilion, which is the Craven Cottage. Today it hosts the dressing rooms and is a unique structure in professional football. I can claim to have used the changing rooms there back in 1989-90 season when I took part in a charity run organised by various football clubs. I think I managed to beat Jimmy Hill in the run. He was of course much older than me and he was stopping to chat to people whilst I didn’t.

cottage External View of The Cottage


At the risk of being accused of being like Andy Gray and Richard Keys, I should also point out that there was one other rare feature in this ground on Saturday. The poor quality picture below will give it away.


Yes there was a female running the line. Sian Massey is the person slated by the aforementioned Keys & Gray when on Sky Sports which contributed to their sacking. Me? I have no problems with her and indeed she was at least as competent as any other assistant referee this season.

The game itself was a classic game of two halves. Newcastle dominated the first half without seemingly getting out of first gear and really should have been more than 1-0 up at half time. The second half was rather different and Newcastle humiliated themselves. I left the ground with about 20 minutes left when Newcastle had conceded 4 goals. Indeed by the full time whistle, I was well on my way home on the tube.

Let me tell you, that bottle of vodka at home on Saturday night did little to help me forget the horrors I saw in those 25 second half minutes. Such performances should carry an X rating. I do wonder why Fulham didn’t start playing until half time and why Newcastle stopped playing at half time