On 27th November 1995, with the Club on the brink of obscurity, racked with enormous debt and firmly cemented at the foot of the English Football League, the Daily Telegraph ran a story stating: ‘Fulham are in need of a miracle worker’. Perhaps it was prophetic as, 18 months later, one arrived.
The 29th of May 1997 is a date that will remain etched in the memories of everyone associated with Fulham Football Club, as the day Mohamed Al Fayed’s tenure as Chairman began. Purchasing the freehold of Craven Cottage and a major shareholding in the Club, it marked a metamorphosis on the banks of the Thames.
Immediately following his takeover, Mr Al Fayed promised the fans a return to the top flight of English football within five years; it was achieved in four.
Mr Al Fayed’s Fulham blazed a trail through the lower divisions and, by 2001, the Whites secured their place amongst the elite of the (then) Barclays Premiership with a record-breaking points tally as champions of Division One.
Fulham’s success under Mr Al Fayed’s stewardship was mirrored by the development of the Club off the pitch. A stunning Training Ground in Surrey provided the Team’s management and staff with state-of-the-art facilities and the enhancement of Craven Cottage provided the fans with a home to be proud of in an exquisite Thames-side setting.
With such a platform to build upon, it was no surprise that Fulham cemented a place in the top flight for 13 consecutive seasons during Mr Al Fayed’s tenure. His hands-on approach to the Club saw many changes and he demonstrated his intuitive decision making once again in December 2007, installing Roy Hodgson as Manager as Fulham teetered on the brink of relegation. The Whites went on to record a stunning run of results and secure their top-flight future against the odds.
Also under his command, Fulham reached the UEFA Europa League Final in 2010 and sealed a magnificent eighth-place Premier League finish in 2011. Ahead of the 2011/12 campaign, Mr Al Fayed made another astute managerial appointment in the form of Martin Jol, who guided Fulham to ninth place in the Premier League and then 12th the following year.
Opting to end his tenure after 16 glorious years in July 2013, it's impossible to say where the Club would be now without Mohamed Al Fayed. But, with the granting of planning permission for a redeveloped Riverside Stand set to ensure long-term sustainability at the Club’s historic and spiritual home, his legacy will be written in stone.
For more information on Mohamed Al Fayed, visit his personal website at http://www.alfayed.com.