And now the end is near

Wednesday 27 February 2002

We thought you might enjoy this excellent piece from Whites fan John Dixon who lives in Ireland...

On Saturday the 27th April at 3.00pm our beloved "Whites" will kick off our final league match in our old surroundings at Craven Cottage.

For quite a few it will be a sad day, because when they return to the new stadium, many of their own personal landmarks, that recall a fond memory will have disappeared.

We all have memories the new supporters and the old, each of us recalling, that special moment about our team. A father may recall a time when he stood under the floodlight pylon with his son and saw one of his heroes score that magnificent goal against our opponents in one game or other.

So much has happened in our years of following the whites, memories which belong to us all, of games or events that we have all shared in at Craven Cottage.

My fondest memory of the ground is a very personal one; it has belonged to me alone for 23 years.

We all have our dreams where we can make anything happen if we try. My dream along with many other supporters was to appear in a game alongside my football heroes. To speed down the wing and cross the ball into the penalty area, where it meets to perfection the head of Johnny Haynes and flies into the back of the net, the winning goal. A dream as I say that could never have come true but that has belonged to me.

It was after the 1-1 draw with Manchester United in January 1979 that in a way my dream became a little more real.

That night I was sitting in the Eric Miller Stand for the first time; a friend of a friend gave me his seat, as he wanted to rough it at the Hammersmith End. So I was sitting among the affluent supporters of FFC, very little cheering of the team went on there, but they did clap nicely.

Anyway after the match I thought I would stay back until the crowd dispersed, before going on to meet my friends. I went in to The Riverside Bar where at that time you could still get a pint in a glass. Many of the Fulham "Celebs" were there and they made me most welcome. After about half an hour I thought I must catch my friends up, and as I left I thought that a short cut across the pitch would save me a lot of legwork around the stadium.

I went up to the stand and the whole ground was in darkness, except for a light above the door of the Cottage. I went down the steps and slowly walked on to the pitch, in my mind at that moment the roar of the faithful was with me. I slowly walked towards the light of the Cottage seeing in my mind some of the many matches that I had been witness to.

I walked to the Putney End Goal and leaned for a while on the post. An earlier mist in the evening had cleared and there was a wonderful clear night sky, with enough moonlight to cast strange shadows all around the ground. At that moment I felt so at home, I could vision so many of the goalmouth scrambles with the players all around me, in a moment I turned and I kicked my leg out and scored. It was the nearest my dreams would ever get to reality. At that moment I looked around the ground and said thank you, the strange shadows seemed to have disappeared, and I felt a warm glow from within. I walked to the gates and passed out into the evening.

I will never forget that night. Since then I have looked at the goal posts at the Putney End hundreds of times each time seeing the goal that never was. So the end is near for our stadium, the first game played here according to my little book was a reserve game against St Mary's Recreation.

Re Creation this is what we are now all about, a new Stadium for a new age, a new beginning, a club of the future.

We want to stand alongside the Arsenal's, Liverpool's, the Manchester United's, and why not it is our right to do so if we are worthy, and we must make ourselves worthy.

Our future success will be down to everyone, Chairman, Management, Players, Cleaners, and the Supporters. Each one of us has a part to play and if everyone works together Fulham will be an almighty success.

I say this because next season will be the hardest we have ever had to face in the thirteen seasons that we have played in the top flight. Every game will be played away from Craven Cottage in effect away from home. But to succeed next season Fulham will need every supporter they can get to go to whatever ground share we will have.

Fulham will need the supporter's help and understanding to see them through, every supporter can help even those of us overseas, words of encouragement can be sent from near or far, send letters, emails, fax's show the players of your support, by getting behind them.

There's not much playing time until the doors close on the Cottage so enjoy every minute, I will even though I cannot attend.

As a suggestion to the chairman, could the club have an open day of some kind after the last ball is kicked and before the bulldozers move in? A chance to say goodbye to some very happy memories of a truly Happy Stadium...