Love at first light

Friday 11 January 2002

From Fulham Today's Ian McCulloch

If Fulham don't suffer any more postponements or Cup replays this season, Tuesday night's game against Wycombe could conceivably be the last ever evening game to be played at the Cottage.

The atmosphere of a night match, with the old ground packed to the gills, especially with a big team as the opposition, is something that has always been very, very special. Make that a Cup-tie and it's awesome. It's almost as though the black night sky acts as a roof, turning the Cottage into a cauldron of noise and making it a fearsome place for opposition teams to visit.

Fulham installed their floodlights as recently as 1962, the last top-flight side to do so, and, interestingly, they were paid for by the Supporters Club. The lights were christened in September of that year - a Maurice Cook hat trick inspiring the Whites to a 4-1 victory against Sheffield Wednesday. Before then, midweek games kicked off at 2.15 pm in the winter, and 6.15 pm in the autumn and spring. Over 22,000 turned up that memorable night and newspaper journalists had a field day writing about Cook "lighting up" Fulham, and the Whites' "illuminating" play.

From then on, the combination of nights and lights has conspired to produce many unforgettable and thrilling memories. Leeds in the League Cup in 1969, QPR in the League Cup in 1970 and an FA Cup replay in 1972, the League Cup win over West Ham in the same year that both Clubs met in the FA Cup final and when the lights actually failed for twenty minutes, the glorious 1-1 draw with Manchester United in 1979, the proud night against Lincoln when Roger Brown won us promotion in 1982, the series of games in the epic League Cup contest against Liverpool in1983, Liverpool again in 1993 when a Sean Farrell goal almost put the Cottage in orbit, the topsy-turvy FA Cup replay against Ashford that eventually saw the Whites sneak through 5-3, the 3-0 demolishing of Manchester City, the promotion clinching game against Gillingham and the Barry Hayles inspired Cup triumph over Southampton all in the 1998-99 season, the fabulous League Cup win over Tottenham in 1999, Derby in the League Cup in 2000, and of course, Simon Morgan's final appearance for the Whites, against Wolves last year.

This season? Perhaps the finest memory of them all. On a highly charged night in August, Fulham secured their first win in the history of the Premiership with a 2-0 victory over Sunderland. No one there that night with any feeling for Fulham will ever forget it.

With the shadows and the gloom highlighting all the nooks and crannies of this historic stadium and with the moon over the river in the background, can there be any finer arena to watch the triumphs and heartbreaks of a major sporting contest? There will be more extraordinary evenings at the new Cottage of course, the new stadium will have its own atmosphere and will soon start to build up it's own store of memories. But it will be different - Craven Cottage is unique.

We've one last chance to experience what a really exceptional occasion an evening Cup-tie at the Cottage really is. Let's get down there on Tuesday and make it another extra-special night in Fulham's history. Let's show the players how much it means to us, and let's roar them onto one last victory under the lights.

SUPPORTERS ARE REMINDED TO ARRIVE EARLY FOR THIS MATCH AS 'PAY-ON-THE-DAY' FACILITIES WILL SLOW DOWN TURNSTILE ACCESS.

PLEASE BE INFORMED THAT FOR THIS MATCH, THE PUTNEY TERRACE WILL BE OCCUPIED BY VISITING SUPPORTERS.