Whilst still a Division Two club, Fulham pulled off a coup when they lured George Best and Rodney Marsh back to English shores from their respective spells in America. Fans flocked to Craven Cottage in their numbers as, alongside Bobby Moore, the Whites boasted three of the biggest names in British football – albeit ones that had entered the twilight of their careers. More than 24,000 were in attendance for our 4-1 defeat of Hereford United – a game that could well have ended in double figures for Alec Stock’s side.
At times, Best and Marsh were unplayable, with the latter scoring twice. A game that is still remembered with great fondness by all those that were there, this was a match of skills, thrills and pure entertainment. Tired of running rings around their opponents, at one point, Marsh jokingly even tried to tackle Best after his teammate had accidently nipped the ball from his feet. Fantasy football had come to SW6.
A record Craven Cottage crowd of 49,335 came to see Fulham take on Millwall on 8th October 1938 in what was a Division Two top-of-the-table clash. Both sides were in good form as we had just beaten Manchester City 5-3 at Maine Road, with centre forward Ronnie Rooke scoring four times, and Millwall had won their last four games.
As a result, the attendance figure comfortably exceeded the biggest gate in the top flight (39,174 at Highbury for the visit of Grimsby to Arsenal) and was much higher than the previous Cottage record of 43,407, set when Spurs were the visitors in December 1932. The Lions took the lead on 38 minutes following an own goal by Whites Captain Mike Keeping. Viv Woodward levelled midway through the second half, before Jim Evans netted the winner with eight minutes left on the clock. As the programme recognised at the time, it was “a red letter day in the history of the Fulham club”.
Our highest top-flight attendance was set in March 1967, with 47,270 watching our 2-2 draw with Manchester United.
As derby matches go, it doesn’t get much better than a 6-0 thrashing of one of your nearest neighbours. Andrew Johnson (3), Danny Murphy, Clint Dempsey and Bobby Zamora were all on target as Martin Jol’s side dismantled the Hoops in comprehensive fashion. AJ opened the scoring after just 81 seconds and, from then on, this was a game that was never in doubt. Fulham impressed with a demonstration of positive football full of fluid movement and effortless passing.
The Guardian’s Amy Lawrence wrote: “Almost a quarter of a century has passed since these two teams came perilously close to a merger. At the time when Fulham Park Rangers was a possibility being rigorously pursued by a property development company, Fulham were grateful for a gate of 3,000 here. This time, a full house in the blazing sunshine could not believe their luck. This particular west London derby must have felt heavenly for Fulham.” Certainly it is one game that will live long in the memory of Whites’ fans.
In the modern era, players from far and wide have pulled on the Fulham shirt – and whilst the team may have adopted a more cosmopolitan feel in recent times, it all started with the arrival of Hassan Hegazi in November 1911. Born in Egypt in 1891, Hegazi was an Oxford Blue, and played for his country in the 1920, 1924 and 1928 Olympics before he moved to London to join non-league Dulwich Hamlet FC as a forward in 1911.
Attracting the interest of then-Fulham boss Phil Kelso, he was asked to play in a league match against Stockport County on 11th November and became not only the Club’s first African player, but our first overseas one too. Hegazi opened the scoring in a 3-1 win and was asked to play at Leeds united the following week, but chose to honour his commitment to Dulwich and returned to amateur football.
Thoughtful, driven and bold, former player Malcolm Macdonald made a considerable impact when he was made Manager in November 1980 - guiding the team out of Division Three and to within touching distance of the top flight.
Macdonald, one of the country’s great forwards in his day, won promotion at the end of the 1981/82 campaign and ensured his side did so by playing positive attacking football. After the Manager then banned the word ‘consolidate’ from the dressing room to ensure they aimed high, the Whites then almost secured a second successive one only to miss out during the end of season run-in. It was an odd situation as, needing to win their final game of the season against Derby County, it was interrupted by a pitch invasion with 78 second left to play. After an unsuccessful appeal to have the game replayed, we had to make do with the fact we finished 14 places and 22 points ahead of Chelsea (the biggest gap ever between the two rivals).
Be sure to check back on fulhamfc.com as numbers 35 to 31 are revealed on Friday 14th June.