In today’s commercially-heavy world of sport it’s hard to imagine a football jersey without a company’s name or brand splashed across the chest, but it was less than 30 years ago when Fulham first agreed a sponsorship deal allowing someone to advertise on our famous white shirt.
Scottish brewers William Younger were the chosen company, with their name emblazoned on our kit for the 1984/85 season, as modelled by striker Dean Coney (pictured). This came eight and a half years after a British club had used a shirt sponsor for the first time when Kettering Town controversially had Kettering Tyres printed on their kit. However, they were later forced to remove the sponsor by the FA for breaching sponsorship rules (although they tried to get around this by changing the wording to Kettering T and claiming it was just their team name!). Liverpool were the first professional club in the country to carry a sponsor on their strip when they agreed a deal with electronics company Hitachi in 1979.
When the teenage Frank Penn joined Fulham in 1915, few could have predicted the longevity of his future career at the Club. After making his debut in a wartime match against Clapton Orient on 22nd September 1917 and his official Football League debut against South Shields at Craven Cottage on 30th August 1919, he would go on to make 427 league appearances for Fulham – a Club record until it was beaten first by Eddie Lowe, and then Johnny Haynes.
Penn’s final game for the Whites came against West Ham United in 1934, but that far from signalled the end of his time at the Club. After retiring from playing that year, he took up the role of Assistant Trainer, before becoming Chief Trainer in 1939, whilst he was also qualified as a physiotherapist.
He remained at Fulham until his retirement in 1965, marking half a century of employment at the Club. Frank passed away the following year at the age of 70, but he leaves behind a wonderful legacy of service and loyalty to Fulham Football Club.
Following The Maestro’s untimely death in a car crash in October 2005, the Club promptly made plans to commemorate our greatest ever player with a permanent tribute. The first action was to rename the Stevenage Road Stand in his honour, and then – in July 2008 – it was announced that a bronze statue had been commissioned and would be situated outside the Cottage Gates.
Various fundraisers, the generosity of supporters and money from the previous season’s Fair Play award led to £41,980 being raised for the statue. It was unveiled prior to kick-off ahead of our match against Sunderland on 18th October 2008 – three years to the day of his passing.
The statue was unveiled by Chairman Mohamed Al Fayed and Johnny’s widow, Avril, to a great response from the gathered crowd. Sadly, the subsequent football match didn’t live up to Haynes’ standards. We played out a goalless draw with Sunderland that afternoon, with the most notable action coming when future Fulham man Kieran Richardson hit the woodwork three times for the Black Cats with the same free-kick.
Of course, Johnny’s is not the only statue situated at the Cottage these days. Following the passing of Michael Jackson in 2009, Mr Al Fayed went about creating a lasting tribute to his good friend and unveiled a statue of the King of Pop ahead of our Premier League match with Blackpool in April 2011.
A little known fact about Fulham is that we initially didn’t play in the black and white kits which are now synonymous with the football club. Instead, we played in combinations of red and white, or red, white and black, while navy blue also made an appearance during the 1898/99 season.
It was the 1903/04 campaign which first saw Fulham adopt a pure black and white strip, with the white shirt and black shorts complemented by socks which featured hoops of each colour. The new design coincided with our promotion to the Southern League First Division, and it is now impossible to imagine us running out at the Cottage in anything other than black and white.
In his first full season in charge, Malcolm Macdonald led Fulham to promotion from Division Three, although it was only clinched on the final day of the 1981/82 season. It was done in dramatic fashion, too, as a win for Lincoln City at Craven Cottage would have seen them promoted at our expense.
20,298 spectators turned up to watch the match – more than twice as many fans as there were for our previous highest attendance of the season – such was the importance of the game. The Imps started the match the brighter, with Fulham looking nervous as the occasion appeared to affect the players somewhat.
However, it was the Whites that took the lead on 57 minutes. Lincoln defender Steve Thompson was sent off for a foul on Dean Coney, and Roger Brown headed in the subsequent free-kick taken by his central defensive partner Tony Gale. It was Brown’s 12th league goal of the season – a record for a Fulham defender in a single campaign which is still intact today.
Dave Carter equalised for the visitors quarter of an hour later and it required a goal-line clearance from Sean O’Driscoll to keep Lincoln at bay as they piled on the pressure, but the Whites held firm to take the third and final promotion place.