Some may wonder why I hate Fulham. I mean, most Watford fans don't dislike them. I'm sure they have great respect for the Thames-side club and indeed feel that they are a credit to South West London. Many Hornet supporters must cherish Fulham for that happy day in May '98. However, my reason for hating Fulham is quite simple.
Fulham Football Club have bags of cash and, more specifically, are owned by Mohammed Al Fayed.
Some may consider this childish act of jealousy. However, this hatred has many sophisticated and justified reasons, which I will now tell of. All of them branch off the Harrods owner somehow.
My dislike stretches back to the summer of 1997. Under the fine management of Mickey Adams, Fulham had achieved Division Two status. Here they joined Watford, ready to embark on their second campaign in the old Third Division. Now, Fulham had just been taken over by Mohammed Al Fayed. He appeared on "Endsleigh League Extra" on the opening day of the season claiming that Fulham, along with Mickey Adams, would be in the top flight within three years - that meant successive promotions. (I have to add here that I was oh-so-happy when the Horns achieved this, and Al Fayed and his million pound club were left in our wake.)
Within two months, Adams was sacked. Although our millionaire friend claimed there were footballing reasons, Fulham were doing perfectly well for a newly promoted club. It was obvious that Adams didn't fit in with Al Fayed's "image." What a bastard, after all that Adams had done for that club! It made me feel sick.
Already millions were being poured into the club. Premiership players were being attracted down to Craven Cottage, offered huge salaries to play for them. Kevin Keegan was brought in, along with our very own (until recently) Ray Wilkins. Fulham began to rise up the League rapidly. They reached the play-offs and, although Grimsby beat them to the third promotion spot, they stormed the League the following season.
Keegan left and Paul Bracewell, the captain who had lifted the trophy the previous season, was appointed. Only tenth that season, so Bracewell, like Adams, was disposed of. Jean Tigana was brought in and we all know what happened next.
Some may wonder where I'm going with this. So far all I've done is given an abbreviated version of Fulham's recent history. Let me show you what I'm getting at. Fulham don't deserve any of what they've got now. Al Fayed bought the club as a pet project, a business investment, after seeing Craven Cottage from a train window. He wasn't a supporter, like Elton. Their rise through the divisions has all been down to money. Ours took good management, teamwork. Proper footballing reasons.
Some may disagree with me at this point. They'll say, "Look at Tigana's coaching ability." Okay, fine. But don't tell me that Jean would have come if he wasn't being paid a bomb or if Fulham were a mid-table Division Two side, as they would have been if Adams had stayed and no money had been invested. For me, Fulham epitomise all what is wrong with football today. Everything about their success is due to money, big money and that's plain wrong. For Al Fayed, it's simply a case of "If it ain't glamorous enough, throw a couple of million at it."
One last injustice - Fulham are in the Premiership. Now if I'm not mistaken, all Premiership stadia have to be all-seater. Craven Cottage certainly isn't. Now a season in, Fulham have planning permission to make Craven Cottage all-seater. Fine, that's all right. But cast your mind back to the end of 94/95 season. Stevenage, winners of the Conference, couldn't join the League as their stadium didn't reach requirements. They too had planning permission to bring it up to standard. But as work couldn't have been finished before the beginning of the new season, they were denied promotion. The FA stuck to its rules. Now, I don't see the rule saying "All Premiership stadia have to be all-seater, but it doesn't matter for a few seasons, as Fulham's a big club with lots of money, so don't hurry yourself."
When I wrote this, Fulham were plummeting towards the relegation zone. The season would have been worthwhile for me, if they had been relegated. Money doesn't win you everything, my friend....