Friday, December 16, 2011

My trip to Craven Cottage for Fulham - Stoke City

Craven Cottage, London, England
Fulham FC - Stoke City, English Premier League Soccer

Well I had my choice of games on Sunday afternoon in London. I could either go to The Emirates and watch Arsenal against Wigan Athletic or I could head to Craven Cottage and catch the Fulham - Stoke match. A number of factors went into my decision to head to the Fulham FC game on that cold afternoon.

Truthfully, I am not much of an Arsenal fan at all. They play an attractive game for sure, but I have just never taken to their players other than a healthy respect for Theo Walcott. I was also unsure about being able to land a decently priced ticket on game day at The Emirates. Wigan was also a weak side so I didn’t really expect it to be much of a game anyways.

Thus, I chose to head to Craven Cottage. I knew I could get a ticket pretty easily there and they had one of my favorite American players in Clint Dempsey. I also expected a good match from a gritty Stoke City side.

So I hopped up that morning and grabbed breakfast at my hotel with the idea of hopping the train and heading to Craven Cottage. It was cold and wet as it was everyday on my stay in London. No surprise as that is the typical January London weather. It was a drizzly 40 degrees when I set out on the journey. I had looked up the route and felt prepared to make the trip.

The subways were no problem at all and I arrived quite early for the game. It was a decent walk from where the train dropped me, but in 15 minutes I was in front of Cravens Cottage. To say it was unassuming would be an understatement. I would say it barely looked like a stadium from the outside, but that just added to the experience.

outside Craven Cottage

I was well early as I wanted to make sure I landed a ticket. I hit the ticket office upon arrival and had no problem landing a plum seat for about $80 US. A little steep, but I wanted to sit on the sideline and I didn’t mind spending a little extra so as to not sit on the endlines. The gates weren’t open as of yet so I huddled outside in the wet cold and found a nice fellow to have a chat with while we both waited. He shared some of the history of the stadium and we talked some EPL for about 20 minutes.

By then the gates were open and we parted ways. Once inside I must say it is a wonderful grounds. I headed around to the back of the stadium to find the River Thames flowing just behind.

After taking in the Thames, I headed inside to find my seat. Quite happy with my spot I settled in and watched as the teams took the field for warmups. What an atmosphere as the crowd built and kickoff approached. I was lucky to have the Stoke City section only about thirty yards away. The yelling back and forth between the Stoke fans and Fulham fans was quite entertaining.

Then it was time for kickoff. Fulham were on the front foot as one would expect. Just before halftime Fulham grabbed the lead and it was none other than Clint Dempsey who got the goal. He slid in on the backpost and tapped in a low cross sending the Craven Cottage fans into a frenzy.

The game went 1-0 to halftime and the home fans were quite happy with the opening 45 minutes of play. The second half commensed and it was quite entertaining. Fulham searched for the dagger 2nd goal while Stoke had a few chances off their trademark long throw-ins. Then Fulham earned a penalty with about 20 minutes to play. Clint Dempsey stepped up and fired home giving Fulham the 2-0 victory.

The match ended without any further drama and the home side were victorious. I fought the mass of people heading for the trains to make my way back to the hotel. It was like a huge herd of ants all heading for the same destination. I squeezed onto the train and made my way home finishing a wonderful day at Craven Cottage. I couldn’t recommend Craven Cottage more. The atmosphere is wonderful and the people friendly. Most importantly it has the intimacy of the old English grounds that is being lost as the mega-stadiums popping up everywhere.

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