I have many personal memories of this famous old ground as I played there for Lancashire Boys Clubs in 1959 in the Gillette Cup Final against Hampshire. Arriving at the ground we were ushered into the dressing room and the first question I asked was, “where does Johnny Haynes hang his coat?”. The appropriate hook was pointed out to me and I hung my jacket there. Can you imagine changing for a game of football where the great Johnny Haynes prepared for all his home games with Fulham over 18 years?
The grandstand running alongside the Thames wasn’t there in 1959, it was all terracing. The famous cottage can just be seen in the bottom right hand corner of the ground.
The following text is taken from the book, Football Grounds, and was written by Cassandra Wells.
“Fulham started in 1879 as Fulham St. Andrews, a church team. The club moved grounds eight times before they finally arrived at Craven Cottage in 1896. The ground was on the site of the original Craven Cottage which was built in 1789 by Baron Craven and burned down in 1888. The team turned professional in 1898 and by 1905 they were drawing crowds in the region of 20,000, more than their neighbours at Chelsea. The club spent £15,000 developing the ground; this included three terraces and a corner pavilion, the Cottage. The only stand to be built was on Stevenage Road, which had an upper tier of seats, a paddock in front covered by a pitched roof and gable in the centre. It was not until the 1960s that further development took place. In 1961 the Hammersmith End was extended and in 1965 it was covered. The Riverside Terrace was replaced by the Riverside Stand in 1971, although the cost of this stand almost bankrupted the club. For the next 20 years Fulham fell into decline, gates dropped and debts stacked up. In the early 1990s the club’s future at Craven Cottage looked very doubtful as property developers took over ownership of the ground. In 1991 Fulham started ground-sharing talks with Chelsea, although these never came to anything. Perhaps Fulham’s lowest moment came in January 1996 when they were second from bottom in the Third Division, drawing crowds of around 4,000 and facing an exit from the League. Their fortunes changed completely on May 29th 1997 when Harrod’s owner Mohammed Al Fayed took over ownership of the club. Al Fayed brought with him a five-year plan to get the club into the Premiership. He spent millions on players and in just four years this dream was realised. He then went about redeveloping the ground. In 2002 Fulham left Craven Cottage to ground-share at QPR’s Loftus Road. Rumours circulated that Al Fayed was going to sell the ground. However, these proved unfounded and at the start of the 2004-05 season the Cottagers moved back to Craven Cottage, to an improved stadium, capable of holding 26,300."