At long last our concerns for Craven Cottage can be temporarily put aside. All the boundless rumours of ground sharing with Queens Park Rangers thankfully appear to be without foundation, and amidst all the talk of Chelsea building a new stadium, it seems Fulham have a plan all of their own which would appear, on the surface at least, utterly flawless. Well, flawless in comparison to the Michael Jackson statue, for example.
It's a move that the fans have long sought and it's one that's been mooted for some time, yet, it still took 7 years of solid Premier League football to convince the higher echelons of our club boardroom that expanding Craven Cottage to a still meagre 30,000 capacity is actually a sound decision. Perhaps a bit late, but sound nonetheless.
We may have had to wait a fair time for it to happen, but at least the decision has arrived. At various points over the intervening years between Premier League football and moves to and from Loftus Road, the fans have been left somewhat unacquainted with news on how Fulham Football Club and Craven Cottage would stand. Would there be expansion? Would there be ground sharing? Would there be a move away?
They're, ostensibly, menial questions, but to a fan of a club so enriched with a valiant history, they're a whole lot more than that. They are questions which are rooted deeply into what it means to be a Fulham fan, what it's like to walk the Bishop's Park walk and what it's like to enter through the traditional, wooden turnstiles. Put simply, it's a ground like no other and to move away was never really an option.
Of course, there comes a point when you must put the past behind you but that in itself doesn't come without a price. A move away from Craven Cottage would detract greatly from our family-friendly nature. We're a club that has built it's profile around our ageing stadium, one which exudes a unique atmosphere that you rarely see in today's game. It's an atmosphere built on history and admiration for the club and while it seems somewhat ludicrous to think that'd disappear given a move from the Cottage, it's somewhat viable that the way we are perceived in general would take a shift in a less desirable direction. Without our SW6 home, would we be that humble, quaint club that we are regularly labelled as with a certain tone of affection?
I would doubt it, although it's not just that. It's the yet more minimal elements that entwine Fulham to the Cottage. The tiny changing rooms that Sir Alex Ferguson recently labelled 'an absolute disgrace', after his side had been held to a 2-2 draw. The wooden seats that, despite being less than comfortable, can take you on a journey through time that spans an expansive 115 years. The overlooking view of the River Thames and, most notably by a long way, the cottage itself. They are all reasons that make it so difficult for an average Fulham fan to remove themselves from a place of worship that have brought so many moments of sheer elation and, in equal abundance, moments of sheer desperation.
Yes, expanding Craven Cottage is the right idea and yes, it is a necessary act. Last season, on average,we squeezed 25,043 fans into our stadium - one which fits, at full capacity, a predicted 25,700. Quite a remarkable feat in one hand, quite a mishandling of business in the other. The match day revenue that could have been made on an extra 5,000 fans is more-than-likely a quite significant sum, and, taking the stats into account, it's far from absurd to suggest we would fill those new seats either. They'd be snapped up in an instant when you consider the team they'll be watching are playing a fast, flairy and expansive brand of football in Jol's new era.
For once, the fans' voices have been heard and for once our demands are being adhered to. Here's to another glorious decade of Craven Cottage football.