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A Cottagers Contemplation - The beating heart of the beautiful game

What does it mean to be a Fulham fan?

Fulham v Leeds United - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

In the day and age of foreign investors and inflating transfer fees, one factor of the game remains loyal to its roots.

The Fans are what is bringing the game to life. They are more than just another source of revenue. Fans give a club a unique character and help make this sport the beautiful game.

There have been numerous accounts of fan destruction of property in and around stadiums, most recently at the European Championships this year in France.

Fan disruption brings with it negative press coverage. Violence between rival fans is reminiscent of the football hooliganism culture that plagued the British game throughout 1980's.

A small number of fans would use a football match to fight with rivals. Since the 1980s and well into the 1990's the UK government has led a wide scale crackdown on football related violence. T

here have been programmes and films documenting the violence, bringing with it the aforementioned negativity. Although it would be unfair to paint all fans with the same brush, violence is not the only side to fanatics of the sport.

Football brings people from different cultures and backgrounds together as a huge family, strangers become friends in time of celebration and a shoulder of commiseration in times of disparity.

Fulham fans

It's undeniable that Fulham are a team in a slump. The club's fans are what remain positive through the dark times, contributing towards the clubs family club image. Craven Cottage is for most teams the favourite stadium for fans to visit on an away day.

Fulham v Crystal Palace - Premier League Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images

Fan rivalries

Rivalries should be based on mutual recognition. Local pride is the main reason behind most rivalries. Where as sometimes rivalries are formed from hatred, jealousy or previous brawls between fans.

Dr. Andrew Livingstone of Exeter University’s school of psychology has said that football has always been about hatred and has been quoted ‘having an enemy is very helpful in making sure we know who we are as a group. It can cement a shared identity with fellow fans, and provides a sense of purpose and focus.’

Rivalries within Fulham

Within London every team becomes a rival due to geographical standing, but Fulham have had four notable rivals; the majority of which situate within West/South West London.

Fans have an animosity towards Chelsea, QPR, Brentford and Gillingham. I am delving further into these rivalries.

Queens Park Rangers v Charlton Athletic - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Joel Ford/Getty Images

Firstly, QPR in my opinion would be regarded our biggest rival. Not only are they our local rivals but respectively they regard one and others that way.

Even though Chelsea are despised by the teams in West London, as well as most of England. They simple do not regard Fulham as a competitor.

There is more of a backstory towards the rivalry between QPR and Fulham. On February 28th 1987, both sets of fans protested against proposed merger of both clubs. With neither fans wanting to share the ground with their local rivals.

Years later in 2002, Fulham were required to vacate Craven Cottage as the ground underwent £70 million redevelopment. Previous owner Mohamed Al Fayed wanted to keep the club close to their home and agreed to a stadium share with QPR which has helped build toward today's atmosphere.

Both Fulham and QPR fans regard Chelsea as their main rival, each other as their secondary respectively, and then Brentford third.

On hatred alone Chelsea would be the club's biggest rival but rivalries boil down to so much more.

Chelsea v Leicester City - Premier League Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Chelsea are the neighbours from SW6 and generally despised by the Fulham faithful.

The fans of the Chelsea do not even consider us as a rival. In fact Chelsea fans did not list any of the trio from West London when asked. Instead considering Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool as the club's main rivals.

Chelsea fans look down upon their 'little' neighbours Fulham and QPR. The fans are often seen as the working class from the rich, West End of London, with a lingering history of fan violence.

For many years the club was renowned for the fans antics off the field rather than the team's actions upon it.

Chelsea lacked much success on the pitch up until the Abramovich era that began in 2006. Thus bringing an influx of supporters. The majority regarded as glory supporters, jumping on a winning bandwagon. The term 'plastic fans' has been labelled against the fan base.

Mainly their attitude of being ungraceful in the face of defeat and degrading fellow fans is what has caused this. While on the field Chelsea gain their negativity from overspending in the transfer market and on player wages, to the point that many teams struggle to compete. They also became the first English team to field an entirely foreign starting lineup, when they played against Southampton on December 26, 1999.

Brentford v Nottingham Forest - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Brentford fans identify QPR as their main rivals, Fulham as their second and Brighton & Hove Albion thirdly.

As fans I believe we too are guilty of looking down our noses towards Brentford.

We look towards Brentford the way as Chelsea view us.

For many years Brentford had been less relevant in the eyes of Fulham fans. With Fulham playing in the Premier League, it meant fewer match ups. However since The Cottagers relegation in 2014, the two clubs now play at least twice a season, reawakening the once dormant rivalry.

I personally believe that rival is mainly due to geographical standing, with no real hostility between both sets of fans.

Brackley Town v Gillingham - FA Cup First Round Replay Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

The rivalry with Gillingham ignited after the tragic death of a Fulham fan outside their ground by a fan in 1998. The rivalry simmered for a couple of seasons but was never regarded as a real and is unheard of in the present day, there is resentment by only a few fans.

As aforementioned I believe it's unfair to draw conclusion of a fan base by a group's actions.

One fan's actions caused a disdain towards a whole club, No longer any mutual recognition between both sets of fans leaving the rivalry to fizzle out.

Rivalries can be an open topic of discussion, Do you regard Chelsea or QPR as our main rivals?

Is it Chelsea's actions on the field or the fans off the field that oppositions dislike?

Leave your thoughts in the comments below.