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Tea and Crumpets with Cottagers Confidential

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michael jackson fulham

The season might nearly be at its end, but there remain a handful of games to worry about, not least a trip to Craven Cottage on Monday to face that club that Roy Hodgson used to manage that isn't Liverpool. To that end, we too packed up our bags and headed for a much appreciated pre-match chat with Fulham's Cottager's Confidential. After the haute cuisine found at stadiums like the Emirates, it was rather a change of pace to find ourselves settling in with a lamb and mint pie in one hand, a can of Tetley's in the other, and a bit of conversation under the watchful gaze of Michael Jackson...

So, Fulham: The Cottagers. Also known as The Lilywhites. On occasion Mohamed Al-Fayed's Church Sunday School Jamboree. Or The Badgers: short, plump omnivores of the weasel family who in their mascot form have at times been sent off for breakdancing at the corner flag, as well as having not been sent off at times for crossing in front of the goal during play. Though I suppose a badger mascot roaming the pitch is better than the "Cravenettes" cheerleaders dancing along the sidelines as was once the case. Still, what on earth do badgers have to do with Fulham originally? Did one kill a particularly unpopular factory owner during the industrial revolution, leading to street urchins dressing in white and black striped shirts to terrify the wealthy? Does a badger hiding in your pantry lead to six months of good luck so long as you feed it pickled mushrooms and old football shirts? And do badgers typically break dance, or is this a behavior largely limited to particular London boroughs, and in any case do you expect Clint Dempsy to break dance like a badger on Monday?

badgers fulham craven cottage
Cute. Cuddly. Killers.

Without actually referring back to any historical evidence and while not making any attempt to answer your array of questions here with genuine authenticity, I can guarantee you that you’re onto the right lines with regards to the inception of our badger-based origins. The industrial revolution thesis is all but spot-on, but, I’m afraid the 6 months of good luck is a tad off the mark. Actually, in accordance with feeding rituals, we are offered in return a sum of 5 months and 5 days good luck, which generally runs out the day before any cup final. This explains the loss to West Ham United in the 1975 FA Cup Final and last year’s defeat to Atletico Madrid in the Europa League final. Unfortunately for you guys, we are still within the confines of our 5 month and 5 day golden streak, as we fed him in January, so expect no favours on Monday. As for Clint Dempsey dancing like a badger; doubt it.

Speaking of the myriad creatures on display at Craven Cottage, with Fulham appearing to have well and truly settled into the nougaty middle of the Premier League after decades mostly wandering the lower league wilderness, is it likely your ground will be able to expand to meet demand and fund the club's future endeavors? It may be a beloved landmark, not to mention being the only stadium in the land with a fully grown tree hiding inside its structure, but 2002's short-lived move to rival QPR's Loftus Road--an act undertaken when the cost of turning Craven Cottage into an all-seater stadium at the end of the three year grace period given to clubs entering the top two levels of English football was seen as prohibitive given the stadium's limited long-term financial potential--makes one wonder if Fulham can remain there indefinitely if the club and its supporters hope to endure in the top flight. While back in 2002 fans won a "Back to the Cottage" campaign, putting a greater priority on history than acquiring the financial muscle to compete at the top, has the outlook that history should come first survived as the club continues along in the Premier League? Or has that time at the top begun to swell the fanbase to the point where those who valued the club's old home as little as eight years ago might soon be drowned out by newer followers craving only success?

I, despite my young age and dazzling good looks, am a slight traditionalist when it comes to Craven Cottage. Therefore, I have a definite preference for the option of staying at the Cottage for as long as is financially plausible. Of course, it may affect our fan base slightly and for any genuine progress to be made, a new ground must sooner-or-later become a viable option but for now we are awaiting on the promise that Craven Cottage does have the ability to be expanded to a reported 30,000, which would entertain the prospects of growth as well as the want to stay in our West London home. It’s atmospheric, if you choose the right end to sit in, and it’s as picturesque as a football ground probably could be. Only sniggering doubt I have about the stadium is the credence it has given to our nickname ‘The Cottagers’.

Is Paul Konchesky still under warranty? Because we would quite like to get our money back.

No chance.

goodman big lebowski eight year olds
8 year olds, Dude.

It seemed worth a shot. Anyhow, in recent years there has been research done into the fact that humans and other creatures that don't normally do so are nonetheless capable of hibernation. It's certainly not a common natural occurrence, but occasionally when a child falls under the ice for an hour or a hunter goes missing in the woods for a month only to end up with a touch of hypothermia and no brain damage, it is that a rapid cooling process has triggered the ability to hibernate still buried deep within our genome, the body's functions slowing to such a great degree that vital organ demands for oxygen reach miniscule levels and survival for extended periods without it becomes possible. In lab studies meant to simulate these freak occurrences scientists have worked with pigs and dogs, creatures not normally known to hibernate in their modern form. Most commonly, their bodies are rapidly cooled to 10-15 degrees celsius--or 50-60 degrees fahrenheit--by draining the blood and replacing it with a chilled saline solution. It has even been found that when receiving massive injuries that would normally see them die within minutes, quickly inducing hibernation in this way can put the animal in a state of nearly suspended animation where they can be operated on before being revived, safely surviving injuries they never would have otherwise. So, Michael Jackson. Why? I mean, I know he walked around Craven Cottage once, but that hardly seems enough to get him a statue alongside a legend like Johnny Haynes who spent 18 years at Fulham, playing a club-record 658 games and scoring 158 goals.

I’m as flabbergasted as the next man when it comes to the erection of MJ’s statue at the Cottage. A sculpture of Gandhi or something would have been more appropriate and more widely accepted. Still though, it’s there now and if our run of good form continues while his plastic face looks over us, then I won’t complain too much. I’ll just tut every time I walk past it.

As for greater success, at one point owner Al-Fayed suggested that Fulham could become the Manchester United of the south, which means I now know him as more than just the guy who's the father of the guy who was in the car with Lady Di when she, you know, had that unfortunate accident. Now I also know him as that crazy dude who thinks Fulham will be the next ManU. Or is he just a lot more far-sighted than any other person involved with sport at any level has ever been? And if it's the former, does he plan on being buried in a pyramid in Motspur Park along with his servants, slaves, and Aaron Hughes?

He’s extravagant and outspoken, I’ll give you that. But if he wants to prematurely kill off Aaron Hughes and stick a pyramid next to the Hammersmith end, then he probably will. In fairness, I would oppose that less than I have the Jackson tribute. The Egyptian has done wonders for our club and I highly doubt we’d be a football league club without his ownership so I’ll support him to the very end of his tenure. Hopefully Al Fayed will still be around when we do finally achieve his target of becoming the Manchester United of the south, but, I hope equally that he doesn’t enforce a subsequent name change along the lines of ‘South’s Man U’ or ‘London Red ‘n’ Whites’.

'London Red 'n' Whites' does have a certain ring to it. In any case, inescapably, there's a certain man to talk about before the end. Everybody's favourite uncle, and the manager who took Fulham closest to their biggest ever prize when they lost to Atletico Madrid in the Europa League final. For a club whose previous honours amounted to losing an FA Cup final in 1975 to West Ham while in the second division and winning the Malaysian Touring Cup against somebody in 1968, it was no insignificant accomplishment. Not to mention that he was also the man who first saved and then solidified Fulham's place in the top flight. So, while the average Liverpool fan might have few--if any--positive memories of the man, one would expect the case to be slightly different on the banks of the Thames. Would most of Fulham still have him back if there was the chance? Or did his mode of departure sour the relationship and alter views on all he did for the club?

roy hodgson fulham liverpool west brom
You knew it was coming.

Roy Hodgson was one of the best managers that has graced the Craven Cottage dressing room, as much as you guys might not want to hear it. He worked wonders with our team and didn’t break the bank in the process. As you’ve said, it’s probably one of our greater achievements and it’s no coincidence that it came under his tutorship. Any Fulham fan you walk into will sing his praises until they’re short on breath and eventually faint. As for taking him back though? I’m not so sure. It was less the sour departure that has changed my view of him, but the change in our team dynamics. We press all over the pitch now and our attacking football has become more of a spectacle than ever. Mark Hughes has done wonders in a job that would have been difficult to succeed in, having come off the back of Roy’s reign. If Hughes wasn’t in, I’d consider Hodgson again--although behind the likes of Martin Jol--but while Sparky’s in charge I wouldn’t give Sir Woy a second look.

Everybody's a fan of up-tempo, attacking football, I suppose. Still, after a few tough visits facing down Hodgson's packed defenses, I have to say that the prospect of facing a Fulham side that will come out and play a little bit is greatly encouraging from an opposition perspective, too. That, however, is for Monday, and brings us to the end of another edition of Tea and Crumpets here at The Liverpool Offside. Thanks again to Kris of Cottagers Confidential, whose digital home currently holds a series of my answers to his questions for your eager perusal.