Having narrowly escaped relegation on goal difference in the 2007/08 season, Fulham have steadily improved into a top-half club with prudent management and shrewd signings. On Friday, Hammersmith & Fulham Council granted permission to the club to expand Craven Cottage to 30,000 seats and marks the club’s ambition, and financial rationality, to continually improve the club without mortgaging the club’s future.
It was in the nearly fatal season of 2007/08, where Fulham’s progression commenced as Roy Hodgson – who took over from a struggling Lawrie Sanchez mid-sesason – established the foundations for a team that would be in the ascendency over the following few seasons. Paul Konchesky, Danny Murphy and Brede Hangeland were acquired for modest sums and would play a role in Fulham’s subsequent success.
Fulham’s astute transfer activity continued in the 2009/10 season as Damien Duff was purchased for £3.5m and settled in quickly. The team progressed through the latter stages of the Europa League beating European heavyweights Juventus, Hamburg and Shakhtar Donetsk which culminated in a final against Atletico Madrid where they were finally thwarted in extra time in a 2-1 loss.
The team’s league form suffered due to the extended Europa League run that had initially started in July in the qualifying rounds but saw manager Roy Hodgson be awarded the LMA’s Manager of the Year and then disappointingly leave the club to take over Liverpool from the departing Rafa Benitez.
Mark Hughes was appointed to replace Hodgson and even a managerial change could not stop Fulham’s consistency. Former Chelsea and Reading midfielder Steve Sidwell was obtained for a mere £500,000 in addition to young Belgian Moussa Dembélé as new manager Mark Hughes led the club to an 8th place finish.
The manager inexplicably resigned from his post at the Craven Cottage club but was replaced with Martin Jol and with the acquisitions of Kerim Frei, Kasami, Bryan Ruiz, Grygera and Pogrebnyak, the Dutchman led the club to a ninth place finish. Again, the net spending was £5m as the club continued their uncanny habit of finding value in talent.
The club’s understated rise has been consistent despite managerial changes and a turnover of players. The club have been prudent in their spending and a report of Fulham’s finances for the 2010/11 season showed the club ran at a small £2m loss.
The announcement that the club had been granted permission to increase capacity at Craven Cottage is further proof that the club are looking to grow through anchored and sensible methods.
Increased ticket sales revenue should further advance the club’s prolificacy in the transfer market. The club were still in the old Division 2 in 1999 and after heavy investment from the club’s owner Mohamed Al-Fayed, the club were promoted to the Premier League in 2001.
If the heavy spending of those years landed Fulham in the top tier of English football, the task to rise up the Premier League has cultivated a different approach to club management and Fulham will in future continue to grow.