Recently, I returned from my (now annual) trip to England with my father to watch football. Over the past 6 years, this has become sort of a tradition, and I figured I’d make a blog post about one of the biggest reasons for the trips: football.
As regular readers know, my father and I have something in common in terms of the clubs we support–the borough of Fulham. My father supports Fulham FC, and I have been supporting Chelsea FC. Over the past year my loyalties have been wavering, however. The outrageous ticket prices charged at Stamford Bridge, as well as some decisions taken by the club, have turned me off a bit. The atmosphere at Craven Cottage is excellent, prices are reasonable, and the club is run with some semblance of a long-term strategy rather than the whims of a billionaire. As Simon Kuper (the author of the book Soccernomics) explains very well, clubs are no longer community-based clubs; they have virtually no connections to the local area, and we are not supporters, but rather consumers. As a consumer, I can choose to follow or unfollow any team I wish (and the author argues that this is even more the case with Americans, who have been trained to not have strong allegiances in the same way many Europeans have a history of supporting clubs).
Back to the matches we saw this year. As always, a Fulham-heavy schedule beckoned. This year we saw two games at Craven Cottage, one road game at the Hawthorns, and we went to Stamford Bridge to see the European champions take on the league-worst Queen’s Park Rangers. Last year, we saw an amazing string of results for the Cottagers–at home and away–and this year’s team couldn’t match it. The squad is weaker than last year’s iteration, and the games we saw bore that out.
The games were no less enjoyable. The atmosphere was as good as ever, and traveling with the away fans on the team coach was a really good experience too. Both of us agreed that this was the way we’d travel to future away games as well. It’s easy, fast, and affordable. If anyone else is interested in traveling that way, I can recommend it–at least with Fulham.
For the second year in a row we saw a series of successive games with Fulham. Last year we both enjoyed seeing several games in a row–this gave us a better view into the first eleven, the squad rotation, team tactics, etc. After doing it this way last year, we opted to do it again and were both glad to have done so.
The big star of this year was the new addition Dimitar Berbatov. By any standard of measure, he has been Fulham’s central player this season, and it showed on the field. He is pure class, although also incredibly frustrating for fans. It’s not hard to see sometimes how previous clubs’ fans might have tired of him, however. He can be aloof and can wear on the fans’ patience at times. He gets easily frustrated with his teammates–sadly, it’s often easy to see why.
Another year, and another great set of matches. The final tally was:
26 Dec 12: Fulham 1-1 Southampton
29 Dec 12: Fulham 1-2 Swansea City
01 Jan 13: West Brom 1-2 Fulham
02 Jan 13: Chelsea 0-1 QPR
Next year, we can only hope that the trip and the matches are as good as they were this year. One thing is for sure–the company never disappoints.