29 July ~ As a Northerner who recently moved to west London, I'm still fairly new to the capital's complicated network of rivalries and derbies. I was aware, naturally, that Arsenal and Tottenham don't get on. I knew that nobody much likes Millwall (as they like to sing) or Chelsea, and I understood that some of the fiercest rivalries are intercity – QPR are about as unpopular in Cardiff as Crystal Palace are in Brighton.

One misconception I had was that no one seemed to have any beef with Fulham. Perhaps it was the city being caught up in the Cottagers' Europa League run but there seemed remarkably little ill-will towards a club that – aside perhaps from Mohamed Fayed's brief "Manchester United of the South" ambitions a decade ago – has always seemed grounded and likeable. Even my housemate, a QPR fan, bears no malice towards a club that leapfrogged Rangers in the west London hierarchy a few years back, and then spent a few seasons lodging at Loftus Road. "They're just a nice club," he said, and that seemed a common opinion.

Recently, I attended Griffin Park for Kevin O'Connor's testimonial. Brentford's opponents were Fulham, playing their first game since the double trauma of losing the Europa League final to Atlético Madrid and Roy Hodgson to Liverpool. Pre-Fayed, the clubs were regular sparring partners in the lower leagues for a few years and Brentford fans have not forgotten this. For the first half I sat near the away stand that Fulham, to their credit, had done a good job of filling, and I left the ground well aware that Fulham are not as universally liked as I may have thought.

"Where were you in 92?" the Brentford fans around me sang. From what I could see, most of the away end dribbled through 1992 in prams and highchairs – the Fulham contingent seemed downright pubescent – and their anti-Brentford songs contained none of the malice the home fans were sending their way. The rapid series of promotions that Fulham won in the late 1990s mean these younger fans must feel disconnected from their traditional rivals, something that leaves them a little adrift. QPR never really had it in for Fulham, even when the sides briefly shared the First Division, and the modern Chelsea are too worried about the rest of the Champions League teams to give much mind to their closest neighbours.

Relatively sudden success like Fulham's is obviously no bad thing but it can leave a team's supporters feeling a little disconnected from the rivalries that make football so interesting – to use an example from further north, Burnley's promotion to the Premier League last year meant the resumption of their feud with Blackburn. The two East Lancashire clubs were on a relatively even keel until Jack Walker's money propelled Rovers up the league, but after the money went and Rovers drifted back into mid-table, there were surely a fair few Rovers fans who longed to meet the old enemy again.

Back at Griffin Park (where when they once held a competition to find a slogan to write on the roof of the main stand, readable to anyone flying into nearby Heathrow airport, one of the suggestions received was "Flush Over Fulham"), Fulham returned to action with an easy victory, racing into a 3-0 half-time lead and eventually winning by five. The atmosphere turned a little sour during that first half, when the Brentford fans took out their frustration by informing the away fans that "You'll never make the station". The Fulham support, perhaps unused to this kind of anger being directed their way, didn't know to react. But in the second half, as the game slowed to testimonial pace, even those angry home fans calmed down. The away fans made the station. There must be some older Fulham followers, however, who (though they might not like to admit it) lament the current gap between the clubs. Success is fleeting but it's reassuring to know your enemies will always be there. Karl Sturgeon

Comments (7)
Comment by Lol_ffc 2010-07-29 12:43:36

As a Fulham I enjoyed our brief rivalry with Brentford. It was at a time when football was on the demise, derided, full of fighting and in a mess, Thatcherism on a high, property developers on the prowl and Fulham were fightin for survival of the Cottage and Club. In the aftermath of having the parasite that was Bulstrode and Marler Estates hoping to profit from the riverside location of Craven Cottage meant no money was spent on the club or team for a decade. It was during this time, the worst in Fulham's 130 year history that we played Brentford who were having their best period since the 30s with the likes of Holdsworth and Blisset banging them in.

Somehow they think we are on a even keel. When Fulham were finally able to rid ourselves of Marler Estates and the constraints placed upon the club from the Bank of Scotland, promotion occured. Then investment could be courted for the first time in that decade, a decade which saw generations of fans missing out on Fulham and along came Fayed....

Brentford? Who rejoiced in singing "build flats on the Cottage" in those dark days are forever bitter about that prophecy failing to arise.

Comment by pebblethefish 2010-07-29 13:38:36

You can pretty much work out the age of a Brentford fan by their perception of our rivals in much the same way that you can age a tree by cutting it down and counting the rings. Those from the 60s hated QPR, for their attempt to merge (ie take over) the Bees. 70s to early 80s fans think of Watford as our rivals, as they were the closest team to be in the division, and I'm pretty sure that hooliganism played a part.

After that (and we're into my era now) Watford got too good, so Fulham took the brunt. Post Fayed, QPR happily became rubbish again so terrace colleagues now in their twenties reserve their dislike for them. Those coming of age on the terraces now have no obvious local rivals (Wycombe? Orient? Although Gillingham are alarmingly easy to dislike) so I presume they must be my generation's children.

It's not really hatred, except in the few cases who have the NEED to hate, but more an attempt to fit in with the perceived football fan image of having a deathly rival to fight with.

And where were we in 92? Watching the 4-0 demolition that is still my happiest memory in football. As the commentator says on the video "The Fulham fans wailing now, and well may they do so."

Comment by Arthur Nibble 2010-07-29 13:39:59

It isn't quite one-way traffic. I recall the recent WSC article on Fulham's big final whereby, on seeing Atletico Madrid turn out in their customary red and white stripes, a chant went up of "Are you Brentford in disguise?".

Still, the two sides have had quite a few transfers or loans between them in recent decades, so it isn't like "the play for United / Celtic but never for City / Rangers" situation.

Comment by GCostanza 2010-07-29 14:23:32

Fulham & Brentford really, must be a very slow news day....

Comment by wearebees 2010-07-29 21:41:27

Yes how dare people talk about insignificant teams like mine.
Surely we should only discuss the all important Premiership.

Comment by madmickyf 2010-08-03 05:28:44

GCostanza, you should rush out and buy Inside United Magazine, it's got a great article about Wayne Rooney's groin which will have you enthralled for hours!

Comment by GCostanza 2010-08-19 12:57:26

But I hate Man.U.
Self-indulgent twits.
And most of the EPL.

Even prefer most London/mockney clubs to most of them!

Related articles

What Griffin Park lacks in glamour it makes up for with simple joy
Fans don't got to Brentford's stadium for prestige, they go for the local character and, recently, the brilliant entertainment 23 July ~ I...
Photo of the week ~ Fulham’s Craven Cottage bathed in sunlight
Fulham 2 Aston Villa 0, 17/02/2018, Craven Cottage, Championship See the full gallery from this match here Photo by Simon Gill for WSC...
Johnny Haynes: Portrait of a football genius by James Gardner
Pitch Publishing, £18.99Reviewed by Neil Hurden From WSC 369, November 2017Buy the book Supporting Fulham can be frustrating – I...