We emerged in Fulham, not really sure what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised actually. We'd emerged from the tube at Fulham Broadway and it was a great little station as tube stations go - there was a supermarket, a cinema, a few restaurants, a Krispy Kreme stand (which I may have frequented a couple of times) and, always a winner with me, a Starbucks.
Outside on Fulham Road I decided I liked the place even more. There were loads of cafés and restaurants and bars and shops and essentially everything you'd need whether you lived there or were just visiting. It was pretty busy too, but in a nice, buzzing kind of way, not a frantic, rushed way like in the middle of London. As we walked towards the hotel we found that market stalls also set up on the pavements outside the high street shops, so you can buy a pair of boots on a stall and then head into Boots for some blister plasters - genius!
After a few consultations with my new BFF Google Maps, we found ourselves outside our hotel, Travelodge London Fulham. Okay so we weren't exactly living in the lap of luxury but it had good reviews, it was reasonably priced and actually it turned out to be pretty good. Don't get me wrong, it was very basic, but it had everything we needed (essentially a bed, a bathroom and a TV), it was clean and there was plenty of space. It was pretty convenient too - only about a ten minute walk from two different tube stations and, as I said before, plenty of places to keep you occupied nearby, including a Greggs across the road, which the Yorkshireman eyed with delight upon arrival.
Having confirmed to the receptionist that we were indeed there to see the Fulham v Crusaders match, and having consequently been sternly warned not to be crazy, drunken football fans or we would incur her wrath, we set off through the pouring rain to the bar next door (hehe). We're pretty much as far from loud, drunken football hooligan types as you can get but it was fun to feel like a rebel for a few minutes. We had hoped that the rain would ease off whilst we sipped our first pints of the day, but alas it only seemed to get heavier, so I bought a shoddy £2.99 umbrella in a shop across the road and made a dash for it.
Having made it through the rain we caught the tube across to Putney Bridge and, like the classy people we are, headed to Wetherspoons for some more alcohol and dinner. Actually Wetherspoons often gets a bad rap for being cheap and nasty, but I've never really had a bad experience at one. The food may not be haute cuisine but it's certainly tasty and good value, and they have a great selection of drinks for reasonable prices - what more can you ask for really? This particular Wetherspoons, The Rocket, was pretty new and I liked it, especially the Tucher wheat beer I tried - yum!
After a few bevvies and a good feed, we were ready to set back off through the rain for the walk across Putney Bridge to Craven Cottage. In the end we didn't need directions - we just followed the masses of Fulham fans who were heading in that direction (giving us suspicious looks as we merrily skipped along with our Crues scarves on). Having wandered through the very lovely residential area around the ground, we finally found the right gate and in we went.
As always I won't go into a blow-by-blow account of the match, because I just don't pay that much attention in the first place and also have the memory span of a amnesic goldfish. However the BBC have a lovely match report should you desire further details. But basically Fulham completely kicked our asses, which is fair enough to say they play at a standard the equivalent of at least three or four leagues higher than the poor wee Crues, but I still think we put on a decent show. The game ended 4-0 to Fulham, which meant they won 7-1 on aggregate. We hadn't expected it to end any differently really but the experience was fantastic anyway - it really was a case of the taking part that counted, not the winning.
The Crues actually managed to sell out of the away tickets they'd been given, so we reckon there was probably 450-500 Crusaders fans at the game. Most of us seemed well behaved and just happy to be there, although I was less than impressed with some ignorant idiots standing behind/in front of us, whose loudmouth stupidity did ruin the game a little for me. But never mind - I just hope karma strikes them down. In the Crues Social Club on Saturday I did overhear a tale that one Crues fan got drunk in Fulham after the game, danced on a bar, promptly fell off, broke his leg and was then left to get himself to hospital alone because his mates were too busy partying. I can only hope it was one of the idiots I was stuck beside at the match.
But anyway! The Yorkshireman and I followed all the other football-going sheep to Putney Bridge station and got on the tube. We emerged at the other tube station near our hotel (West Brompton) and decided to walk back that way to see what was in the other direction. It turns out that at night it was mainly takeaway shops and not a very interesting walk at all. Oh well, you live and learn! We ended up stopping in a newsagents for some bottled water (it's a crime not to use the tea and coffee making facilities in your hotel room should such amenities be available) and sweeties to help us get over the defeat we had just witnessed. Then it was back to the hotel for a cuppa and some rubbish TV before bed. After all we had a long day ahead of us the next day.
To be continued…