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Jul 5, 2012

A brief history of Fulham

Formed: 1879
Previous names: Fulham St Andrew's
Admitted to Football League: 1907
Second Division 2
Third Division 2

Fulham are proof that trophies aren't the be all and end all in football. They are one of the few clubs in the Premier League who have never won a major trophy, yet their story is full of memorable moments, all the way up to their run to the UEFA Cup final in 2010.

The club began life in 1879 as Fulham St Andrew's Church Sunday School FC, but did not turn professional until 1898. They joined the Football League in 1907 but their first notable success was in the FA Cup: in that 1907-08 they reached the semi-final, only to lose 6-0 to Newcastle.

Fulham were a constant presence in Division Two until relegation to Division Three (South) in 1928. They were promoted at the fourth attempt after scoring 111 goals in 42 games, including a 10-2 win over Torquay United.

It would be another 17 years before Fulham reached the top flight for the first time, although in that period they reached another FA Cup semi-final and played in front of Craven Cottage's highest attendance: 49,335 against Millwall in 1938-39.

When they were promoted in 1949, Fulham found Division One a struggle: after finishing 17th and 18th in their first two seasons, they were bottom in the third and returned whence they came.

They finished eighth in their first season back in Division Two, but it was an unforgettable campaign for one reason: the debut of Johnny Haynes, on Boxing Day against Southampton. Haynes, a supreme inside-forward who captained England in almost half his 56 caps, would become known as "Mr Fulham". He was a one-club man despite spending much of his career in the second tier, and his 658 appearances are a Fulham record.

Haynes helped Fulham back to Division One in 1960. This time they finished tenth in their first season - a year in which the club made Haynes the first player in the world to earn £100 per week - but thereafter it was a familiar struggle for survival. After seven consecutive finishes between 15th and 20th, Fulham finished bottom and were relegated in 1968. To compound the misery, they were relegated again the following season.

This time, Fulham spent only two seasons in Division Three, and for much of the Seventies they were comfortably mid-table in the second tier. They also reached the FA Cup final in 1975, losing 2-0 to West Ham, and made a number of marquee signings: George Best, Rodney Marsh, Bobby Moore and Alan Mullery all played for the club at the tail-end of their careers.

There was no such glamour in the Eighties. Apart from the 1982-83 season, when they finished a point off promotion to Division One, Fulham struggled badly and had two more spells in the third tier. Worse still, the club very nearly went out of business in 1987; only the intervention of their former player Jimmy Hill saved them.

For a time Fulham became the club that English football forgot, and they dropped into the fourth tier for the first time in 1994. They were promoted after three seasons; more importantly, in the same year the club was bought by the millionaire Mohamed Al-Fayed.

He soon appointed Kevin Keegan as manager, and in 1998-99 Fulham were promoted from the third tier with 101 points. At one stage, Keegan was combining his Fulham job with the managership of England. When he took the latter job full-time, Jean Tigana carried on the good work and Fulham were promoted to the Premier League in 2001 - again after a campaign in which they secured 101 points. They are the only English club to have managed 100 points on two occasions.

Fulham finished a comfortable 13th in their first season, the start of their longest run in the top flight. In 2003-04 they achieved their highest position of ninth, which would be bettered again when they finished seventh in 2008-09. That came under Roy Hodgson, who performed a remarkable escape from relegation the previous season. Hodgson then took Fulham to the Uefa Cup final in 2010, a fairytale without a happy ending. They lost 2-1 to Atletico Madrid and Hodgson left for Liverpool at the end of the season.

Hodgson was replaced by Mark Hughes but the former striker lasted just one mediocre season - which included the erecting of a Michael Jackson statue outside Craven Cottage - at the club, before leaving; with Martin Jol taking his place and cementing a 9th place finish.

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