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Chairman Mo's dream a step closer

last updated Saturday 03rd March 2001, 12:52 PM
Fulham Chairman Mohamed al Fayed
Fulham Chairman Mohamed al Fayed
With hangovers still pounding after the local council granted planning permission for the redevelopment of Craven Cottage into a 30,000-seat stadium, Fulham fans may not be relishing a weekend of significant meetings at the top of the First Division.

Following Watford's visit to Birmingham last night and Blackburn's game with West Bromwich Albion this afternoon, Jean Tigana's side host second-place Bolton tomorrow. Not that the skirmishes beneath them should overly concern the Cottagers - fast becoming black-and-white specks disappearing over the Nationwide horizon - who can open a 15-point lead at the top.

"No one's taking anything for granted that we will be playing Premiership football next season, but Tuesday's decision on the stadium takes my dream a step closer to reality," said the Fulham chairman Mohamed al Fayed, who will bankroll the £70m redevelopment project. "It's brilliant news. A lot of people have put a lot of time into this so we are thrilled. It's such an important decision." Work will begin on Craven Cottage at the end of next season, with Fulham seeking a groundshare for the 2002-03 campaign; neighbours Queens Park Rangers and Chelsea appear the likeliest candidates.

New Stadium
New Stadium from the air

But if, as seems inevitable, the Cottagers win promotion this season, the Premiership will briefly boast terraces once again. "We are allowed that during the first year after promotion, so hopefully our fans will be watching top-flight football from standing terraces," confirmed Al Fayed.

The party atmosphere at tomorrow's game should not be dampened either by Fulham's inability to beat Bolton at home since 1986 - such trivia means little since the Al Fayed revolution - or the loss of the England Under-21 midfielder Sean Davis with a thigh injury. The visitors, who trailed after just 10 seconds in the reverse fixture at the Reebok Stadium and eventually lost 2-0, will be without their suspended defensive duo John O'Kane and Kevin Nolan, while Ricardo Gardner is doubtful with a head injury. "Bolton's season hinges on their games against us and Blackburn in the FA Cup," said the Fulham defender Kit Symons, who has stepped into the breach left by the long-term absence of the club captain Chris Coleman with a broken leg.

"So much is in place now," added Fayed. "We have a manager capable of taking us and moulding us into a great club and for whom players want to play. Jean Tigana joined us on the understanding that he would have all the backing from me to build a great club. He will. In years to come I want Fulham FC to be up there alongside Man United, Arsenal and Liverpool. It's a huge task, but it's within our grasp. This is an incredibly exciting time for us."

Source The Guardian by Dominic Fifield
Since 1998
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