As the millions flow out of the Fulham bank account this season on stars from across Europe, it is very hard to believe that a mere quarter of a century ago the club was on the edge of oblivion.

It is even harder to imagine those far off bleak, hungry, days that the fate of London’s oldest clubs was influenced by a small, yet determined, band of volunteers.

There’s a lot of rot these days talked about “loyalty” to a club. Many so called supporters measure loyalty by the amount of online abuse you can throw at opposing supporters and their clubs; in my view, a measure of loyalty is how much money and time you are prepared to put where your mouth is when your club in in peril.

It was 1992, Craven Cottage had been sold off for housing development – after all it is valuable prime land by the Thames – and the bulldozers were ready to move in.

The club didn’t have two pennies to rub together, the team was struggling in what is now League One and crowds were down to just over 3,000. As one of my colleagues, a third generation Fulham supporter, said sardonically there was as much space for an open, passing, game on the terraces than on the pitch.

The rescue crew was called Fulham 2000 – in the vague hope that the club would still be around at the end of the century. Around 30 of us used to meet at the ground after games and on frosty Sunday mornings to work out how we were going to raise millions to save the club; a forlorn hope at the time. For a start, we all pledged 100 pounds each and I even persuaded my dad – a Kidderminster Harriers supporter – to follow suit.

I was working at the BBC then, so I was elected press officer - a small role in a coalition of the hopeful. I remember getting a pat on the back all round for getting an interview with lifelong Fulham fan Melvin Tenner, our leader at Fulham 2000, on BBC News.

But it wasn’t looking good in those dark days in a season when we lost 2-0 at home to Hayes in the FA Cup.

You could feel the interest melting away faster than the crowds. Business didn’t want to know, the talk was of a ground sharing with Chelsea, there was a conspiracy theory that the management wanted to run the club down to the Conference and then close it down quietly. I didn’t believe the latter, but one or two times, on rain swept terraces when we were losing away from home, I wondered.

Fulham fans celebrate the news that the club will be staying at the Cottage in May 1992

You know how deeply in the mire you stand when you are shaking a bucket in the faces of supporters of an even more impoverished team in the relegation zone fresh from a journey of hundreds of miles from the north that probably cost half their wages.

That is what we happy few of Fulham 2000 were doing on January 28 1992. We had chosen the Wigan game at home for the launch of our fund-raising drive, probably not the most glamourous fixture, but arguably the Lancashire club was a kindred spirit when it came to struggling in the lower reaches of English football. On that day, they were deep in the relegation zone long before the millions that took the club to the Premier League.

Even so, the Wigan fans tossed generously 50 pence pieces into our buckets.

“Good luck and hopefully we will still be playing you next season,” they said cheerfully. I often think of that day when I see some of the spoilt, repugnant, moronic, abuse that is thrown around on the internet these days.

As a football fan, I was happy when Wigan escaped relegation that season.

Earlier in the day, Fulham 2000 had announced itself to the world in a Hammersmith hotel where we had arranged for the late Fulham legend Johnny Haynes to come down from Edinburgh to launch our campaign to save the club. Haynes was arguably the best footballer ever to lace up a pair of boots at Fulham and a fine captain of England; as a public speaker, he struggled. To make matters worse, George Best, another Fulham great, turned up late in the middle of his opening address.

The Fleet Street journalists forgot Johnny was speaking and swamped Bestie for a few choice quotes. I can still see Johnny droning through his speech with one eye on the impromptu Best press conference. It was, as they say on line these days, cringe worthy.

Anyway, we all pitched up for the last home game of the season against Bradford City in the understanding that it was going to be the last ever at the Cottage. The first shock was we won; the second shock was it was announced over the tannoy that a stay of execution for at least another season had been secured.

More than five years later, the banks, who wanted to get the Craven Cottage asset off their books, sold the club to Mohammed Al Fayed and the rest is history. It was all worth it on that wet April day in 1997 I flew from Africa to Heathrow and drove up to Carlisle for the crunch promotion game.

There was about 2,000 of us at Brunton Park – Terry Angus, the injured centre half, was leading the singing in the stands! (Can you imagine David Luiz doing that?)

Two goals to one: Micky Conroy equalised and I was dead in line when Rodney McAree smashed in the second. It was like Christmas; total strangers were hugging and shaking hands. It was worth every yard of my 7,000-mile journey.

Thirteen years on, I almost wept when I watched Fulham walk out for the Europa Cup final in Hamburg. As fate would have it, I was on assignment in Nairobi and rued how I could make it to Carlisle for a League Two game, but not to Germany for a European final. Watching it TV on a hot Kenyan night, I mused that cold meetings in Craven Cottage 18 years before had been worth it. To think it could all have been lost in the path of a bulldozer.

The new Championship season

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