Empty farewell for Fulham faithful

Fulham 0 Leicester City 0
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The Independent Online

Fulham had already won their Premiership safety and Leicester had lost theirs, but next season Leicester will be in their new stadium and Fulham will be lodging at Queen's Park Rangers' ground while Craven Cottage may or may not be redeveloped.

An appeal by residents and conservationists against the Thames-side scheme has been upheld, so it could be a couple of years before we see what sort of mansion rises out of the rubble of the Cottage. So yesterday was another of those nostalgia days beloved of Fulham's older followers and enhanced by a parade of former players, including Johnny Haynes and Tosh Chamberlain.

Certainly, the new Cottage will be more spectator-friendly than when the crushed crowds of 40,000 stood in compressed discomfort to see a team full of "characters" like Chamberlain who won little more than the appreciation of masochists with a dodgy sense of humour. Apart from enjoying the near-genius of Haynes, often the walk through Bishop's Park by the river was the more rewarding and comfortable part of the day.

The Fulham Alliance, which has won the stay of the redevelopment's execution, think that Mohamed Al Fayed, the club's owner, may look at the £23.3m loss just announced and opt out, but he says not and, despite some absurd opposition, manager Jean Tigana is staying.

Ironically, it had been Leicester's manager Micky Adams who, during his time at Fulham, had raised the status of the club above the Third Division, and he was given as warm a reception as the past players. As for the current ones, both teams seemed more inclined to treat the inconsequential match as an end-of-season formality. "Bring on Haynes" was a cry that had plenty of sympathisers.

Fulham had the greater opportunities in a sloppy, wind-blown first half but Sylvain Legwinski headed Steed Malbranque's free-kick a shade wide and Sean Davis also headed an inviting chance inconclusively. Leicester were the more practical but less interesting. And quite why Fulham chose to lob high balls into a defence dominated by Matt Elliott and Lee Marshall was baffling.

Consistently, Malbranque prompted Fulham's more hopeful attacks, and equally consistently his efforts fell upon barren finishing. Midway through the second half he went gliding and swerving past three lunging tackles and played a perfect pass inside to the substitute Louis Saha, who instead of taking a first-time shot held up the ball and was stifled. It was that sort of game.

The day was really all about the changes that will take place at the Cottage. Some things never change. Robbie Savage had his name taken for a rash challenge. It was his 15th booking of the season. Fulham were supposed to be playing for a back-door entrance to the Uefa Cup by qualifying for the Intertoto Cup. In reality, they were happy to play out a draw, and pleased to end the season safe, if homeless.

Fulham 0 Leicester City 0

Attendance: 21,106

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