New owner Khan targets Fulham success
Fulham's new owner Shahid Khan said he did not intend to micro-manage the Premier League club but pledged his full financial support to bring success on the pitch when he met the media on his first full day in charge on Saturday.
Pakistani-born Khan, 62, a billionaire car-parts manufacturer who also owns the Jacksonville Jaguars NFL franchise, completed the takeover of the London club from former owner and Egyptian businessman Mohamed Al Fayed on Friday.
Meeting the media at a sun-drenched Craven Cottage by the banks of the River Thames, the flamboyantly-mustachioed Khan said he envisaged a "sustainable, successful future" for the club and praised Al Fayed for his 16 years as owner.
Al Fayed, 84, who is retiring to spend time with his family, rescued the once-ailing club from the lower divisions in 1997 and has helped them to maintain their Premier League status for 13 seasons.
Khan gave away little about his specific plans and was even cagey about the future of the famous statue of the late rock star Michael Jackson which Fayed erected at the ground in 2011 following the singer's death in 2009.
"We are looking to have a winning, sustainable club moving forwards. It is a very special place, and a perfect club for me at a perfect time," he told Sky Sports.
"I think Mr Al Fayed did an incredible job here over the last 16 years building it to where it is - and now it's a passing of the baton.
"There is a great leadership here and my goal is to sustain that and to support the business plan they have. I have a lot to learn but I will be supporting them.
"It is very difficult to be specific. I am not a micro-manager, I don't intend to be involved day to day but I do intend giving them all the support they need financially to be successful on the pitch."
He said plans to modernise the stadium and increase its capacity from around 26 000 to 30 000 were "absolutely vital" but would not be drawn on the future of the controversial Jackson statue which stands at one end of the Riverside Stand.
"I have been the owner less than a day. We have to preserve and respect history but we also have to move forward. I am going to reflect on it, listen to the fans and then decide.
"This is a special, historic place that really needs the investment and our goal would be to redevelop it moving forward."
Regarding his ownership of the Jaguars he said there was "synergy" between the two clubs but they were distinct and would operate independently.
Al Fayed, sporting an imitation Khan-style moustache, said he was delighted to be handing over the club to Khan, but did give him one warning.
Asked about the future of the Jackson statue, Al Fayed looked at Khan and replied: "The Michael Jackson statue is listed with the club and if he dares to move it, he will be in big trouble.
"You listening to me? You promise now - otherwise I will come in front of all the fans with a big razor and I will take your moustache off."
Fulham are the oldest professional soccer club in London and historically one of the least successful, having never won a major honour since they were formed as Fulham St Andrews Church Sunday School FC in 1879. They have been known as Fulham Football Club since 1888.
Fulham have never won the English League title, the FA Cup or the League Cup. The nearest they have come to domestic success was as runners-up in the FA Cup in 1975 and they were runners-up to Atletico Madrid in the Europa League in 2010.
The location of Fulham's Craven Cottage ground on the banks of the River Thames in south-west London is one of the most attractive in the country and has been their home since 1896, apart from two years of ground-sharing with Queens Park Rangers while Craven Cottage was being renovated between 2002-04.
Their nearest neighbours are Chelsea, whose roots owe something to Fulham. In 1905 the owner of Stamford Bridge asked the owner of Fulham if he wanted to move his club there but was turned down. The Stamford Bridge owner formed his own club instead, which became Chelsea FC.
A host of famous players have appeared in Fulham's white shirts, the most revered being Johnny Haynes, who, in 1961, became the first footballer in England to be paid 100 pounds ($150) a week following the abolition of the maximum wage rules which limited players' wages to 20 pounds a week. He played more than 650 times for the club over 18 seasons.
Fullback George Cohen played in England's 1966 World Cup-winning side, while England's World Cup-winning captain Bobby Moore played for Fulham towards the end of his career after leaving West Ham United.
Former Manchester United winger George Best had a spell at Fulham in the 1970s and their other notable players include Rodney Marsh, Alan Mullery and former England international and manager Bobby Robson, while Bulgarian great Dimitar Berbatov is currently at the club.
Fulham joined the Football League in 1907 and first played in the top flight in 1949. After yo-yoing between the top two divisions during the 1950s and 1960s, Fulham sank to the fourth tier in the 1990s when their revival began under chairman Al Fayed, who sold the club to Khan on Friday.
There are two statues outside Craven Cottage but only one of them commemorates a footballer. A statue of Haynes stands outside the main gates of the club, while a statue of Al Fayed's old friend, the late rock star Michael Jackson, stands on the opposite end of the stadium by the banks of the Thames.
Before the current Riverside Stand was built, Fulham famously flew the flags of all the other 21 Division One clubs at Craven Cottage. When they were relegated from Division One in 1968, a fan asked in a letter published in the first match programme the following season if the club intended to fly the flags of the 21 Second Division clubs instead. The editor replied that they did not as they intended being in the Second Division for only one season, implying a swift return to the top flight.
They did spend only one season in Division Two but were relegated to Division Three at the end of it. Fulham did not return to the top flight until 2001 but the flags never flew again.