With a nickname like ‘AK47′, Aboubakar Kamara joined Fulham in the summer of 2017 with a deadly reputation in-front of the target, a prowess with the goal at his mercy which made him one of SC Amiens’ most lethal marksmen. The bamboozling Frenchman struck 11 goals in 29 domestic appearances for his former employers, a tally which helped Les Licornes gain promotion from Ligue 2 to Ligue 1, although the striker’s life down by the river didn’t begin as fluently as he, and of course we, would have hoped.
Much was expected from Kamara. Costing the Whites around £5.4m, the AS Monaco product by today’s lucrative standards was a somewhat cheap acquisition, however as funds aren’t as readily accessible at Fulham compared to the bottomless funds at footballing monopolisers Manchester City’s disposal, for example, the attacker still had to justify his somewhat modest price-tag on the turf, and though he endeavoured to cause problems, he simply couldn’t ripple at the back of the net for all his tireless efforts.
The Cottagers also snagged Rui Fonte from Liga NOS outfit SC Braga to freshen up the offensive contingent, and whilst the Portuguese threat struggled to initially uncover his form, Fonte did indeed tally his first of the campaign against Ipswich Town at Portman Road before ‘Abou’ broke his duck, so if a goal was crucially needed to make their mark upon Slavisa Jokanovic’s starting XI, Fonte seemingly had the upper hand in the race for supremacy up top.
The opening 7 Championship encounters were cruel to Kamara. Row Z, stanchions, the side netting, water bottles, hoardings and peoples faces may have been met by the ferocious force of the striker’s trigger-happy right foot, although, discouragingly, the raw glory of soaking up the fans’ elation still eluded the disruptive attacker, and Fulham’s faithful were growing restless in the terraces as they waited eagerly for his inaugural goal.
‘Slav’ was also evidently irked by Kamara’s lack of fruition, and as a result of his misfiring tendencies, the Serbian boss omitted Kamara from the squad which travelled to Burton Albion in September, a troublesome meeting at the Pirelli Stadium which saw the south-west Londoners lose 2-1. Chances were squandered and opportunities were spurned; something ultimately had to give against Middlesbrough at Craven Cottage in the following tie.
Boro were busy licking their wounds after being relegated from the Premier League in the previous term and travelled to the Capital to contain the Whites. Fulham probed the North East outfit’s defensive line and found no profit for their exertions, however not all heroes wear capes and creepy, unflattering lycra. A ball was swung tantalisingly towards Darren Randolph’s back stick and as time stood still, Kamara sprung above his hapless marker and ruthlessly headed the ball past the Republic of Ireland keeper. With the ball nestling behind the goal-line, pandemonium erupted in the Hammersmith End.
Unfortunately for our jubilation, the Whites wistfully drew against Middlesbrough after defensive frailties allowed Cyrus Christie to thump home in the dying embers of the match, however Kamara’s thirst for elation was unlocked, and Fulham were about to witness exactly what the young Frenchman was truly about against Nottingham Forest at the City Ground after a long-awaited glimpse at his underlying presence and calibre.
With the bit between his teeth, Kamara twisted, pivoted and slalomed his way through Forest’s dazzled defenders and slotted his second of the season, and throughout the night’s proceedings the target-man hustled and harried his opponents ragged, a driven, tenacious contribution which helped his teammates claim an invaluable 3-1 victory away from the Cottage.
After Forest, 14 weeks separated Kamara with his next instalment of goals, but with his tampering significance being predominant in Fulham’s nauseating counter attacks, the Riversiders continued to climb the standings at breakneck speeds. Yes, the odd loss and draw crept into the mix here and there, however, Jokanovic’s men were finally beginning to exhibit flashes of their remarkably domineering strategy which grabbed them play-off contention in the 2016-17 campaign.
Kamara’s potency may have eased off somewhat for a notable period, but a flurry of goals was imminent at the turn of the new year, a belated Christmas present for all affiliated with Fulham and a brace of games which the 22-year-old will surely never forget. Known for his searing pace and intimidating stature, Kamara’s usually too hot to handle at the worst of times, and against Hull City and Ipswich Town, he was virtually on fire.
At the KCOM, Fulham were dealt a sucker-punch by Hull City and at 2-0 down going into the second half, Jokanovic needed redemption and an upstanding character to take the game by the scruff of the neck – step forward, Kamara. Entering the fray just before the break, Kamara’s inexhaustible legs were fresh and raring to terrorise, and throughout the second 45, the robust attacker left the Tigers perilled by his marauding, piercing runs. A loss was staring Fulham in the face, but ‘Abou’ boldly stepped up to the plate and single-handedly salvaged a share of the spoils for his squad by dispatching 2 accomplished goals of his own. It subsequently ended 2-2 on Humberside and Kamara’s tail was aloft, whilst Hull’s crestfallen contingent whimpered and scurried out of their own backyard.
Glowing plaudits deservedly came his way and Kamara embodied a man possessed with the ball at his feet. Mesmerising those vying for the ball and spectators simultaneously, the rejuvenated striker’s confidence was soaring at heights which hadn’t been reached before on Stevenage Road, and as the Tractor Boys came to town, Kamara had some more hefty spanking left in his locker to unsparingly dish out.
Mick McCarthy’s buoyant battalion, after a barrage of pressure from the home side, went into the interval with a 1-0 lead and many may have thought that it was simply going to be ‘one of those days’ for the Whites – queue a rampant second-half onslaught. Ryan Sessegnon levelled the scoreline in the 69th minute of play and that sounded Ipswich’s capitulation, a crazy seven minutes which remarkably harboured 3 goals for Fulham including another brace for Kamara, who gave his team the impetus and sealed the victory. A scintillating 4-1 triumph to be exact, a crushing loss for the Suffolk-based outfit which comprised yet more gleaming praise for Kamara, who battled gallantly for the full 90 minutes.
Two weeks later, after a 1-0 defeat at the Stadium of Light against Sunderland, a romping down by the Thames was on the cards for Fulham. Burton Albion nicked 3 points from the Whites earlier in the season and there was a score to settle with the languishing Brewers. Payback time. One, Two, Three, Four, Five goals flew in for the Cottagers in a tie which turned out to be an absolute stonking, an unrelenting hiding fuelled by Fulham’s hunger to right a few noteworthy wrongs.
“We want one more” rapturously reverberated around each stand, aisle and concourse of the Cottage, and as Tom Cairney mercilessly prised the ball from a Burton midfielder in the centre of the park, Kamara darted intently through the cracks in Nigel Clough’s stretched, depleted defensive ranks. ‘TC’s perfectly weighted through ball was collected by ‘AK47’ and a foot race was instigated, but as predicted there was only going to be one winner. With the ball under his spell, Kamara steamrolled his way to goal and eyed the target. Sensing danger, Stephen Bywater careered towards the edge of his 18-yard box although it was all too late, Kamara had already predicted the keeper’s urgency, and before Bywater could even muster a wild flap at the ball, it had been expertly arced over his head. Wheeling off in celebration, Kamara condemned Burton to a 6-0 drubbing and issued Fulham their biggest win of the season to date. Marvellous.
Seven goals rest under Kamara’s belt to date and there’s still time to bolster his record this term, his first year on English soil. Kamara’s an explosive force on the break and is most effective from the bench as his exuberance and enthusiasm to impress in his new surroundings greatly benefits the club’s push for goals, especially late on in matches when the opposition is tired, jaded and surplus.
The Championship’s jam-packed schedule is arduous, strenuous and at times terribly unyielding, but from what’s been evaluated from Kamara this term thus far, he’s naturally built for the pressures of the English brand of football and as time progresses he’ll flourish into a vital and highly adaptable cog in Fulham’s sharp, efficient offensive department.