As we approached the end of the season, we’d gone a massive 23 games unbeaten and a win in our final game could’ve seen us nick the 2nd place spot from underneath Cardiff’s noses. Fulham did better than any of us could’ve anticipated in mid-December after our 1-0 loss to Sunderland away and fans could see the fairytale ending shaping up, but after a disappointing final day at Birmingham, Fulham knew what they needed to do. They had to win the playoffs.
Fulham were in familiar territory, they’d been there before, all that stood between us and the premier league was three 90 minute matches and two teams. After last seasons heart-breaking loss to Reading in the semis, everyone involved with Fulham were sure that wasn’t going to happen again.
Derby were first up, probably everybody’s favoured tie. At the end of the first leg, the fans were shaken, but the players weren’t. They came out at Craven Cottage to a rapturous atmosphere and our expectation on their shoulders, they duly obliged by sending us to Wembley for the first time in 43 years.
Now all that stood between Fulham and the big time was 90 minutes of football at the national stadium with an old European giant. Aston Villa.
The Fulham fans came in force, selling out our allocation in days and making the east half of Wembley a white wall. Both sets of supporters believed it was their time, their day, their spot in the premier league to take. But only one could progress, and it was our lucky day. Fulham joined the premier league and left Villa’s number 26 in tears on the pitch.
The end of the season for the last two years has completely defined the entire attitude around the club for the following summer. Thankfully this year we got the results we wanted and are back where we belong.
Our top goal scorer for the season was Ryan Sessegnon with 16 goals in the championship including the playoffs and the young man came up with the biggest assist of his short career so far in the playoff final, finding Tom Cairney to slot past Johnstone in the Villa goal. Fulham’s biggest assister in the championship this season though was Johansen with 9 assists, seen as the weak link in our midfield trio by most but proving he can pull his own.
On the whole, this season for Fulham has been a memorable and enjoyable one, even if it has been frustrating and reminiscent of last seasons disappointments at times. After finishing third in the league, Fulham deserved to be at Wembley and despite struggling with ten men for the last twenty minutes we had the battle, fight, and desire which we didn’t show in the playoffs last season. Fans will look back for years to come on our big day out and like 1975, it will be a story to tell the future generations about. Let’s just hope we don’t have to wait 43 years for the next one.
Thanks to everyone who has read my reviews this season and a massive thanks to the entire focus team for their constant support, see you in the premier league!