Fulham return to action this weekend and the players should be in bullish mood after a fantastic start to the season. Marco Silva’s team have certainly done us proud so far, giving fans the belief that this time we really can compete again in the Premier League. To have 11 points at this stage of the season is impressive for any newly promoted side, but how does it stack up against our other 15 starts to a Premier League campaign?
Daniel Smith looks back at the clubs top 5 points returns after 7 Premier League games…
5) 2010/11 – 9 Points (GD +1)
With fans still contemplating the heartbreak of having Europa League glory snatched away from us deep into extra time, Liverpool wasted no time in rubbing salt in the wounds by luring Roy Hodgson away to Anfield within a matter of weeks. The search for a new manager began and Martin Jol (employed by Ajax at the time) appeared to be our primary target but the appointment never materialised and Mark Hughes was handed the challenge of replacing a manager who had achieved the improbable.
Free transfer Phillipe Senderos was ruled out for six months with a ruptured achilles tendon before the season began, meaning Mousa Dembele and Carlos Salcido who caught the eye for Mexico at the 2010 World Cup were the only significant additions to the first team squad.
It was a steady start to the season and the only Premier League campaign where the club have been unbeaten in the opening 7 games. We looked solid enough but lacked a cutting edge with 6 of the games ending in draws. The pick of the bunch came in Sparky’s first home game and against his former club, Manchester United where a whirlwind 5 mins saw Hangeland score an 84th minute own goal, followed by David Stockdale saving Nani’s penalty and Hangeland redeeming himself by rising highest to nod home a 89th minute equaliser.
Sandwiched in between those half a dozen draws was a 2-1 win over Wolves. Mousa Dembele scored his first goals for the club, the second an injury time free-kick. The win ensured the team’s place in this top five, narrowly pipping 2006/07 to fifth place on goal difference.
- Bolton Wanderers 0-0 Fulham
- Fulham 2-2 Manchester United
A very entertaining game with most of the drama coming in the final 10 minutes. Simon Davies cancelled out Paul Scholes’ early opener but it was Brede Hangeland that stole the headlines. Our legendary Norwegian defender made amends for scoring an own goal, by equalising with minutes to spare. David Stockdale in goal for the injured Schwarzer did his credentials no harm, saving a Nani penalty and having an all round solid afternoon as Fulham avoided home defeat against the Red Devils for a third successive season.
- Blackpool 2-2 Fulham
- Fulham 2-1 Wolves
- Blackburn Rovers 1-1 Fulham
- Fulham 0-0 Everton
- West Ham United 1-1 Fulham
FINAL LEAGUE POSITION: 8th (49 points)
4) 2012/13 – 10 Points
The summer of 2012 felt like a revolving door at Motspur Park, and the changing of the guard for good. Having already sold Bobby Zamora in the January to locals rivals QPR, fellow Europa League heroes Danny Murphy and Dickson Etuhu departed for Blackburn Rovers, with Andy Johnson and Pavel Pogrebnyak also on the release list. However, it was the late departures of Clint Dempsey and Mousa Dembele to North London that really took the stuffing out of a promising start to the campaign. Particularly the way Clint Dempsey’s initial move to Liverpool fell through.
Martin Jol tried his best to replace them and used his pulling power, bringing in the likes of Sascha Riether, Mladen Petric, Hugo Rodallega, Kieran Richardson and Ashkan Dejagah. Plus, the shock arrival of Dimitar Berbatov which gave us the hope that we’d survive such an overhaul of the squad and, initially, we did. Unfortunately, it did leave long term scars but that’s a tale for another day…
Before heading for pastures new, Dembele the first gave us 2 performances to remember him by. We blew Norwich City away with a 5-0 win on the opening day, at the same time that QPR were being thrashed by the same scoreline at Loftus Road. Luckily for us, F comes before the S in Swansea City in the alphabet and we ended the weekend top of the Premier League! This was followed by a very harsh defeat at Old Trafford where Dembele easily stood out as the best player on the pitch. It was no surprise that Spurs then triggered his £15 million release clause. The only eyebrows raised were at how low the fee was and why he’d want to go to Spurs when he was so much better than what they could offer at the time.
Before we knew it, we were greeting a new debut and talisman at the club. Berbatov opened with a flourish on his home debut, scoring a brace in a 3-0 win over The Baggies. Including the next 3 games, we took 7 from a maximum 12 points, continuing the solid start we had made to the season. Petric, Kacaniklic, Berbatov, Rodallega and Richardson were already off the mark with their first goals for the club and Jol’s side remained unbeaten in the next 4.
- Fulham 5-0 Norwich City
Our biggest opening day victory in the Premier League but, incredibly, not our biggest home victory in the Prem against the Canaries. Mladen Petric, remembered by the Fulham faithful for scoring an outrageous free-kick in the Europa League semi-final, got his Fulham career off to the perfect start with a brace on his debut. Damien Duff, Alexander Kacaniklic and Steve Sidwell were also on the score sheet as Fulham ended the weekend top of the league.
- Manchester United 3-2 Fulham
- West Ham United 3-0 Fulham
- Fulham 3-0 West Bromwich Albion
- Wigan Athletic 1-2 Fulham
- Fulham 1-2 Manchester City
- Southampton 2-2 Fulham
FINAL LEAGUE POSITION: 12th (43 points)
3) 2022/23 – 11 Points (+1 GD)
Despite winning the Championship in style, with Mitrovic achieving the unthinkable by breaking Guy Whittingham’s 42 goal record, both he and the club were being written off as not good enough for the Premier League before a ball had even been kicked. It’s quite satisfying then that, at the very least, we have earned back some respect and neutrals are starting to recognise that perhaps we aren’t just here to be a box ticked in the relegation places.
Similarities were drawn last season to Jean Tigana’s Champions and there could easily be more comparisons made after the start we have made this time around. There’s a self belief in the manager and his squad that we aren’t just going to roll over and show respect to the Premier League. Our mentality is to compete and that’s exactly what we have done. On the opening day of the season, it was like looking in a mirror – 21 years on. The core of the squad has been kept together. A small handful of quality additions added, with Palhinha and Pereira making their debuts, whilst being dealt a tough opening match vs Liverpool. Not too different from beginning our original Premier League journey at Old Trafford. The performances were similar, starting on the front foot, taking an early lead with our star striker announcing himself on the world stage with a brace, just like Saha did all those years ago. Despite surrendering the lead on 2 occasions, this time we went one better and held on for a point and from then on we haven’t looked back.
It’s been refreshing to not only see Fulham playing so well in the top flight, but more importantly getting the results to back it up, especially when it matters. Whist the Liverpool draw and the admirable efforts away to Arsenal and Spurs were impressive, our season will be defined by the crunch games and so far we have been a missed penalty away from beating Wolves, followed by getting the job done against Brentford, Brighton and Nottingham Forest. 10 points from those 4 games is the reason we sit handsomely in 6th place at the moment and with the likes of Harry Wilson back in training, and Manor Solomon to return after the World Cup, it’s a fair argument to suggest that we are playing so well when we aren’t even at our strongest. Long may it continue!
- Fulham 2-2 Liverpool
Aleksandar Mitrovic silenced pundits and armchair fans alike with one of the best individual performances we’ve seen from a Fulham player in the Premier League. Not only did he score a brace to get his campaign off to the perfect start, his all round play and bullying of the usually faultless Virgil Van Djik was impossible to ignore. It was the perfect team performance and the brave, fearless, aggressive approach set the tone for the following matches. Liverpool may have strolled to victory a week earlier in the Community Shield against Manchester City but they certainly weren’t prepared for, or at least not expecting, Fulham to be that up for it.
- Wolves 0-0 Fulham
- Fulham 3-2 Brentford
- Arsenal 2-1 Fulham
- Fulham 2-1 Brighton
- Spurs 2-1 Fulham
- Nottingham Forest 2-3 Fulham
2) 2002/03 – 11 Points (+4 GD)
Whilst it’s common for recently promoted sides to suffer from second season syndrome, Fulham fans had more pressing matters at hand to distract them away from any potential relegation worries. Our 2 year ground share with QPR was implemented that summer, not to mention a jam-packed pre-season schedule as the club had already began it’s European adventure, taking part in the world renowned Intertoto Cup.
In contrast to the big name signings and money spent the previous summer, the clubs transfer policy changed tack and went for a shrewder approach. The main arrivals were Facundo Sava from Argentinian side Gimnasia for £2 million, plus two-year loan deals for Martin Djetou and Junichi Inamoto. The latter had an immediate impact and will be forever known for his hat-trick in the Intertoto final just weeks after joining the club. Our success against Bologna granted us qualification into the UEFA Cup where we would play an additional 6 games in Europe before bowing out gracefully against Hertha Berlin.
Although the early European games would eventually catch up with the squad in the second half of the season, with a loss of form which ultimately cost Jean Tigana his job, it was actually a blessing in disguise at the start of the campaign. It ensured that the players had the most vigorous of pre-seasons and were ready to hit the ground running for the opening league game against Bolton Wanderers. A 4-1 victory put Fulham top on the opening weekend and our match sharpness enabled us to claw back a 2-2 draw the following week on Teeside, having been 2-0 down in the 90th minute. The comebacks didn’t stop there either. Almost certainly our best match that season came 2 weeks later as Sylvain Legwinski completed a 3-2 comeback over Spurs. A point in the West London derby and a routine loss at Goodison Park completed our opening 7 games of the season. Fans had to wait until the 8th game for their first taste of Sava’s mask celebration in a 1-0 win over Charlton but that’s a story for another day…
- Fulham 4-1 Bolton Wanderers
- Boro 2-2 Fulham
- WBA 1-0 Fulham
- Fulham 3-2 Spurs
Spurs were top of the League after the opening 3 games of the season. So it was no surprise that they took a 2-0 lead before half time thanks to goals from Dean Richards and Teddy Sheringham. Fulham’s fitness was on point thanks to the early European campaign and the home side finished strongly. A late surge and goals from Junichi Inamoto, Steed Malbranque from the penalty spot and an injury winner from Sylvain Legwinski, completed a famous comeback and one of our most fondly remembered Premier League London derbies.
- Sunderland 0-3 Fulham
- Fulham 0-0 Chelsea
- Everton 2-0 Fulham
FINAL LEAGUE POSITION: 14th (48 points)
1) 2003/04 – 14 Points
A new season and a new era had already begun that summer. Chris Coleman was appointed as the permanent successor to his former manager, and whilst Jean Tigana had left quite a legacy at Fulham Football Club, there was to be no hangover. In fact, it was quite the opposite.
Overall, Cookies tenure as manager was fairly solid, if unspectacular, which is a stark contrast to how his life in management would begin. He was fortuitous to inherit what I would describe as modern Fulham’s ‘golden era’. Edwin Van Der Sar, Alain Goma, Lee Clark, Steed Malbranque, Luis Boa Morte and Louis Saha to name a few.
Rangers left back, Jerome Bonnissel arrived on a free transfer and made quite an impression. He played in all 7 games at the start of the season before injuries took their toll and eventually forced him to retire prematurely. In his 16 Premier League appearances that season, we won 8 and drew 4 which illustrates his positive impact on the team. Elsewhere, the only other significant summer change saw Liverpool bound Steve Finnan replaced by Arsenal loanee, Moritz Volz.
Like the German fullback, Fulham started magnificently, taking full advantage of our kind opening run of fixtures. The final league table shows that Coleman’s side opened the campaign facing 5 of the eventual bottom 7 in our opening 7 matches with Birmingham City the highest placed, finishing 10th. Bear in mind the start ‘on paper’ that Marco Silva’s team were presented with, and it shows just how remarkable this season has been so far.
14 points from 21 remains our best start to a top flight campaign including our two spells between 1949-1952 and 1959-1968. The football was exciting to watch, fast paced, dynamic, with plenty of goals. Just 7 games in and we had 6 different goal-scorers, with Boa (5), Saha (4) and Hayles (4) already hitting double figures between them. This included a goal for Steve Marlet in his final appearance on the opening day vs Boro.
The momentum continued through Autumn and into winter where Fulham went into the festive period sitting handsomely in 4th place. King Louis was in the form of his career and his inevitable departure to Manchester United proved to be impossible to recover from. We held our own for the rest of the season but were never quite as fluid or dangerous without Saha leading the line. We gradually fell to 9th place, which was still an incredible achievement and a club record at the time.
When Roy Hodgson eventually broke the record again in 2008/09, the points tally was only bettered by 1, not to mention that we only finished 8 points off of that Champions League spot we were sitting in a few months earlier.
Which begs the question, what could have been if Saha hadn’t left?
- Fulham 3-2 Boro
- Everton 3-1 Fulham
- Spurs 0-3 Fulham
Our first top flight victory at White Hart Lane and the club’s biggest win away to Spurs since 1905. Barry Hayles stole the show with a brace before Boa wrapped up a very impressive performance in North London.
- Birmingham 2-2 Fulham
- Fulham 2-2 Man City
- Blackburn 0-2 Fulham
- Fulham 2-0 Leicester
FINAL LEAGUE POSITION: 9th (52 points)