Ful Circle

Fulham have been caught in a less than ideal cycle the past four seasons, but following an incredible campaign there is renewed hope the cycle will be broken and The Whites will survive a season in The Premier League under the guidance of Marco Silva. It is fitting that as this team attempts to break such an undesirable cycle, so much appeared to come full circle in the penultimate game of the season as The Cottagers sealed a first league title in 21 years. It was as perfect an evening as a fan in black and white could hope for. More records broken and a celebration to match the achievement. One that I was more involved in than I ever intended!

The evening got off to great start as Tom Cairney added to his legacy, scoring the 100th goal of the season. A season that he started on the sidelines, only to return on a wet night against Cardiff and score a decisive goal. Could it be more fitting than the captain, returning after injury troubles scored the goal that took us into triple figures and set us on our way to lifting another trophy under his captaincy? He has become the ultimate “clutch” player during his time at the club, and he lived up to that reputation yet again.

There were valid questions over the role he would play this season. Would his fitness betray him? Would he find a place after the resurgence of Jean Michael Seri? Marco Silva has utilised the skippers’ creativity to near-perfection across the course of the campaign, knowing when to pull him out of the intensity and physicality of The Championship, and when to give him a run of games to run the centre of the park. Silva was forthright that he wouldn’t use Cairney until he was sure he would stand up to the physical tests that come with the territory of playing in a high-intensity team, competing in a league that often matches that. The result has been seeing the best of Cairney, if not as often. 

Seri’s return to prominence provided the time Cairney needed with his displays through the first half of the season. Sumptuous assists and an ability to set the tempo for his side has made Seri the hero fans hoped he would become when he first arrived four years ago. It’s been a long road to cult status for the Ivorian, but few can doubt that he has arrived at that now. To score his first goal of the season, and first since August 2018 in front of a celebratory Hammersmith End was the icing on the cake. Ivorian flags waved and fans serenaded the playmaker in what has become familiar fashion. He has almost certainly earned the opportunity to perform on the bigger stage of the Premier League once again. 

One player who looks increasingly less likely to be a part of the squad next season is Fabio Carvalho. The teenage sensation has set the league alight this year with goals, assists and work rate. There had been murmurs around the fanbase that his performances had dipped since the speculation around his future began to surface. Against Luton, there could be no suggestions of a young man playing within himself. He worked tirelessly to win possession and progress the team into enemy territory, never shying away from the sinister tactics of the opposition, which saw them rack up six yellow cards from fourteen fouls. His skill and application mark him out as one of the best teenagers this division has ever seen. He became the first player under-20 to hit double figures for goals since another one of our own, Ryan Sessegnon. For all the disappointment that we won’t get to enjoy more of Carvalho in a Fulham shirt, there has to be a pride in the way the club has nurtured what appears to be a special talent, with a bright future. Who knows, maybe he’ll be back in some form or fashion in the future.

A word for Harry Wilson too. He set up Carvalho’s goal and His numbers this season are impressive to say the least. He had another fruitful evening, adding three assists to a total that now stands at 19 for the season. Luton found him in unplayable form, finding half a yard of space and making it count over and over, never more so than when he played in Aleksandar Mitrovic for the historic 43rd goal of his immense campaign.

The full circle nature of Fulham’s season probably applies to no player more than the Serbian striker. Discarded last season and on the verge of departing the club in the summer, he has never been ablaze as he has been this term. There are no words to truly do justice to the feats he has achieved, both here and with his national team. From missing the penalty against Scotland, to scoring the winner against Portugal. From three league goals to 43, the narrative couldn’t have been stronger. He has written his own story, and it is historic.

His record-breaking goal was celebrated like a cup final winner, such is the adoration of fan-base, and it was clear from his celebrations that it is mutual affair. Goals aside Mitrovic was, and has been, peerless in his link up play. He played a key role in Carvalho’s goal, probably the pick of the bunch on the day, and continuously came deep, vacating space for the likes of Decordova-Reid to drift into and threaten. 

Silva will feel that he has completed his own personal cycle. Dismissed by Premier League mainstays Everton, he has found his way back to the English top flight via The Championship. The irony that Everton are in danger of losing their ever-present Premier League status just as Silva returns has not been lost on sections of the media. He has spoken of the risk to take a job outside of the top flight, and if this season had not gone well, he would have struggled to find future employment in the country he most wants to work in. The third 7-0 win of the season perfectly embodied his Fulham team. Attacking, ruthless, unrelenting. The players delivered on his vision as they have done so many times already. 

This truly was the perfect way to seal the title. And like a circle has no end, the job is not yet done. Remaining in the Premier League is the target for Fulham. Creating a new cycle, one of stability. One similar to the cycle established the last time a team from West London, wearing white lifted a trophy by The Thames.