Well there we have it. After Friday’s Big Tease, Marco Silva’s men finally made it over the line under the Cottage lights and back, once again, to the ‘Promised Land’.
Whilst the result up in Derby may have had a few fans exchanging concerned glances, realistically promotion was never in doubt given the gap between the Whites and the chasing pack. Yet it is still a relief for it to be sealed. And who doesn’t love an opportunity to run on the hallowed turf?!
This season has been a completely different beast to the previous two promotions. In fact, each of our three recent promotion seasons have had very different feels to them: the 23 game unbeaten run culminating in a memorable day out at Wembley (unless you had to attend a wedding, like muggins here); Parkerball behind closed doors with a wonderful-yet-somewhat-anticlimactic playoff defeat of Brentford; and finally this memorable season that has seen us play wonderful football, coupled with the rebirth of our Serbian talisman as we tore teams apart left, right and centre (just not Coventry or Derby…).
The football this season really has been a joy to behold. Of course, not all results have been brilliant and there have been times when the performances left a lot to be desired – but the joy hasn’t just come from the score lines; it’s come from the galvanisation of a squad that looked as if it had had enough. Players who’d been discarded last season and yet expected to return because their replacements had gone back to their parent clubs. Yet somehow Marco, Boa and the rest of the coaching staff did just that, plus so much more!
Who’d have thought an ageing Tim Ream, barely worthy of a place on the bench last season, would come in and play every league game, becoming one of the team’s most consistent performers and a leader both on and off the pitch?! Neeskens Kebano – the man questioned as to whether he was even good enough to play at Championship level comes back into the team and given the freedom to play his game, proving he’s more than good enough at this level. And is there anything more heart-warming in the game than a happy Neeskens?
Captain Tom… would he be able to play again after such bad luck with injuries? Yes he would! And whilst he may not be the most mobile these days, his ability and eye for a pass is not in doubt. He’s essentially the seasoned quarterback of our team. Needs to be protected at all costs, but uses his sixth sense to play the ball around beautifully. And who didn’t feel a tear of happiness trickle down their cheek when he smashed in at the Hammy End on his return to action against Cardiff?
Finally, has there been a greater recovery than the one we’ve seen from Mitro? To go from out of form, out of favour and (arguably) out of shape, to the beast that he’s been this year, is nothing short of incredible. In fact, it’s borderline ridiculous. I’m sure he’s more than confident in his own ability, but even he must be pinching himself at how it’s panned out. Silva has come in and done what managers need to do with players like him; he’s told him he’s important and that he believes in him. He’s not only repaid the faith of his manager, he’s rebuilt his relationship with the fans. The end of 2020/21 raised the question of Parker vs Mitrovic, and whilst a majority seemed to side with the latter, it was likely more out of disdain for the brand of football than expectation that our Number 9 would be reborn as a Championship cheat code.
Of course, there will need to be changes to the squad over the summer if we’re to make a proper go of it in the Premier League, but that’s for another time. This is about celebrating a fantastic achievement by a wonderful team. My one hope is that any new recruits compliment the personality of the squad, rather than trying to start from scratch again. They are clearly a very cohesive group, which is no mean feat by the backroom staff given that you could almost feel the toxicity emitting from it towards the end of last season. Everyone involved with the club deserves massive kudos for how they’ve approached and executed the task in hand this year.
And whilst ‘yo-yo club’ is currently the most overused phrase on Twitter, this is the most confident I’ve been that Fulham can finally re-cement their place back in the big time. Obviously it’ll take a lot of hard work, sensible transfer dealings and probably a big chunk of luck here ‘n there, but under Marco’s leadership I think we can head into 2022/23 with a sense of genuine excitement rather than an ominous feeling of dread!
Now, time to wrap up the title. COYW!