It’s so easy as a supporter to get caught up in Fulham’s latest run of form and let our emotions get the better of us. I am a big culprit of this myself – believing we are invincible through the 7-0 victories, chasing records galore followed by fearing a late surge from Bournemouth or Forest, whilst writing off our chances next season in the Premier League as I left Pride Park on Friday night.
But after reflecting on the bigger picture, reality kicks in and it becomes clear that our squad is neither perfect in the Championship, nor completely useless for the top flight and it’s important to maintain perspective through the good and bad runs of form.
The performance on Good Friday was very disappointing and potentially highlighted an attitude problem within the squad. The performance levels have been hit and miss for a couple of months and although it was only 2 weeks ago that we secured a phenomenal 6 points back to back at Loftus Road and the Riverside, it’s been a significant drop off from the sensational form shown for most of the season and there seems to be an air of “job done” amongst the squad now. It was bound to happen eventually and even Tigana’s legends of 2000/01 took their foot off the gas once promotion was secured, but to do it beforehand regardless of whether promotion is inevitable or not, is a little concerning and questions can be asked of the mentality of the players. Especially when much of the same group appeared to burn out and switch off with 10 games of the previous campaign remaining, after giving hope of survival with a 1-0 win at Anfield.
Nevertheless, it’s been a challenging couple of years for society for a variety of reasons and I am very grateful to have had a season right up there with the most enjoyable I’ve experienced as a supporter. Many memories have been made and the players deserve a big effort from us supporters to help them over the line. Of course it would be a shame for the season to fizzle out if we were to limp over the line but if that’s how it goes, that’s how it goes. We are going to win the title regardless and we haven’t achieved that many times in our history. So it would be bizarre to be anything but happy and live in the moment.
As for life in the Premier League, maybe this slow end to the campaign is a blessing in disguise. It’s easy to be sentimental when players have had an amazing season and to keep blind faith with individuals in the Premier League, but perspective is equally important through the good times and to not get ahead of ourselves. At best, we have 6 players who are good enough to compete in the Premier League and the only way for us to evolve is to upgrade on the players who aren’t good enough to take us to the next level so it’s important to get the balance right. Last season, despite having the worst home record in the clubs history, Scott Parker had us on 26 points after 28 matches played. This season, fellow “yo-yo clubs” Watford and Norwich have 22 and 21 points from 32 matches played respectively. This shows that despite an inability to survive in the Premier League, we do have the potential to do it next time and arguably have the edge on the other clubs stuck in Prem/Champ limbo.
Equally, 83 points with 5 games to go is a strong position to be in, but perhaps shows us that this squad wasn’t as good as we thought it was. Possibly highlighting that the division is weaker than in past years rather than Silva’s side being the best the division has ever seen. After all, Slav’s team finished third behind Cardiff and Wolves in 2017/18 despite having 88 points and going on a 23 game unbeaten run. It seems highly unlikely that third place will hit 80 points this season, which shows how the level of the clubs around you can dictate how your own club is portrayed.
But it has been a season of records and Fulham are just 5 goals shy of being the first Championship club to make it to 100 goals, whilst Mitro is 5 off of the clubs record for goals in a season having already broken Ivan Toney’s Championship record and if Fulham can surpass 102 goals scored (8 more), it will be the second best goals return in the club’s history.
Plenty still to play for including finishing as Champions which is what this season deserves, plenty to be proud of off the pitch as the club has conducted itself beautifully – particularly through supporting Rhys Porter and the Parish family. Plenty to show that this has been a special season on the pitch whatever happens over the next couple of weeks. But just as many reminders that the hard work is about to begin as we transition back to life in the top flight and this time we need to get it right.
See you on Tuesday when we may already be promoted if Forest’s result goes our way. Either way let’s give this season the finish it deserves. COYW!