There are certain figures in the game who’ve been making the argument for a mid season break for many years and now courtesy of FIFA’s ludicrous awarding of the World Cup to that football hot bed of Qatar, we have one. It’s certainly something to mark in the ‘be careful what you wish for’ category. It’s particularly galling when, notwithstanding the heartbreaking nature of our two recent defeats, it’s been such a pleasure watching us this season.
Hopefully we can come back in a similar vein when the Premier League resumes but in the meantime we have a Fulham shaped vacuum in our lives. In an effort to fill that void I thought it would be an opportune moment to look back at some happy memories from November when, without a World Cup in the build up to Christmas, we’d usually have a real match to look forward to. As it’s happy memories we’re after I certainly won’t be mentioning that in November’s of the 90’s we managed to lose to non league Hayes and Yeovil in the FA Cup. Oh crikey- too late..!
Instead I’ll move swiftly on and take you back 40 years to 20th November 1982 and a visit to Molineux. Fulham had made a great start to their Division 2 campaign after promotion from the Third Division but this clash with fellow high flyers Wolves looked a daunting one. However, goals from Ray Lewington, Rob Wilson and a brace from Gordon Davies gave us a convincing 4-2 victory. It was the 4th time already that season we’d scored 4 times on our travels – one of those being that famous 4-1 victory at Newcastle that had featured on Match Of The Day. That team was certainly good enough to have earned another promotion but sadly ran out of steam and luck towards the end of the season to be pipped at the post by Leicester City.
This began a spiral downwards that featured relegations and near oblivion. It wasn’t until 1996 that momentum started to shift back up with an unlikely promotion push courtesy of Micky Adams rag tag army, Barnet were our visitors on November 19th that year and goals from Super Mick Conroy and Mr Fulham himself, Simon Morgan saw us to a 2-0 win that cemented our position near the top and ultimately helped us to promotion by the end of that campaign.
Mohamed Al Fayed’s arrival soon followed and after Kevin Keegan had led us to another promotion in 1999 we found ourselves at home to Portsmouth on 18th November 2000 with another genuine promotion attempt under way steered by the mercurial Jean Tigana. We were playing football the likes of which we’d not seen before at the Cottage and goals from Lee Clark and a Barry Hayles double gave us a 3-1 win in a season where victories became routine.
It meant that the game on the corresponding Saturday a year later was a Premier League fixture with the Whites finally back in the top flight after 33 long years. We marked this anniversary with another 3-1 victory; this time at home to Newcastle. It was memorable for a sublime strike by a bleached blonde Louis Saha that was added to by Sylvain Legwinski and Barry Hayles and came in the middle of an 8 match unbeaten run that did much to ensure our safety that season.
A few close shaves with relegation were to follow but after Roy Hodgson had delivered the greatest of escapes in 2008 we started the next campaign in much better shape. Spurs were our visitors on November 15th that year and provided a stern test that we were undoubtedly up for. Simon Davies’s opener certainly owed something to the assistance of a Heurelho Gomes clanger but Andy Johnson’s clincher secured a 2-1 victory that was thoroughly deserved. By that season’s end we were 7th and just a year later were playing in a European final. It still feels a surreal achievement looking back; even more so for those around in the miserable years of the early 90’s.
In more recent times late November weekends have coincided with an International break and even when we have played we’ve generally been unsuccessful. However, you only need go back to this time last year for one of many happy November memories. Goals from Marco Silva’s lethal front four: Aleksandar Mitrovic, Fabio Carvalho, Neeskens Kebano and Harry Wilson saw us dispatch Barnsley 4-1 at the Cottage on our inexorable march to the Championship title. If you look hard enough there’s the makings of a song in there somewhere.
The World Cup always used to excite me but the timing of this one just makes it seem an inconvenience. I’m still happy for the Fulham players that have been selected though and I wish them all successful competitions. Let’s hope we have them all back fit and firing for Boxing Day. COYW!