Saturday, September 11, 2010

Fulham 2:1 Wolves

It's kind of an odd year for a Fulham supporter. After last season's magical run through the Europa League -- and believe me, as a Fulham fan it was truly magical -- there's an air of let-down about the team this year.

The crafty old codger Roy Hodgson is off to greener pastures at Liverpool. Who could fault him. He did yeoman's work at Craven Cottage, engineering the Great Escape, getting them to 7th place in the Premiership and the Europa berth, and then wiling his way through a tough Europa group stage with AS Roma and FC Basel, dusting off the holders Shaktar, then Juventus (in dramatic fashion), Wolfsburg, and Hamburg, before losing in the final (the final!) to Athletico Madrid and World Cup golden ball winner Diego Forlan, 2-1. Meanwhile, they comfortably avoided relegation concerns in the Premiership, finishing a respectable 12th. They even made it to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, before getting bounced by Spurs in a replay.

After that embarrassment of riches for a Fulham fan, there was bound to be a Fulhamish return to planet Earth. But, after beating a nasty Wolverhampton Wanderers at home on Saturday, Fulham are 5th in the table on 6 points, and undefeated. They fought back to draw Manchester United 2-2 in a great match. They also gutted out draws away at Bolton and Blackpool. They are playing really attractive football under their new manager Mark Hughes. There's even a new swagger in the home support.

But I wouldn't be a Fulham fan if I wasn't feeling a bit fragile right now. Zamora's broken ankle is a horrible thing. He was really coming into form, having finally gotten his well deserved cap for England, and now he's out until February. There's still uncertainty whether Fulham can retain Schwartzer, Hangeland, and even Murphy. Konchesky is gone to Liverpool with Hodgson. While Hughes is trusting Dempsey more up front, while Gera and new signing Dembele look sharp, the Johnson's Eddie and Andy are no Bobby Zamora. And worst of all, they have a nightmare schedule until March/April, totally front-loaded with tough fixtures. Ugh.

Still, it feels like Fulham, particularly at home, are becoming a tough fixture themselves for the rest of the Premiership, and that's kind of cool. Great to see them continuing to develop American players like Dempsey and Johnson (and before them McBride and Bocanegra and even Seattle Sounders keeper Kasey Keller, who, by the way, had a monster penalty save midweek to deny Real Salt Lake three points away). They have two winnable fixtures away at Blackburn and Stoke coming up, and they are fun to watch -- skillful, positive. Let's see what they are made of.

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