Fulham U18s build on good news week
We commanded Fulham to make history last Saturday at Villa Park and lo and behold at the 13th time of asking since our elevation to the top flight our boys finally came home with all three points. Never was a win more desperately needed on that particular bogey ground for the Whites, scene of our 1-0 loss to Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final of 2002.
Felix Magath wrung victory at last for Fulham at a venue where Jean Tigana, Chris Coleman, Lawrie Sanchez, Roy Hodgson, Mark Hughes and Martin Jol had all failed.
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This time it was tears of joy at the final whistle for the travelling Black $amp; White army as 3,000-plus celebrated long and loud. The emotional release on the final whistle will live long in the memory. Both playing staff and fans saluted three priceless points that may yet save our status. A defining moment in club history?
Come Sunday, the scenario down at the bottom had taken a dramatic twist, and how uplifting it was to glance at the league standings and see Fulham no longer propping up the rest. Over the next 48 hours a feeling the tide was turning became ever more tangible.
First up Norwich pushed the panic button and the likeable Chris Hughton got thrown to the wolves. What a time to change the manager, a gamble that had fans of the Canaries in despair. Too late surely? Just like Fulham, misplaced loyalty has seen a mis-firing manager backed far longer than was good for the club. Now new man Neil Adams must inspire an immediate response from a team where away form has disintegrated, goals have dried up, and on a ground where Norwich never win.
Then Monday our friends in North London tore Sunderland to shreds, leaving Gus Poyet to lament his side need a ‘miracle’ to beat the drop. All the pundits now agree Cardiff look to be goners too. Which leaves the third relegation issue looking like a straight fight between Fulham and Norwich for 17th place.
That same night a good number huddled in the Johnny Haynes stand to cheer our kids on to a place in the Youth Cup Final. A first for Fulham FC, and warm congratulations all round to Steve Wigley and his boys. In truth, Reading were our superiors in both legs, stronger and bigger and dangerous throughout -- even when down to 10 men.
But the Whites kept playing their game, refused to buckle despite trailing in both games, and inspired by the outstanding Pat Roberts and Moussa Dembele’s ability to finish, rode their luck to make the final.
As I said to my buddies early in the match, Dembele will be the difference. He didn’t in truth have an outstanding game, but his penalty was drilled low and hard in a manner that reminded me of Louis Saha. He bravely threw himself at a ricochet off the bar to head the Whites level, and then claimed the winner three minutes from time when a defender’s clearance flew in off his shin. An indifferent hat-trick then, if you can have such a thing, but it got Fulham home in what was a thrilling and excellent game of football.
Now it is down to the seniors to complete a great week for London’s senior club. The momentum is building and I can see nothing other than a convincing home win ahead for the Super Whites. It won’t be enough to take us above Norwich, but the odds on Fulham staying up will dramatically shorten with another three points. The Canaries are running scared, knowing full well what awaits them on the far side of their trip to London.
Can you feel the anticipation building yet? Bring it on!