Fulham 1 Chelsea 0: A Fulham Feature

Following the madness of the South-West London derby between Fulham and Chelsea at Craven Cottage, I am totally moved by amazing Fulham. Enough to write this article at 2.40 am.

I am not a resident of England, but watch Premiership footie all the time. As a fan of anime, I started supporting Fulham after they signed Inamoto Junichi from Arsenal, where he was rotting away in the reserves having been bought just to sell jerseys in Japan. Lame reason to support them, but I soon grew to like them thanks to their permanent underdog status, invisibility, cosy stadium, decent friendly supporters and most of all, the manager, Chris Coleman and the players. On a side note, Inamoto has since been sold but not before he put in a few memorable performances. Not to mention the fact that he attracts thousands of Japanese fans and journalists. Hell, Fulham’s website used to have a Japanese version just for him and his legion.

A short background of the club – Fulham is actually a very small club based in London. It was bought over by Al-Fayed aka Dad of Diana’s lover and he pumped a small fortune into strengthening the club and it soon won promotion 4(!) times through the leagues under the managership of Kevin Keegan. In spite of its current status as an established Premiership club, the truth is that it is still a very small club in terms of fanbase and its rich chairman was propping it up.

Not anymore. Thanks to sensible player purchases and most importantly, a superb managerial team, Fulham are now a decent mid-table team, even winning the Inter-Toto Cup, which is a European trophy. Inamoto scored a hat-trick against Bologna too.

Let’s now talk about why Fulham is great.

The Manager

Chris Coleman, the youngest manager in the Premiership, was a Fulham player who had his career ended with a horrific car crash. After the sacking of Jean Tigana, he was asked to take over even though he had zero managerial experience aside from hanging around Tigana, learning the ropes. At the age of 33, the youngest ever manager in the club and Premiership history, he even had players older than him! He formed a very successful team with Steve Kean, who provided the tactics while Coleman did the motivating, no doubt made easier since he was the captain when still a player. In fact, the first season saw the club achieve the record highest Premiership league position in Fulham’s history.

It is a testament to his graciousness in defeat, gentlemanly conduct and impeccable sportsmanship that every single manager has nothing bad to say about Chris.  Even Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho make it a point to praise him after every game with Fulham.

Chris Coleman is a manager who the players fight for, the fans love and the Chairman supports. He truly represents what Fulham are all about. In this day and age where every manager acts like a prick after a defeat, it is refreshing to see Chris honest in his post-match opinions, yet still protecting his players.

Major Events

Instead of going back to the days of leather footballs, I’ll just talk about the past 2-3 seasons. I distinctly remember the 3-1 victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford. It was no fluke, as the Cottagers totally dominated, in spite of Diego Forlan’s equaliser right before half-time. Lee Clarke, then captain, scored the first. Everyone thought Fulham was finished when Man U scored, but after the break, Fulham scored 2 more, such was their dominance. The 3rd goal was a stunning strike by Inamoto himself.

Of course, we have tonight’s game. Beating the league leaders, Chelsea, and fair and square, having had more chances on goal too. It was especially significant, since Chelsea are located on Fulham Road, and Fulham are 5th from bottom with the three below catching up. Sunderland excluded of course. The scenes of euphoria that followed the final whistle, the normally docile family oriented supporters rushing past the barriers onto the pitch, hugging the players as though they have won a championship. This is a team that has not beaten Chelsea for over 30 years, and on a four match losing streak. Add to that their failure to win or even get a single point away from home the whole season, and that explains the joy.

Club Philosophy

Fulham are basically a Jerkyll and Hyde mid-table team. They win big, lose big and you never know what’s going to happen. Yet the team, under Coleman’s attacking philosophy, emphasise attacking, entertaining football, in an era where defensive spoiling tactics rule. Of course, this is foolish as we concede a lot of goals but as he says, “People pay to watch us play, so we have to play entertaining football.” Fuck off ,Bolton and your negative tactics!

Just look at the last few games’ results. 6-1 victory over West Brom, 5-0 or something defeat to Arsenal since they tried to attack them foolhardily, 3-1 defeat to Everton, 5-1 defeat to Liverpool and now 1-0 win over Chelsea. Exciting.

Players

The soul of the team is in midfield. The star players are the captain, left winger Luis Boa Morte, who leads by example with his aggression and never-say-die attitude and the skilful playmaker/ right midfielder, Steed Malbranque, who has Kabuki eyes, but is really way too talented for a small club like Fulham. I think its loyalty that makes them stay, since many offers from bigger clubs have come and gone.

Edwin van der Sar used to be a mountain in goal for Fulham but he has since moved on to Man U, like our super goal scorer Louis Saha.

This season, the 3 strikers have really shone. The partnership of Icelander Heidar Helguson and American Brian McBride, two committed and aggressive big players good in the air and on the ground, have been flawless when working together. Youngster Collins John comes off the bench as a super sub too. The auxillary strike, Tomas Radzinski, plays well occasionally, but isn’t that good.

Notable midfielders include Papa Bouba Diop, who scored the winning goal against France for Senegal in Japan 2002 World Cup.  He has also scored a few uber long-range swerving volleys in the dying seconds of matches for Fulham. Papa’s big too, almost 2m tall. He owns.

The defence isn’t that good. In fact, it’s terrible. I have seen countless goals resulting from bad backpasses, bad marking etc. Zat Knight falls asleep once in a while and Moritz Volz is more of a winger than a defender.

But Mark Crossley, the 36-year-old goalkeeper, is god. In last season’s 4-0 win over Newcastle, he single-handedly stopped the Newcastle attacking barrage, which resulted in a freak victory despite the overwhelming dominance of the opponents. It was like Shaolin soccer. Today against, Chelsea, he made 2 impossible saves too.

Conclusion

With such a great manager, team and supporters, how can one not like this club? Btw I’m the only person I know that supports Fulham. Everyone else supports the big clubs, like Liverpool, ManUre, Arse-nal and Newcastle.


2 Responses to “Fulham 1 Chelsea 0: A Fulham Feature”  

  1. 1 BROKEDFOOT

    Just posting to let you know that your words aren’t falling entirely on deaf ears. It’s nice to see that you’ve grown to have a very genuine support for the club without being nearly as harsh on other clubs as I’m used to seeing.

    (I’m a Newcastle supporter, for what it’s worth, but then I was born and bred there)

  2. 2 tj_han86

    Wow I’m surprised. I barely know anyone that likes football and anime. I’m very curious about the anime scene in Newcastle. From what I heard, it seems to be more of an industrial city?

Leave a Reply