It has been a season of splendid football, but some weaknesses persist



Fulham manager Slavisa Jokanovic. PICTURE: ACTION IMAGES

Morgan Phillips

By Morgan Phillips

Not for the first time in Fulham’s history the club’s hopes for promotion were seriously damaged at Derby County. Manager Slavisa Jokanovic remains positive but the 4-2 defeat on Tuesday 4 April has pushed Fulham out of the top six.

It has been a season of splendid football. The club’s strength is the team spirit, the product of the players and the management. Unfortunately some weaknesses on the field persist. As Jokanovic admitted after the Derby game,

“We paid a very expensive price because we didn’t make enough good decisions jn very important moments for us.”

A hundred years ago, when the game was less scientific, Fulham’s manager Phil Kelso believed in being ‘strong down the middle’. If we look at the present team the goalkeeper and the centre backs are talented and industrious but they are not outstanding. Button made an exemplary save from a penalty at Derby, but two or even three of the home side’s goals came from his poor judgment. Up front we still miss McCormack and Dembele.

The last four matches have produced just four points. In the two home games before the international break Fulham drew with Blackburn and lost to Wolves. Any hopes that spending a few days away from League football would reinvigorate the team were dashed last Saturday by a drab first half at Rotherham. Perhaps the players found it unsettling that their success would mean relegation for the home side. Meanwhile Rotherham failed to capitalise on their chances. 

Chris Martin, the unlikely hero of Scotland’s World Cup qualifier, came to life after the interval. He missed an easy chance, came close with a header and in the 66th minute his shot seemed to have crossed the line. The ball bounced back into play and Sone Aluko forced it home. The Championship still lacking goal-line technology, Martin was content for his team-mate to claim the goal.

The Fulham defence struggled to cope with some long throws but the home side’s shooting continued to be wasteful. The match ended 1-0 and Rotherham were down. Fulham had finally reached 6th place, eight points ahead of their next opponents Derby County. The celebrations were short lived.

Fulham and Rotherham will meet again in competition this weekend, as regional winners of the EFL Community Club of the Year awards. Independent Futures is Fulham’s showcase project (in partnership with Personal Independence CIC). It aims to enable young people to reach their full potential and more specifically to avoid sex exploitation, gang activity, domestic abuse and criminal behaviour. Many people, including those not interested in sport, were impressed by Henry Winter’s article in the Times headed ‘Fulham, Feltham and the Caring Face of Football’ (Tuesday 28 March 2017). Winter quoted Keith Potter, the resettlement officer at Feltham prison for young offenders:

“The reoffending rates of those on Fulham’s course are ridiculously low.”

17 per cent to be precise, compared with a national rate of 68.9 per cent. Unsurprisingly the success of the project has encouraged other prisons to seek similar arrangements with local clubs.

Over the past 30 years Fulham FC has made a quiet but meaningful contribution to the wider community. The present administration deserves great credit for all its social endeavours, not just the Feltham scheme.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not necessarily those of Hammersmith & Fulham Council.

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