Monday, April 28, 2008

Fulham's Premiership Survival Battle Is Not Over Yet

Those of you who read this blog on a regular basis know of my undying hope for Fulham to stay in the Premiership. It seems like every couple weeks for the past two months, I’ve written a post saying that it’s unwise to write Fulham off, but then they go and screw up where they shouldn’t screw up and it looks like crow will become a new part of my diet at the end of the year.

I picked them to finish 13th this season and while that won’t happen, I would like to see my prediction somewhat vindicated by the Cottagers staying up. Their roster is full of Americans — Kasey Keller, Clint Dempsey, Carlos Bocanegra, Eddie Johnson, and the captain, Brian McBride — and as an American myself, I’m rooting for my fellow countrymen to get the job done each and every week. I also have a soft spot for them as an underdog, playing in the shadow of much bigger clubs in London in a small, old (but cozy and picturesque) stadium.

So yes, it’s no secret that I want Fulham to be successful.

I had a previous engagement on Saturday and wasn’t able to turn the Manchester City-Fulham game on until about the 55th minute, by which City was already up 2-0 through a couple of early goals. I watched for five or ten more minutes and wasn’t exactly thrilled by what I saw out of the West London club. At that point, I was resigned to Fulham losing, so I turned on the NFL Draft to check out who my Buffalo Bills were going to take in the 2nd Round.

I won’t lie to you. I wish I could say I was a diehard fan who watched the game until the very end, but I can’t. I wish I could say that I always knew Fulham would find a way back and get something out of that game, but again, that wouldn’t be the truth.

Watching the Everton-Aston Villa game the next afternoon, I was talking with my brother, an avid Liverpool fan, about useless strikers in the Premiership. He, of course, went on and on about Andriy Voronin and Dirk Kuyt earlier in the season. I then threw out Diomansy Kamara, who is usually a late game sub brought on by Roy Hodgson to have an immediate impact. That seems to never, ever, happen though; Kamara generally replaces David Healy and does very little when he comes into the game.

Then he told me Kamara scored twice on Saturday.

“Twice?!? Fulham lost 2-0, how’d he score twice??”

“They didn’t lose, they won 3-2.”

“No they didn’t! It was 2-0 when I turned the game off, how did they win??”

“Well, Danny Murphy put in his own rebound from a missed PK, and they got the winner from Kamara in stoppage time.”

As a Liverpool supporter, he had to mention Danny Murphy. He just had to.

When I saw the highlights on the Premier League Review Show last night, I was still stunned. Diomansy Kamara looked like a world-beater out there. He looked like a guy who had no business playing for a small club like Fulham. His two goals came from cool, cool finishes, and Murphy was composed enough to score from close range as well.

Manchester City seemed to have bossed the game, with Kasey Keller repeatedly coming up huge in net for Hodgson’s team. Then all of a sudden, boom, boom, boom, Fulham won the game and took the valuable three points.

Because of that incredible comeback, Fulham now has a chance to avoid relegation. They’re still in 19th place with 30 points, but they’re only three points away from safety and have a better goal differential than 17th-place Reading.

Next weekend, the Cottagers host Birmingham City, who are in 18th with 32 points and have lost a whopping 13 games away from home this season whilst winning just two. A victory for Fulham would potentially propel them ahead of Reading, not to mention Birmingham, because Steve Coppell’s side has a home game against Tottenham. I can’t see Reading winning that game, although a draw is very likely, but they could just as easily lose. If they don’t come away with anything and Fulham wins, Fulham would leap into 16th place heading into the last game of the season.

Now, I’ll admit, I think the Reading-Spurs game will end in a tie. That would put Reading on 34 points, one ahead of Bolton, who plays host to Sunderland next weekend. I can also see that game ending all square, so Bolton would be on 34 points as well. A Fulham victory would give the Cottagers 33 points with one game to go, and for Fulham, it’s a trip to Fratton Park against a Portsmouth team who have put all of their eggs in the FA Cup final basket. Bolton’s last game is at Chelsea, where they’ll get nothing, Reading’s is at Derby, who will be anxious to give their fans one last solid Premiership performance, and Birmingham is home to Blackburn, which has “draw” written all over it.

What does this all mean? Well, let’s say Fulham manages to get a draw at Portsmouth, Reading get beat at Derby, and Birmingham do pick up a point against Blackburn. Assuming Fulham does, in fact, take care of business and beat Birmingham, that would leave Fulham on 34 points, Reading on 34, Bolton on 34, and Birmingham on 33. Birmingham would be relegated, and it would come down to goal differential between the three tied teams. Fulham’s is currently three goals better than that of Reading, and five goals worse than that of Bolton. If it all stays the same, Reading would go down as well, leaving Fulham and Bolton in the Premiership.

Whatever happens, it’s going to be a great end to the Premiership season. I sincerely hope that Fulham can pull off the great escape and stay in England’s top flight, and yours truly will be cheering for them in each of their last two games.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Yanks are down already.

May they go back to the American minor league which is worse in quality than the Conference.