Sunday, May 11, 2008

Boys and Girls, the Great Escape is Complete

Music fans may appreciate the title of this post, seeing as one of last summer's biggest hits was "The Great Escape" by Boys Like Girls.

Back to soccer though, and Fulham has escaped what was near-certain relegation a few weeks ago and will remain in the Premiership for another season.

This has been an ongoing theme here recently, as I'm sure you all have seen. I'm not going to go over the reasons I cheer for Fulham because I've done that before on multiple occasions, but I couldn't be more thrilled that Roy Hodgson's men got the job done at Fratton Park today with a 1-0 victory.

Fulham had their doubters all season, and even I was starting to give up hope a little bit about a month ago when they looked doomed for the drop. A remarkable comeback at Manchester City sparked by Diomansy Kamara turned everything around, though, and with their destiny in their own hands (or feet, or heads, as the case was today when Danny Murphy finished Jimmy Bullard's terrific free kick), Fulham was able to take care of business and beat Birmingham last week and then Portsmouth this afternoon.

It was a wonderful scene on the South Coast after the final whistle. Fulham's fans supported their team all season long, through thick and thin, from Lawrie Sanchez to Roy Hodgson, from mid-table to the relegation zone to safety. The players paid tribute to them today and you could tell how much it meant to both parties.

Roy Hodgson deserves a lot of credit for the work he's done this season, inheriting the mess that Sanchez left behind and molding them into a team with belief. He was the quintessence of calm today on the bench, even when Fulham were goalless for the first hour and ten minutes and needed to change that in order to survive.

The Americans on the team are so important, and we've seen that all year. When Brian McBride has been healthy, he's been able to score some hugely important goals. Clint Dempsey has been a workhorse, Kasey Keller played very well in goal since joining the club, Eddie Johnson got a couple run-outs up front in February and March, and even Carlos Bocanegra had a role at the beginning of the season.

Jimmy Bullard's return from injury was what really turned Fulham's fortunes around; he is a masterful set piece taker and is the creative force that Fulham desperately needed to have in their midfield. Danny Murphy came on strong at the end of the season and capped it off with the game-winning goal today.

It's a shame that the relegation battle came down to goal difference, just like it did last season. You all know my feelings on that; I touched on it briefly in my earlier post about Manchester United, and I truly feel bad for Reading.

As with United, I have to give my congratulations to Fulham, a team I picked to finish 13th this season. They didn't do that obviously, but they avoided the drop that many people believed they'd suffer and it'll be good to watch the Cottagers in the Premiership next season.


Kartik said...

What a great comeback season for Fulham and I am so proud of Keller and McBride in particular.

muhammad sami said...

[ Congrats to fulham f c]
They pulled out a great escape.The fighting spirit at the end was amazing.McBride,Bullard,Murphy,Dio Kamara,Keller and Co. deserve this.