Fulham through to the last 32!!

December 16, 2009

Well, who’d have thought it? After the poor second half display against CSKA Sofia at the cottage and Basel seemingly unbeatable at home Fulham have pulled of an excellent win to get into the knockout stages. Of course I was stuck on a train as the game was being played (damn 6pm kickoffs), hoping that we could pull of a victory, but the rational part of my brain was preparing myself for bad news. I am going to have to see about going away to Europe now against our next opponents (Juventus please!) and the knockout factor will give it that extra bit of oomph.

Since I was unable to see the game, I will have to make do theorising about Fulham in Europe ( For extensive coverage of the game head over to CCN and HammyEnd).  Roy Hodgson makes me laugh. His pre-game comments about not playing the strongest team were jumped upon by many journo’s but we all knew him better than that. With the injuries we have had and the suspensions incurred we were always going to put out a mixed bag of a team, not that anyone outside the Fulham fans were ready to do a bit of research or acknowledge these facts. Roy has stuck with several “second team” players in the Europa league including Zoltan Gera and Bjorne Helge Riise and they have flourished. I really think we are almost designed to play in a style befitting European competition and the experience of Roy helps us no end. What disappoints me is the fact that the media have not picked up on the fact that despite the many setbacks we have had this season in Europe (and in the league, to be fair) through injuries and poor refereeing decisions, we have made a good show for ourselves in Europe. We have had a ‘never say die’ attitude that has really pleased me and reminds me of why I love Fulham so much.

I have always liked the UEFA Cup/Europa League as a competition, enjoying th progress of English teams and of Inter, my Italian team. It is nice to catch a glimpse of some of the ‘lesser’ clubs in European football and the unpredictability of the competition adds another dimension that I feel the Champions League is missing. People label the Europa League a ‘Mickey Mouse’ competition and I think that not only is this unfair, but goes to show how ignorant people can be about football. I am excited about the next round and it will probably be the highlight of Fulham’s season, regardless of who we draw.

Now for a prediction. I think Fulham have an outside chance of doing something in this competition. Whilst expecting to get to the final is a bit much, I can see a victory over a big side or reaching an advanced stage of the competition. Feel free to come and laugh when Fulham get knocked out by Salzburg after an inept performance, but if we can come through a tough group (one which we arguably should have won) then anything is possible. For now, lets hope for a good draw in the next round and an easing of the injuries we have suffered so far. Bring on Manchester United this weekend!

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