While Fulham has had a strong season, it should be noted that going into last Saturday's match with Portsmouth that the Cottagers were closer to the foot of the table than 6th place as there are a number of teams in the bottom half of the table that could find themselves in relegation trouble come April and May.
On Saturday, Fulham did what they have done so well all season long.....they won at Craven Cottage. Roy Hodgson and his squad have made Craven Cottage a fortress this season. Had it not been for the solid play by the club at the Cottage, Fulham would definitely be in the relegation mix as they not yet won on the road. It is not often you find a team sitting 9th in arguably the world's best club league in the middle of the season without picking up a road win. That is exactly what Fulham has done. Can you imagine where they might be had they picked up a win or two on their travels?
In addition to the momentum Fulham gained from Saturday's win, the Cottagers also made a strong point in showing that life does go on after Jimmy Bullard's departure. The influential midfielder left for Hull City earlier in the week and many wondered if his services would be missed the rest of the season. While he was a fan favorite and he did play extremely well for Fulham during his time with the club, Saturday showed us that this team can win without him.
I have thought long and hard about Bullard's departure and how it might effect the club. His presence in the midfield and his free kick taking abilities will be missed, but in looking at the bigger picture, his wage demands for a new deal seemed far fetched and not in line with what Fulham stands for when it comes to signing players.
Bullard is 30-years-old right now and while the figures for what he was looking for wage wise on a weekly basis were not reported, word has spread throughout message boards and the Internet that he wanted much more than Fulham was willing to offer. Hitting the age of 30 is not a good thing for a player still plying his trade on the football pitch. For a team with a tight financial structure like Fulham it did not make sense to appease him with the money he was asking for. It was the right time to let him go and move this club into life without Bullard for the remainder of the campaign. It was not a decision many supporters likely agreed with, but once again, looking at the big picture, it makes sense to me.
Like other supporters, I will miss Jimmy Bullard. He was one of the few players I have seen in recent seasons that shows his heart on his sleeve and plays with a passion and intensity on the pitch that few can match. He was a fan favorite and players like him are tough to watch leave. It was a pleasure watching Jimmy in a Fulham kit and he provided me with many wonderful memories over the course of his two and a half years at the Cottage. I wish him the best at Hull City and I hope the move works out well for him and for Fulham in the coming seasons.
Replacing Bullard will not be easy and I am not sure if Dickson Etuhu is the answer. He has done an average job in midfield the last month or so but he does not have the flair or creativity that the likes of a Jimmy Bullard has. At the time of this writing, Fulham is in talks with 34-year-old Olivier Dacourt about a loan move from Inter Milan. The French international has had quite a career on the pitch. Whether the move goes through and whether Dacourt has anything left in the tank remains to be seen.
Also, word on the street is that Brian McBride might be on his way back to Craven Cottage. Numerous Internet outlets have written that McBride may come back to Fulham on a loan move. Whether it be a two-month loan similar to that of David Beckham at AC Milan, or it would be for the rest of the season remains the be seen. McBride currently plays for the Chicago Fire of Major League Soccer. The addition of McBride would be a solid move for the rest of this season. He has experience and despite being a little long in the tooth he has shown that he can still score goals. He may not be the fastest or the quickest, but his game is predicated on his superb knowledge of the game and his ability to be in the right place at the right time to score goals.
The January transfer window is always an exciting and interesting part of the English Premier League. While Fulham may not be grabbing the headlines with bids for Andrei Arshavin or Shay Given, the club has shown a willingness to find some players that can and will help them keep the team moving in the right direction heading into the fina four months of the season. It has been a great season thus far and as a loyal supporter of the club, I have faith in Roy Hodgson to find the players he needs to keep this ship moving in the right direction. Hodgson is a very underrated manager and he is exactly what Fulham needed a little over a year ago. Without him at the helm, I do not know where this club would be. Nor do I want to think about it. He is a special manager and in Roy I trust.