Fulham have the privilege this weekend to be the visiting team for Blackpool's first ever fixture in the Premier League. Much more than just another football match, the occasion marks a fairy tale rise to the top flight for the Tangerines, while the travelling Fulham army will reflect on what might have been.
What do I mean by that? Well, our day out to the seaside of England's north-west could so easily have been replaced by another red letter day in Fulham history. But for three minutes in Hamburg last May, humble little Fulham FC would this week have been contesting the Super Cup against Inter Milan in Monaco. Imagine that if you can.
Had that Forlan toe poke not crept over the line off the back of Brede's calf (I was right behind the goal) I am convinced we would have triumphed in the subsequent penalty shoot-out. We had a better keeper on the pitch and 5 top notch ice cool penalty takers. But football is all about ifs and buts. Saturday is the Tangerines turn to take the spotlight.
And guess what? I'm made up like a kid on Christmas Eve. I've got my ticket and am booked on the 8.30 north from Euston. I've been to every ground in the north-west, except Blackpool. It's wonderful to see them in the Prem and I really wish them all the luck in the world. Any kid of the 50's growing up in England knows what iconic images Blackpool FC conjurs up. The 1953 Cup Final - 'Matthews Final' - is the most repeated news clip after 1966. 3-1 down and with only 10 fit men on the pitch, every neutral in the country willed Blackpool to a 4-3 victory over Bolton in the dying minutes.
After two losing finals, the wizard of the wing, Stanley Matthews finally got to lift the Cup in the twilight of his career. And when I got to see Blackpool at the Cottage in the late 60's, like any kid, who ever forgot that lurid Tangerine strip? Our paths haven't crossed at this level since.
So, for Blackpool's first top flight game since 1971 and the days of Law, Best and Charlton, it's Mark Hughes side who provide the opposition. We've won 6 of 7 of the last league encounters and Saturday sees our 104th game with them. If we play even to 75% of the energy levels shown on Wednesday night, then surely our long wait for an away win (19 games) must come to an end at Bloomfield Road.
And if we were to lose, I trust in the finest traditions of London's greatest club, we actually won't begrudge the locals their own 'special day.' Trade Blackpool Tower, a stick of rock and a bag of chips on the prom for an over-priced swan around Monaco? I don't think so. This is what following Fulham is all about.
As to the future prospects for our side - well, I reckon they're as bright as the Seasiders shirts. Salcido's arrived for a reasonable fee, and this current Fulham strike force has menace oozing from every pore.
||Post your comment