The demands of TV have pushed our return with Liverpool onto Monday night. Never a popular move for the Fulham diaspora who travel into London for matches. Many have to sprint away from the ground to grab late trains back to the Home Counties. Looking to the bright side, we get the chance to remind a global audience Fulham stand comparison with the best in the Prem, and there's a unique atmosphere generated by the Cottage mid-week under lights that often gets away sides on the back foot.
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Let's by no means underestimate Liverpool. They are however fragile on the road this season and for the new American investors still very much a work in progress. Dalglish is yet to be confirmed in the job, the board are paying down the debt inherited from the previous muddled regime ahead of buying players, and man for man I reckon our starting eleven is every bit as strong as theirs. Neither manager will need reminding we were unlucky not to take at least a point from our game up there in January.
In case you've forgotten, last season Liverpool had their trousers pulled down by the river 3-1, and of course there's no Stevie Gerrard available at present. In 9 previous home meetings in the Prem we've won four, they've won 5, and there's never been a draw. A tenner on 2-2 might be a smart bet...
Hang on, what am I saying? Brede's well again, Schwarzer has been back to his best in recent weeks and Fulham just don't look like conceding goals at home. A win would make it 7 wins out of 8 since January, and in that run only two rather streaky goals by Blackburn have found the net. Both clubs can afford to play without shackles, being well clear of relegation, both are only looking up and aiming to make the Europa Cup again next season. A maximum return from this and the Arsenal fixture (now even more winnable after their surrender at Stoke) will make for a real champagne end to the campaign, justifying Hughes consistent claim that Fulham are a top ten side.
In recent games we've certainly looked the part, playing some of our best football of the season. Deuce returned to training last week and looks to have shaken off a tight hamstring, so competiton for a starting place is fierce. Simon Davies has come in and more than compensated for the absent Duff, now sidelined till the summer after an operation on his ankle. As for Bobby, he's just been a beast since getting back to fitness. I'm not going to guess the line-up. Hughes in recent weeks has wrong-footed us all from his Friday pressers by keeping quiet about strains and niggles picked up in training. Let's hope after a 9 day lay-up everyone's recharged their batteries for the last three games.
Clint will always be affectionately remembered when it comes to games with Liverpool. His first ever goal for the club must forever remain his most important - that is until he pops up with the winner in the European Cup final. Coming off the bench four months into his Fulham career Dempsey's finish at the Hammy End past Reina on May 5 2007 kept us in the top flight. It really was the £10 million pound goal. That 1-0 win was only our 2nd three pointer of a miserable 2007 run-in as Coleman and Kean lost their grip on the team. We stayed up with 39 points, Sheffield United went down. It scarred Warnock for years. The Blades suffered with both our outrageous luck in seeing Liverpool field nine changes in our game with a European Cup Final pending, and - even worse - seeing West Ham let off a points deduction for playing the ineligible Carlos Tevez. So, at last - welcome back Neil!
Fulham were quite awful from December onwards in 06/07, dodgy fill-in Czech keeper for the injured Niemi, lumbering centre-halves, Rosenior and Queudrue at full-back(!), Michael Brown charging around midfield, Helguson and McBride labouring up front with no real playmaker or winger in the side. 10 bookings each that season for both Brown and Helguson - good job there was no Fair Play league back then...
That reminds me to offer congratulations to our near neighbours QPR on their promotion. I await with great interest Warnock's moves in the summer transfer market. That Hoops squad - yes, Helguson, Routledge et al hasn't a prayer next season from what I saw on TV v Leeds. They looked poor. At least we'll have their two local derbies to replace the ones we lose with West Ham. As to who else falls through the trapdoor...it's still in the lap of the gods.
All I really want this week is another resounding home win for the Mighty Whites! A hat-trick from Clint would be a great way to achieve it.
COYW - Twitter@fulhamphil
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