Enforced but temporary dislocation from the game I came to love from the moment I first mastered dribbling a plastic ball the length of our garden path had me in reflective mood this week. Initially my addiction to Fulham could not be fuelled by February's blank weekend, before I took myself off to the Swiss slopes on the Monday ahead of the QPR game. Ten days ago I returned to a hard drive crash and then a sustained attack from despicable spammers targeting both myself and our in house server here at HQ.
Equilibrium has been restored and we are back on course for the season run in. Just in time to bathe in the rosy glow now emanating from Craven Cottage. And my jumping off point for this piece is how much I'm going to relish watching this season's relegation dog fight unfold in the Prem. Eleven games to go and it's a mini league between the five sides at the foot of the table. They'll all be taking points off each other. The stakes for surviving so high, the repercussions from relegation so shattering, I reckon the drama, the managerial quotes and the controversies to come will make for X-rated stuff. Fulham followers know only too well the emotional hell to be gone through. The final weeks of the 2007 and 2008 seasons left scars that have but recently healed. The 'ten million pound goal' from Clint v Liverpool...Danny's improbable header at Pompey...I still get sick to my stomach at the memories.
Whoever you are rooting for this year to slip the noose, the Lancastrian trio, Wolves or QPR, spice is added to the scrap no question by the involvement of our neighbours from W12, with the attendant fate awaiting those two controversial characters so recently held dear to our own bosom Hughes and Zamora.
Last weekend TV offered us a remarkable behind the scenes view of what happens when the wrong kind of investors get involved with a football club. Quite how the Formula One moguls who walked up to Loftus Road amassed their fortunes defies belief. Briatore came across as a man who might struggle to mount a burger stand along South Africa Road, roundly insulting any punter who demanded 'onions but no sauce.' As for hatchetman Paladini...the General Manager was a basket case throughout ever on the verge of a coronary. You had to sympathise with the fans chanting, "Give us back our Rangers," as one manager after another spun out the revolving door and the promotion dream soured again. Yes, the journey had its happy ending with Warnock finally delivering the Holy Grail. But where is Neil now, and the BBC's prog came hard on the heels of clips showing new majority shareholder Tony Fernandes screaming at the ref while sitting 'with the fans' behind the goal for the Everton game. New money maybe, but no class. By gum sir, but boy does it put into perspective the way our own chairman has behaved in his stewardship of Fulham since 1997! And that is why Fulham will always be a far bigger club than QPR in the foreseeable future.
A tape of this documentary must be waved under the noses of the FA mandarins. Not for my own glee, but on behalf of those honest, passionate supporters who follow Portsmouth up and down the country. It's an old hobby horse of mine, but when you see clubs of the stature of Portsmouth (and Rangers in Scotland) threatened with extinction questions must be asked of those responsible for having handed out so many 'fit and proper' person affidavits to the shysters, crooks and conmen. The lack of acumen by those supposed to be running the game should see them called to account as not fit for purpose. The evidence is incontrovertible. Meanwhile good luck to every club battling administration and winding up orders. Football's a working class game with deep roots, not an adman's fantasy to fill boxes with corporate clients and middle class families. Rushden and Diamonds, Newport County, Scarborough, Halifax Town...ghosts from the past, yet once cornerstones of their communities.
There's more trouble brewing. UEFA's bright idea of sharing the Euro 2012 tournament across Poland and Ukraine doesn't look quite so polished now. Both countries are a far cry from the antiseptic and manicured streets of Nyon my train rolled past last week as I skirted Lake Geneva. I met a Fulham fan in Poland during our Wisla away leg who described the tortuous route taken (via Istanbul) in following the Whites to our Shakhtar game of February 2010. There's plenty of tickets available for England's opener at the Dombass Stadium, trouble is the severe lack of decent accomodation. What hotels there are have racked up prices to absurd levels. Prepare for swathes of empty seats at this summer's showpiece.
The week rolled on with two standout performances that showed football, when everything comes together, can still be a fabulous product. Every superlative in the lexicon has been brought out to describe Lionel Messi's performance against Leverkusen in the Champions League. His talent defies belief. This surely is genius on a level never seen before, superior to Pele, Maradona, Henry and the rest. Five goals in one game, the boy makes Pogrebnyak look positively pedestrian! And what about the way Athletic Bilbao turned up at Old Trafford, played without fear, and dismantled the English champions? A lesson there for Jol ahead of our upcoming away game, revenge for the 0-5 thrashing hopefully.
To end on a Fulham note, well it's meant to be an FFC blog after all, our boy Clint has also been gathering his fair share of headlines. And it was his birthday Friday. So Fulham are hoping to tie him down to an extended contract that will keep him in the white shirt until he is 32? That's going to scupper any thoughts the Texan might have of playing Champions League football. But the ship must be a happy one, even if we don't match the salaries being paid elsewhere. Will Clint be content raising his family in one of the nicer parts of London and being a big fish in a small pond? His legendary status at the Cottage is now assured. Undoubtedly one of the most underrrated midfielders in the Prem, newspaper talk often sees Deuce linked to other clubs. Who knows what's in his mind. With all the talk of Liverpool though, I note how Charlie Adam has not had the stand out season he did last year at Blackpool - subsumed perhaps by the poor tactics and lack of genuine coaching credentials from 'King' Kenny?
The 'hands off our Clint' campaign starts here, sign up today! Actually, and I know Fulham are too small a club for this ever to happen, but having started every league game for us, and with his very impressive goal return, could you come up with a more fitting candidate for 'PFA Players Player of the Season?'