ESPN Soccernet - Correspondents - Fulham
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Posted by Phil Mison on 05/08/2012
© Getty Images
And if all things must pass, even a pyramid won't last. A lyric from a hugely under-rated act of the 80s for you to work out. Fulham Football Club is a force for change and progress. We should not fear it.

There's no denying it was hard going watching the squad's lap of honour after Sunday's win. Nothing to complain about from the afternoon's entertainment with a tenth home win achieved in fine style. All three goals dazzled but, as Jol said afterwards, with a dash more luck in front of goal Fulham could and should have won by a comfortable margin. Finishing top ten is now guaranteed, and we can approach the final weekend's trip to WHL with real confidence of picking up more points. To end the season 7th and with a new points high from our EPL season would reflect on an excellent run since Christmas. The bittersweet side of Sunday came when studying faces on the lap of honour to try and second guess who might not be wearing Fulham white next August. Every fan at the ground will have harboured such thoughts.

For the past 11 months, yes, it's been a long season. All credit to the manager for getting his style across finally, and to the players too for raising their game. We sensed there was real quality in the team, but how frustrating was it to wait six games for that first win, fold at places like Wolves and Blackburn, and even as late as March turn in a woeful performance at a floundering Villa. Not to mention our excruciating exits from all three cup competitions.

It is no exaggeration to suggest we could be very close to a Champions League spot next season. Extrapolating our results from the 37 games to date you can make a convincing case for saying we should be 11 points better off and sitting above Chelsea. Think back. Three points tossed away after Bobby misses an open goal in the final minute v Everton. Two more dropped to a 94th-minute header at Norwich that could so easily have been prevented. Two given up late on to WBA on February 1, a point squandered at Villa with the last kick after Mark's fumble, denied a point at United by inept refereeing in not giving the penalty, likewise Chelsea denying us a win with the 'penalty that never was'.

This is no hard luck story. Add in the number of times we've hit wood and even a neutral would admit we ain’t had too much luck along the way. And how do Fulham play the game? No player red-carded all league season, and Gera the only man to see red in 100-odd games. Never mind our final league position, we should be invited into the Europa League as a badge of honour, just as past champions are invited back to the Masters. Consider this. When was the last time you spotted an unsavoury story concerning a Fulham player or employee? No nightclub rucks, no drink driving, philandering with bimbos, racial slurs, daft comments to the tabloids. Crikey, nobody likes a saint, but we sound pretty much like the model professional football club. No wonder we are consistently overlooked by the media and MOTD. We are almost boring...

Forgive me for blowing my own trumpet, but you all saw my take on Hodgson's appointment. I'd even gone out on a limb a week before the announcement urging the FA to make a brave decision. And I'll be damned, they did. Plenty of writers and bloggers have since played catch up and come round to appreciating the plus points of life without 'Arry at international level. So here's another test for the nation's scribes. When they all stop slavering over Mancini's Citeh and having served up a ton of hyperbole on the Champions League final before we get into the Euros, perhaps they might find space to file a considered piece on Al Fayed's journey with Fulham and the progress of our 'little' club? Don't hold your breath...With any well-run organisation, the tone is set from the man at the top. I bet there's not a journo from the West End to Wapping who would ever have forecast how much MaF has kept in the background since 1997, considering his previous taste for gathering headlines and publicity.

And as Blackburn, and probably Bolton, head back to the second tier, Fulham are looking only to go higher. So back to my theme. Quite frankly, our number 23 walked the turf with head down as if he'd dropped his wedding ring during the course of the match. I know Deuce can be a pretty laconic character and he's no heart-on-the sleeve sissy - even Jol described him thus - but to me that was a man closing the chapter on five fantastic years of great memories down by the Thames. THANK YOU for every minute you bust a gut for the cause. Now tell your agent to give me that call and let's write the book. Goal number 50 was another beauty and fittingly no man has now made more appearances for the Whites in the Premier League I believe.

As for our other goalscorer. Well, Moussa himself admitted he should have had a hat-trick. His talent is immense - were he to add some clinical finishing to his game he would indeed be the complete footballer. A Cottage version of Lionel Messi. But then of course, he wouldn't be hanging around at Fulham. Will he stay or will he go? Younger than Clint, he might be persuaded to give us another season. The bottom line with every single member of the set-up is that money talks, and in the modern era all power sits with the players. And in light of the terms of employment pre-Bosman, who can argue with that?

The sour note for supporters of course in all this is that our heroes literally just slip away in the night. Rarely is there the closure you get from a veteran signing off at the end of a fabulous career a la Shearer. I remember sitting with John Colllins at Motspur after he hung up his boots. We were at a table in the canteen there as the players’ final wage packets of the season came round. Once pocketed, John quietly took his leave, shook a few hands and drifted away into the car park for the last time. Eerily strange, no big send off, and when I asked John what he planned to do next, he just shrugged and shuffled off the stage.

Personally, if Clint goes chasing his Champions League dream, I hope it is outside the UK. It will be very hard to see him back at Craven Cottage in an opposition shirt. No point in dwelling on it till it happens. Let the travelling support Sunday lead our appreciation and here's hoping Dempsey hasn't quite finished with his goalscoring exploits for FFC just yet. A win over Spuds... now that really would put the icing on the cake of a run in to remember.

As Jol dodged the question Sunday when asked about the future of the double Ds - "I prefer not to dwell on the negatives right now after this win" - I am of a mind to think the die may be cast. But as all things must pass, an incontrovertible truth of human existence, I am excited by what the summer holds and who Fulham have on the radar for next season. Remember Jol's task to reduce the age of the squad and bring 'sexy football' to SW6 still has a way to go... and as we know from the new away kit, the future is BLACK, WHITE and now ORANGE!

More news before the Spurs game, and then we can all go and have a lie down. Thanks for following this blog over the past two years. It has been a lot of fun. COYW!!!

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Posted by Peter Rydyn on 05/08/2012

Thanks Phil, for the always entertaining slant on Stevenage Road.

Posted by Nate on 05/08/2012

Saying goodbye with a little Alan Parsons Project? Go on Phil. Why not.

Thanks for the season. It's been a pleasure reading your thoughts every week, and a pleasure to root for Fulham this year. The last home match ended as it should--Dempsey and Dembele scoring--and I too won't be surprised to see both gone come next season. But let's build on, build up, and hope Senderos stays out of the starting 11. Thanks again, and let's steal one on the final day.

Posted by Jessica on 05/08/2012

I just shook my head when I saw the title of your latest entry because I knew it would address my worst fear. If he must go, I agree that I'd like to see him go outside England. He's the one that brought me Thameside so I would find it very difficult to root against him. But where is this elusive Champions League side where he would be guaranteed a starting spot? From a US perspective, I can't have him go to a big club and sit. Hopefully he'll heed your astute observation that this club is really not that far away, and how satisfying would it be to take it from the brink of relegation to the heights of CL?

Thanks for another great season of insight, the perfect mix of humor and reality and true affinity for our little club. I'm frankly approaching this Oranje news with a bit of trepidation, but it can't be worse than the white shorts, right??

Let's win the London season!! COYW!!!

Blog Central: Orange with black trim I hear, sounds sexy. Hey, it works for Rickie Fowler

Posted by John on 05/08/2012

"It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change." -
Charles Darwin

Change is coming as Dempsey, Dembele, Murphy, Johnson (who else) all rotate out. I started following Fulham with 2008's "Great Escape." If Deuce and Murphy go, only Baird, Hangeland and Davies remain. It's the nature of the beast. But I'll be ready for the fall. Thanks for your work Phil. You will be staying on through the summer transfer season, won't you?

Blog Central: Yes, though filing from afar

Posted by Rob on 05/08/2012

Thanks for another entertaining post Phil. A nice walk through of what might have been and a reminder of what some fans may take for granted. How envious is our position to a Blackburn fan today?

We all knew the summer was going to be one filled with changes. The old gang is breaking up and riding off into the sunset. Jol will no doubt mine the Dutch league for replacements. I hope Clint finds a good home and gives FFC one final gift in the form of a huge transfer fee. My fear is he will sign for another club in London.

Maybe Harry's wife will pick the side for him as she seems to do everything else. COYW!!!

Posted by Fulham Yank on 05/09/2012

Like our Darwin fan, I also started following the Whites during the Great Escape season. My primary reason for following was because there was an unprecedented 5 Americans in the Fulham squad at the time. Within months of supporting the Whites 3 of those players were released and now only the great Deuce remains. Fulham have been able to retain a solid core since that season (a core that Jol seemed reluctant to use at times in the season!) but more so than ever I think the page is turning on this little era. Although I haven't been a fan for long, I know a bit about our club's history and I would gander that since the escape, that core have given the club its most successful period in the club's history. Would you agree Phil?

So with change in the air, let's rally around our old vanguard one last time for a famous win at the Lane!!!


Posted by Justin on 05/09/2012

I'm really beginning to wonder what the squad will look like next year. I hope Clint stays, but like our writer, I doubt it. The one thing working in Fulham's favor is that he is 30 and not a big name compared to most transfer targets of the big teams. Would Arsenal fans be thrilled with his signing? I tend to doubt it, although I think he would not be out of place there.

Posted by Drago on 05/09/2012

If Clint and Moussa both go, Fulham will struggle to be a top 10 club next year, regardless of who we sign. The team might well find itself in a relegation battle. That's why the early exits from the Europa League and Cups was so disappointing. A final (even a semi-final) in any of these competitions might have given Clint a reason to believe Fulham could overtake the Tottenhams, Arsenals, etc.

As for Moussa, selling him now would be a mistake. His value will only rise, while Clint is at his peak. With Clint gone, Moussa will be the centerpiece of the team -- he's too talented not to find the back of the net at some point.

Blog Central: Cashing in on Clint pays for two exciting wide players from Heerenveen and saves club paying out top dollar on salary. Has Deuce peaked? He is in many ways irreplacable in terms of his style, tenacity and willingness to try the unexpected. But two pacy goalscoring wingers and the addition of a sharp finisher alongside the Pog will make us a real handful next season.

Posted by Nick on 05/09/2012

Frustration, fear, sadness...all things I unfortunately expect to feel this summer.

If we are able to adequately fill the double D's production I think most fans will be able to move on but for me I'll always miss Dempsey...he's a warrior and just like McBride before him he has represented U.S. footballers well.

Posted by Scott on 05/09/2012

Phil, thank you so much for the blog. I look forward to it and read them all though I have never previously commented. I love Fulham and if Clint leaves will be disappointed there are no other Yanks on the team but I will remain a loyal fan. I have enjoyed watching the team grow and I agree 100% about how professional and solid this club is. Frankly I can live without the drama. Clint may find he misses that if he goes to one of the big money clubs with all the accompanying silliness. Hoping for an upset of the Totties this week to end a sometimes maddening but very respectable season.

Posted by fraught_with_peril on 05/09/2012

I didn't notice it so clearly at the time, but the Jol post-match video on the Club's website includes a few minutes of the post-match lap of appreciation. That really did look like a challenging, emotionally-draining lap for Clint.

If he moves on, we'll all miss him. But God bless him. He has delivered time and again for the Club and likely created wonderful opportunities for himself. I hope we manage to keep him, but would be surprised and can only wish him the best either way.

A few other observations and questions:

1) Moussa needs to play everyday football for another season. I hope that can be at Fulham and suspect that might be hard to achieve next season at the big clubs that may be in for him;

2) What has transpired that has folks feeling so strongly that Murphy is moving on?

3) I love the Hangeland-Hughes partnership too, but let's not forget that Jol has a mandate to lower the overall playing age. So let's all stop the Senderos bashing.

Beat Spurs -- COYW !!!

Blog Central: (1) For half the season Moussa was a show pony luxury the team carried. He needs to do it consistently for FFC over 38 games. Diarra in MF helps him enormously. Does he integrate with Ruiz? Can see him going to a bigger club and not making an impact. He's no goal machine for one.
2) Women gossip, it's in their genes. Danny's wife tweeted then had to backtrack.
3) We'll stop bashing Senderos when he plays 90 mins with as few mistakes as Hughes

Posted by 5815dan on 05/10/2012

What's with all the "Thanks, Phil" stuff before the season is over? Just because the team is sitting comfortably in the top-half we can all relax now? No way, Phil, you need to come up with one more solid post in the lead up to this weekend and then deliver a solid year end post as well. Finish up strong man, and then I'll commend you!

Ok, more seriously, we all know Clint is moving on this summer. I'm just happy that PL goal #50 came in a white shirt and at the Cottage. Good times. I am American so I would love to see him excel at a top European big money club but I am also a Fulham fan so I will be disappointed when he leaves. It's a difficult balance. Hopefully his fee is used wisely and brings in impact players. Hey, Jol could bring in Altidore to keep the American love going!

One last party with some old friends this weekend. Enjoy it...

Posted by m.wylie on 05/10/2012

Arsenal supporter here. Great post, full of justifiable pride in a Fulham club run the proper way. Good luck next year - I for one would be happy to watch Fulham displace some teams presently higher in the table (but not us, OK?).

Blog Central: I do appreciate positive comments from rival fans as it normally goes against the grain, so thanks!

Posted by Bobert on 05/11/2012

Phil, I just wanted to say thank you for another wonderful year of updates. Following your blog has become a fundamental core of my game day routine when watching a Fulham match. Another season has come to a close, and like always, this one was full of drama, late goal heartbreaks (seriously, we had a lot of these) and the rise of some characters to astonishing heights. At the beginning of the season you expected Clint to be sensational and at the end of the season he's been just that. Admittedly, being a Dempsey fan is what drew me to Fulham but I surely will continue to stay here even after Deuce has moved on. (Though I'll obviously follow him as well) Thank you again and here's hoping that we can help the old gaffer put one on his old club.

One last game, one last time; COYW!


Posted by Chris on 05/11/2012

Another Arsenal supporter here but one who always reads this fine column and who has great admiration for Fulham. Of course we Gooners want Fulham to win this last one of the season, but besides that I for one am very happy for all Fulham supporters that their club has had such a fantastic season, and I'll certainly be sad to see Dempsey go elsewhere, if that's what happens. Not given up hope yet. Fulham are indeed a highly respectable club, and a terrific example to the Premiere League, and football generally, of what the beautiful game is all about!

Blog Central: Another testimonial from a club who know how football should be played. Thank you.

Posted by Fulham Dreamer on 05/11/2012

Good to see the Arsenal comments. We've always had a good rapport with them and I always look forward to both legs. It's just a shame they had to move from Highbury to that soul less monstrosity - the football equivalent of a mall.

Posted by Adrian on 05/11/2012

I am also an Arsenal supporter, but Fulham have been my second PL team since early days of my watching, which admittedly aren't that long, but I remember cheering Fulham on two years ago in the Europa League final. As an American, Dempsey is a hero to me, and I wouldn't mind seeing him in Arsenal colors, but his exploits for Fulham show the class and quality of your club! Good luck in the future and I hope that next year Fulham are challenging towards the top, as Newcastle have done this year. On a side note, what would you think of a young American player like Juan Agadelo from NY Red Bulls going to Fulham...US players seem to have good times at your club...just a thought. Great article!

Posted by lepetitmonstre on 05/12/2012

Hoping this is not a valedictory address.

Phil: I became a Fulham fan on the sunny day Dempsey scored two against Chelsea a couple of years ago. I have been a player and fan of world football for 40 years. In my early 20's I showed up at a pedestrian QPR v Crystal Palace fixture--1985?. "All the way from America for this game", I joked to the ticket taker. His hard-bitten reply: "You must be bloody mad."

Probably I am speaking for others when I say that Fulham might not win all their games, but we have the best blogger. You are doing a great job at this. Not that I always agree with you, far from it. But you are adding life and joy to this team and game, and that is a gift to Fulham fans everywhere. My sons, who are also players and fans, look forward to the new postings and we debate the wisdom (or absence) of your scribblings. Thank you for your devotion. --LPM

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