Can I begin by urging you all to revisit the posts after the opening games from last autumn. Vital Teddy felt a relegation battle loomed and a top ten finish was beyond us. Michael from Laramie was alarmed, while to a man we were falling over ourselves to damn the wisdom of partnering Senderos with Hangeland and sending Hughes out to right back. Many questioned the potency of AJ to lead the attack, expressed fears for our midfield, Riise's value to our defence, how BZ fitted into the system, and who Fulham were looking to attract in the transfer window.
All perfectly valid observations after three winless games and one solitary goal. Footballers rarely read the press - they know well enough how they've performed. Managers and coaches are for the most part a self-regarding chummy elite inside the game. Insular, instinctively on the defensive, too ready to ignore or deride terrace opinion from the gobby punters. But you have to say upon reflection - we sure as hell knew what we were talking about! The evidence is all there in the archive.
Maybe it's part of our heritage, in that we always did consider ourselves an educated and erudite football following public down at the Cottage. I'm not sure what medication I was on myself last August but the two madcap Premiership preview pieces I banged out before the big kick-off proved remarkably prescient (Premier League Unplugged). I'll never come close again to repeating the trick. If only I was picking up the kind of money Lawrenson gets for his ridiculous predictions...Check them out. Too early to embrace next season's forecast just yet, but it certainly gives one pause for thought looking back over the past campaign. Mundane it certainly was not.
Everyone at the club has expressed themselves satisfied with 52 points and 9th, although Mark somewhat flatteringly saw us sneak into 8th place, but with less points, in 2011. Certainly the football was more enjoyable, with some big wins along the way. Season ticket holders were rewarded with 10 home wins in the league, while Clint was the undoubted Player of the Season. By golly, Jamie Redknapp in the Mail had Dempsey in his Premier League team of the season, even if too many others overlooked the stature of the Texan's 23 goals. When you consider his 17 in league play from midfield was SIX better than any other EPL midfielder, you have a measure of the man. Sore groin or not, it didn't stop Clint getting straight on a plane Monday for Texas, so happy holidays and good fishin' boy - see you in July...?
That final day loss served as a timely reminder that there's work to be done behind the scenes to bring Fulham up another level. Let's hope the right recruitments are made for areas I think we all know need addressing. After a full season where professionals have to maintain such demanding levels of fitness and discipline, this is the time all hit the beach for some well-earned R&R. Unless, that is you are preparing for the Euros, where Fulham have a light contingent away for once. Of course, while no Fulham man makes the England squad, we do of course have Roy and Ray in charge. Congratulations to both, and to Lew in particular, who has been a tremendously loyal, and well-liked figure at Fulham down the years. What a remarkable bonus for him in the twilight of his career to find himself closely tied in to the national team. Bravo!
I was amused on the day we had Roy's squad to mull over to also note Kenny had jetted the Atlantic to have Henry swipe the crown from his head, payback for a miserable season at Liverpool. The 'King' has no clothes, as we've been saying for months. Next coaching job, if at all, likely to be some footballing outpost like Thailand or the UAE. Now I'm suddenly charged with a new enthusiasm for England's chances with Woy at the helm, and how wonderful would his revenge be if he can coax a real return from Carroll where Kenny could not? Oh, life can deliver these sweet moments at times if we all dream hard enough.
Dreaming of a better tomorrow also remains the fate of Villa fans, another club looking for a new manager. What is it about American owners of EPL clubs? WBA also will need to think hard about who can carry on Roy's good work at the Hawthorns. After a real cliffhanger end to the season it was pleasing to see the right team lift the title, although how they put their fans through the wringer! On balance, and this may not be a universally popular sentiment, it's good to think we can anticipate two more spicy West London derbies with QPR - and another six points of course. It does save on those long trips up to the north-west. Much as I did want Rangers to take the drop, Bolton only have themselves to blame for losing from winning positions in both their final two games. As to who comes up? Now let's be honest here guys - and it's not just Fulham fans I'm sure. The whole football community SURELY is willing Ian Holloway's Blackpool on to victory in Saturday's play-off final, aren't they? There's one London derby we don't need next season!
As blogged, I did attend the Academy Final saturday, where Kit's kids went one better than last year and were crowned champions. The five who stood out are the kids we've paid good money for - Ryan Williams, the Aussie winger, Jack Grimmer, the Scottish defender, Cauley Woodrow in attack, captain Ronnie Minkwitz and the livewire winger 'Mesca.' Our reserves came 2nd in their league as I'm sure you know and Trotta was 2nd top scorer here with 15 goals, despite being out on loan at Wycombe for three months - so that's all encouraging stuff as well.
But we'll have to bide our time and wait awhile to find out how the Fulham first team shapes up over the summer. I would be surprised if there's much transfer activity over the next 6-10 weeks. Managers surely will keep an eye on the Euros for any new faces making an impact, and the only thing one can safely predict is another absurd round of frantic late dealing in the last days of August. It'll be here before you know it.
Enjoy your summer. If anything big breaks on the Fulham front, it will get blogged. I will be posting a review of David Hamilton's book 'A Fulhamish Tale' once I've finished it. Available now from www.ashwaterpress.co.uk. I've been told it's a blockbuster! twitter@fulhamphil