Since my first Fulham, and indeed football match in December 2003 at the age of 6, the noisy neighbour status has shifted greatly around the Premier League.
Of the biggest rivalries in both my first season and the most recent being: Arsenal/Tottenham, Chelsea/Fulham, Manchester United/City and Liverpool/Everton, 3 out of 4 have undergone a power shift at some point. In 2003/4, Arsenal were the clear winners in 1st, with their North London rivals lying down in 14th. Last season they were separated by 1 point in 4th and 5th respectively. The only match-up without a change in status is our own. Having only beaten Chelsea once since I’ve watched Fulham, there has been no cause for change in that respect. 03/04 saw Chelsea finish in a very respectable 2nd place, while we achieved a very good 9th. Since then we have always finished below them, most recently with a gap of 3rd to 12th. A lot can be said about the changes in the status quo in the city of Manchester. In the 03/04 season, Manchester United finished 3rd. City all the way down in 16th. I think we all know what happened in the past two years, although United did reclaim both their dignity and their trophy at the end of Sir Rednose’s reign. Liverpool have been through a torrid time recently, I’ve seen them achieve a record high 2nd in the Premier League, I’ve seen them win the Champions League and the F.A Cup (but not the Intertoto), yet from the 4th place of 03/04 to Everton’s narrow escape from relegation in 17th, they have somehow degraded to 7th place, with Everton ahead of them in 6th.
I thought I’d throw in the facts before getting to my point – will there be any surprises or changes in the expected orders? Who will come out on top in Manchester, Liverpool and North London?
I’d like to think that this is the year we finally beat Chelsea again. Even if we have to give Luis Boa Morte a pay-as-you-play contract for those two games. In my lifetime, we have beaten them once. My lovely mug has been in a Shropshire newspaper more times than that.
Chelsea have so far signed Mark Schwarzer, Marco Van Ginkel and Andre Schurrle, so unless Mourinho has got something very special up his sleeve (Wayne Rooney for example) they don’t look as though they are going to change much. Admittedly we have signed the same number of players (I’m not counting Riether and Karagounis) but we are looking at a serious defensive improvement. Having said that, unless Jol has something very special up his sleeve – Darren Bent being the most likely – the only substancial change will be their differing tactics from last season. Who knows, maybe we’ll get lucky this year.
As for the Manchester rivalry, well I personally think this will be the most exciting season for these two clubs, and for everyone else as a neutral. Both teams with a new manager, City having spent £76.9 on just 4 players. This, I think, will prove to be ineffective in their persuit of the title. Yes, I believe the noisy neighbours in sky blue will go one better than United, but the title will return to London in the hands of the special one.
The North London and Liverpudlian derbies are always, in recent times anyway, closely contested. However, with Everton under the control of a new manager, it may take time for the players to adjust to his style in the league. Liverpool ought to take advantage of this, providing their reportedly unsettled striker stays with them, for one, but also sinks his teeth into the league on his return from suspension. I doubt anything will change in the North London camps, neither team has changed much and the only big thing is whether Bale will keep the phenominal form he had in the last campaign.
And so concludes my first blog on FoF. It’s certainly given me some thinking points for the upcoming season. Thank you and as always, COYW