Author Topic: Thursday Fulham Stuff (13.05.10)  (Read 3868 times)

Offline whitejc

  • Administrator
  • Mornington Crescent
  • *
  • Posts: 78611
  • I'm tall for my height
Re: Thursday Fulham Stuff (13.05.10)
« Reply #20 on: May 13, 2010, 09:53:45 AM »
Cottagers beaten - but pride remains intact

TEAMtalk's James Marshment says Fulham can still take great pride from their European exploits after their defeat in the Europa League final.

They've overcome obstacles as diverse as the might of an Old Lady and a volcanic ash cloud, but Lady Lucky decided to desert the Cottagers when it mattered most on Wednesday night.

Nonetheless, Fulham and manager Roy Hodgson can take great pride from their Europa League adventure, which started way back in July in the preliminary rounds.

To overcome the likes of Juventus, Hamburg, Shakhtar Donestsk and Wolfsburg, amongst others, is a remarkable achievement for a club, which just two seasons ago was surviving in the Premier League thanks to a dramatic last-day triumph at Portsmouth.

Fulham's journey is all-the-more astonishing for me on a personal level. As an ambitious young journalism student up in Darlington, I remember seeing the Cottagers plying their trade in the fourth tier of English football and winning an enjoyable encounter at Darlo's former home Feethams. It may have been 13 years ago, but it's a remarkable rise nonetheless.

So fast forward to May 12, 2010 and the Nordbank Arena. It's the biggest night in Fulham's proud history and possibly the crowning glory of Hodgson's managerial career.

Unfortunately for the Cottagers it wasn't to be. After a nervy start, they fought back to cancel out Diego Forlan's opener with a superb Simon Davies strike and for long periods thereafter, they looked the more probable winners. But deep in extra time, Forlan struck again to send the Spanish into dreamland and the Cottagers into despair.

The quality of Atletico's front pair of Sergio Aguerro and Forlan proved the difference on the night, but we shouldn't forget either what a difference a 100% fit Bobby Zamora would have made. Dickson Etuhu didn't have the best of games in central midfield either as he gave away possession all-too regularly. But it's not a time for recriminations and the Cottagers still deserve enormous praise for their efforts.

English sides have done well in the Champions League in recent seasons, but in the Europa League - or the UEFA Cup as it was formally known - our teams have too often fallen short.

Whether that is a case of teams taking it too casually, I'm not sure, but Fulham have illustrated just what can be achieved when the competition is gone at full-tilt.

Next season, the likes of Manchester City, Aston Villa and Liverpool all have the chance to replicate - or even better - Fulham's achievements. Hopefully, they will have learned a lesson and give the competition their best shot.

Offline whitejc

  • Administrator
  • Mornington Crescent
  • *
  • Posts: 78611
  • I'm tall for my height
Re: Thursday Fulham Stuff (13.05.10)
« Reply #21 on: May 13, 2010, 10:08:39 AM »
All hail St Woy, a true

AT the end, when countless Fulham hearts had been broken, Roy Hodgson turned on his heel.

Not in retreat, though, but with his pride and poise fully intact.

He went to the Fulham dugout and shook hands with every member of his staff.

Then he walked back to the touchline and stopped for a moment, deep in thought.

His mind, no doubt, going back to the night in 1997 when his Inter Milan side lost the UEFA Cup final to Schalke on penalties.

In Inter's own San Siro.

If that was bad enough, this, surely must have been even worse after the remarkable roller-coaster run that had seen Fulham come up just fractionally short in a Europa League campaign that started in Lithuania last July.

Then the 62-year-old son of a Croydon bus driver moved out on to the pitch to commiserate with players littered on the ground.

It reminded you of the stunned Bayern Munich players lying on the Nou Camp turf like felled trees in the wake of a hurricane after the Manchester United miracle of 1999.

Hodgson offered a quiet word here, a paternal pat on the arm there and reassuring words that though it might have seemed like the end of the world, it wasn't.

That though they might have felt like throwing themselves off one of the many bridges in a port city that has more than any other in Europe, his boys could hold their heads high.

That in Hamburg's Nordbank Arena they had done their club and their country proud.

It was a display of old-school grace in defeat that would have had Fulham greats like Johnny Haynes and Bobby Robson nodding in approval from the great bootroom in the sky.

SO CLOSE ... Bobby Zamora collects his losers' medal in HamburgA measured acceptance of the footballing fates with none of the tears and histrionics that so blights this modern reality TV era.

What a true star.

Fourteen years ago, Fulham survived the drop into non-league football by the skin of their teeth. Two years ago, they won their last three games to stay in the Premier League.

And, last night, one of English football's most popular and prized assets - and one of its most under-stated - rose to the occasion once again.

Sure, there was to be no romantic ending to one of the most engrossing cup campaigns of all time when Diego Forlan squeezed home the winner with four minutes left of extra time.

But it was yet another heroic performance in a season where Fulham have caught football's imagination.

I don't know the identity of the patron saint of fighting lost causes. But after the extraordinary run that, until late last night, had seen Fulham defy the odds time and again, it could be St Woy.

For Hodgson, the LMA manager of the season, has built a team that never gives in.

The word surrender does not exist in the Craven Cottage vocabulary.

After an opening half-hour in which Atletico took the lead through Forlan and looked like strolling to victory, they once again showed all the resilient qualities that have turned a modest team into a special one.

They levelled within five minutes through Simon Davies and then took the game to the Spaniards.

On top for 20 minutes early in the second half, they then had to regroup as Atletico came once again.

In their 63rd match of the season, they were in danger of being run off their feet. But it was magnificent the way they stuck at it on a freezing night when many of their Premier League colleagues were already on their sun-loungers sipping pina coladas.

On it went into extra time with the Fulham faithful booming out the chant that has sustained their team so often this season: "If you still believe, stand up."

It was agony to watch - and even worse when Forlan decided it all with the game heading for penalties.

As such, it was no disgrace for Fulham to fall to such a predator.

They can look back on a never-to-be-forgotten season in which they have beaten two former European champions, knocked out holders Shakhtar Donetsk and come back from the dead to eliminate Juventus after trailing 4-1 on aggregate.

They had also gone halfway round the world, some fans actually jetting to Moscow before another two-hour flight to Perm - the most easterly footballing outpost in Europe.

They were all in Hamburg's famous Reeperbahn yesterday afternoon as they celebrated merely getting to the final, an enormous achievement for a club who didn't even really expect to reach the group stage.

Yet here they were draping the Hamburg mayor's statue in a Fulham T-shirt bearing a picture of Haynes and the word 'Maestro'.

They also showed their self-deprecating good humour by running through a song that went "We've won it one time, we've won it one time, the Intertoto, we've won it one time".

So, no, there will be new chant about capturing the inaugural Europa League.

But they can console themselves with capturing all our hearts. And if that isn't success, what is?

Read more: