The dust has settled on the fine victory over Tottenham in the FA Cup last night, and while it was Spurs' atrocious defending that made the headlines, many-a-journalist overlooked what was a fantastic performance from Fulham.
It was clear for all to see that Mark Hughes had utilised his tactical knowledge to its full potential and for the boys to reciprocate his ideas and plans expertly on the pitch was a joy to see. We pushed hard for the ball and although most would have you believe that Dawson and co practically gifted us our first two strikes, it was in fact a just reward for what was a very high-tempo and strategically sound approach to the first fifteen or so minutes.
Tactics, formations and gameplans don't win you everything though as they've got to be intertwined with quality players to get the results that every manager craves. It's fair to say we aren't blessed with Ronaldos, Messis and Piques, however, Hodgson's parting gift to Hughes was a strong, capable and ultimately resilient squad that have the potential to succeed at the highest level (take the inaugural Europa League as the ultimate of examples).
Consistency in the back-line with the likes of Schwarzer, Stockdale, Hangeland and Hughes is hard to parallel; even at the highest end of the Premier League table, where we see sides like Arsenal and Manchester United struggling to keep clean sheets and more importantly, struggling to field the same defence week-upon-week.
The midfield isn't too shabby either. Ever-presents Murphy and Etuhu may not be the most formidable and offensively astute central midfield pairing around, but, yet again, Hodgson installed intelligence in their play and, luckily, Hughes has retained that intelligence. Captain Murphy has an unrivaled eye for a pass while Dickson Etuhu draws superlatives that are similar to those received by Papa Bouba "The Wardrobe" Diop many seasons ago. The Nigerian is somewhat of a rock in the midfield whom is difficult to stop once he gets going; partly due to his rather intimidating frame.
To add to that, despite the many criticisms that are flung at them from all corners of the media, our strike force is still something to fear. The return of Andy Johnson didn't seem to cause a stir until he hit some fine form following a goal at Wigan. Since then, while not scoring another goal, the 29 year-old has caused an array of problems for opposing sides with his pace, runs and eye for a pass. Also, Moussa Dembele has more-than proven his £5 million price tag with his flair, trickery and finishing. Injuries may have blighted the beginning of his Craven Cottage career but his talent was always apparent (no rhyme intended) and the Belgian is now flourishing under Sparky. Let's not forget top goal-scroer Clint Dempsey either. The American has shown that, despite preferring a midfield role, he can be lethal inside the box with both his head and his feet. Where that leaves Bobby Zamora I don't know.
So, it all begs the question: Can we win the FA Cup?
Well, I could treat the question rhetorically and allow you guys to do the debating, but, that'd be like producing a jaw-dropping film with a gripping storyline; only to announce that 'it's all a dream' before the credits begin to roll.
Therefore, I honestly think we can win the FA Cup.
It's a prestigious tournament and a victory would be envied by all of England (unlike any Carling Cup win, which struggles to make the back page the next day), so, that makes it no easy feat. We are still a 'mid-table side' at best and it would be more than an 'upset' if our boys ended May with Cup Winners' Medals. However, we've got the intelligent manager, we've got the strong team and we've got the form upon which to build. All we need is that little slice of luck and all the talk of 'nearly making it' in 1975 will be insignificant and long forgotten.