Match after match I find myself thinking, "This is the match that will turn things around and kick start the Great Escape II." Match after match my hopes come crashing to the ground, like Clint Dempsey under a Sheffield United challenge. I can't decide what's more disappointing: That I feel this way again tonight or that I allowed myself to feel this way again tonight.
Let's be honest, FA Cup glory for a club in Fulham's current league position means precisely zero. Rene Meulensteen could have fielded three nuns, four postmen, a tube driver, two roosters, and a corgi and it wouldn't have meant anything with concern to Fulham's survival bid.
I know, I know. A win can fill the side with confidence, young players can get valuable match experience, the supporters can have something to support, and on and on and on. I question the validity of all of those presuppositions and I would suggest that the likelihood of something awful happening, especially for a club in Fulham's current predicament, is much, much greater (see: Hugo Rodallega crying; Final minute collapse; Bottom of League One Sheffield United - 1, Fulham - 0).
If Fulham had won, even stylishly, they'd just have added more fixtures to a list that has long demanded singular concentration on the Premier League. Getting young players valuable match experience is a good thing and there are certainly some encouraging prospects in the system, but if there were any world beaters down there, they'd have shown themselves by now.
As for supporters, there's an idea in revolutionary theory called a "J-curve" that basically says revolutions occur due to a crisis of unfulfilled rising expectations. Back in October I suggested that Fulham were relegation candidates and there was nothing supporters could do about it. Nothing from the first match of the season until this evening's appalling showing against Sheffield United has changed my opinion on the matter, but that hasn't stopped an endless stream of unfulfilled rising expectations.
Once Brede is healthy...Once Jol is gone...Once Rene is in...Once Rene sticks with 4-3-3...Once Dan Burn gets on the team sheet...Once the transfer window opens...Once we make some signings...Once Dimitar Berbatov and Adel Taarabt and Bryan Ruiz bugger off...Once we get a strong showing against Sheffield United...
The expectation among Fulham supporters is that the club is only but an adjustment or two from, well...fulfilling expectations. The latest trend on Twitter is that Rene Meulensteen should be sacked and Alan Curbishley given the job for the final fourteen matches. All of these expectations, and the petty revolutions that follow, overlook the blinding truth that Fulham could not be more consistently futile in this season's endeavours if they tried.
I'm not absolving Meulensteen from blame for some "interesting" tactical decisions in recent matches - Fulham's terminal lack of width due to formation and personnel selections is confounding and the club's allergy to defending set-pieces is Benny Hill-esque - but these are issues that have existed all season and even Brian Clough's reanimated corpse would find change hard to impose.
I suppose when it comes down to it, I'm upset tonight because I allowed myself again to be. The FA Cup means precisely zero right now. Phone Wigan if you don't believe me. Rene Meulensteen was backed in the transfer window; brought in some dynamic, classy players; off-loaded an albatross or two; and has had only one match featuring one new signing by which to be judged. As shameful and embarrassing as this evening's defeat to the Blades was, it came in an essentially meaningless match. Hopefully, the damage doesn't outweigh the match's value.
Let's hold off on the revolution for now. It's bad, and has been all season, but doing something insane like calling for Meulensteen's head would trigger an orgy of self-destruction unbecoming a club like Fulham.
Fourteen games to save the season. No distractions.