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Are Fulham really up for the cup?

With no domestic cup success to shout about, it's about time Fulham came up with an answer

Ian Walton

We've never featured particularly prominently in the history of the FA Cup. There is, of course, the noteworthy runners up status of 1975 but beyond that, the world's most prestigious domestic cup competition has gone untouched by Fulham hands.

And how morbidly dejecting is that? The oldest professional team that London can boast and yet not a mark on something so notable and so traditional.

It's depressing but, in the same breath, it's sobering. We've never been a club so privileged as to mix with the elite but, as English history suggests, you don't have to be to get your name engraved. You merely need to fuse a smattering of talent with an abundance of dedication.

And, we have both. Quality craftsmen like Dimitar Berbatov and Bryan Ruiz have been blended into a squad of grafters in Steve Sidwell, Brede Hangeland and Chris Baird. The substance is there, and so is the formula. But where is the result?

It's nowhere to be seen. Not in 133 years.

And, as they say, there's no time like the current to change such a damning record.

The Blackpool result was hardly inspiring but, it should be noted, it was quite clear who possessed the Premier League team. We were sharp and incisive in every area except, regretfully, in front of goal. The return leg, next Tuesday, will be an ungratefully timed challenge but it should not be insurmountable.

But then, of course, the luck of the draw had to leave us behind; West Ham United or Manchester United, away from home. Not promising, but you don't win a cup without a genuine test of your quality.

If evidence were needed that this was indeed within the realms of possibility then look no further than our most heroic exploits in the Europa League of 2010. It's not the same format, granted, but the league section of this competition was not exactly where we flourished.

We were our greatest, our most influential, in the knock-out stages. We were attacking and purposeful when we needed to be - Juventus - but solid when most relevant. We played our cards right. We didn't succumb to the occasion.

More of that mettle and guile would take us far. But then, you have to say, we've barely convinced to date.

Our Premier League campaign is coming off the tracks, even with the remarkable West Bromwich Albion victory. We've been out-witted by Swansea, at home, and held with consummate ease by Reading and Southampton, among others.

The squad depth is lacking - and it will only get worse as the African Cup of Nations gets going this month, with Mahamadou Diarra expected to depart and potential recruit Derek Boateng already in attendance. It paints a crude picture and a cup competition on the side could hinder more than help.

Yet, wouldn't that picture be prettier with a cup in it? Something to glisten in the background, something to shout about.

Because, while we all talk about progressively improving and building each season, Fulham have made no statement of intent to England. At the moment, we're still mediocre Fulham or, as Paul Merson would put it, we're just making up the numbers.

So why can't this be the season that we move out of mediocrity and into the limelight? I think we've earned it.