It was a superb match. Sitting in the compact away end of Carrow Road, 500 odd Fulham fans and I reveled in our dramatic late win. As the wind swept across the cold Boxing Day night in East Anglia, chants of "Super Scotty Parker" and "Rene Meulensteen" were vibrating throughout the ground. Scott Parker's crucial late winner gave us hope with a rare away win against fellow strugglers Norwich. But how much has changed since that jubilant Boxing Day win.
Fulham were coming off a spirited loss against eventual champions Manchester City at Craven Cottage. Although we went behind to two first half goals, the Cottagers pulled one back through a stunning counterattack topped off by Kieran Richardson, and equalized 19 minutes later courtesy of a Kompany own goal. However, in a trend that would continue that year, we conceded two late goals and lost the match 4-2.
Although coming off a loss, this felt more like a moral win, as optimism around the new boss Meulensteen grew. As I made the two hour car ride east to the pleasant city of Norwich, I felt confident of our chances. Ominously, we had won just one of our last nine, and were rooted in the bottom three. Away matches in the Premier League are something special, and I always love that special thrill of knowing it's us against the world, a group of a couple hundred strong isolated in a sea of enemy supporters numbering in the tens of thousands. The atmosphere was cracking, and our away end was in good voice. We got off to a horror start though, conceding less than 15 minutes in through a deflected Gary Hooper strike that left David Stockdale stranded. The league's worst defense had conceded yet again.
Fulham responded well though, and we were awarded a dangerous free kick right outside the box. As it is with most English stadiums, they award the away fans the worst seats in the house, and we had to strain to watch the set piece unfold at the opposite end of the pitch. Pajtim Kasami stepped up to take it, and squeezed it through the wall and into the back of the net for the equalizer. We were level!
As the first half ended and the game wore on, we pressed for a winner. Late into the second half Hugo Rodallega thought he had won it, with a far post header cleared off the line by John Ruddy, centimeters away from glory. The minutes ticked on and despite late pressure, the thought crept into my mind that this just wasn't our day, we'd have to settle for a decent away point. But just as I accepted our fate, the unthinkable happened. Parker collected the ball right outside the eighteen, took a couple touches to his right, and unleashed an absolute rocket that flew into the top corner. Pandemonium ensued. The section exploded into noise and an outpouring of joy, relief and pure euphoria! Super Scotty Parker had done it!
The referee signaled for five additional minutes, and it felt like the longest five minutes of my life. Wave after wave of Norwich attack came, and was soundly defended by the Whites each time. Finally, the referee's whistle brought us relief, and we stayed for fifteen minutes chanting and applauding the lads. The result sent us to 18th, with only goal difference keeping us in the bottom three. Things were looking up.
However, that was just a solitary bright spot in an otherwise dreadful campaign. Just two days later we were demolished by Hull 6-0, and in mid February Meulensteen was sacked. Felix Magath replaced him, and could only muster three wins in his reign as we were relegated with a whimper. As for the players that day, only two of the starting eleven are still with Fulham, the evergreen Scott Parker, hero of that day; and Fernando Amorebieta. The other goalscorer Kasami is now in Greece with Olympiakos, and most of our squad abandoned ship after the relegation.
The change is just a brutal example of the modern game, where a club's situation can transform in a heartbeat. The joyous Premier League away day of last winter seems so far away now, with our beloved club in the Championship. But no matter the league, no matter our form, no matter our situation, we will always support Fulham FC.