So now that the heavy fixture period is over, Fulham can (sort of) relax a bit as they should be able to stroll through an easy victory in tomorrow’s FA Cup fixture. However, don’t tell Claudio Ranieri and the players that this contest is nothing short of a cakewalk. For starts, this is the FA Cup we’re talking about. This is the competition where some of the dumbest things imaginable happen and it’s not like top tier Premier League clubs take this competition all that seriously.
My greatest memory of said example was Havant & Waterlooville making it all the way to the fourth round of the competition only to lose 5-2 to Liverpool. Still, that had to be one of the best days in club history as they’re prize money for making it this far had to have been so much more valuable to them in relation to what the likes of Fulham. Should I remind everyone that these boys lost to Bristol Rovers last year in the League Cup last season? So yeah, any cup competition is downright dumb.
Even so, this is probably one of the last chances for the starters to rest and for Claudio Ranieri to experiment before the final push towards Premier League safety. Along with that, this has been deemed the last chance for players to make a mark in the manager’s plans as some might be expected to leave in the January transfer window. If anything, this fixture might be a showcase for those who are expected to be shown the door. Either way, let us hope that he gives the academy players a chance, just like Slavisa Jokanovic did during his time as manager as well.
On the other side of the coin, Oldham Athletic will be arriving at Craven Cottage while currently sitting tenth in League Two. This is still foreign territory for the Latics as this is only their second season in this division since 1971 after usually being a second or third tier football club. There is some stability at the club after years of financial turmoil at Boundary Park, but there still seems to be no end in site of returning to the standards that the supporters are so accustomed to. So with a playoff place looking like a difficult proposition, and a 6-0 defeat to Carlisle to boot, Frank Bunn was sacked as manager after only being on the job for six months. A permanent replacement still hasn’t been found, but Academy coach Pete Wild will be in the dugout until further notice.
So those are the contrasts between the two sides and Oldham are a major reminder that things could be worse for Fulham. Still, the Latics are a professional outfit and respecting the opposition is the only way a win will be guaranteed today. On that note, here are three players to watch for coming from Greater Manchester.
First up is the leading scorer for the club who just so happens to be a 20-year old loanee from AFC Bournemouth If anything, Surridge has been a true success in just his second full season of EFL football. As soon as he arrived, he became one of the leading scorers in the division and is now rumored to continue his loan spell at League One outfit Bradford City before it is all said and done. Who knows if he’ll play up front in the Cherry and Whites, but Surridge has made a positive start in his development and there will surely be someone that will give him plenty of playing time and opportunities to score for years to come.
Next up is another striker playing for Oldham and having a fine first half to the season. Unlike Surridge, Chris O’Grady is a 32-year old journeyman with well over 500 appearances throughout his professional career. In fact, this is his second stint at Oldham Athletic after taking part with 17 other football clubs beforehand. He may have six goals now, but the last great season O’Grady has produced was his 15 league goals for Championship outfit Barnsley back in the 2013/14 season. If anything, O’Grady is nore known for being a target man. So he will hope to link up well with the rest of Oldham’s attacking players and hope they capitalize from the hard shifts he put in every matchday. Yeah, Fulham’s backline will be on the lookout for this man whenever long balls get aimed directly towards him.
Lastly, it is never a bad idea to point out one of the younger players on the team in hopes they will achieve bigger and better things along the way. In this case, center back George Edmondson is having a solid age-21 season for Oldham. After finally getting game time for them after graduating from their academy last season, he has played in every league game and has established himself as a a regular for the club. If anything, it’s good to see the Timperley-born man live his dream as his hometown is just 30 minutes away from Boundary Park.