Last August, Fulham were starting the season in the Craven Cottage sunshine with plenty of hope with many dreaming of what’s ahead. Today, that season came to an end in the Fulham sunshine with many wondering how those dreams became nightmares so fast.
In that span, three coaches have tried to bring passion into the club and supporters, a supposed world class striker went from being on fire to being so cold, and a teenager went from having the world at his feet to someone that couldn’t get past a defender or pick a killer pass to save his life. That is the ecosystem of top flight football and all the work that was done under Slavisa Jokanovic back from the Summer of 2016 has all seem to go to ash and burn in the Spring of 2019. Egos have to be rebuilt, trust has to be regained and immediate promotion is the last thought on many people’s minds.
In short, they just want to remember what a fun and properly run club looks like again. Now the Khans haven’t been not trying at all. However, their lack of footballing nous has cost them plenty of times since their takeover from Mohamed Al Fayed, and only getting a true director of football will save them face for seasons to come. For now, let’s all bury everything that happened in 2018/19 and try to figure out something sensible next season. That’s certainly how Scott Parker would like to view today.
At first, you would have thought that the new head coach has the senior team completely in the palm of his hands after three wins on the trot and a not-so-dissapointing 1-0 defeat to Wolves. Nine minutes into this contest with Newcastle, and it ended up being Groundhog Day from the dark days of Jokanovic and Ranieri. That came as a result of a corner kick by Matt Ritchie found Tom Cairney’s arch rival Jonjo Shelvey in the edge of the penalty area only for him to volley it in the top right hand corner past Sergio Rico. Alfie Mawson was given the start at center back and it was quite obvious how bad he was at closing him down. But wait, it gets worse.
Just seconds later, Matt Ritchie slipped a ball through Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa towards Christian Atsu who tried one from close range towards Rico. Rico should have made the save much more routine as his rebounded save found Ayoze Perez who was able to tap it home and make it 2-0.
From there, Fulham did their usual thing where they kept the ball a ton and tried to huff and puff, but they no where near tested the keeper at all today. The closest to such a moment was a Floyd Ayite corner finding Mitrovic’s head only for him to push it just too wide to the right. Along with that, Ayite should have had his first ever Premier League goal but the linesman incorrectly called him offside even though he was behind Isaac Hayden. Of their 16 shots, Fulham were only able to generate 0.57 expected goals. You will struggle to find a more inefficient performance in attack all season. They just seemed so hesitant to let the ball move all afternoon and even with more men bombing forward, nothing seemed to work at all.
As the fixture was drawing more to a close, Newcastle had so much space to operate on the counter and they took advantage even more by the time the final whistle blew. The first was another Ritchie corner that capitalized some half-hearted defending by Mawson as Fabian Schar headed it home to make it 3-0. Finally, Solomon Rondon, who him and the supporters couldn’t wait to rub it in Mitrovic how much he hasn’t been missed in those parts made it 4-0 after looking like he should have scored a good two or three times beforehand. This time, it was another Sergio Rico save that should have been caught instead of palmed away. And to exaserbate it even more, Mawson had a chance to clear it but instead he ran passed the ball only for Rondon to easily collect his own rebound.
Harvey Elliott made another appearance, this time in front of the Craven Cottage faithful for the first time and he didn’t look too out of place. He even took his first shot that got the Hammersmith End rocking the loudest all afternoon. Otherwise, it was a match that no one in Southwest London wanted to last forever.
It has been one of the worst seasons in Fulham’s recent history and long may it be erased from everyone’s memories. But before you know it, next season will arrive and a new crop of heroes will emerge so that this football club can rise from its ashes again.