Jack and Loz at the Cottage - Blog 281

Date: 11th May 2024

Opposition: Manchester City

Score: 0-4

Weather: perfect for the beach

Atmosphere: also perfect for the beach

MOTM: Baby Palhinha was the only person in a Fulham shirt to put the ball between the posts on Saturday and he’s very cute. Shout outs to Baby Pereria and Baby Tete for extreme cuteness

Pre-Match Brunch: Bills

Post-Match Aperols: Riverside Studios

Let’s begin with the positives. The sprinklers created rainbows above a perfect green pitch and our old, proud ground looked stunning under a sky more reminiscent of our neighbours than our opponents. We have reached the end of a difficult but successful year in the Premier League with another one to look forward to and an intriguing summer transfer window ahead.

And for the first ten minutes of the match, it was hard to tell which team was challenging for the title. Fulham had the better of the early play thanks, perhaps, to Marco naming a dangerously attacking side. Reports that Lukic was injured in a kite flying incident are unconfirmed, but in his absence Iwobi started instead of the more defensively minded Reed or Cairney.

We’d like to say City’s first goal came out of nowhere but actually it mainly came out of Timothy Castagne losing his man. But despite this set-back Fulham didn’t make the first half easy for City. Andreas was full of confidence and energy following his inclusion in Brazil’s squad for the Copa América, Willian was back to his mercurial best after his off-game against Brentford and Joao pulled off some formidable tackles. Captain Bobby was as solid and Antonee as pacy as ever.

Bassey and Diop enjoyed battling with City’s half Norwegian half Cyborg striker and they did well to contain him. In fact, for most of the half City kept the ball in their medium-rare block but couldn’t break through Fulham’s robust, if occasionally desperate, defence. However, after the first ten minutes Fulham offered little going forwards, typified by their attitude in injury time when surely “let’s try to score a goal before half time” would have been a more productive plan than, “let’s try to keep the ball until half time.”

As we may have very occasionally mentioned in the last three years (and rather more than occasionally in the last few weeks) our one criticism of Marco Silva is his erratic subs policy. Of course, it’s much easier if you’re Pep Guardiola and, due to the mysteries of financial accounting, you can bring off one £80 million player and replace him with another £80 million player. Marco doesn’t have that luxury but whilst Adana’s introduction was an impactful one (and inches away from being effective) it can’t be a coincidence that every Fulham sub was followed by a City goal.

The less said about the second half and, particularly injury time, the better. Fulham faded badly but City were always just too good. This was always going to be a near-impossible game but safe-in-midtable Fulham playing charging-for-the-title City was only ever going to end one way.

The full time whistle was followed by the traditional lap of appreciation and it was fun seeing all the gorgeous kids and the players in their zebra camouflage. There was a serious note however - this was our chance to say a (second) goodbye to Luis Boa Morte, off to manage Guinea-Bissau, a country of 2 million people which has just gained 40,000 new football fans. It’s notable that during both of Boa’s stints with the Club, we’ve played entertaining football and held our own in the Premier League. He is the epitome of Forever Fulham. We wish him every success in West Africa but the fact that this is a second goodbye says it all. There is no doubt that Boa will be back

Random musings:-

- Thanks to the City fans for joining in the applause in memory of the late Viv Busby

- However, it must be odd being a City fan. You can’t just sing when you’re winning because you’re always winning. So they don’t sing much at all

- It was also good to remember Jimmy Conway and see his jacket from 1975 modelled on the pitch

- City have been awarded a penalty in their last 8 games against us. We’re not into conspiracy theories but that’s a bit odd

- Luc or Ream next week then - what a good dilemma to have.

So the season is stuttering to a close. Whilst there have been some fantastic highs, overall it hasn’t been one to remember. And being schooled by City is a useful lesson. The only way to improve our position in the table next season is to improve the squad. Stand still in the Premier League and you’re swallowed whole. Even with the welcome news that Jay Stansfield is coming home, the team needs refreshing and upgrading.

But we have a genius in charge and hopefully Fulham’s summer will be a lot more exciting and rewarding than playing Man City.