Sheer delight

Thursday 12 September 2002

Two members of the Fulham squad left Loftus Road on Wednesday night feeling bruised, battered and wondering how fit they might be for Saturday. No, not Louis Saha and Pierre Wome. I'm referring to Jim McGullion and Paul Thorpe, whose commentary (and emotions) went right off the scale in those final incredible minutes.

At the final whistle they were almost incoherent, and who could blame them. The statistic that sums it up is that if we win at Sunderland, we will overtake Spurs, who don't play until Sunday. At halftime, that seemed about as likely as a Fulham striker scoring a goal.

That it is possible is down to the sort of sheer determination, willpower and guts (and not a little skill) that characterised the great Fulham teams of the past. There were times when 3-2 from 0-2 down was quite common. Even 4-3 from 0-3 was not unknown, and I recall one Cup game (at Grimsby?) when the final score was 5-5.

Despite the trauma this induces in fans, I think most of us would much rather we played that way than went for safe 1-0 wins. It's a mixture of Keeganesque adventure and Tiganan flair, and we almost have the squad to carry it out.

I say 'almost' because after Wednesday's epic, the goalscoring record for 12 games this season (ignoring the penalties) is midfielders 12, strikers 5. With a real cutting edge up front we could be a formidable outfit. I can't quite fathom out what Steve Marlet was doing in the reserves on Wednesday unless it was meant as a confidence booster, but he should be back for Saturday.
But let's celebrate turning Spurs over.

Just as well we did - if we had lost, we would be next to bottom, a position in which Newcastle surprisingly find themselves. Results elsewhere indicate that this could be an intriguing season in the Premiership. Apart from maybe 3 or 4 teams at the top, the rest could all finish almost anywhere. And I include in that Man Utd, who seem to have lost all their sparkle and succumbed meekly to the same Bolton team thrashed by Fulham on the opening day.

It makes for exciting times - much more exciting than appeared likely at half-time on Wednesday, when I must confess I was seriously depressed after listening to Paul and Jim catalogue our errors.

Happily, we had linesmen who were on the ball, first in chalking off Spurs' offside 'goal', and then ensuring that we got our penalty. All praise to Steed for taking the responsibility and thumping the ball home. It is encouraging that he was one of 6 players under 25 in our squad.

As the match went into the lengthy spell of injury time, it seemed inevitable that Fulham would score, and Leggy timed it perfectly. For those of us with nervous dispositions, this is not good for the health. First Sean against Sochaux, then Sean and Fancy at Boro and now Leggy - all last-gasp goals that have been crucially important.

Hopefully on Saturday that won't be necessary. Sunderland have only scored two goals in 5 games and Kevin Phillips, their only decent striker, is out injured. We have a great chance to continue our run, move to our best ever Premiership placing, and set ourselves up perfectly for the trip to Split.

I am delighted to have been the catalyst in linking up Kevin, a Fulham fan living in Moscow, and Zdeslav, a Hajduk fan who reads our website. Kevin is flying down for the game and Zdeslav has arranged his tickets and will meet him. That's just how it should be, and I was deeply sorry to hear that there was crowd trouble at the Spurs game. It's unnecessary and simply shouldn't happen.

But for now let us just be happy with a great second-half performance, sparked by Super Sean and Junichi, our Japanese gem. I was looking forward to seeing Pierre Wome, the Cameroon cruncher, and I hope his injury isn't too serious. If he's out, we have a very able deputy in Rufus, who will never let himself or the team down.

Look out Sunderland - the Whites are on the march!