Rene Meulensteen has been in charge for three matches since my last column and, although we’ve lost two of those, I have been impressed with what I’ve seen.
The performance against Tottenham Hotspur was what I thought it would be actually; there was a real energy about it and it just seemed like a new team, which is so often the case when you have a change of manager, or Head Coach as is the case here.
What stood out for me, though, is when Tottenham scored their second goal - from where I was sitting - you could see the Fulham fans get up and start clapping and singing. They got right behind the boys because they knew how much effort they had put in out there and how cruel the game can be at times.
The biggest positive was that they carried that performance through to the game against Aston Villa, where that time, they managed to get the three points. That match was probably one of the most one-sided encounters I’ve seen in a long time; we completely dominated.
Okay, some will say that we got a little luck with the penalty, but saying that, I thought we should have had one before that when Dimitar Berbatov was pushed in the back – so it evens itself out. Nonetheless, it was a deserved three points.
A few players have caught my eye too, I think Giorgos Karagounis has done well since he came in, while Steve Sidwell came back in and scored a fantastic goal against Villa. With Scott Parker in there too, that midfield three has just really clicked. I said in my previous column that I thought we needed more energy and to be a bit more solid, those three have provided that. Karagounis is a player that really gets the crowd going and his enthusiasm is infectious.
A trip to Goodison Park followed the Villa game and, as we know, trips to the blue half of Merseyside are never easy for the Whites. The boys won’t be happy conceding four goals, but with games coming thick-and-fast, they have a chance to dust themselves down and go again.
It’s an important period for the Club, after the Manchester City game on Saturday we face Norwich City, Hull City and then West Ham United on New Year’s Day. I actually think the team can get a result against Manuel Pellegrini’s side in four days’ time and that will set us up very nicely.
Of course, City will arrive on a high following their 6-3 win over Arsenal last Saturday, and we all know that it’s going to be a tough one. However, their away form in the league hasn’t been the best and hopefully that will continue. They did beat Bayern Munich away from home recently, though, so they’re on a good run. But, if we get our tactics right and put the effort in, then you never know.
This is the Premier League; there are surprising results every week and that’s what makes it the best league in the world. Cardiff City have beaten Manchester City at home, so why can’t we do the same? That’s the way I look at it and that’s the way I think the players will look at it too.
The fans will be up for this one, no doubt and the players will feed off that energy. At the same time, the supporters will react to what they see on the pitch, whether that’s Karagounis, Parker and Sidwell making tackles or a little bit of brilliance from Berbatov. They can lift the crowd, and the crowd can lift them; it works both ways.
The games between Christmas and New Year are definitely matches that we should be looking to take points from, but saying that, you can’t always look at fixtures and think ‘we won’t get anything from there’ or ‘we’ll probably win there’ because it never works out like that. The best thing for them to do is to take one game at a time. Why not surprise Man City and then hopefully go to Norwich and get a point or three?
I used to love playing over the festive period and it was something that I really missed when I was injured. A lot of the players would say ‘you’re injured so you’ve got Christmas off’ but those were the times that I was desperate to be out on the field. I think the concept of scrapping the Christmas period is a rubbish idea. That’s what I lived for because you’re a long time retired.
I’ve been retired for two years now and I wish I was still playing, so these are the times that you want to be part of it. You’ve plenty of time to drink and party later on in life, so I think most players just enjoy and embrace it because, like I said before, you’re a long time retired.
Our last two home games have been fantastic so if you can get behind the lads then that really gives them something to feed off and that can only help us. Our home form is so important, so get behind the team – I know you will – and have a good Christmas!
Tickets are still available to purchase for Saturday's match against Manchester City, priced from £49 for adults and just £25 for juniors.