The Tony Gale Column

Tuesday 14 August 2018 16:00

It was fantastic to be back on Saturday – there was such a positive vibe around the place. Walking to the ground, it was so alive. Premier League football is back at the Cottage, and now we just need to focus on getting the results to keep it back. Obviously it didn’t go our way against Crystal Palace, but there is absolutely no reason to feel too downbeat, as I still thought it was an enjoyable afternoon. It was great that the fans were still with us at the end when we were losing. That’s what we’re going to need this season. We got on such a roll last year and we were so used to winning, that in the Premier League the team is really going to need the fans to stay with them.

We played well but it just shows how unforgiving this division can be. I think it’s a massive lesson learnt, and that’s something that Slaviša has alluded to as well. In the Premier League you’ve got players and teams that can absorb pressure, and then hit you on the break. Possession in this division doesn’t count for as much as it did in the Championship. First half we played really well, and they relied on Wayne Hennessey to make a few good stops low down, but they just showed more of a clinical edge, which proved to be the difference. The game could have been very different had one or two of Aleksandar Mitrović’s shots gone in, and that just shows how fine the margins can be.

Roy Hodgson and Ray Lewington were on the pitch before the game so I went over for a chat. They were saying how lovely it was to be back and what a great club it is. I was especially pleased for Roy when he made that long walk from the Cottage to the dugout, what a great reception he got from all four sides of the ground, it was brilliant. I spoke to Roy after the game, too, and he was saying how well Fulham did in the first half, but also how well his side did in the second half, how they countered Fulham. Teams are going to do that to us, so we need to think about how to stop the opposition, in addition to thinking about how we’re going to play. The fact that Slaviša wants to keep playing football, though, is fantastic for our fans.

We saw seven debutants in the match, but I don’t think you can really judge them until they’ve had, say, eight or so games to bed in. However, I was impressed with Jean Michaël Seri. If I had to pick out one of the newcomers for special mention, it would be him. I did like the way he got about the pitch, going after the ball when we lost it, and then when we got it he passed it nicely. He seemed to have settled in pretty quickly with Kevin McDonald and Tom Cairney.

Tottenham away seems like a daunting next fixture but, in my opinion, if there’s a time to play Spurs, it’s now. They were far from convincing against Newcastle and you could see that there was a little World Cup weariness in their legs, because the majority of their starting XI played in Russia this summer. I think there was a little bit of tiredness there, in mind as well as in body. That said, we’ll need to be a little bit tighter than we were last weekend, and wary of the breakaway. What you do without the ball is as important as what you do with the ball, particularly in the Premier League.

I saw Spurs at Wembley quite a lot last season and they did struggle in some of the matches when they were big favourites. Their fans will be expecting them to beat Fulham, and sometimes that can mean they don’t get behind them as much as they should. It’s great for us to go back to the national stadium so soon after the Play-Off Final, although it is Fulhamish that we don’t play at Wembley for 43 years and now we’ll have been there twice in four months!

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