Nobody associated with Fulham Football Club should be feeling down right now. Finishing third in a division as tough as the Sky Bet Championship is one hell of an achievement. Over the season the team have brought so much joy and enthusiasm to the Club. The football we’ve played, everyone in that squad has played a part in and done a job, and they’ve created a lot of memories for the fans over the season.
Yes it was disappointing not to get automatic promotion, but Cardiff always had it in their hands. I don’t look back and think, “oh if we’d have won there then things would be different,” because those sorts of results tend to even themselves out over the season. It is what it is. People are saying that we’d be up if we won because Cardiff only drew, but they knew we were 2-0 down at half-time so they played for the draw. I watched their game and they were cruising, their fans were celebrating when they were getting updates of our score.
Our team over the season have shown so much character and commitment to the shirt, that Sunday was just a bump in the road. We’ve still got a chance of getting promoted, we just have to make sure we’re fully prepared for Derby, which I know we will be. There’s no point dwelling on ifs and buts, all focus will now be on Derby away and making sure we get a result that gives us a good chance of progressing after the return leg. A win would be fantastic but a draw on Friday would also be a good result as that sets us up nicely for the Second Leg.
Now we just need one more final push. A lot of the boys in that team will remember the defeat to Reading and how that felt, which I’m sure will spur them on going into these fixtures. I think the boys have to draw on their experiences from the Reading Play-Off matches, maybe where they went wrong or could have done a bit better. Like I said, the lads have given everything to the shirt this season so we can’t question their commitment or their effort. Let’s just hope we’ve got enough to get through, and I believe we do.
It looked for a while on Sunday as though we might be playing Middlesbrough, and a lot of people were happy it ended up being Derby, but it doesn’t matter who you’re against, the Play-Off matches are always going to be tough. Derby have hit a little bit of form, scored four goals on the last day of the season against a Barnsley side fighting for their lives. Form sometimes goes out the window a bit in the Play-Offs, but the football we play has been outstanding and the fans have understandably enjoyed it. They now need to recharge their batteries and be in full force in the stands at the away game and then pack out Craven Cottage three days later – they’re going to have to be our 12th man.
We played at home first last year but as we finished third it’s the other way around this time, and I think that is a bonus. We still need to get a result to take back to the Cottage but it’s definitely an advantage playing in front of a home crowd in the Second Leg. We’ve proven we can beat anyone. We battered the Champions at home, Wolves didn’t even get a sniff against us. Our form, home and away, since Christmas has been great so we can be full of confidence going into these two matches.
Promotion was the target at the beginning of the season, and we’re still in with a chance of that. I think the Manager, players and staff have all done great, and now we just need one final push.