I’m looking forward to our game in Cardiff on Saturday. There was never really much of a rivalry between the two clubs, but last season was a long, ongoing ding-dong battle with them. The promotion race couldn’t have been more gripping, going to the final day, and of course they ended up pipping us to that last automatic place. At the time we were devastated, but the best way to win promotion if you don’t come first is by going up through the Play-Offs. The year before when we lost to Reading, I think most of the fans were more gutted by missing out on the day at Wembley rather than promotion itself. This year was different, though, and thankfully we got the lot – the historical day out at Wembley and a place in the Premier League. It was the best way to go up.
Cardiff are going to go into this game thinking Fulham at home is one they need to win. Considering where we both are in the table currently, it’s a six-pointer. We’re the same, though, we need to be beating the teams who are in and around us. Away to Man City and at home to Arsenal, those are bonus games for me. Obviously you want to perform and do well in them, but matches against the likes of Cardiff are your bread and butter.
We had the beating of them in Wales last year – (what a match that was!) – but it’s going to be a tough game. Neil Warnock teams are always the same; they like to get the ball in the box, they’re big, physical and strong, they try to utilise set-pieces. They’re going to be bang up for it so we need to make sure we don’t lose the game as an absolute minimum. It will be difficult, the lads played them twice last year so there won’t be any surprises there. If anything, Cardiff are going to know less about us because we’ve had more personnel changes over the summer, so hopefully that will work in our favour.
We’ve sold plenty of away tickets for Saturday, which doesn’t surprise me. The fans who travel to away games are great, they always have been. They travel in their numbers, they’re very loud, so it will be a good trip for them. I’ve never been out in Cardiff before but I’ve heard it’s a good night, so it should be a fun one for the travelling faithful. We are normally a well-travelled lot and this is one where the fans will expect the lads to do the business. It might not be pretty football all the way, we’re going to have to dig in, defend well and make ourselves hard to beat. That’s what we need to get back to, teams dreading facing us.
A lot has been made of how many goals we’re conceding, but the boys will have been working hard on that over the international break. For me it’s finding the back four, or back three, and sticking with it. There’s been a bit of chopping and changing due to injuries and form. But we’re eight games in now so Slaviša will be getting an idea of what his strongest defence is, and out of that relationships will begin to build, which is important for any backline.
Last week we learnt of five fixture changes, four of which are for live television coverage. It can be frustrating for fans who prefer to watch their team on a Saturday, but it shows that the broadcasters consider us to be an entertaining side to show. You know there’s always going to be goals in our games. You can’t control which games Sky and BT Sport choose so hopefully we can just get on a good run so that when the cameras do come then we can put on a bit of a show. The players won’t need any extra motivation but there is that little bit extra when it’s televised. I always enjoyed it, personally.Join the 1,750 Fulham fans who have already bought their seat for Cardiff, with tickets still available to purchase on General Sale.