Welcome to Craven Cottage for what will be an important and eventful week for Fulham Football Club. A visit tonight by Leeds United will be followed by what surely will be a major test for the Whites on Saturday in the form of Reading, who had collected 21 points by last weekend and will be eyeing some separation among teams currently vying for the second automatic promotion spot.
Yes, the campaign is still early, but it’s never too soon to study the table to see which clubs appear to be poised for season-long success (or, are possibly already in trouble!). With four straight wins at the time of writing, I think you’d have to say Reading are upper class and will give us a good idea on Saturday as to where we stand as we embark on the second quarter of the Sky Bet Championship season.
As for Fulham, we’re mid-table and while we do not want to be - or expect to be - an average club, I do believe in our potential to chip away at the leaders in the weeks ahead. And the point we earned on Saturday at Middlesbrough supports my belief.
Again, to look at the table as I share my thoughts on Monday of this week, I see Middlesbrough and our opponents on Saturday, Reading, deadlocked in second place behind league-leading Brighton & Hove Albion. In short, that wasn’t an easy trip to Middlesbrough, particularly after the international break and the sting of surrendering a two-goal lead at Charlton Athletic still nagging at everyone within the Club.
Yet, we responded well on Saturday, particularly in defending and seizing the tempo of the match when needed. We were certainly more organised in dealing with set-pieces, possession was even and our overall discipline against a very difficult team to beat at home was admirable. The consensus at Motspur Park is that we’re coming together, and squad depth will become an asset with Luke Garbutt now coming into fitness and the return of Tom Cairney on the horizon.
So, my overall takeaway is clear: We have the quality and potential to beat anyone in this league. And with that, I anticipate we will see meaningful progress, but critical to that is making Craven Cottage the last place our league opponents wish to visit this season. And that’s something our players and supporters can accomplish together as we aim for promotion.
I want to applaud the role our supporters have played this season, and since I’ve become Chairman, in helping to make our home ground a challenging environment for our visitors. While Craven Cottage is known for its hospitality and warmth to Fulham family and visitors alike, we saw against Queens Park Rangers last month what an edge, and difference, our supporters can make in the performance and outcome of a match. Craven Cottage doesn’t need to be - or should be - intimidating or scary. But it can be noisy and alive!
That’s what we enjoyed in the 4-0 win against QPR, and it’s been suggested to me that getting the early goals is what elevated our home crowd on that Friday evening. Fair enough, but from my perspective there was a high and rapid pulse in the stands (especially in the Hammersmith End) well before kick-off and our guys fed off it early and often. It was my best experience ever at Fulham, bar none.
Unfortunately, a few nights later we were not as crisp and definitely not as fortunate in a 3-0 defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers, but I was impressed nonetheless at the resolve of our supporters. This week marks our return to Craven Cottage since that disappointment, and my hope is the Whites - buoyed by our wonderful supporters - will combine to make this the best week Fulham has experienced in years. Six points available within four days at home - this is an opportunity to make our stand.
In the meantime, you may be aware that the Jacksonville Jaguars are coming to town this week. Many fans, city officials, sponsors and others from the Sunshine State - including our friends from Visit Florida - will be in London for our match against Reading on Saturday, followed by the Jaguars game at Wembley Stadium on Sunday. As a result, you may see a bit of Jaguars teal at Craven Cottage this week. If so, please welcome our guests from Florida. They’ll be ready for a good time!
And, if you’re unable to join us in person on Sunday at Wembley when the London home team Jacksonville Jaguars face the visiting Buffalo Bills, I encourage you to watch on yahoo.com for what is the first-ever global streaming - free of charge - telecast of a National Football League game. As the second-youngest squad among the 32 teams in the NFL, the Jaguars are experiencing many expected growing pains this season. But, in a few years, most observers agree that the Jaguars will be among the league’s elite. See for yourself on Sunday by visiting yahoo.com/nflstream - game time is 2.30pm.
I hope to see you this week either at Craven Cottage or at Wembley. One of the greatest benefits I enjoy is the opportunity to meet with fans, hear their stories, learn a bit and maybe have a photo taken. Of course, when I’m here in London, and particularly at Craven Cottage, the goodness of the people I meet is truly remarkable. I’m very fortunate to be your Chairman. Now, please stand by your team and let’s get those six points.
Come on you Whites!