Greetings to all Fulham Football Club supporters on what will undoubtedly be one of the more eventful evenings at Craven Cottage in quite some time with the visit of our rivals up the road, Queens Park Rangers.
In the spirit of Fulham hospitality, it is also my honour to welcome QPR supporters as well as the broadcast team from Sky Sports that will deliver this match to a national and global audience. It’s no coincidence that tonight’s match was moved several months ago to a Friday, providing Sky Sports the opportunity to share the electric environment of a West London derby with a vast prime-time viewership here in the UK and Europe. Football is all about traditions and rivalries, and tonight’s match will reward television viewers with that and much more, all under the floodlights of Craven Cottage. In every respect, this is a perfect setting for fans, players and the television cameras. I know you’ll enjoy it!
Meanwhile, the Sky Sports broadcast is being aired in the United States on the beIN Sports Network, and that means there will be many U.S. based supporters of Fulham taking off at least some of the afternoon to cheer on the Whites at their local soccer bar or pub. As you know, Fulham has always enjoyed a faithful following in the United States, and I’ve been told of at least a few viewing parties in Florida, from the state capital of Tallahassee to Duval County, home of the Jacksonville Jaguars. And, of course, there will be a massive gathering of family and friends watching in the great soccer city of St Louis, home to Tim Ream, our recent acquisition from Bolton Wanderers and a member of the U.S. Men’s National Team. We welcome this opportunity to connect with the Ream family and our entire U.S. following - old and new - with tonight’s live broadcast.
The voice and backing of Fulham supporters everywhere is appreciated, but you know they all wish they could be with me, and you, in person at Craven Cottage this evening. I’ll be in the Riverside Stand, very much looking forward to my first Fulham-QPR match. I understand there’s nothing like being in the stands, either here or at Loftus Road, when Fulham and QPR square off. It’s been a few years since we’ve met - 1st April 2013 to be exact (a 3-2 triumph at home for the Whites) - and it would be wonderful to see our rivalry renewed annually in the Premier League. Both clubs have the ambition to return to the top flight, and I for one am encouraged at what is possible for Fulham in the Sky Bet Championship over the balance of the season.
Quite simply, we’re a much better Club today than we were several months ago, even considering the delayed debut of defender Luke Garbutt on loan from Everton and the early season loss of goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli. Andrew Lonergan, whom we signed on a two-year deal from Bolton, has answered admirably in goal and the newcomers in front of him, from the back four through the midfield, are coming together impressively.
In addition to Garbutt and Lonergan, and Ream who I mentioned earlier, the transfer window also brought us Ben Pringle, Tom Cairney, Jamie O’Hara, Sakari Mattila, Joe Lewis, Ryan Fredericks and Richard Stearman, as well as the return of Jazz Richards and, in the short term, James Husband. These men, I’m certain, will provide Kit Symons a decidedly greater level of talent as well as a host of options that will produce results that your club leadership expects, and our supporters deserve.
During the transfer window, we also bid a respectful farewell to Bryan Ruiz, Patrick Roberts, Buomesca Tué Na Bangna, Thomas Eisfeld and Ryan Williams, while loaning out Maarten Stekelenburg, Kostas Mitroglou, Fernando Amorebieta, Stephen Arthurworrey, Ange-Freddy Plumain, Jesse Joronen and Larnell Cole. In effect, we have reset and recalibrated the football side of our club so we may start anew with players who know the Championship, welcome its challenges, will compete for each other and respect the standards and history of Fulham.
We clearly didn’t have that kind of a Club a year ago at this time. It’s been a long and trying process to correct our course and, for all that effort, our work truly begins now. But even with defeats this past week at Sheffield Wednesday and against Stoke City in the Capital One Cup, there are clear indications of progress. It’s very encouraging to score two goals on the road, as we did at Wednesday over the weekend, and our performance in a losing cause against Stoke was impressive, especially in the second half.
Can we build on the momentum and convert it to three points this evening against QPR? And repeat it on Tuesday against Wolverhampton Wanderers? That’s my hope, but also my expectation. The good news is, the team we have today at Fulham sees it the same way.
It should be a lot of fun, not only tonight, but also in the months ahead. I’m encouraged, optimistic and, as always, extremely grateful for your passionate support. Now, let’s get to work.
Come on you Whites!
Shahid Khan, Chairman