This wasn’t the way 2018/19 was supposed to go for André Schürrle.
Signed from German giants Borussia Dortmund in July, he arrived to much fanfare in SW6, with the capture of the World Cup winner a signal of intent as Fulham looked to launch an assault on the Premier League.
On a personal note, the stats were good for Schürrle; six goals in 18 starts by mid-January, not too shabby in a side battling relegation. But then, out of nowhere, the forward was hit by a virus that wiped him out for the best part of a month, effectively ending his season.
“Until then I was feeling really good and that I could make a bit of a difference, help the team, and that maybe we could turn it around,” Schürrle explained. “But then my health issues needed some attention and I had to go back to Germany to check a few things, and I didn’t manage to help the team after that.
“At the end of the day it’s your health and you want to see that everything is okay. When you’re at a club that is fighting relegation all you want to do is help as much as you can, but I had to leave the team for three or four weeks, and then come back and see how it is, which was very difficult.
“It was a tough moment for me because the reason why I came here was to help the club, help the fans and the team, but after this I wasn’t able to get back to my normal stage and couldn’t help anymore.
“I saw all the games [while sidelined] and you always feel that you could do something, you can help, but at the same time you know your health isn’t close to being good enough to compete in the Premier League. It was a difficult time.”
The beginning of the campaign actually began in fairly optimistic fashion for the Whites. Performances were good – even if points were lacking – in our openers against Palace and Spurs, before a first win arrived in style when Burnley were put to the sword.
Schürrle opened his account in the victory, and doubled his tally six days later in Brighton. However, that trip to the Amex proved to be an undesirable turning point as we squandered a two-goal lead to draw.
“When you look back, obviously for us it was a moment that was very unfortunate,” Schürrle recalled. “I think in the game we were really good, we countered well, we were 2-0 up. And then it was 2-2 with very unfortunate goals. After that we lost seven out of the next eight games in a row.
“Maybe it was a point where the confidence went a little bit, and after two or three losses we were really insecure, we didn’t play to our best qualities. When you look at our team, our individual qualities are not that of a relegation team.”
Originally scheduled to stay for two years, Schürrle now heads back to his parent club following Fulham’s relegation. Rewind 10 months, though, and that wasn’t something he ever thought likely, as he planned to spend the immediate future in London with his young family.
“Obviously my thoughts weren’t close to that when I signed because I thought we were going to be comfortable and have an enjoyable season. But football is like this,” he mused.
“It is difficult for the family because you sign for two seasons and you want to stay, you want to be comfortable, relax and have everything in place. And now you have to go back again. It’s not easy and not what I expected or wanted but, like I said, football is sometimes unexpected.
“I think I showed my qualities and the way I can play. Until January I felt very good on the pitch. I had my positions, I knew where to go, and I felt like I could score at any time. But for me it was a difficult season because I wanted to play all the games, get a lot of minutes, to come and be strong and obviously help the team to stay up or have a decent campaign.
“For me, as well as the team, it was not the best season. In the end we did not play close to the quality that I have, that the team has. I leave here with a lot of frustration and a lot of unfinished business.”