Fulham plan to buck their yo-yo trend
In 2018 Fulham were promoted to the Premier League. In 2019 Fulham were relegated from the Premier League. In 2020 Fulham were promoted to the Premier League. In 2021 Fulham were relegated from the Premier League. In 2022 Fulham were promoted to the Premier League.
You wouldn’t have to be an expert member of the Nphet modeling group to predict how this pattern might play out over the next season. Following the promotion, Fulham’s third in five years, the club’s Twitter account was inundated with photos of yo-yos, an item that would go on to be the best-selling merchandise in the club shop. One cynic expressed his sympathy, claiming it was “a sad night for Fulham as their relegation in 2022-23 is confirmed”.
Of course, the Cottagers aren’t the only denizens of this twilight zone of teams too good for the Championship but not good enough for the Premier League. Were he a fan of league football, Isaac Newton would be quick to point out that if Fulham were promoted, Norwich City would have to be relegated, a tradition that continues this season as the Canaries are relegated from the Premier League for the sixth time.
TV presenter James Richardson even wondered if Fulham and Norwich had ever been seen in the same room.
But despite being a biennial event, promotion for Fulham is not a given. The championship is such a competitive league that after just two rounds of play, no team had a 100 percent record. The key to Fulham’s title win was a staggering 106 goals, 32 more than any other team.
Perhaps the biggest week in Fulham history came in January when, in eight magical days, they beat Reading 7-0, Bristol City 6-2 and Birmingham City 6-2 to become the first League Two club in 68 years were who scored at least one goal six goals in three consecutive games. This led to fans chanting ‘We’re Fulham FC, we score when we want’, a cheerful upgrade to ‘You’re nothing special, we lose every week’, which was defiantly chanted last season when on goals similar to the wrong side were scored First Division.
Once again, the top scorer was the combustible Aleksandar Mitrovic, who received his first booking just 12 seconds into the season but calmed down and netted a record 43 league goals, earning him a deserved Championship Player of the Season title.
So successful was Mitrovic that he scored more league goals than Barnsley (33) and Hull City (41). Joining the Serb in the Championship team of the season were Tosin Adarabioyo, Antonee Robinson and Welsh wizard Harry Wilson, who scored 10 goals and provided 19 assists in a brilliant season after his £12m move from Liverpool.
A second title-winning side at Craven Cottage is the Fulham youth side, who won Premier League 2 (Division 2). One of the key players was Ollie O’Neill, who is the only Irish player at Craven Cottage following the departure of Cyrus Christie, who went on loan to Swansea City in January. O’Neill is both literally and metaphorically the brightest prospect at Fulham, having earned 11 A* GCSE marks and two A* A Level marks.
O’Neill was close to making his first team debut in September, when he was unused in the Carabao Cup game against Leeds United, but his highlight of the season came at Tallaght Stadium in November when he scored the winner for Ireland U- 21 team scored European Championship qualifier against Sweden. The goal so late in injury time that the referee didn’t bother to restart play. O’Neill has recently been linked with moves to Tottenham and West Ham.
Behind all this success is a Portuguese coach who enjoyed a remarkable first season. Marco Silva is just 44 but Fulham will become the fourth club he has overseen in the Premier League, after Hull, Watford and Everton.
However, Silva’s greatest achievement was his first job as he turned tiny Estoril from a mid-tier second division side into a top four team competing in the group stage of the Europa League. Silva’s tenure was so successful that when he left Estoril to take over Sporting Lisbon, the club renamed part of their stadium in his honor.
Fulham have never won a major trophy in their 143-year history and their 7-0 win over Luton Town in their last home game of the season secured their first league crown since 2001. There’s a huge practical advantage to winning the title, Als Fulham were last promoted in 2020, they got through the play-offs and only had a 39-day rest season in which to improve the game team. This time the climb was secured in mid-April, leaving much more time to plan.
These improvements are being funded by multi-billionaire owner Shahid Khan, whose distinctive handlebar mustache explains why he is affectionately known as “The Money Bag”. The first signing is likely to be Israel striker Manor Solomon from Shakhtar Donetsk for £8million.
Khan has also invested heavily in the expansion of the Riverside Stand on the affluent banks of the River Thames. This will cement Craven Cottage’s status as a popular away day for visiting fans, who provoke the home support with chants like ‘You only sing when you row’ and ‘Does your butler know you’re here?’.
Khan also owns the Jacksonville Jaguars, who were bottom of the AFC South for four straight years. Last season, the Jaguars had the worst record in all of American football, and that failure was rewarded last month when the franchise received top pick of the best collegiate player in the NFL draft. Unfortunately, the opposite happens in football: Fulham wins the league before immediately losing their most promising young player. The generational talent at Craven Cottage is Fábio Carvalho, 19, who has scored 11 goals in a stellar season that ends in a £5million transfer to Liverpool.
As Khan spends the summer figuring out how to get Fulham in the top 17 in next season’s Premier League, he may be ruefully reflecting on another crucial advantage of American football that rules out any possibility of a Jo- Jo team emerges – as NFL owners insist on a closed league, there’s no such thing as relegation.
James McDermott is a Lecturer at the UCD School of Law and a long-time Fulham season ticket holder
https://www.independent.ie/sport/soccer/premier-league/fulham-are-plotting-to-buck-their-yo-yo-trend-41675040.html Fulham plan to buck their yo-yo trend