Monday, May 12, 2008

The Great Escape Complete!!!!

Yesterday's dramatic finish of the Barclays Premier League included the 50 million pound goal by Danny Murphy (off a header no less) in the 76th minute to ensure that Fulham will remain a top flight club again next season. The win at Portsmouth is the third away win of the season and the third away win in a row for the Whites.

What suprised me most about Murphy's goal is how Portsmouth did a very, well Fulham-like thing and failed to mark Murphy at all. That Murphy sort of meandered into the box before connecting with Bullard sublime service may have lead to the confusion, but with Pompey marking all the big men at the back post, Murphy was given a free pass to redirect the cross into the twine. Fabulous way to end the season!!

So now with a day behind me since the excitement of the result, the question is who deserves the credit for the Great Escape from relegation.

Certainly Roy Hodgson, who earned his 1 Million pound bonus. Hodgson came in after Lawrie Sanchez's dismal performance and rescued the Whites at a time when even six weeks ago, nearly everyone had put Fulham into the Coca-Cola Championship along with Derby. Hodgson's acquistitions in January proved helpful in some cases, Kasey Keller, Brede Hangeland and Erik Nevland in particular, and less successful in other cases--Eddie Johnson and Jari Lintamen. But Hodgson also provided some consistency and an identity that I hope can be carried forward next year.

But Hodgson had some help. The return of club Captain Brian McBride and Jimmy Bullard provided some important on-field leadership (and a few goals) at a time when the club were floundering about. The return of these two players, perhaps more than any other helped cement the team when the run-in began.

I think a certain amount of credit goes to the Chairman as well. He personally made visits to the club during the dark days and a final message in the week leading up to Sunday's fixture demonstrated his belief in the team and their ability.

Let's hand it also to all the players who contributed down the stretch run. When everyone counted Fulham out, they had the faith in their teammates to keep going.

I began last season as sometime fan. Brian McBride had been a long time favorite player and the addition of Clint Dempsey cemeted my fandom. But over the past year, I have moved from interested fan to whole hearted supporter. I believe that part of it is that Fulham have struggled, it is not easy for them and it makes things like yesterday that much sweeter. I don't want to have to go through this again next year, but I really couldn't ask for a much better birthday present.

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