One by-product of poor man management is players feeling on edge. Take Shaun Hutchinson. On his Fulham debut he had a rough time of it. The right move then, I’m sure, was to play him the next week and let him play through his mistake. But no, he was frozen out. What happens in that time? Hutchinson, at a new club, presumably starts to fret. He wants to impress his new teammates, the fans, and instead all anyone’s seen of him is a bad hour at Ipswich.
His luck didn’t change in midweek when what looked like a really good tackle was punished with a penalty kick. By now Hutchinson, keeping score in his head, is really feeling it. He’s clearly desperate to do well but so far the move hasn’t been panning out.
He gets another go against Blackburn and seems to be playing quite well, then, as half-time approaches, he sees a chance. He surges forwards, but his touch is heavy. He’s trying so hard though, he thinks he can impose himself on the loose ball. He gets it horribly wrong, his opponent goes off on a stretcher and Hutchinson sees the red card that only underlines what a nightmare his Fulham career has been. He stands in disbelief. He buries his head in his hands. As he walks off he holds his hands up to the crowd in apology. He knows he’s blown it. He knows that this fiasco of a season is going to keep being a fiasco for another week.
(symons: Shaun was distraught in the changing room at half-time,” stated Symons. “It was a straight red, there was no doubt about it. The one good thing is that Williamson is okay as it was a poor tackle; a typical centre-half trying to come out and play, makes a poor touch and tries to make amends but compounds the situation. He knew it was a bad tackle but there’s no malice in Shaun at all and he’s upset and disappointed.) (which is how to deal with these things, right? Don’t throw him under the proverbial bus)
But that aside, today was as good as Fulham have been this season. There was some sense of team play there, and while it was true the Blackburn ‘keeper hadn’t been unduly troubled, he certainly would have been worrying when Hugo Rodallega’s screamer flew just wide. The team seemed composed on the ball, more coherent certainly, and if it didn’t all come together then, well, I guess we can’t expect too much too soon, given everything that’s gone before.
The signs are good though. Scott Parker, who I feel is now getting excessively criticised, had a huge game in the middle of the park. He looks fitter and hungrier, and is starting to play the leader’s role we’ve all been expecting. Parker deserved his criticism last year but in the Championship he’s a huge asset. Well done, him. well done the team in general, really.
Kit Symons wasn’t afraid to use his best players so we saw Amorebieta and Ruiz in the same team for the first time this season, and clearly this is a good thing. If Ruiz didn’t carve out anything special he showed some nice touches in the middle of the pitch, and as he gets games under his belt he seems destined to shine. Rodallega and McCormack, likewise, will I’m sure develop into one of the division’s top pairings, and both are starting to show their class. McCormack probably isn’t getting the volume of chances he needs just yet but the team’s been awful, hasn’t it? As things improve – and I have never been more certain that they will – so too will the goalscoring opportunities for our forwards.
Sometimes you have to look beyond the result. And even a bit beyond the performance. For the second time in three games the team’s been down to 10 men, so that’s either a sign of ill-discipline or one of those things. The Forest penalty was extremely harsh, and while we can hardly claim bad luck in conceding five goals in that game, it’s fair to say that the rub of the green isn’t going Fulham’s way just yet. Even today’s concession was slightly unfortunate.
It’ll get better. Honestly, it will. We’re more likely to go up than down.