It’s the hope…
In this dirty toilet bowl of a season Fulham at least had the FA Cup, a home tie against a struggling league 1 side, another nice looking fixture booked for the next round, but no, we blew it.
It shows how football clubs are organisms, not merely 11 names on paper. Meulensteen named a perfectly reasonable starting XI but nobody could impose themselves on Sheffield United, nobody could rise above it all, nobody deserved anything. Whatever it is that has got to the players has got to all of them.
It’s not the players who left, it’s not the players who are still here. It’s not a lack of fight, because you probably won’t get two more determined footballers than Dempsey and Parker, who both started last night. It’s a fundamentally rotten core that is impossible to pin down and which feels impossible to exorcise.
Not that the current coaching staff seem to have done their bit either. Meulensteen is a skills coach, an attacking coach, and it is tempting to imagine the players spending all their days at Motspur Park watching videos of “Matthew Le Tissier – Unbelievable!”. Certainly nobody is worrying too much about defensive shape or attacking tempo, or if they are, they’re either teaching it badly or the players are stupid. Lee Dixon in the ITV studio managed to sum Fulham up in about two minutes: bad defending, where opponents get space where they shouldn’t get space, and languid, aimless attacking, in which no player injects tempo and nobody seems to have thought about what they might do before they do it.
True, vision is not something that can be easily expressed against a packed defence on a horrible February night, but someone somewhere might have had the guile to achieve something. But no, no, horribly no.
We had 210 minutes to beat this team and all we managed was a goal from Hugo Rodallega.
The United winner was unpredictable only in its lateness – I’m sure we all knew that a deflection or an own goal or a concession from a corner was coming, and with it that gut punch emptiness that says “oh”. As it was, there was no time to recover, Clint “never go back” Dempsey standing aside and allowing his man the freedom of Craven Cottage to stoop and head home.
I remember another goal conceded late in extra time to end a cup run. How times have changed.