Fulham, aka “America’s Team” in the EPL, just won’t die, despite the fact the so-called experts labeled them as-good-as relegated weeks ago.
Granted, those experts weren’t insane for suggesting it looked certain the Cottagers would be playing second division soccer this time next year. After all, they had only won a measley four games out of thirty three all season and would need at least three wins in their last five to stay alive. Oh, and their last five included dates with Liverpool, Man City and Portsmouth, three of the EPL’s top eight teams.
But then, something unexpected happened. First, Fulham pulled out a gritty “must-win” against relegation rival Reading. Then, (after losing to Liverpool, no shock there) the boys from Craven Cottage went to Manchester City and beat the EPL’s eighth best team on their home turf. It was only Fulham’s second away win of the season.
And they didn’t just beat them in a 2-0 lolligagger. No, as if out of a Hollywood script, Fulham decided to make it dramatic by going down two goals until more than 2/3rds through the game. Then, with twenty minutes left in, for all practical purposes, their season, Fulham, a team that has averaged less than a goal a game, scored not one, not two, but three goals to pull off the most remarkable comeback performance of the year.
I’d love to tell you about how the Americans contributed to the win, but they didn’t really. Clint Dempsey created some nice chances early, but overall the Americans impact on the historic victory was below the radar.
The question remains though: can Fulham overcome the long odds to stay afloat in the Premiership?
For that query to be answered in the affirmative, Fulham has to win on Saturday against table neighbor Birmingham City. Currently, Fulham trails Birmingham by two points, so a win would vault them at least one place in the standings and place them on the cusp of avoiding relegation.
Fulham could jump as many as two places if Reading falls, as expected, to Tottenham. Reading is playing at home though, and after pulling out a tough tie against Wigan last week, Fulham can’t sit back and rely on other teams to do their dirty work for them. Furthermore, Reading drew the deplorable Derby for the last game, so go ahead and spot them at least three more points, meaning Fulham would have to win both of its last two games and have Reading lose this weekend in order to pull even with Convey’s crew.
Fulham also has to keep its fingers crossed that Sunderland can beat down Bolton. If Bolton loses and Fulham wins, the Wanderers will still be higher on the tables, but Bolton has to go to Chelsea the last week of the season. The way Chelsea has looked lately, Bolton needs a win this weekend, or they may be staring down the relegation gun barrel as well.
While Fulham has to go to Portsmouth on the season’s last match day, Birmingham will be at home taking on a difficult Blackburn side. Both tough games, for sure.
Thus, while the chances of survival are still slim, some hope exists that the Cottagers can surivive the fiasco that has been their worst season in the Prem. in seven years.
First things first though. For any of the above scenarios to result in Fulham’s clemency, they must beat Birmingham this Saturday.
The problem: Fulham hasn’t won back to back games in over seventy matches. Moreover, Birmingham City has not lost at Fulham since 1968, before man allegedly landed on the moon. The last twelve times Birmingham has played at Craven Cottage, they have escaped with points, a scenario Fulham must avoid if it seeks to keep its head above water.
Earlier this season, the two teams tied when Yank Carlos Bocanegra scored Fulham’s lone goal.
If Fulham is to survive relegation it will need Bocanegra, McBride, Dempsey, Keller and all of the Cottager’s faithful fans’ help to reverse four decades of misery against Birmingham.