Talking Points: Margins & Moments

26th January 2017

I started a Twitter debate last week about whether people thought that if Jozabed had scored his last minute freekick against Queen’s Park Rangers at home, he might have become an instant fan favourite and kickstarted his Fulham career.

Whilst the response was far from unanimous, and many stressed it was far too simplistic to suggest that one moment would have been enough to change the trajectory of the Spaniard’s role in the squad, it’s important to remember that there are plenty of career-defining moments that have played an important role in changing things for the better.

The first of these that springs to mind is the case of Clint Dempsey. After becoming the most expensive American ever to be brought to the Premier League, Dempsey, whilst industrious and hard working, failed to show off any of the goalscoring potential that he had been brought in to add to a side struggling for goals. In fact, he went ten games without scoring when he joined, and in a side who looked like they might be relegated from the Premier League, Dempsey might have been out the door less than six months after crossing the Atlantic.

Instead, he produced the goods in his 11th game, scoring the winner against Liverpool that guaranteed top-flight status for the Whites, a goal Dempsey would refer to as ‘one of the most important of my career.’ The American made his permanent mark the next season, and the rest, as we know, is history.

As such, it was perplexing to see the amount of Fulham fans who were so quick to deride the idea that one moment can make or break a player. Would we be still waxing lyrical about a Fulham hero, Danny Murphy, if he had not converted the rebound on a missed penalty in a game which was so crucial to our survival the following year?

Think of it like this – 2-1 down in a crucial relegation clash and Murphy took the ball and then missed the penalty. Set piece specialist Jimmy Bullard and veteran goalscorer Erik Nevland were both on the field at the time. If Murphy had not followed up so effectively, or if Joe Hart had simply been a bit quicker off his line, the faithful would have questioned why it was that Murphy had felt it was necessary for him to take such an important spot kick – especially when you consider the cult status that Bullard was held in at the time, and the fact that Nevland had been the one to win the penalty.

But as we all know, Murphy did convert the rebound, breathing life into a Fulham side who were mathematically relegated before squaring the game, and then the former Liverpool man went on to score another historically monumental goal, that header at Portsmouth which kept the club up, before leading a charge over the next two years into a European journey that provided the basis for some of the most iconic moments in the club’s long history.

These are all moments that changed careers, and changed the relationships between fans and players. For all the talk we have of who should play and who shouldn’t, it would be naive to suggest that these relationships aren’t important, because they have a huge effect on confidence – if the fans are singing your name, one would imagine it would be the most incredible adrenaline-fuelled confidence booster.

By no means am I trying to suggest here that Jozabed’s free-kick could have had the same impetus as any of these goals which evidently were huge turning points in Fulham folklore. What I was suggesting is that for a young Spaniard, evidently supremely talented, to come on out of nowhere and fire home a last minute equaliser against the club’s local rivals, would have earned him a huge amount of love from the Hammersmith End and the rest of the Fulham faithful.

That adoration, and the confidence that might have espoused from making such a positive contribution in the small amount of time afforded to him, might have meant that Jokanovic was more willing to give our Spanish import more of a go off the bench, and more minutes might have resulted in an attacking option which the Whites might have relished given our lack of attacking options off the bench that were so evident against QPR in the reverse fixture at Loftus Road.

Equally, it might not have, and everything might have turned out exactly the same. Football isn’t an engineering project and it doesn’t work out based purely on whether your calculations are correct. However, the margins of magical moments remain miniscule, and what the knock on effect might have been for Jozabed, who can truly say?