Five Thoughts: August 2021

Cameron Ramsey 30th August 2021

In the first of a new chapter for Cam’s Five Thoughts, he looks at the month of August.

Top of the league, unbeaten and heading into an international break, smugly, supremely. Oh yes, Marco Silva’s Fulham are not fucking around and I just don’t think the Championship’s ready for the smoke we’re bringing to the party.

Hello, welcome back to our first Five Thoughts of the season, a supplement restructured over the summer to ensure a broader, diverse take on all matters within our mystifying little club.

These articles will hit your timelines monthly, rather than weekly and, trust me, there’s a hell of a lot to cover. From scintillating starts to rising stars, August has had it all and this is the content we’re ultimately here for. There’s no bones to be picked at, no autopsies, inquests, the Whites are the team to be feared and throughout this write-up before you, we’ll explore why and how we’re going to piss this division for the foreseeable. Prepare the clappers, it’s time to celebrate.

Silva’s System Slaps

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The manner in which Silva’s remodelled our matchday system is astonishing. Having spent 18 months out of the dugout, the Portuguese tactician opted to take the reigns at a club that was pining for a shake-up, a demanding role where every indiscretion’s scrutinised with the finest of toothcombs and the early signs are hugely positive. His predecessor, Scott Parker, brainwashed us all into believing Silva’s inherited squad is incapable, feeble in confrontation, although the former Everton boss has transformed our outlook from gloomy to rosy in a mere matter of weeks in charge, throwing caution to the wind and scrunching Parker’s negative blueprints into nothing more than cheap and cheerless bog roll. Of course, holding possession was actually a feature of Parker’s implementations in SW6, but unlike Silva’s direct derivative, we did sweet fuck all with it. Now, the Whites grind opponents down, setting siege without mercy.

Every player knows their responsibility. Experimentation will still be present and the coming weeks and months pass by but there’s an understanding within the group, there’s a solidarity, not a divide, and Silva’s constructing a format that’s practical, as well as transparent for all. The Whites are composed to hurt opponents, to up the ante and kill games off, whereas in Parker’s tenure, tentativeness, fragility and complete abandonment of the basics was rife. With Luis Boa Morte by his side, Silva is aware of what the fans expect, firstly, but he’s also willing to cooperate rationally with the club’s headstrong hierarchy, in order to iron out results and circumstances which are healthy for the wellbeing of our club. Towards the end of Parker’s stint in the dugout, his association with Tony Khan, from an observant perspective, was noticeably frosty, although I believe Marco’s a respected figure that will enjoy a mature, amicable working partnership with the powers that be behind the scenes.

The scary thing is, our regenerated approach on the break is still a prototype of what’s to come and I fear, gravely, for the rest of the Championship. Silva’s galvanised a forlorn Aleksandar Mitrovic, he’s reinstated functional, marauding wingbacks and he has achieved – thus far – to keep the vast majority of the camp together. We live in a world where fine margins exist, apparently, but if you aren’t afraid of taking risks for the betterment of football in general, Parker’s desperate clich├ęs are indefensibly worthless. Drubbings, wash-outs, comprehensive victories are very much possible this season and all it takes is a savoury sprinkling bravery, opposed to the shaky distrust that riddled last season’s demise. There’s a ridiculously long way to go yet, the Sky Bet’s an arduous, unforgiving bitch of a division with plenty of obstacles to navigate however with Silva at the helm, skippering HMS Piss the League, we can afford to relish the ebbing, flowing voyage ahead.

Mitro’s Ominous Awakening

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Five more years of Mitrovic. We thought he was a goner. After last season’s woeful return, having been shunned and discarded, Mitrovic is back in his element. Tormenting centre-halves with a villainous grin, Mitro has recaptured the form that fired him towards the summit of the scoring charts in the 2019-20 campaign and with 4 goals in 5 Championship outings, the Serb is raring up for another prolific, net-busting showing. At this level, against lesser opponents in comparison, the 26-year-old is a debt collector, he suspends grovelling opponents by the ankles and laughs as lunch money departs pockets. A bully beyond comparison, a hit-man reborn under Silva’s directorship.

An ominous sight is a smiling Mitro. He’s absolutely loving life in SW6 and that is very bad news for defenders, nationwide. It’s predatory, Mitro thrives on hostility, the tighter a player squeezes, the more effective he subsequently becomes, although his all-round game is developing at an alarming rate. He can drop deep to retrieve possession, he pulls out wide, when required, to bolster overloads and in advanced positions on the break, he’s a productive provider of opportunity for his teammates. He’s sharper, faster, deadlier, awakened and there’s still space for drastic improvements. He’s not quite the complete attacker, but he’s evolving uniquely as a multi-faceted focal point across the final third.

A married man with children, Mitro, off the turf, is as gentle as any upstanding role model comes, although once kick-off arrives, the man’s a monster. Unjustly Subdued by Parker in the Premier League, Mitro’s cold-bloodedness has returned with a vengeance, never had he plummeted so low in his career but now, a storm’s brewing and souls will be snatched. Middlesbrough’s Johnny Howson, 30 seconds into the season, fell victim to Mitro’s darker side, the menace that sets him apart from the pretenders that masquerade as praise-worthy strikers.

Ream’s Standing Ovation

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Written off, name soiled, Tim Ream, Captain America, was odds-on to leave the club during the summer although the American’s another project of Silva’s and the Cruyff-turning, Twitter spamming centre-back couldn’t be in finer fettle if he tried. Forging a cooperative partnership with Tosin Adarabioyo, Ream’s wooed crowds with performances of assurance, capability, and while he may not quite make the cut in the Premier League, the 33-year-old’s a reliable stalwart in England’s challenging second division.

In terms of cover at centre-half, Fulham have excellent depth, and we’re in possibly the best shape we’ve ever been in, Championship-wise. Tim’s Partnership with Tosin has enabled the Whites to keep 2 clean sheets in 5 domestic outings and as our central duo settle and acclimatise to each other’s tendencies, shut outs will become frequent and expected. Ream has re-established a tremendous standard, he’s leading by example and it’s rubbing off on his peers. He’s silky on the ball, constructive with his distribution and dauntless whilst holding a firm defensive line. He’s taken it upon himself to make a serious impact upon Silva’s regime, errors are minimal, and he’s one player that – even whilst enjoying a purple patch – genuinely recognises his limitations.

Playing out from the back progressively is a basic requirement of Silva’s plans and Tim, strangely, has been one of the club’s play-making visionaries. Rarely glancing to the channels, the motivated watchman’s driven to pump play forward, seeking out avenues that, to the naked eye, appear non-existent. Ream’s resurgence is not necessarily a dramatic revelation, because we already know what he can do in a settled environment, although seeing as he’s basically returned from the brink of serviceability, he deserves an incredible ovation as he’s been a resounding credit to professionalism, a glowing example of hard work in adversity, a hero that’s always willing to compromise and, most importantly, learn from past mistakes.

Blooding the Youth

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It’s common knowledge that our youth set-up is regarded as one of the country’s best. At Motspur Park, we facilitate a Category 1 standard within all age groups and this season in particular, we’re reaping rewards. At the back end of the 2020/21 campaign, Fabio Carvalho broke through, electrifyingly, and we also saw glimpses of Jay Stansfield in domestic cup competitions however there was still a vast wealth of untapped, raw talent within our production line that needed, and indeed deserved, a taste of first-team action. During pre-season upon Silva’s arrival, experimental line-ups mixed with youth and experience was fielded and our Portuguese gaffer evidently admired what he saw in certain performers, green and aspirational in their budding careers. Firstly, especially as he’s progressed tenfold, we’re drawn towards Carvalho, a standard-defining 18-year-old with a devastating reputation. In a dreadful squad led by a feckless Parker, the teenage sensation set the Premier League stage ablaze, and he hasn’t dared to look back.

Darting into gullies undetected, Fabio’s ripped the Championship scene to shreds. With 3 goals and an assist in 4 outings this term, he has been the Whites’ locksmith in attack. No defence is too rigid, too secure, the Torres Vedras-born assassin has made a tough environment his playground and yet his future is still uncertain. All those involved in contractual negotiations will need to offer Carvalho a ground-breaking professional deal, because if we fail to button the England U18 representative down as soon as possible, English and European heavyweights will be sniffing, frenziedly. Australian prospect Tyrese Francois impressed before the season kicked off, particularly against Charlton Athletic at home, where he slipped Fabio through for the game’s only goal, and he was included in the starting XI for our opener against Middlesbrough at home. Perceptive, sensible in possession, Francois complimented Silva’s fluent philosophy and against hardened opponents in Howson, Sam Morsy and Paddy McNair, the 21-year-old was defiant, as well as prominent as we built convincing phases of play. He may not feature as regularly as he’d hope this season, now trusted senior members such as Harrison Reed are returning to the fray, but he will get more than his fair share of opportunities and from what we’ve digested from his outings thus far, his potential knows no bounds.

At St. Andrew’s in the Carabao Cup, we were reacquainted with a sharp-shooting Stansfield and a youngster who’s name is much less familiar, Adrion Pajaziti. Stansfield, 18, suffered a prolonged injury setback last season but his acclaim is as prominent as ever. a natural-born finisher, Stansfield cracked open the scoring with a rasping hammer blow from the edge of the 18, and he tampered with Birmingham City’s rear-guard relentlessly throughout. Pajaziti, a clever passer with an unquenchable thirst for combat, gained his debut against the Blues and is another highly encouraging insertion. Adrion is a key component within our U23 set-up and is a keen distributor, and as Silva trusts his judgement, I expect the 18-year-old Kosovo U21 international to grow from strength to strength as he adjusts to life in and around the first-team proper. With so much already been said, I’m ecstatic with the connection Silva’s formed with our academy and hopefully this season, and in years to come, we’ll welcome plenty more ambitious individuals from the New Malden area and afar into our matchday selection process.

We Are Home

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Drink it in, the pre-match pints, the stroll through Bishops Parks, the unique buzz of anticipation that can only be felt from the terraces, live matchdays at Craven Cottage are back, for all, and planning for away days is also a necessary priority as we carefully budget our monthly paycheques for the perfect train tickets, once again. Due to the rather important fact that I’m due to be getting married on September 4th, I’ve only been able to attend one match so far this season, what with Stag Dos and voluntary isolation taking precedence, but the emotions that coursed through my veins on August 8th were euphoric. Tell me, just how amazing does it feel to be back where we so rightfully belong?

Before our 1-1 draw against Colin Warnock’s Boro, my last live match was in March 2020 at Ashton Gate and the 18-months (or however long it really was) in between then and now only made my adoration for the game deeply amorous. Football’s a drama without a script, an improvised thriller and without raucous reverberations from the spectating masses, football is an empty, sterilised vacuum, reserved only for canned atmospheres and diluted pitch-side intensity. We make the sport what it truly is: magnificently enthralling, ceaselessly captivating, inclusive for all.

Greeting old faces with renewed doubts and optimisms, trading loaded opinions, splitting copious rounds at the bar, we’ve all longed for those seemingly ordinary, commonplace conditions to return for an eternity and that beloved fanfare, that intrinsically precious relationship we cherish with football is ours treasure, always. It’s a Mills and Boon romance, an affair that estranges midweek drudgery from weekend daydreaming and it’s a saga, with an audience, that cajoles and inspires, blissfully, perpetually. Football, Fulham Football Club, friends, we have missed you dearly.