With so much to shout about, Cam attempts to put the very best moments of 2022 into words – in no particular order. If you think we’ve missed any, tell us!
Winning the title with a 7-0 thrashing
Securing promotion against Preston North End led to our first pitch invasion of the season, but laying hands on the Championship title, at Craven Cottage courtesy of an emphatic 7-0 mauling of Luton Town, is without debate the proudest moment of not just this year, but possibly the past decade.
It wasn’t a case of being promoted via the play-offs or finishing second fiddle, Fulham reigned supreme in a division that’s notoriously difficult to triumph within and we succeeded in show-stopping style. The Hatters were no pushovers; they’d startled sides with tenacious performances throughout the season but they were hung up to dry as the Whites summoned an avalanche.
Carnival football had arrived alongside the Thames. We’d decimated both Blackburn Rovers and Reading by the same score line earlier in the season away from home, but this is special because on our crowning procession; our champions were well and truly crowned as the terraces roared the boys on ferociously. For many, witnessing our club lift silverware before the splendour of the Johnny Haynes is a core memory, it will provoke hair-raising flashbacks for an eternity and we can say, with a grin that’ll never slacken, that we were there, soaking it up on hallowed turf, when Marco Silva took gold in his maiden campaign in SW6.
These titles are never promised, they have to be earned. We slaved through a torturous 4-1 humbling at Coventry City, we’d recorded back-to-back 6-2 wins, we’d engineered three 7-0-ers. Fulham were by no means unbeatable, but with 106 goals scored, accompanied by a frightening goal difference of +63, we were unmistakably superlative, and on 2 May, we rounded off our remorseless dominance.
Mitro smashing records
That Luton game, the final meeting of the 21/22 schedule, was historically significant for one individual in particular and for as long as the Championship exists, Aleksandar Mitrovic’s exploits may never be topped. Guy Whittingham’s outrageous haul of 42 second division goals had stood since 1993 – 19 years without being sniffed at – until a Serbian on a mission set siege upon penalty boxes countrywide for nine pillaging months.
This is a man who scored three first-half hat-tricks, a hitman that who dispatched 11 goals in seven straight games between mid-October and mid-November, and he’s a machine that, in the current season, has hushed his doubters with nine goals in 12 outings.
It all started at Huddersfield; a freakish account opener sparked the scoring, and by 22 games in the striker had bagged 22 goals. Astonishing. In the previous season as Brentford were promoted, Ivan Toney registered 31 goals and you’d better believe that in the weeks to come, Mitro had that marker well within his sights.
The goals just kept on coming thick and fast, and on Humberside in February, he equalled Toney’s return with a perfect glancing header. It wouldn’t take long for Mitro to pull ahead because just two weeks later, as Peterborough came to town, he slammed home his 32nd and 33rd, etching himself upon the modern Sky Bet scoring charts with 14 games left to assault.
It still went down to the wire. Mitro was one goal within Whittingham and two from writing new history, and just after the hour mark, they were level pegging. The Whites were rampaging, where Jean Michael Seri banged his first, Mitro was on the hunt for unrivalled stardom and in the second minute of stoppage time, the Whites rallied for one final counter attack. Fabio Carvalho weaved magic, he sensed when he was to unleash our number nine and the teenager played him in with precision.
At once, we all rose to our feet and ushered him towards the target. The angle appeared to be lessening and with his left, Aleksandar thundered what will possibly be regarded as the most prestigious strike of his career past a sprawling Matt Ingram. Across target, bottom right, breath drawn, limbs airborne. It was predestined and I’ve never experienced anything quite like it in the flesh. Another “I was there” instance all within one single game. That’s well worth writing about.
Liverpool held on our Prem returnEmbed from Getty Images
Still surfing cloud nine following the jubilations of the season gone by, Fulham were dealt the toughest of tests upon their return to the big time, with Liverpool being our Premier League opener. In the run-up, pundits, blogs and fans alike predicted a whitewashing, a free-hit was forecast and in many ways, it actually relieved the pre-match jitters and it certainly bled onto the turf come kick-off.
Adorning a selection of the world’s cream, Jurgen Klopp deployed a side that would shudder the spines of any European contender, let alone lowly little Fulham, however Silva’s side weren’t be be intimidated and they set about ruffling feathers from the get-go. An established international right-back was humiliated at the back stick by you-know-who, that same indomitable being mocked Virgil van Dijk’s composure, spinning the revered Dutchman back to Groningen’s crèche, and while the headlines lauded the man that supposedly can’t do the business, Mitro, the entire compliment reached heights that hadn’t been scaled by Fulham in the Premier League for an age.
From top to bottom, the Whites functioned like clockwork as the Reds lagged in our shadows. It was enough to make Klopp’s dentures grind maniacally. Never mind Fulham’s willingness to defy the odds, the generously watered pitch was bone dry, apparently, and that was very, very unfair on the poor chap and his hamstrung band of fraudsters. We may not have won, we should have, but Fulham’s team spirit and application on August 6th was a signal of intent and it shouldn’t be undermined.
It pushed everyone to the edge of their physical extremities, but that particular 2-2 draw proved that in the right headspace, and with the right guidance, Silva’s side are Premier League ready. With Scouse tails tucked between legs, shrieking inaudible excuses, we stormed towards Wolves with a welcome rush of ambition and long may it continue.
Those epic wins at the City Ground and Elland Road
Beating the sides around us was – and still is – paramount, and under intense circumstances at both the City Ground and Elland Road, Fulham rounded off both encounters with three points. Neither clash was without nail-biting dramatics and we also trailed on both occasions. A goal down, heads could’ve sunk and though it took us a while to regain a foothold against Nottingham Forest, we soon found our groove and it was devastating.
Within six minutes, the Whites had restored parity and charged two goals ahead, Tosin Adarabioyo introduced the frenzy in the 54th minute, Joao Palhinha’s launched Space X into the postage stamp and Harrison Reed battered his first-ever Fulham goal past a bemused Dean Henderson. The scenes were delirious. Forest were ambushed, it was vintage Silva ball and while the Garibaldis relinquished our lead to one, a sweet, sweet victory was already assured.
In Leeds, Jesse Marsch’s Lilywhites were struggling to find consistency and what better way to establish some form than against Fulham, right? Wrong.
Rodrigo Moreno nodded Leeds ahead in the 20th minute but it was short-lived, because in the 26th, Mitro crashed home a header of his own to even things up. Elland Road’s supposedly known worldwide for its hostile atmosphere, but honestly – dishwashers make a scarier racket.
The game fell stagnant for half an hour or so, 15 minutes either side of the break, give or take, but as Leeds lifted off the gas, the Whites stole the initiative. Firstly, I’ve no idea what Leeds’ back line were smoking, Bobby Decordova-Reid was in clear hectares as he married bonce with ball, it was absolutely laughable, but we were 2-1 up with a quarter of the game to go and we weren’t done just yet.
In quick succession, Fulham had cornered the hosts and capitalised upon a loose ball, picked up by Reed. Darting into the penalty area, slaloming from vacant attempts to rid danger, our in-form Ginger Iniesta dabbed Willian into contention and the reborn Brazilian diverted. Pandemonium. Fulham’s following’s often downtrodden by Northern folk that think they know better but on that day, as it has been so regularly this season, and indeed last, we were bouncing. Both victories on the road were unbelievable contests, it could’ve swung either way but fortunately, the team we follow through thick presented a set of bollocks that shone.
Beating Brentford for bragging rights
You’d be lying if you said a draw against Brentford, having been two goals to the good, was an acceptable result. The Premier League is a stage that was commonly reserved for Fulham, the thought of Brentford cluttering up the joint was unfathomable. Well, here we are. Our relationship with the Bees is no different to that of Queens Park Rangers or Chelsea. It’s purely a local thing, but we couldn’t allow them to triumph in the PL meeting between the two sides and at the death, there was a twist to the tale.
Decordova-Reid scrambled us into the ascendency in the first minute, Palhinha then powered in his first goal in Fulham colours; a bullet header from a corner. But the visitors simply wouldn’t lay down and die like they were supposed to. Christian Norgaard thumped one back before the stroke of half time, which was mildly annoying, and then amid penalty clamours and close shaves, Toney swivelled and pinged a clinical equaliser that muted the masses.
We knew, deep down, that Brentford weren’t to be riled and while we may have had a two-goal cushion, we failed to make the three points safe. Or so we thought. These occasions always hinge on last-gasp theatrics, it’s how proper derbies should always be, and with mere seconds left on the clock, one of the teams would have the opportunity to risk it all for the dub.
Yes, it was Fulham and we didn’t choke, either. Brentford were camped in their 18, all hands on deck to repel Fulham’s advancements and with virtually the last throw of the dice, Kevin Mbabu dug out a cross that arced into the danger area with menace. Caught out against the flight of the ball, the Bees could only stand by as Mitro climbed above shoulders and when that happens, nets tend to bulge.
It wasn’t scripted, but it sure felt like it was meant to be. Incidentally, I was actually at a wedding, watching on my phone, and I’ve some cracking professional live-action shots of myself going absolutely apeshit as the winner was notched. The photographer knew where the real entertainment was, and so did I.
We’d seen the articles flood our timelines for weeks; Fulham were flirting with SC Braga’s Mohamed Al-Musrati at the time but Sporting CP’s Joao Palhinha was the midfielder that brought real intrigue and to this day, I still have no clue how we landed such a natural-born talent in his prime.
There can be no mistake, Palhinha is easily the classiest defensive midfielder the Whites have ever purchased. Moussa Dembele springs to mind, and the rangy Portugal international is a throwback to the Belgian’s innovative brilliance. Heavily admired at the Estadio Jose Alvalade, Joao ventured to London to join forces with his former youth coaches, Silva and Luis Boa Morte, and his transition to the English top-flight has been astounding. You could say, actually, the Premier League us having to adapt to Palhinha.
He endeared himself to the fans almost instantly. He appreciated our tradition, the family ethos, and on the pitch, he was laying down the law without a shred of mercy. His desire to stamp his authority with crunching challenges and improvised interceptions wasn’t bravado, he stands as the division’s chief enforcer and he does so while avidly drumming the badge on his chest.
He’s the master of hard hits, a connoisseur of shit-pingers and truthfully, he really is just an everyday good guy that transforms into a bounty hunting badass come matchday. All this elite showmanship on a five-year contract for only £20m in this current financial climate? That’s absurd, and he couldn’t be happier to do what he does so mightily for our raw enjoyment.
Humming ‘Tequila’ near enough every waking minute is far from a burden, it’s a privilege. He’s earned our affection, he’s reimagined Fulham’s midfield operations alongside an ever-dependable Harrison Reed and he is the envy of virtually every side we’ve faced so far. The yellow cards are worthwhile when it’s Palhinha. He doesn’t mistreat the dark arts, he’s reinvented them and his dirty deeds get serious results.
Wales vs USA: FFC World Cup battle
With Mitrovic, J-Pally, and indeed Tim Ream, Antonee Robinson, Harry Wilson and Dan James travelling to the Middle East to compete at the 2022 World Cup, Fulham fans weren’t starved of entertainment over the course of a month without club matters and it’s the quartet at the end of the aforementioned six that really gripped our attention.
Fulhamerica versus Craven Cymru – Group B on a Monday evening. The tournament couldn’t have started any better from a Fulham supporter’s perspective. A sturdy partnership at club level, Ream and Robinson were entrusted to lock down the USMNT’s left side and Wilson, with James placed just ahead of him, were tasked to ask questions on the opposite flank.
It was, for many a neutral, their first real glimpse of Ream, a 35-year-old that had been called up to his national fold to stopgap for notable exclusions and for the duration of USA’s stay in Qatar, Captain America was sublime. He was wrongfully blamed for Wales’ late penalty, it was in fact fellow man bun Walker Zimmerman that was at fault, but Tim refused to let the stage swallow him up.
It is a heroic tale, and he is an example to all. Age should never be considered a limitation and his wealth of experience ultimately benefitted his national side, as it has this season under Marco’s supervision. His compatriot, Jedi, did what he does best. Sonic surges had the opposition backpedalling, it’s a feature of his game that’s now been put into practice on a major scale and his relationship with Tim, again, was to America’s advantage.
Wilson had only really just recovered from a lengthy injury, but he’s a mainstay in Rob Page’s plans. Against the States, Harry was hamstrung by an enthusiastic American midfield contingent but his performance wasn’t without the odd flash of Welsh wizardry, which we come to adore. James, well, he was basically non-existent on the break but there are signs that his confidence is strengthening and while his outing wasn’t overly expressive, it was still invaluable game time which would sharpen his tools.
Four Fulham players in one FIFA World Cup showdown, two apiece for each nation. Unheard of, and as the games progressed with the Whites’ representation gradually dwindling, we were still namedropped time and time again on the box because, ladies and gentlemen, this footballing establishment of ours is fucking massive.
Boxing Day bonanza at Selhurst Park
This may have snuck in just a matter of days before the deadline, but it’s definitely worth it. With bellies full to burst with pigs in blankets, port and soft cheeses, our Boxing Day visit to Selhurst Park wasn’t too dissimilar to any other routine away day, given our dietary choices, although as it was a festive affair, the promise of a Christmas cracker was writ large and sweet, sweet Santa, did it deliver.
Croydon has never been a pleasant hunting ground for the Whites. The last time we really ran riot at Selhurst Park was in 2013, courtesy of Steven Sidwell’s sledgehammer and that Pajtim Kasami worldie, however unlike more recent trips to Palace, this one felt strangely different and we drank it in before kick off.
Patrick Vieira’s Eagles hadn’t been able to build up a strong head of steam, they were wildly inconsistent and they were certainly there for the taking. The atmosphere in the Fulham camp was spirited, narrow losses against both Manchester clubs had galvanised us for our first competitive meeting after the World Cup and after a brief scare as Jordan Ayew cracked the crossbar, we got to work on dismantling the hosts’ composition and composure.
The stand-out performer on the day, Mitrovic got the party started with a sublime assist for Decordova-Reid’s header, which skipped across the target into the bottom left. It was almost a carbon copy of his header at Leeds, the away following thundered as his fourth of the campaign nestled and shortly after, Palace were down to 10 men. Tyrick Mitchell’s cynical stamp on Kenny Tete brought a straight red and it signalled their downfall for the remainder.
The Whites were in full control and in the 57th minute as we stirred for a second, Palace’s plight worsened. James Tomkins was already booked, he was skating thin ice and as Mitrovic approached, the foolish centre-half drove his elbow into the Serb’s face and he was condemned. Smelling blood in Palace’s depletion, Fulham monopolised the closing half an hour and as Wilfried Zaha lost his cool, Selhurst Park emptied.
Involved again, Mitro nodded down Pereira’s corner and Ream, the immovable legend himself, slammed our second into the roof of the net, a pile driver which was the American’s first ever Premier League goal. Fulham swarmed for a second, it was inevitable and Ream made sure we capitalised on our dominance with sharp conviction. That, in itself, is a remarkable moment because there are none more deserving than Tim, it’s a big feather in the cap and we were overjoyed to see him wheeling away in a state of disbelief.
Two goals to the good, and we weren’t finished yet. Palace’s famous home atmosphere was hushed, silenced, and in the 80th minute our omnificent Serb added our third and final goal of the afternoon, a poacher’s finish as Willian’s cross-come-shot bounded into Aleksandar’s vicinity. The Eagles were outplayed, outfought, outmanned by Silva’s scintillating set-up, from start to finish we had the measure of our opponents and with every disadvantage that came Palace’s way, we made them pay.
We know about the 10-1 humiliation of Ipswich Town but ask yourself: was that the greatest Boxing Day on record? Of course, 1963 is evidently hard to beat but with a clean sheet to our credit as Ream bags, Diop bodies and Mitro tyrannizes, it’s surely on an even keel. In my lifetime, it has to be the best I’ve ever experienced, it could even be one of the best away days full stop, because it wasn’t in vain, it wasn’t a painful struggle, we made light work of an established top-flight outfit and that is a real marker of just how far Fulham have come under the right stewardship.
QPR awayEmbed from Getty Images
This, coincidentally, took place only a matter of days before our trip to Middlesbrough, so it’s a portion of the 2021/22 season that we can recount with an extra bonus sprinkling of smugness. Hop-skipping across south west London to White City, we had the small matter of turning over QPR in their own gaff following the March international break and it was an occasion laden with shithousing pageantry.
There were pyrotechnics, celebrations that spilled out of the terraces and a brace, coolly supplied by the deadliest of Serbs. Loftus Road is a jumble sale, a corrugated Wendy house and letting them know just how shite it is was a pleasure. Talking done both on and off the turf, the Hoops couldn’t hack it and before long, “it’s happened again” poured from the lower and upper School End.
One brave/stupid soul even infiltrated the home end in a Fulham shirt and proceeded to conduct a solo conga, and he was unsurprisingly punched in the side of the head for his humorously idiotic compulsion. What a sight. What a man.
I mean, who doesn’t love getting one over their neighbours? QPR, in fairness, haven’t defeated Fulham since 2016, so they’re fairly irrelevant, but the sentiment is always holier-than-thou. We’d paddled them 4-1 in October, we’d muzzled them in the corresponding fixture at their garage of a ground, equilibrium had been reinforced and in all sincerity, I hope we don’t cross paths for at least another decade, cup competitions included.
Mid-table security at Christmas
I guess you can count this as a moment. Once Premier League matters came to a halt after our narrow defeat against Manchester United on 13 November, the standings were to freeze for a month-and-a-bit and Fulham, with 19 points, occupied ninth spot.
This, we cannot take for granted. It’s a tremendous achievement to be sitting pretty, top 10, 15 games into the season and we have to commend the boys for grafting tirelessly. It’s a marker of the squad Silva’s assembled, he has acquired know-how with a can-do attitude and it’s that which has enabled us to steer clear of the sticky end of the table. Teams at the bottom of the table at this juncture of the season typically circle the drain for the remainder, an while we may not have played as many games as a traditional season at this time of year, we’re in very good shape and we are certainly very good value.
Summer signings have stepped up to the challenge, senior figures have embodied the club’s objective to shoulder the drop, and there’s genuine match winners within this set-up. It’s worlds apart from years gone by in the top-flight, the team has a motive and they’ve a purpose that won’t be shaken.
We’ve been on the wrong side of VAR, officials have cast a blind eye over key infringements which have oppressed us and yet, we’re still well within the pack and we aren’t falling away anytime soon. We’ve pushed Arsenal and Manchester City to the brink, we’ve invested heart and soul into ever point gained until now and with star strikers scoring and veteran defenders excelling, we’re prepared to take on the next 15 games, and the rest, with the same grade of commitment.
It’s been a marvellous 12 months, trophies lifted, records smashed to smithereens and expectations fulfilled. Whatever comes our way in the remaining two weeks of 2022, Fulham have lived up to New Year’s resolutions and now, with January in sight, our intentions moving forward should remain precisely as they are because if we continue, we simply won’t go wrong.
Happy New Year from all at Fulhamish.