George Rossiter shares his thoughts on the FA Cup and calls upon some Fulhamish friends to talk about just why England’s oldest cup competition is still so special.
For younger fans, trips to Wembley are almost an annual occurrence. But while we might frequent the stadium in the play-offs, the cups are a different story. It’s more than a decade since Fulham made even the quarter-finals; the last run to the semi-finals came 20 years ago, when semi-finals weren’t even played at Wembley, and it’s nearly half a century since our one and only FA Cup final, with defeat to West Ham in 1975. This weekend, Fulham face Sunderland in the fourth round, the stage at which they have fallen in the previous three seasons, and excitement is brewing. With Fulham looking safe in the league and many a Premier League club falling in round three, do we dare to dream?
What’s your favourite memory?
George Rossiter: For me, the standout was a 4-0 victory over Tottenham in the fourth round in 2011. Seeing little old Fulham four goals ahead at full time had a young George in disbelief that day.
Claire Parish: Fave memory is easy!!! April 2002 tie with Chelsea at Villa Park. Even though we lost to the scum, it was a great day out with Dad, Grandad, my Uncle and Cousin!
Dan Cooke: I don’t think I can contribute a memory. Last FA Cup game I went to, we lost in extra time to Sheffield United at home!
Jack Collins: Probably a bit of a weird one, because I’m not sure I actually remember it in the flesh or because I watched the film of our 00/01 season, about 1,000 times in the years that followed, but Fabrice Fernandes’s free-kick against Manchester United has stayed with me to this day. For years after I ran round playgrounds and pitches with arms outstretched and my tongue out celebrating goals, and perhaps it was the first inkling of what the magic of the cup could actually mean – little Fulham scoring a goal like that against a team who seemed like footballing deities.
Cam Ramsey: We never really do well against Spurs in any competition, but witnessing Mousa Dembele barrel through their entire squad to make it 4-0 to the Whites before half-time in 2011 was a pure madness. The Belgian was at the peak of his powers, Danny Murphy scored a brace of penalties and Brede Hangeland bundled one in from a corner. I barely had time to finish my Roll-Over hotdog.
Farrell Monk: My first ever proper away game was the FA Cup quarter-final tie at West Brom in 2002. Fulham had somewhat of an easy run of it that year and second-tier Baggies were, at least on paper, our toughest opponent by some distance. My formative Fulham years were spent largely in the doldrums of the lower divisions, like many my age. The fact we were going into the latter stages of the famous tournament as firm favourites was a whole new world. I remember vividly the excitement of seeing adverts for game in the lead up as it was to be shown live on TV, a rarity for us in those days. But the over arching memory was seeing Steve Marlet head in Malbranque’s perfectly flighted free kick is my favourite memory. Less so for my Dad who had driven three of his children up to miss that winning goal as he was still to return to his seat after fetching a hot dog for my younger brother.
Jack Stroudley: Fulham 4-0 Tottenham in the fourth round. We were 4-0 before half-time and Mousa Dembele was a monster that day.
What would a run to Wembley mean?
George Rossiter: As mentioned, my previous favourite cup memory was a game from 2011, and it’s a vivid one. While the memories of 2018 and the play-offs are special and will live long in the memory, seeing the opportunity for major silverware for the first time in the club’s history would be magical and undoubtedly stay with me forever.
Clare Parish: The FA Cup is so different, with it’s magical element that league football doesn’t quite have. Where the Premier League this year is our bread and butter, I love a sugar sandwich, which is what the FA Cup is to me in that context! It feels like a win for football fans when the underdogs come out on top and a cup run for little old cheeseboard carrying Fulham would be stupendously great! A cup run would bring excitement and passion which is never a bad thing, and it may introduce new, younger fans to the club with more affordable kid’s seats along the way.
Dan Cooke: As Fulham fans, we’ve been starved of cup runs. The play-off final at Wembley was one of the best days of my life, but the prospect of replacing those memories with ones from an FA Cup semi, or even final, is beyond exciting. We’ve had some great Wembley memories in recent times, let’s create some more!
Jack Collins: We’ve been lucky enough to visit (and win at) Wembley on big occasions in these last few years, but I think getting to the showpiece in the FA Cup would be a memory we’d carry forever. It remains, in so many ways, the last bastion of the old traditions of English football – Abide With Me ringing out before kick-off, the very concept of cup final day. I’ve been lucky enough to work on the tournament in the last few years and I was struck, standing in the stadium in that moment, by just how much it means still – even to clubs who have won everything. So for us to reach an event like that would be spine-tingling.
Cam Ramsey: ‘A solid cup run would reaffirm just how far Silva’s taken Fulham and if we’re being honest, reaching the semi-finals for another Wembley jolly-up has to be a minimum requirement. We’re as good as safe in the league, so why can’t we take the FA Cup seriously? Returning to the Home of Football, at least the modern version, has been extremely kind to Fulham and if we make it there, we’re winning it all.’
Cam Ramsey: A solid cup run would reaffirm just how far Silva’s taken Fulham and if we’re being honest, reaching the semi-finals for another Wembley jolly-up has to be a minimum requirement. We’re as good as safe in the league, so why can’t we take the FA Cup seriously? Returning to the Home of Football, at least the modern version, has been extremely kind to Fulham and if we make it there, we’re winning it all.
Farrell Monk: We’ve seen a lot in our times. Promotions, relegations, stunning wins, agonising losses, statue after statue after statue. But no domestic cup. Fulham to me are still a small club in a soup of riches. And every away trip to Old Trafford or Anfield is still special. All in knowledge that things can change quickly. The Wembley factor has subsided a little since that wonderful day in 2018 but the opportunity to see Tom Cairney lift another, more prestigious trophy, will mean ever so more.
Jack Stroudley: A long run in the FA Cup would be immense. Like many other fans will probably agree, the idea of seeing Fulham win a major trophy such as the FA Cup is simply unfathomable. On top of that, the opportunity to potentially replicate the white wall at Wembley of 2018 is very exciting.
So, do we have a real chance this year?
George Rossiter: Of course we do. We are currently eighth favourites to win the tournament with the bookies, and we have a home tie against a Championship side in round four. Add to that the guarantee of at least two more Premier League casualties in round four, especially exciting with that being guaranteed to be two of the seven teams above us in the odds as Manchester City and Arsenal, and Liverpool and Brighton facing off for a place in the last 16. With Premier League safety all but secure and Silva understanding the importance and history of the competition… why not?
Farrell Monk: Much like that run to the semi-final 20 years ago, it was at a time when we were genuinely comfortable in the league. Except for a horrible run of form in the lead up to the 2002 quarter-final. It does mean we can take our foot of the gas a little in a league, but just because we could, doesn’t mean we should. I have huge doubts Marco Silva will be fielding a full-strength team Saturday and rest players for our first opportunity to get a double over our nearest neighbours next Friday. It is way too early to suggest we are about to embark on a famous run to the final. A maximum of nine solid Premier League teams can reach the next round. Chances are still low, but my fantasy is still high.Embed from Getty Images
Dan Cooke: This is the first season in a long, long time where we are in a position where we can afford a cup run. I’m sticking my neck out and saying that our Premier League status is all-but confirmed for next season; this means we can give the cup a real good go. With the way the draw has fallen, and the results that have come with it, we are without doubt one of the strongest teams left in the competition. Just like the Europa run, sometimes the stars just align, and you never know when an opportunity like this will come around again. The best Fulham team we’ve seen in over a decade, with some big names already knocked out, and one of Man City and Arsenal to be knocked out as well, there’s a chance here. We don’t want to look back and regret putting out a second string side against Sunderland. Let’s give this a real go, and see where we end up.’
Jack Collins: Sunderland are trickier opponents than many have given them credit for – this is no longer the shambling side seemingly superimposing soap opera above the genuine operation of a football club, and they need to be given Fulham’s full respect on Saturday. But given the fact we’re playing lower league opposition at the Cottage, that Chelsea and Newcastle have already crashed out, and with Manchester City and Arsenal playing each other in this round, opportunity may rear its head. Fulham have been outplayed by few teams this season, and over 90 minutes we’ve been a match for almost anyone. The draw can be cruel – and has been, in recent years – but with this team, and a bit of luck, who says we can’t dare to dream?
Cam Ramsey: This year, it’s crying out for an underdog to go all the way and given our remarkable form domestically, it really could be us that achieves the unthinkable. My sensible hat’s telling me we’ll probably reach the quarters, maybe even the fifth round and bow out to a really poor team although slapping our name on the world’s most coveted club trophy just feels right. Let’s get it!
Clare Parish: I think we could do well. There’s no reason why not. We have a good squad and good youth players to bolster us. What’s the point in aiming for anything less than a final? It would be great fun and I’m all for it. I’m still yearning for a more obscure away day but as the cup goes on, those chances are getting slimmer!
Jack Stroudley: Honestly? If we avoid the inevitable Man City away draw we can give ourselves every chance of a Wembley trip. If we get past Sunderland we’re then two rounds from Wembley. A couple of home ties in there and it really is plausible that we see that white wall at Wembley once again.
As we’ve established, for clubs such as Fulham, this competition still means so much. Unlike some, we don’t take the fun draws for granted, nor do we feel entitled to be in the quarter-finals as a bog standard effort. In a year when Fulham can compete with the very best football teams in this country for the first time in a ling time, we’re in a wonderful position, not just in the league, but to kick on and make a fantastic season one to remember for a lifetime. If that culminates with any form of success and a trip to Wembley Stadium, we, as fans, would be forever grateful to Marco Silva and his men. Five wins from glory, and with this crop of players in hand – let’s dream.