In his debut piece, Stephen Sheldrake looks back at a campaign for the ages under Marco Silva.
Rewind two years. After a turgid Premier League campaign under Scott Parker, where the Whites chalked up a grand total of five wins across an entire campaign (not to mention a meagre nine goals at the Cottage all season), even the most optimistic of Fulham fans would be forgiven for feeling a little despair.
Then in steps Marco Silva. And with him, an air of excitement returns to the club. But after a catastrophic final season with Everton still lingering in some fans’ memories, alongside alarm bells regarding his dubious loyalty to former clubs, some of our less eager fans tentatively waited for him to prove himself before allowing themselves to get too excited, too soon.
Fast forward to today, and Silva has more than proved himself, alongside club legend Luis Boa Morte. We lifted the Championship title with a record 106 goals, and we’ve now established ourselves in the Premier League, securing a top 10 finish at the first time of asking. Not bad at all for a ‘yo-yo’ club, a label that all Fulham fans knew deep down was unjust given our 13-year success in England’s top flight with a European final to boot.
The beauty of it all is that it’s not just about the record-breaking statistics that have come over the last two campaigns, it’s been the manner in which we have achieved such success. Playing football with a Portuguese-inspired attacking flair and intensity, always driven by an underlying will to win. Combine this ethos with the unwavering level of passion on the sidelines (a passion that has seen us sat on the naughty step on at least one memorable occasion) and you get yourself a club with ambition, drive, and one very happy fanbase.
Wins wins wins – it’s the Marco way
The mighty Whites arrived in the Premier League like a graceful swan in the summer of 2001. Three years later, Chris Coleman led us to a club record 14 wins in a PL campaign. We matched it on three occasions – in 2005/06 (under Cookie again), 2008/09 (led by Roy Hodgson), and in 2010/11 (with Martin Jol) – but we could never top it. Well, that was of course until now, with Marco Silva’s strong intent and attacking prowess leading us to a grand total of 15 wins in the 2022/23 campaign, and a whopping 52 points – just one short of the all-time record under the aforementioned Hodgson. What a pair of legends.
Goals galore – that’s the way the Cookie crumbles
It’ll come as no surprise to the Fulham fanbase that this season has produced the most goals in a Premier League campaign for the Whites, which due to Marco and his team’s attacking philosophy seemed somewhat inevitable, but they faced stiff competition.
Under Coleman, Fulham managed to smash the back of the net 52 times both on the 2003/04 and 04/05 seasons back to back – a feat that deserves so much credit with the shoestring budget that Cookie was given at the time.
But alas, records were made to be broken, and Silva’s side bagged a brilliant 55 goals in 38 games against some of the world’s very best defences. Our opening game against Liverpool signalled our intent from the get-go; the 2-2 draw showcased the style of football we were going to be imposing on our opponents all season.
Top goalscorers – someone’s on fire
While Clint Dempsey’s emphatic goalscoring campaign under Martin Jol in 2011/12 saw him bag an incredible 17 goals, alongside the ever classy Dimitar Berbatov who hit 15 goals the following season under the same manager, we can’t look back at this campaign without highlighting the contributions of one Aleksander Mitrovic.
With 14 goals to his name, he’s not only set a personal record for himself in the top flight, but when you consider he has achieved these numbers having only started 23 out of his 25 appearances, one can only imagine what a 38 game campaign would have looked like.
With an average of 143 minutes per goal (one in every 1.6 games) and a couple of assists on top of that, Mitro has spearheaded Fulham’s attack to great success this season. If all of the cogs work together in our next campaign, we could be looking at an almighty season for the big man. Just imagine if he scored those four penalties… (we won’t talk about that particular record.)
Away wins – feeling at home on the road
Historically not known for dominating teams away from home in the top flight, Fulham grabbed an impressive seven wins and two draws on the road, scoring 24 goals in the process, placing them in sixth in the away table. This may surprise some younger fans to hear, but did you know that on more than one occasion, Fulham only registered a single away win in an entire top flight campaign? Dark times.
This impressive feat by Marco’s side not only beats Fulham’s greatest ever away goals tally (thanks Tete) but also smashes our away wins record, both previous accolades set by the impressive Chris Coleman again, whose side hit 23 away goals and five wins in the 2003/04 season.
Other fun notes looking at the away game table this season include Arsenal actually topping the league, Brighton sitting in the top four and Southampton placed comfortably in 16th, safe from relegation. Don’t you just love stats?
There’s only one team in Fulham
Perhaps the most important record of them all though has to be the glorious realisation that Fulham have not only finished above their neighbours Chelsea in the Premier League table for the first time since its inception, they’ve done it in emphatic fashion.
A gentle reminder that Todd Boehly splashed out £585.5 million this season to try and propel the blues to glory, while Fulham made shrewd but spectacular signings with the likes of Leno (£4m) and Willian (free) the tip of the iceberg, alongside the likes of Palhinha (£20m) and Pereira (£10m).
And so we have it. Chelsea sit in 12th place on 44 points, with Fulham a colossal eight points ahead on 52. We end the season unbeaten against our neighbours, thanks to a home win with an away draw, stealing the glory away and rightfully returning it back to London’s Original Football Club.
Fellow Fulham fans, enjoy your summer looking back at what has been a well and truly spectacular season. Let’s revel in this moment of success together, and look forward to what should promise to be a truly thrilling 2023/24 campaign for the mighty Whites.