In reaction to the news of Marco Silva’s contract extension, Dan Cooke tries to pick out the best moments from our Portuguese genius’s time in charge.
At 3:59pm on Tuesday, less than 24 hours after a tepid performance in North London, morale felt quite low across the fanbase; there was almost a universal apathy towards the club. Just 60 seconds later and it was bedlam. We’d been waiting for this news for months and I wasn’t the only one who was becoming increasingly pessimistic about the situation. However, at 4pm it was official: our gaffer had signed a contract extension taking him to the end of the 2025/26 season.
This has been quickly followed by rumours of the promise of considerable financial backing in the transfer market, which undoubtedly will have been a requirement for Marco. Suddenly, there’s excitement. Suddenly, Monday’s loss is a mere footnote, in what could well have become the most important, positive, and exciting week of this season.
As we bask in this news it felt right to indulge. A perfect opportunity to look at the most memorable moments of Silva’s reign. So, in chronological order, here are what I consider to be the top five moments that Marco has given us over the past two years. This has been whittled down from a list of about 15, so be kind.
1. Silva’s swashbuckling scorers
Admittedly, this is probably cheating, but these seven days in January 2022 were obscene.
I spent ages deliberating over how I shoehorn in the 5-1 win away at Huddersfield in Silva’s second game, or our 7-0 win away at Blackburn. I wrote an article after the win at Huddersfield, in which we saw what Marco’s men were all about. Despite being down to 10 men, we decided the best way to see out the game was to go on the attack and score two more, a far cry from the Parker-ball we’d been subject to months earlier. I was also in the away end on that night in Blackburn, when we quite frankly took the piss out of Rovers.
However, scoring 19 goals in a week is beyond belief. It’s easy to forget that we were on a run of five games without a win; a combination of omicron and a supposed bout of norovirus running through the squad, saw us start to worry about our season starting to derail.
That was until we pitched up in Berkshire, where a couple thousand Fulham fans, and about 15 Reading fans, saw us run riot on a Tuesday night. As against Blackburn and Luton (more on that shortly), we found ourselves two up at the break and cruising. We then decided to go into overdrive, with five different scorers, including Kenny Tete’s first for the club, and he celebrated with the surprise of a child finding out that bank holiday Mondays mean you don’t have to go to school. Also not to be forgotten are Andy Carroll’s brace of worldies, both ruled out for offside, and after which he decided he was too good for Reading and swiftly moved later in January.
Next up, Bristol City at home. We had been frustrated by them in the reverse fixture, and after 29 minutes we were 2-1 down courtesy of an excellent brace by Antoine Semenyo. We then decided to take it seriously and scored four goals in 15 minutes, going in 5-2 up at half time. Goal of the game was Neeskens Kebano’s outrageous volley to make it six. Fondest memory from this game were the City fans celebrating wildly in a hospitality box next to the Hammy End. They copped a load of abuse, were then laughed at and then, presumably out of pure embarrassment, they decided not to return to watch the second half.
We finished off the week with another 6-2 win, this time against Birmingham City. I remember it as a masterclass from our once starboy, Fabio Carvalho, in a game where the gulf in class between the two teams was enormous. It saw us go five points clear at the top of the league, and capped off the most awe inspiring seven days, in which we truly were all aboard HMS Piss the League.
2. Fulham 7 (seven) – 0 Luton Town
It’s one thing to win the Championship. It’s another to win it in the way that we did. That Monday in May will probably be the most perfect that football can ever be.
Not only did we put seven past a team for the third time that season, in doing so we saw milestones, records broken, and fairytale fair wells. I still get goosebumps when I watch those highlights back.
There wasn’t a player more worthy of scoring our hundredth goal of the season than Tom Cairney. Our captain, plagued by injury, had his second coming that season. There were tears when TC rifled one into the top corner against Cardiff City at home, his first appearance in nearly a year. For him to be the man to take us to a century, it was poetry.
Next up, Mika Seri. A player who over the course of the season, made up for everything that happened in the preceding years. Marco allowed Mika to blossom, sitting him at the base of our midfield and letting him run games with his passing ability. We formed such a strong bond with our Ivorian, serenading Marco Silva’s man, as he stood applauding us, drinking it in. In what turned out to be his last appearance at the Cottage, he got his first goal of the season, and was held aloft by his teammates. A lovely send-off for, on his day, a lovely player.
And finally… Aleksandar Mitrović. As the game drifted into added time, we were baying for our seventh. For the 43rd time that season, Mitro delivered. To place himself as the outright modern day top-scorer in the Championship. No one will ever get close to that tally, and regardless of what has happened since, watching him whip his top off and stand in front of the Hammersmith End was pure magic.
We had six different goal scorers that evening, finishing the season with 106 goals. That game embodied the team that we had become, and will go down as one of the most memorable days as a Fulham fan.
3. Our Premier League return
Nearly 100 days later we were back at the Cottage, and back in the big time. As fans we’d spent the whole summer hearing the same old uninformed quips about “yo-yo Fulham”. We’d all been told that we’d go straight back down, we’d all been told that Mitrović would only score five goals all season. Frankly, we were all fed up. However, starting at home to Liverpool didn’t feel like the kindest of starts.
What we saw that day was the biggest marker of intent laid down by any newly-promoted side. To make things even sweeter, it was in front of the cameras for all to see. We were exceptional. From the first minute, we just went after the Reds. The aggression, intensity, and quality was something we had not seen from a Premier League Fulham in a very long time.
We saw debuts from Palhinha and Pereira, and both showed us just how important they were going to be across the following 37 games. Kenny Tete bombed up and down that right-flank, and Antonee Robinson pocketed Mo Salah.
Then, after rising above Trent Alexander-Arnold at the back post to make it 1-0, and sitting Jordan Henderson on his arse in midfield, Mitro tucked away a pen after spinning Virgil van Dijk. Critics silenced.
The late equaliser was unfortunate, but it didn’t matter, Fulham were back. Not nicey nicey, play some tidy football and lose 3-1 Fulham, this was a new beast. We had a bite to us, and from then on we never looked back.
The atmosphere was immense. I’ve kept my scarf that was placed on every seat, as I never want to forget that day. It feels silly to say that a draw is one of the best moments of the last two years, but this was a huge day in this journey that we’ve been on.
4. Mitro in the last minute
Two weeks later, after a point at Molineux, we faced the Bees for the first time ever in the Premier League.
The Cottage was bouncing at kick-off and shortly after the roof nearly came off, as Bobby De Cordova-Reid put us ahead after 44 seconds. Not long after we saw what would be one of the hallmarks of our season, a delicious corner from Andreas Pereira was met by the head of our new hero, João Palhinha. It was absolute pandemonium and Brentford were all over the place.
This made it all the more gut-wrenching when Brentford got back into the game, and levelled it in the second half. Not only that, but professional podcaster Ivan Toney had the gall to imitate the celebration of a man who had decimated his Championship record. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and all that, but it was a red rag to a Serbian bull. That’s what made this result all the sweeter.
We gave our little neighbours hope, they thought they had another Jota moment, another Maupay moment. Alas, a lesser-spotted Kevin Mbabu delivered the finest of crosses, which was gleefully greeted by Ivan’s idol, giving us the most special of victories.
It also gave us an iconic moment during the celebrations, as Palhinha endeared himself to his loving Cottage’s by banging the advertising hoardings before celebrating with a fan behind the goal, all whilst wearing a cast on the other arm. In that moment we knew that we didn’t just have a baller, but we had a man who knew what it meant to play for Fulham.
Unbeaten in our first three games, playing exquisite football, proving everyone wrong, and getting to point and laugh at Ivan Toney, perfection.
5. Vini’s finest hour
The latest entry into the top five and a non-negotiable, one that I imagine is on everyone’s list.
Without a win against Chelsea since 2006, this felt like the best chance we could possibly have, apart from the fact that Mitro was suspended, and in his place was Carlos Vinicius who was yet to score for the Whites.
For the first time in memory it felt like everyone had a quiet optimism that this was our moment, we were potentially favourites against the Blues. What followed was probably our best Thursday night since the Europa League days (unverified claim).
It started perfectly with Chelsea old boy Willian putting us ahead. However, the key moment in the game was João Felix, on debut, lunging at Kenny Tete and being sent marching. A genuinely awful challenge, from a player Chelsea had spent five times more on than we spent on Kenny Tete, and he was only there on a six-month loan.
It was now in our hands, we could taste it. When the moment arrived, I’m convinced it happened in slow motion. A trademark Pereira whipped cross saw Kepa start to come to claim it, but he’d misjudged it, he was in no man’s land. Then up rose Vini, having escaped his marker, to nod in the winner. To end 20 games without a win against those sods – years of being looked down on and belittled. Marco put a stop to that. It took us to sixth in the league, and not long after we picked up a point at Stamford Bridge, despite Chelsea spending over £300m in the January window.
The end result was a 10th placed finish, eight points above them lot, something we will never forget.
I wanted to finish this piece with some words on Marco Silva as a person. For me, he is second only to Roy Hodgson with what he’s done for the club, and in the next three years, could potentially surpass him. However, he has also been a wonderful representative and custodian of Fulham Football Club.
His relationship with the fans is wonderful, never seeking the limelight, but always appreciating us as fans. Nothing exemplifies this more than what we saw after our 3-0 home win against Millwall. Marco dedicated that win to Paul Parish, who had so sadly left us just days before. Not only with words, but through the actions of him and his team, individually offering their condolences to Paul’s family. I didn’t know Paul, but I cried during those moments after the final whistle, and I don’t think I have ever been prouder to be a Fulham supporter. It was an incredibly human moment, that reminded us of both the importance and yet insignificance of football, and moments like those will always trump anything that happens on the pitch.
Marco Silva, thank you.