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Can Fulham become the main characters against Man City on Saturday?

Written by George Cooper on 7th May 2024

Bobby Reid celebrates against Arsenal at Craven Cottage. Licensed from IMAGO.

When I studied English at college, I was forced to watch this god awful play called Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard. The play focuses on two minor characters from Shakespeare’s Hamlet – Rosencrantz and Guildenstern – who exist alone within an existential void until their brief moments in Hamlet occur. When their parts in Hamlet come, Shakespeare’s tragedy manifests around them on stage, and chaos ensues. Then… as soon as it arrives, it’s gone, and our protagonists are left, once again, in the void; confused and a little bit lost as to what the hell just happened.

I’m sure you’re wondering where I’m going with this, and I am fully aware of how pretentious this all sounds, but hear me out… It’s Fulham’s season. Fulham are Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, minor characters in a big play (the Premier League), who’ve been swept up in the narrative during fleeting moments (taking four points off Arsenal, reaching the Carabao Cup semi-final etc), but otherwise have existed in the void; safely mid-table, minding our own business, nobody giving a solitary hoot expect us. Man City, Arsenal and Liverpool are your Hamlets, your Claudiuses, your Gertrudes – well and truly part of the ‘main event’. Us, as Fulham fans, are in the audience of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead; watching an absurdist existential tragicomedy that focuses solely on our minor characters, and unlike 17-year-old me at the time, we are absolutely loving it.

Now I am not for a second suggesting that we should be expecting more as a fan base: this has been one of the most iconic seasons Fulham’s had in the past 20 years. And while last season we raced to safety with the arrogance of a young Mick Jagger, this season’s pedestrian amble across the line (peppered with historic wins), for me, is indicative of how far we’ve come as a club. Achieving our ultimate aim of safety this season was less explosive and more subtle, like the inches slowly increasing on your waistline from youth to middle age, until inevitably reaching “the magical 40”.

I am also not attempting to reduce this season’s memory to large spells of nothing punctuated by moments of excitement. That, after all, is the experience of following a football club for 90% of supporters. However, this Saturday Fulham have the chance to become more than just minor characters. If Fulham can pull off the impossible against Manchester City on Saturday, we will become the main characters in what will surely be the biggest smash-and-grab on the old legacy front since Captain Tom Moore.

Only Aston Villa have taken more points off Arsenal this season, with their six to our four – but we could do them a huge favour by denting City’s rampant late title charge. Our defensive record can give us hope, and has been superb since the turn of the year, with only Arsenal and Manchester City having conceded fewer goals.

There would also be something quite funny about taking four points off Arsenal, only to coquettishly give them three back with a win over their title rivals. Toying with their emotions and fate like a black and white cat playing with a little red mouse. On the podcast we’ve suggested a few of our disappointing recent results could be down to a lack of motivation, given we’re safe and have “nothing to play for”. If I were Marco Silva I would be urging the team to write themselves into the history books, when the circus surrounding Manchester City’s Hamlet arrives at our weird little play.

Imagine how sweet that would be: the Sky Blue minions packing the trophy back into its hard case, Pep’s champagne funnelled back into the bootle, Bobby De Cordova-Reid’s name immortalised in the Premier League history books for a tap-in on the 72nd minute that could ultimately deny City their fourth consecutive title. We’d be forcing ourselves into the narrative: pubs, offices and playgrounds across the world would be talking about absurd little Fulham.

I mean, it’s not going to happen. But it’s fun to dream.

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