It would be a death-defying escape act, but Fulham have a chance to avoid relegation despite being in the drop zone since December. One need only look at this chart – during which Fulham earned only 6 points in December, January and February – and see the flatline to which the doctor should have long ago called the time of death. And yet, Fulham have three wins in their last five games, including key victories over Reading and Birmingham. What has triggered Fulham’s decent run of play lately? Arguably, it’s two words: Bullard and McBride.
You see, when your team is languishing at the bottom of the Premier League, and you are fielding short defenders, and you basically stink to high heaven, a couple of cagey veterans with fantastic workrates can be the difference between 16th place and 19th. It’s hard not to root for Bullard and McBride. They both came back from potentially career-ending injuries. McBride is in the twilight of his career, but has become one of the most beloved players at Fulham. Bullard only looks like he’s in the twilight of his career (amazingly, he’s only 29 years old), but his surgeon famously stated that his injury a couple seasons ago “looked like a bomb had gone off in his knee.” In other words, McBride and Bullard are the antidote for every preening EPL player making 75,000 quid a week.
Roy Hodgson’s kitchen sink strategy seems to paying off by rotating Erik Nevland, David Healy and Diomansy Kamara up front. And what of our fair Fulamericans? Well, Dempsey continues to start regularly and contribute, although I personally worry that he might have plateaued as of late. As for Bocanegra, he’s been on the bench a lot recently, which happened to have coincided with Fulham’s recent strong play. Draw from that what you will, but one has to wonder if there’s a future for Bocanegra in the Premier League, or if he’s destined to move to MLS soon.
Despite being 93 years old, Casey Keller has made a number of first team appearances, and surely his experience has helped settle Fulham. And then Eddie Johnson, who perhaps needs a full season before he can adapt to English football, or as I suspect really just isn’t all that good of a player - or, just doesn't have the work ethic to become one.
On Sunday, Fulham travel to Portsmouth, where a win would likely secure safety (as crap as Derby are, it’s hard to imagine Reading making up a six goal difference). A tie or a loss to Pompey would mean Fulham need help, and a lot of help, because as mentioned Reading play Derby and would surely leapfrog Fulham out of the drop zone. Birmingham play Blackburn, but they are behind by a point and the scenario is bleak for them.
So, for Fulham, it’s basically down to win and defy the odds. You would have to imagine that Portsmouth will not be up for the game, with nothing to play for except avoiding injuries going into the FA Cup final. Nothing should be taken for granted, however, especially at the ass-end of the league. At least Fulham have put themselves in a position to pull it off.