There is a consensus at Fulham that had Brian McBride been fit for most of the season they would not be going into Saturday’s game against Manchester United under the threat of relegation.
McBride was out for almost six months after suffering a freak injury in the third game of the campaign, depriving the club of a strike partnership with newcomer David Healy — the theory being that the imposing American would be winning the knockdowns on which the Northern Ireland international feeds so efficiently.
With a fully firing attack, it follows that Lawrie Sanchez would still be in charge and not would-be saviour Roy Hodgson.
McBride considered the point and concluded he doesn’t do “what if’s”.
He said: “There are many things that could have happened that could have put us in a better position.
“I think we had a system of playing and were on our way to doing things right.
“But then we were unable to put forward our game plan and improve as a team. It was definitely not just to do with an injury to anybody.”
Those close to McBride, a born leader pivotal to the United States’ last three World Cup campaigns, would not be surprised by his modesty.
Yet Fulham fans know the real value of their club captain.
When he was carried off against Middlesbrough — the thigh muscles keeping his left kneecap in place after it ruptured at the very moment McBride prodded the ball into the net — they rose to salute their fallen hero.
And when Hodgson called him from his warm-up to make a comeback as a substitute against Aston Villa this month, the crowd chanted his name.
Now the 35-year-old will go up against United looking for his first goal since his horrific injury.
Recalling that injury moment in August, McBride said: “It was pretty crazy. As I kicked to score my quad tendon went, my kneecap went down and I knew right away I was messed up.
“I didn’t see the ball go in. The fans had gone crazy so I knew it was in, but I wasn’t in the most comfortable state.”
McBride rates it as his toughest injury to recover from, which says something considering his hospital records detail shattered cheekbones, a broken eye socket and potentially disastrous blood clotting.
Perhaps the extra suffering was borne out of the frustration of having to watch from a seat at Craven Cottage while his team, desperate for somebody to score, nose-dived down the Premier League table.
McBride said: “There are plenty of times when teams play poorly and still win. That didn’t happen for us. Things didn’t seem to go our way.
“Then we stopped putting ourselves in a position to finish off games. But we’ve refocused with Roy here.
“He’s brought in new players who are very good and now it’s about us getting things right and getting out of the position we’re in.”
With Hodgson having made transfer window signings in the shape of McBride’s fellow American Eddie Johnson, former Liverpool star Jari Litmanen, of Finland, and Norway international Erik Nevland, there is competition for places in Fulham’s attack.
Whoever goes up against United at Craven Cottage, McBride acknowledged they must be more clinical in front of goal.
In their last five League games, Hodgson’s side have netted just twice but McBride, who has scored in two of his last three appearances against United, insisted: “We’ve got to change our luck and we can only do that by scoring some goals.
“It’s a big game on Saturday and one that we’ve got to win. But as soon as we start taking our chances, things will change for us.”