The Guardian’s David Hynter expands on the conventional wisdom that European football could mean trouble for Fulham. It’s an argument that the more fearful Fulham fans have been rehearsing for while. You can’t fault the logic, but I’d like to think that Roy Hodgson, Alistair Mackintosh and others at the club would have a bit more ambition.
I was extremely frustrated when we failed to build on our last European excursion and effectively went backwards when you consider the squad that Chris Coleman inherited and the one he left behind for Lawrie Sanchez. You would hope that Hodgson – and the inner circle that advise Mohamed Al-Fayed – would use this summer, with the possible carrot of a place in the ridiculously bloated Europa League to dangle in front of potential signings, to ensure that we won’t have to face another relegation battle in the near future.
European football will certainly act as a catalyst to strengthening the squad. It would increase Fulham’s pulling power – previously we’ve always been perceived as one of the capital’s poor relations – and attract the kind of players who would be able to face big European nights with no trepidation. It goes without saying that it would be a fitting reward for our fans, who have had little to cheer in major competitions since the ’75 Cup final, and extend the feelgood factor that has swirled around the Cottage this season.
The league should, of course, remain Hodgson’s priority. It is our bread and butter after all. But, to extend the food metaphor, the Europa League could be the rich gateaux that’s waiting for desert. The competition would be ideal to test some of Hodgson’s signings who have flourished this season at a higher level. Pantsil is quoted in the Guardian article as relishing the opportunity of European football, but we’d also see just how strong Dickson Etuhu really is in midfield.
There is always the chance to blood a few youngsters too, if necessary. The group games – particularly the latter ones when the likelihood of our participation in the knockout stages would be clear – might represent the right time to try the likes of Wayne Brown, Robert Milsom and Chris Smalling, for example. I’d be disappointed, though, if we did an Aston Villa or a Tottenham and decided that we’d rather not progress in the competition.
Who knows if the opportunity would ever come again? Europe, provided we get there of course (and this article shouldn’t be interpreted as your correspondent counting his chickens), should be seen as the chance to build on our remarkable success this season. Otherwise, it would just be a waste of time.