I always consider the day that the fixtures are released is the first day of the new season. Getting to see who we face first, where we will be on boxing day, when we face our local rivals and getting to start planning those all important away days is all part of being a football fan. Looking at the fixtures for the first time is when the excitement starts to build for me.
The season kicks off with a single game on Friday, 2nd August, with the rest of the fixtures spread over the Saturday, Sunday and Monday of that weekend. The last time we played in the opening fixture of a league was when we stunned Newcastle United at Craven Cottage thanks to Matt Smith’s header and THAT piece of skill from Denis Odoi. Scenes.
After the way we limped our way to relegation last season, Fulham need a strong start to the new campaign so I’m hoping to avoid any of the new promoted sides, as they’ll be massively pumped up, or any of the sides who failed to make it through the play-offs last season. I don’t have a preference over being at home or away on day one, but hopefully we will be at home for the final game.
So what do we have to look forward to next season? What grounds that we haven’t been to in a while will we be returning to?
Luton – This is the one that a lot of Championship fans have on their list of away days. Fulham haven’t faced Luton in the league since 1999 when we beat them 4-0 in the old Division Two. Luton’s 10,356 Kenilworth Road will host Championship football for the first time in 12 years and Fulham fans will have to travel just the 46miles or so outside London to reach it.
Stoke City – Many of Fulham fans have bad memories of Stoke, given that it was a defeat there that sealed our relegation in back in 2014. With them getting relegated in our recent promotion year, it has been five seasons since we have faced them in the league. We haven’t beaten Stoke away from home since Chris Baird’s spectacular double back in 2010, so hopefully we can right that wrong next season when we visit the Bet365 Stadium.
Charlton Athletic – We will be facing Charlton for the first time since the 2015/16 season. It will see the return of the Fulham-Charlton boat trip when we visit them at The Valley, a stadium where we haven’t lost since 2004 when we faced them in the Premier League. The Addicts have already had a been of a turbulent summer with Lee Bowyer’s dramatic U-turn on his contract extension seeing him stay as boss just one day after the club announced that he would be leaving.
London Derbies – We will be visiting four other London teams next season, including the already mentioned Charlton Athletic. We will be back at QPR and Brentford for some big West London derbies, while we face a return to the Den to face Millwall. In our last Championship campaign we didn’t lose a game to any of those three, although we could only draw to both QPR and Brentford at home in a couple of very feisty games. It will be good to have those games back for a season at least.
Furthest Away day – Is it really a football season if you don’t face a trip the whole way to the North East. This time it’s a visit to the Riverside to face Middlesbrough. We normally don’t do very well up their but last time was that crazy game when Olly Norwood scored a last minute penalty to win after we had been battered all game! Good memories.
There is a lot more to look forward to, but hopefully this short preview will be enough to wet the appetite for now. The fixtures will be released on Thursday morning at 9am on the Fulham website.