How are we feeling, Fulham fans? Ahead of the first Cardiff play-off I wrote that I was, “….uncharacteristically chilled…” about the whole thing, but that has very much went out the window one week on. Not only is tomorrow night a one game shoot-out for a place in the Premier League, it’s a West London derby. It’s much more than a derby game, and much more than a play-off final. It’s hard to express just how much this game will means to both sets of fans. It’s cruel that it has to be held behind closed doors. I honestly believe that it would be one of the biggest play-off games in history given the just 6-odd miles between the two clubs and the fact that we both finished level on points in the league. Having 85,000 people at Wembley for that would have been absolutely spinetingling.
I’ve watched each of the play-off finals at an empty Wembley this year so far and they are bizarre. The FA Cup final was also strange. No fans in Wembley way, no noise, no atmosphere. Instead we will have to rely on our boys to do the business without our backing.
As completely illogical as this may sound, I’m much more confident knowing that we will be playing in white tomorrow evening. The thought of us playing in blue brought back bad memories of our Europa League final against Atletico Madrid 10 years ago. I’ve never liked us playing in navy blue. It’s just so ‘un-Fulham’. Instead, it’s Brentford who will be playing in blue with a commemorative shirt to mark the end of their time at Griffin Park. In truth, what kit a team wears really doesn’t matter, but I still feel a bit better about playing in white regardless.
On the pitch it’s eleven v eleven and nothing else. Our boys v theirs. Scott Parker v Thomas Frank. All the distractions come to an end tomorrow evening at 1945hrs when the referee’s whistle blows, and then all we can do is stand back and hope for the best. I hate not being able to be at Wembley and because of the increased restrictions in Greater Manchester where I’m based, I’ll have to make do with watching the game at home, most likely from behind the sofa. While I’m nervous, I have full faith in the team that we have. We have the players who can devastate teams on their day, and an awful lot of this squad was with us when we played against Aston Villa at Wembley in 2018. Hopefully our experience will count for something. I’d actually argue that our squad, at full strength, is stronger than it was last time. While we are weaker in the full back positions, everywhere else is either the same or an upgrade, particularly in the midfield area.
There is absolutely no doubt that Brentford have a strong squad. They came very close to taking that second automatic spot off West Brom, but that end of season bottle ended their hopes. Hopefully this will play to our advantage, but they looked good against Swansea. We have to be on top of our game if we are to beat this team, but I believe that we will be. Parker announced today that we have a fully fit squad to choose from, which is hardly believable considering the worries around Mitro and the way Kebano was strapped up after the game on Thursday night. But if they are all fit, then what a boost to us. Kebano is on the form of his life, Harrison Reed has been exceptional since lockdown, Josh Onomah genuinely gets better every game and Marek Rodak continues to be a beast between the posts. We can absolutely do this.