There were plenty of plaudits passed around in the wake of Fulham’s come-from-behind victory at Nottingham Forest on Friday. The Times’ Henry Winter concluded with the thought that should Marco Silva’s side continue playing like this then the idea of another European tour – something the travelling fans were signing about at full time – isn’t too fanciful. The Fulham head coach insisted nobody will be celebrating anything just yet, but a first away win, and especially the way the Whites achieved it, is worth shouting about.
Winter also identified Tim Ream and Willian for praise. Both have been much maligned in the past, Ream for being out of his depth at this level, and Willian for a rather forgettable spell at Arsenal. There were plenty of worries about the American’s ability to deal with Brennan Johnson and co from left back when the team news flashed through at the City Ground, but the evening concluded with the St. Louis-native playing keep ball in the corner. It seems Gregg Berhalter hasn’t been paying close attention, because even after injury withdrawals over the weekend, Ream has not been called up to the USA national squad. That’s very harsh on an experienced servant who is having an exceptional season – but, selfishly, it is very good news for Fulham.
Willian’s full debut was electric. I was frustrated in the first half because he was one of a number of players doing things seemingly at half pace. But he showed when running at Steve Cook that he still has enough gas to trouble defenders in a foot race – how the former Bournemouth centre back stayed on the field after cynically chopping him down remains a mystery, by the way. Plenty of people mocked the idea of the 34 year-old turning up in London again for a last hurrah after cancelling his Corinthians contract. One of those was the Athletic’s Nick Miller, who found his deadline day arrival, extremely funny. No word from the Forest correspondent since the winger set up the equaliser and ran compatriot Renan Lodi ragged in the second half.
Even though I focused on Harrison Reed’s impact – and his long-awaited goal – in the aftermath of our glorious win, João Palhina was the player the press highlighted for further praise. Rightly so, of course – although regular Fulham watchers know that the Portuguese midfielder is something special. He already has a brilliant bond with the fans, something that was illustrated by how he vaulted the advertising hoardings to join our celebrations following that superb strike from outside the box. The only downside of all that passion is that he will be missing for our date with Newcastle next month after picking up a fifth caution, but I suspect the photograph will become iconic. It has already made it onto a classic Cult Zeros t-shirt, after all.
The i’s Daniel Storey – who writes a terrific Premier League newsletter called the Score, that is worth your pennies – concentrated on how quickly Palhinha has adjusted to life in England. He is the destroyer that Fulham have sorely lacked in their last few top flight seasons. Storey identified that, in addition to being a goal threat in the final third, Palhinha leads the league in tackles won and pressures. If it seems remarkable that this ‘midfield monster,’ as Storey describes him, is in a Fulham shirt – then consider that he cost as much as Nottingham Forest paid for Neco Williams. It isn’t often that we’ve praised the Fulham hierarchy for shrewd Premier League spending in recent years, but the man with the ‘octopus legs’ (credit to our own Frankie Taylor on the Green Pole) has to be one of the signings of the summer.