We’ve known for a while – especially if you’re female – that social media can be a cesspit. None of the platforms that initially bought us closer to our friends and family and then introduced us to people we’ve never met are immune from amplifying abuse and arguments. Twitter’s takeover by one of the worst techbros in Elon Musk only seems to have increased the toxicity of that medium, although the network’s redeeming feature (at least in my eyes) is allowing someone like myself, who lives hundreds of miles from Craven Cottage, to tap into a fanatical Fulham community.

Living up in the north east, Sunday’s game against Newcastle is a home game – and I was perhaps the only Fulham fan gutted that the FA Cup tie against Sunderland was in SW6 rather than closer to my neck of the woods. Hull City was a simple enough journey for me to join the Fulham following (much less problematic on a train strike day for myself than the London-based contingent) and it was a great away day. The Whites won a Cup tie that would probably have lost under the likes of Jol, Meulensteen, Magath and Parker, with Marco Silva shrewdly shuffling his squad to see off the tenacious Tigers. Fulham were under pressure for much of the ninety minutes and were indebted to Marek Rodak for several smart saves and then Dan James for killing off the contest with a blistering breakaway in added time.

And that’s where the social media element of this post comes in. I was saddened by the reaction to James’ admittedly below-par performance as a substitute against Southampton, because I’m very much of the view that players pulling on the white shirt deserve our support. The Welsh winger, rather like his compatriot Harry Wilson before he moved to Craven Cottage, is a talent in need of a permanent home to flourish again – as he did strikingly at Swansea. Anyone who has seen how influential James has been at international level over the past few years would recognise his value – and his brief Fulham career has been stop-start, owing to injuries and the competition for places on the wings all of a sudden.

A contributor to a popular Fulham fans’ website rated James’ contribution at the MKM Stadium as worth a mark of 2.5/10. The site in question has clarified subsequently that such clickbait was cruel – which is correct, but I do think a broader assessment of James’ value to Marco Silva and the first team in general is required. His Fulham career has totalled only 431 minutes at present. That is such a small sample size upon which to make a judgement on whether he is worth a future at Fulham or not. Many comments, including some here, have suggested that the best move would be for the club to terminate his loan in order to free up a precious domestic loan spot. That would be ridiculous in my view when James has scored against Manchester United and Hull, possesses lightning pace, and – at the very least – represents a real asset as a substitute to trouble tiring full backs.

Fulham’s recent history is also full of footballers who got off to slow starts but grew into club legends. Chris Baird is an obvious example. Zoltan Gera’s first season was so underwhelming that some Fulham fans questioned whether Roy Hodgson was senile and had forgotten to substitute him. We know how wrong-headed those opinions sound in retrospect. Bobby Zamora didn’t look like he could hit a barn door in his first term by the River Thames, before turning into one of the sharpest strikers in Europe. Even Aaron Hughes and Brede Hangeland looked like fishes out of water until the Great Escape. Going further back, Chris Coleman had a shocking debut against Brentford and the Hammersmith End hammered Barry Hayles as a waste of money in his own early days.

I’m not suggesting that James will become a cult hero like the names listed above. It may even be that his Fulham career ends with a farewell in May as both parties move on. But, the personalisation of the criticism of his performances, is symptomatic of the social media era and a need for instant opinions. We only need to look at the way that Tim Ream has proved the doubters wrong for a pertinent example of how fickle football fans can be. Dan James was probably the only Fulham player who could have punished Matt Ingram for remaining in our penalty area at the end of Saturday’s game in the manner that he did. He settled a Cup tie that was very much in the balance – and keeps us dreaming of the kind of Cup run I’ve been craving for at least a few more weeks.

No player, least of all James, goes out wanting to misplace a pass or deliver a poor cross. In the pantheon of Fulham underperformers I’ve watched since the mid-1980s, James wouldn’t even be a footnote. He’s an extremely talented footballer and he deserves the full support of our entire fanbase. That would be the Fulham way to get behind a winger who’s still striving to make an impression.