The summer months are tough for tabloid hacks. They used to able to run transfer stories all year round before pesky transfer windows got in the way. Back in the Fleet Street era, they only had a few sports pages to fill with tips on who had rejected a new contract, which club was after a new striker and who had fallen out with their gaffer. That was a stiff ask on a slow news day, but when the physical papers were joined by websites, 24-hour television channels and social media, the chase for content became both a marathon and a sprint.

In the slow days of the close season, before the English transfer window officially opens and players are even back at their clubs for pre-season, the transfer tipsters due to outdo one another. These days the top Twitter accounts are household names in their own right and the terminally online fan accounts badger the likes of David Ornstein, now at the Athletic, and Lyall Thomas – not immune to mistakes – for constant updates. Chlo has already alluded to our ‘Silly Season’ column, instigated nearly twenty years ago by my co-founder Nick Bylund in an attempt to try and offer a fact-checking service for Fulham fans who were fretting over the loss of the club’s key players.

The nonsense reached a crescendo in 2005 when Luis Boa Morte seemed to linked with a move away from Craven Cottage every day. Boa Morte was already a bona fide legend in SW6 before he scored the winner against Jose Mourinho’s runaway Premier League leaders having dropped a division to play a key part in delivering the Whites to the top flight, but his continued insistence that he wasn’t interested in joining Newcastle mattered little to the red tops. Enterprising Fulham fans launched an online petition to remind the Portuguese winger how loved he was and Boa Morte not only agreed a new deal but became Chris Coleman’s captain.

The point to this historical tale is that being right doesn’t really matter to the modern journalist. Being first with a believable new rumour is what counts. That must be the only way of describing what happened with Joao Palhinha this weekend. Every objective observer recognised what the Portuguese midfielder brought to Marco Silva’s engine room within weeks of the former Sporting schemer swapping Lisbon for London. The Cottage regulars revelled in how the newly promoted side had enticed Palhinha, a Primeira Liga winner with Europa League and Champions League pedigree, to the banks of the Thames for a scarcely believable £17m. It took the television talking heads until just before the break for the World Cup, when Gary Neville eulogised about high prince of tackling’s tenacity as Fulham more than matched Manchester United, to cotton on.

The rumours rolled in about leading English sides tracking Palhinha. Wolves were upset that they missed the boat – believing they had first dibs on all the Iberian talent thanks to Fosun’s tie-up with super agent Jorge Mendes. Jurgen Klopp was hankering after a Portuguese trio in the event that Liverpool, who had felt the fell force of Palhinha’s power on the opening weekend, couldn’t lure Jude Bellingham from Borussia Dortmund. And, of course, Manchester United were interested after Neville had insisted Palhinha was the best midfielder on the field even after Alejandro Garnacho’s injury-time winter winner at the Cottage.

Fulham have always had to sell some of their brightest talents in order to make ends meet once Mohamed Al Fayed deduced that he wasn’t going to turn his sleeping giant by the river into the Manchester United of the South. Chris Coleman meant it when he declared that Louis Saha would leave for Old Trafford ‘over my dead body,’ but the Frenchman eventually completed a big-money move to the Theatre of Dreams having been tapped up by the Red Devils. Edwin van der Sar followed the French forward – crucially after signing a new contract after five years at Fulham – whilst Sean Davis, Boa Morte, Steed Malbranque, Mousa Dembele, Clint Dempsey, Patrick Roberts, Harvey Elliott and Fabio Carvalho all left for pastures new with varying degrees of success.

But the picture has changed somewhat with how well Marco Silva’s managed to do on their return to the top flight last term. Fulham punched well above their weight to finish in the top half and, having learned their lessons from the spending splurge of 2018 that has now dropped off the FFP balance sheet, are in a strong position when it comes to keeping their key players. In Palhinha’s case, the dominant defensive midfielder has another four years to run on his Craven Cottage contract – with Fulham holding an option to extend it by a further twelve months should they wish to.

In six months of excited chatter about where Palhinha might play next – which conveniently ignored the player’s delight at being reunited with Silva, who guided him through the Sporting youth ranks when he was in charge at the Estádio José Alvalade – there was no discussion of a minimum fee release clause until TalkSPORT invented one yesterday. The accuracy of their reporting was also undermined by the fact that they failed to spell Palhinha’s name correctly. It is quite common for new signings to insist on relegation release clauses when joining sides who, like Fulham, have a history of going down, but the social media inspired storm that followed the radio station’s insistence that sources had disclosed that a clause would allow West Ham to sign their top target was a revelation to Fulham’s hierarchy and the player’s representatives.

Talksport had already played their part as an extension of West Ham’s communications channels by allowing David Sullivan to try and start a bidding war for Declan Rice in the aftermath of the Hammers’ Europa Conference League triumph in Prague last week. It appears that Arsenal are the only serious takers for the Irish international turned England midfielder par excellence as he plots his next month away from the London Stadium. Jacob Steinberg, a West Ham fan at the Guardian, claimed the board would back David Moyes to fund a £50m purchase of Palhinha and the Daily Mail breezily reported that the Irons were confident of concluding a quick deal for the Premier League’s leading tackler.

Where had all this conviction come from all of a sudden? Out of the clear blue sky. Palhinha had definitively told Eleven Sports in an interview in Portuguese last week that he was very happy at Craven Cottage and wanted to continue progressing with Fulham. Perhaps the media just felt Fulham would fall into line when West Ham came calling? If so, the football journalism world – dominated by Hammers’ fans – had clearly forgotten that Fulham finished comfortably above Moyes’ men last term or they just didn’t care.

It took a tweet from Fulham’s vice chairman – and director of football – Tony Khan last night to expose the fiction behind Talksport’s ‘sources’, although their chief football correspondent Alex Crook appeared on the network afterwards trying to tell us that he had better information that the son of the Whites’ owner. This tale is typical of the modern football world: a barely credible rumour that get thousands of retweets even after it has been shown to demonstrably untrue.

What do we do in this situation? Ideally, I’d be enjoying the sunshine this weekend rather than fretting over whether Palhinha will be pulling on a white shirt come August, but I vowed to the fanatical Fulham fan Danny Fullbrook that I’d continue this website after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer if only to do the job he relished: calling out ill-informed nonsense from people who didn’t care about London’s oldest professional football club. It’s a tiring job, but someone has to do it.