There’s a bit of a feelgood factor around Fulham Football Club following the news that João Palhinha and Harrison Reed have signed new contracts. I nearly crashed my car after getting the alert through from the Fulham app on Thursday night and, once I’d sworn in a manner more in keeping with this site’s editor, it proved to be a very pleasant surprise indeed. The pair were absolutely pivotal in last season’s undoubted success – and even a few more months of that engine room axis will make a massive difference to Fulham’s fortunes.
Even Marco Silva sounded upbeat as he previewed the visit of Luton at Motspur Park yesterday, which makes a refreshing change for the head coach’s savaging of the club’s methods of recruitment during the summer. As Dan and Oscar intimated on The Green Pole in the immediate aftermath of that double contract extension, it would be nice to see the Portuguese head coach sign on for the long-term at Craven Cottage but I suppose that would be the real test of whether his apparent delight with Fulham’s transfer dealings was a peerless piece of PR or genuine happiness.
The return of Cauley Woodrow and Elijah Adebayo, who have both been excellent for Luton since their Fulham careers came to an end, to Craven Cottage coincides with our first opportunity to pay tribute to Mohamed Al-Fayed at the club’s historic home. The former Fulham chairman was certainly a colourful character and I was as angry as anyone when the Guardian revealed that the eccentric Egyptian who everyone had warned us about had put together a secret deal to sell the Cottage to himself. But the important part of the story is that he reversed course to take Fulham home – and the song that demanded that will I’m sure be rapturously sung before kick off alongside the one that laughs at Queens Park Rangers whilst reminding us how much he craved a British passport.
Al-Fayed might have been a cheeky chappy – and briefly landed us with that awful Michael Jackson statue – but he knew how to run a business and brought the sort of success I could only dream about whilst watching the likes of Mark Kelly and Mark Cooper demonstrate how not to be a midfielder admist the annual worries about our beloved club going to the wall. It was easy to mock when he breezily proclaimed that he was going to take Fulham to the top flight within five years (the Whites did it a year ahead of schedule) or that we’d become ‘the Manchester United of the South’ (Sir Alex Ferguson did take Louis Saha, Edwin van der Sar and Chris Smalling off our hands during thirteen years in the Premier League remember), but Mo proved a man of his word. I hope he gets a fitting send off this afternoon.
Here’s our stat-attack ahead of this afternoon’s game:
- This is the first top-flight meeting between Fulham and Luton Town since 1959/60. The Hatters hammered us 4-1 in January 1960 despite Jimmy Hill giving the Whites a fifth-minute lead at Kenilworth Road. Luton’s goals came courtesy of Allan Brown, Billy Bingham, Gordon Turner and Bob Morton. Hill was stretched off seven minutes after opening the scoring and Fulham had to play with ten men in the days before substitutes.
- The Whites had won the Craven Cottage 4-2 on 12 September 1959. Graham Leggat’s first half brace was sandwiched between Bingham’s second league goal of the season before John Docherty and Hill put the Whites 4-1 ahead on the hour. Bingham reduced the Hatters’ arrears with fifteen minutes to go in front of a crowd of more than 30,000.
- Fulham are unbeaten in their last five league outings against the Hatters – with the famous 7-0 win in May 2022 clinching the Championship title for Marco Silva’s side.
- Luton did draw a thrilling FA Cup third round tie at the Cottage in 1999 – courtesy of a splendid late equaliser from Matthew Spring. The Hatters had surprised Paul Bracewell’s side by taking an early lead through Liam George before Geoff Horsfield and Sean Davis quickly turned the game around. Fulham won 3-0 at Kenilworth Road ten days later – courtesy of Barry Hayles’ brace and a Steve Hayward strike – before beating Wimbledon in the next round.
- The Hatters’ last league success by the banks of the Thames came in October 1998 when Phil Gray, Stuart Douglas and Steve Davis secured a 3-1 win over Ray Wilkins’ side. Alain Neilson got a late consolation for Fulham.
- This afternoon is Marco Silva’s hundredth Fulham fixture. He has won 48 (48.48%) of the previous 99, drawn twenty and lost 31.
- Fulham have only lost their first three home games twice in the top tier. They were relegated on both previous occassions that it happened previously.
- Fulham’s opponents have had 33 shots on target this season (the most in the top flight) and, despite Bernd Leno’s heroics, Marco Silva’s side have conceded ten goals this term, the second most in the division.
- The Whites have conceded sixteen goals in their last eight Premier League matches at the Cottage – failing to keep a clean sheet at home in the league since the 2-0 victory over Nottingham Forest in February.
If you are after some pre-match reading, you could:
- Read Dan’s preview of this afternoon’s game.
- Catch up with all the team news from Marco Silva’s press conference.
- Learn how Joao Palhinha’s contract extension was a while in the making.
- Hear why Tom Cairney’s happy for Fulham’s forwards to keep cracking his windscreen.
- Savour a special performance from Fulham’s under 21s who hit Brentford B for six last night.
If you’d prefer something to listen to, press play on:
- Our hundredth episode of The Green Pole podcast with Dan and Oscar
- An emergency edition of Cottage Talk, where Dan joined Russ Goldman to discuss double contract delight!
ON THIS DAY IN FULHAM HISTORY
- In 1967, Johnny Haynes scored the winner as the Whites beat Leicester City 2-1 at Filbert Street. Allan Clarke, who opened the scoring the first half, was sold to the Foxes for £150,000 in the close season following Fulham’s relegation from the First Division.
- In 1969, Steve Earle scored five goals as Fulham won 8-0 at Halifax Town. Jimmy Conway bagged a brace – one from the penalty spot – and midfielder Barry Lloyd got the other goal.
- In 1972, John Mitchell made his Fulham debut in a 1-1 Second Division draw with Huddersfield Town at Craven Cottage. A leveller from Alan Mullery secured a point for Alec Stock’s side.
- In 1987, a double from the returning Leroy Rosenior secured a superb away for Fulham at Chester City.
- In 1989 Ray Lewington’s Whites beat Swansea City 2-0 at Craven Cottage in the Third Division thanks to goals from Glen Thomas and Andy Sayer.
- In 2000, Jean Tigana’s Fulham side won their seventh successive First Divison game – beating Nottingham Forest 3-0 at the City Ground courtesy of a Louis Saha penalty and further goals by Barry Hayles and Fabrice Fernandes.
- In 2016, Fulham lost to a phantom penalty at Burton Albion despite Ollie Norwood’s first goal for the club.
DON’T FORGET TO …
- Update your FPL team in time to score maximum points in our HammyEnd league
- Get your score predictions in before kick off
- Join us in a bit of pre-match discussion.
- Check your journey to the Cottage this afternoon. Wandsworth Bridge remains closed whilst there are no District Line tube services between Earls Court and Ealing Broadway or Richmond all weekend. There is also no Picadilly Line tube service between Hyde Park Court and Northfields or Uxbridge. Replacement buses are in operation – but are already subject to overcrowding and delays.