Sunday 11th November 2018. A daunting task faced the Whites. A trip to Anfield. Jurgen Klopp’s title hopefuls against relegation contenders.
When the team was released at 11am, most of the travelling Fulham faithful were baffled by the line-up. One name stuck out on the list. Calum Chambers. Was Slaviša really playing the on loan Arsenal defender as a central midfielder? Does Slaviša really want to keep his job? Has he given up completely? The feeling of doom and gloom around the concourse at Anfield was all-consuming. ‘We’re going to lose, 100%, mate’. Of course, Fulham did lose as it turned out. But it could have been very different.
We all knew what happened that day, but Chambers starred in his new role. He provided some ballast in front of a shaky defence, offering grit, determination and he definitely wasn’t afraid to get stuck in. It was a masterclass in a ball-winning role that showed the Fulham fans something they hadn’t seen before during Chambers’ unconvincing start to his loan spell at Craven Chambers. The one-time England international hadn’t pulled up any trees at centre back and was utterly dreadful when tried at right back in the desperate defeat to Cardiff.
Having arrived amidst much fanfare as Fulham bought in a host of players towards the end of the summer transfer window, Chambers couldn’t establish himself at his new club. He was rejuvenated in a new role, however, although the battling performance at Anfield wasn’t enough to save Slavisa Jokanovic’s job. Replacing the Serb was a man who knew all about building from the back: a far more defensive coach in Claudio Ranieri. Chambers would have been forgiven for wondering whether he would have to prove himself all over again.
As it turned out, Chambers have been one of the mainstays of Ranieri’s side, retaining his defensive midfield role even after the Italian switched to a five-man defence. He has been unfortunate not to open his goalscoring account for the Whites, forcing a splendid save out of Kasper Schmeichel and going close with a number of efforts in the SW6 derby at Chelsea. It is workmanlike displays in front of the defence that have caught the eye – Chambers simply never stops running Nobody would have predicted that the Arsenal would become a regular in midfield, especially after Fulham decided to supplement their promotion-winning quartet with the likes of Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa and Jean-Michael Seri. Anguissa has had to play second-fiddle to Chambers, who must surely be playing some of the best football of his career.
His energy, bravery and a desire to work his socks off for the cause have quickly won over the Fulham faithful. Chambers covered almost every blade of grass in an outstanding display against Tottenham last weekend, where the Whites deserved more than that gut-wrenching last-gasp defeat. In the unlikely event that the Whites manage to pull off another great escape, then Chambers would surely have to be one of the Khans’ first signings. Even if Ranieri’s side drop through the relegation trap door, Chambers’ attitude and determination won’t be forgotten. His tireless running has shown every player who finds themselves on the sidelines how to get back into the action – there’s no substitute for hard work.