Five years ago I made my first and only trip to Fulham FC. Despite enjoying a wonderful day out on a glorious summer’s afternoon, I don’t think I will return any time in the near future.
Craven Cottage itself is a delight. There’s the charming (non-eponymous) cottage in one corner and a tree in another. It occupies a delightful position on the bank of the Thames, backing onto the even more serene Bishops Park. When I visited, Mohammed Al-Fayed’s iconic statue of Michael Jackson still stood resplendent in the summer sun.
As a stadium it doesn’t quite seem as though it should belong in London, being more a quaint tableau of a quintessential English village than a sporting arena in the middle of one of the world’s busiest cities. It certainly doesn’t create the impression that it should be a football ground. Were Morris dancers to prance around handing out sandwiches and mini Battenburg cakes, bells on shins jangling, it would somehow feel more appropriate than 22 men kicking each others lower legs in an attempt to guide an inflated pig’s bladder between two posts.
No, the setting is not why I won’t be going back for a while.
The Craven Cottage Curse
The problem with Craven Cottage is that Norwich City never, ever win there. On my attendance, they lost 5-0. Seven years previously they conceded six on a day when we needed to win to avoid relegation. Even last season the boys in yellow managed to throw away a two-goal half time lead to draw 2-2. In all, the Canaries haven’t won in southwest London since 1986.
So despite the optimism created by a encouraging pre-season, the promise of three points was not particularly promising. Certainly not enough to prompt a return visit by yours truly.
What transpired was actually quite good though.
A double booking (not by me) meant I watched the match at my girlfriend’s (the one who did do the double booking) parent’s (the reason for the double booking) house. I say watched, but even that turned out to be listened, as the very real threat of installing malware on my potential mother-in-law’s computer quashed any chances of watching a dodgy stream.
So Chris Goreham and the ever-so-lovely Simon Lappin talked me through a highly entertaining game, while my potential father-in-law snoozed on the couch opposite. The girls of the family did whatever it is that girls do in another part of the house, wisely choosing to leave me to my radio device.
But back to the match analysis…
Sure the wing backs didn’t seem overly effective – the major weakness of a back five being it’s susceptibility to being pushed back by adventurous opposition full backs, and we still conceded the obligatory sloppy goal.
But, unlike last season, we always seemed likely to get the equaliser. Had it gone on 10 minutes longer, we would probably have gone on to get the winner. A testament to Farke’s and Head of Sports Science, Chris Domogalla’s hard training methods if ever there was one.
Last season’s team wasn’t all bad
Olivera’s goal itself was a thing of beauty, created by the little Irish magician, Wesley Hoolahan. While the Portuguese’s shirtless celebration was perhaps a little unsavoury – kudos to Daniel Farke for his reaction – the pair’s combination highlighted that the remaining members of last season’s squad are as important as the new recruits. We can’t afford to lose too many more of them. Especially our number 9.
Who knows what this means for the future of Norwich City this season. They didn’t end the Craven Cottage hoodoo, but they did take a point from one of the Championship’s most fancied teams.
I suspect few teams will take many points off Slaviša Jokanović’s side at home. And I don’t believe Daniel Farke’s will face many harder challenges. With that in mind, could this be a Premier League fixture next year?
If it is, I wouldn’t put it past us to finally end the Craven Cottage Curse.
And if we did that I may try a bit harder to avoid a double-booking at my potential parents-in-law’s house the next time the two side’s meet at SW6.