New season, new hopes, old problems.The chairman tells us in the programme for the first time in three years he is enjoying quiet confidence. I wish I could share this. The cornerstone of a successful side is not always the glamourous striker but the the two central defenders who put in the hard yards knowing one error of concentration or positioning can be fatal (there were two yesterday). Over the years at Fulham we have had some very good ones: Tony Gale and Roger Brown: Chris Coleman and Kit Symons or Andy Melville. Best of all, Brede Hangeland and Aaron Hughes. Worst of all, Bodurov and Hutchinson and the hapless pair gave away 2 goals to present an unlikely victory to Brighton.
The chairman assures us we have a squad that has “chemistry, a blend of experience and potential.” I would use other words to describe a defence that conceded 83 goals last season, two yesterday to the one of the least scoring sides in the division. There is no doubting the endeavour and ambition of the board, it’s the decisions that we find baffling. How can it be that four of the five that featured in the defence last season were first choices yesterday? By the end, Brighton looked happy to take the draw. They had the best of the first half, we the second with big Matt Smith failing to take 3 good chances that came his way. In the first half our mono-directional midfield of Cairney, O’Hara, Pringle and Christensen could not unlock the Brighton team that were happy to fall away and deny space. In the second half O’Hara picked the ball off the back four and started to hit high diagonal balls down the right that troubled Brighton. When Kit substituted Smith for Dembele it was Brighton that must have been relieved. McCormack was the less effective forward but it’s always hard to sub someone who cost £11m unless you are Jose Mourinho. We all settled for a predictable draw when Hutchinson went charging in clumsily. Maybe it was outside the box but a good defender shows the forward the line. Good defending and Scottish defending are not usually the same bedfellows.
I was more assured by a friend of 50 years Fulham standing, a good judge, who said that if we do sign two defenders we would make the play-offs. However it takes time for such a pairing to meld together. I recall how uncertain Roger Brown was initially. Nor did Craven Cottage seem the “difficult, if not impossible place” to visit to which the Chairman is committed. It looked to me like the same old same old Craven Cottage where we lost 9 games at home, conceding 38 times, and welcomed Bournemouth, Watford and Derby so warmly with 15 goals.