With a youth system that has produced less top class talent than The Voice in recent years and a multi-millionaire owner who looks like Scrooge McDuck in comparison to the new breed of Premier League “angel” investors, reasons for excitement regarding the 2013/14 season are thin on the ground at Craven Cottage.
Fulham’s under-18s team have given fans cause to believe that the long term future could be bright after winning the under-18 Premier League, but few of the senior playing staff have really whet the fans’ appetite for next term with their performances in the last campaign.
The venerable Dimitar Berbatov’s thrilling cameos – whilst compelling – are hardly the stuff that dreams of a better future were built on, whilst formerly-monolithic centre-half Brede Hangeland looked to have lost a modicum of his elan and Bryan Ruiz again flattered to decieve.
However the return from injury of Iranian-German winger Ashkan Dejagah will offer hope of a more creative and organised feel to Fulham’s right flank during the next campaign.
Dejagah took some time get up to speed after arriving from Wolfsburg in the summer, having been dealing with an injury when he arrived in south west London.
There was a sense that he was improving with every game in a white shirt and his partnership with ex-Wolfsburg teammate Sascha Reither – illustrated by the link-up play which led to Dimitar Berbatov’s winner in Fulham’s 1-0 victory at White Hart Lane – was looking one to cherish until injury intervened to end his season.
Reither himself had rivalled Steven Sidwell as the Cottagers player of the season in 2013/14.
Many Fulham fans retrospectively trace the point where their season went awry to the 38th minute of that April Fools’ Day match against QPR and the Cottagers gained just four points from their eight subsequent games.
The Cottagers are currently tied sixth favourite for relegation next season at 6/1, with only Stoke, Norwich and Southampton shorter-priced alternatives amongst teams that spent last term in the top flight.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publication