We finally know that we won’t have to play Hull City next year, a relief to many Fulham fans with our games against them generally turning into nightmares. But what does that mean for the Championship next season?
Well, as we have found out over the last two years, this league is incredibly tough and there are no easy games. Momentum is the key finishing in the play-offs and consistency is the vital ingredient needed to get out of this league. You only have to look at the surprise packages in recent years like Bournemouth and Brighton to realise that – They arguably had no stand out stars, but they played as a team and everyone worked hard for each other.
With the likes of Rafa Benitez staying at Newcastle, Di Matteo potentially joining Villa & Norwich City returning to the Championship, our chances for automatic promotion have only been made slimmer. I’m not saying it’s impossible for us to have a wonderful season, but I do strongly feel that our business will have to be done as early as possible to maximise our pre-season training time to hit the ground running come day one of the season.
Apart from the recently relegated side there are still many top teams in this division that will be competing for the same promotion spots as our beloved Fulham. There is no doubting the ability that teams like Derby County & Sheffield Wednesday possess, but there are teams like Ipswich, Brighton, Birmingham and Cardiff that are all capable of cementing themselves in the play-off zone next season. Ipswich are a well-oiled machine under Mick McCarthy and while they may not have the biggest budget in the league, McCarthy continues to get the very best out of his side, making them a tough outfit for anyone to face. Nigel Pearson’s Derby will be a guaranteed top 6 side next season, they recruited very strongly once again in January and with their financial backing another impressive summer will only add to their exciting squad. Then teams like Birmingham, Cardiff and Brighton will be competing for those top six places again after they continue to get better, especially Brighton and Birmingham under Hughton & Rowett respectively.
While there will be the favourites challenging for those promotion spaces, there are still many ‘sleeping giants’ in this league, and that’s the category I’d arguably put ourselves in. Ever since Fulham joined the Championship there has been great hope around them due to the financial backing of Shahid Khan, and with another summer overhaul of the squad planned, Fulham will be another surprise package – Nerve wracking for the fans, because we have no idea how it will pan out compared to some teams who have kept the same spine for 2-3 seasons and gradually built it up. There are also teams like Leeds United, QPR, Nottingham Forest & Blackburn that on their day can beat anyone in this league and will have the same aspirations as Fulham.
So when you really break down who is in this division for next season, every fixture Fulham face will be unpredictable and I guess that’s the beauty of this division, it truly is filled with surprises but with more top quality sides entering the league, Fulham must ensure that this summer’s recruitment is well researched and thought through, because another year fighting relegation isn’t feasible for the club.
But, next season is a long way away yet and we can only really gain an insight into the Fulham squad a week or two before the first kick-off, due to a new squad being built. In all honesty, I’d love to see the club finish top 10 under Slavisa Jokanovic next season.
While some fans may feel that is underachieving, it would be a huge improvement on the clubs position from the last two years. Building some foundation and squad harmony next season but missing out on promotion wouldn’t be the worst outcome. The fans would be able to see a core of the side being built and the philosophies of Jokanovic and his team would have been well drilled for the following season. That momentum and consistency that was earlier mentioned would be instilled in the team for the following season should they miss out on a promotion campaign next year.
There are still plenty of what if’s and maybes to come this summer, with the mass amount of players expected to enter and leave the club. What’s certain is that the board and management are together in making the future brighter for Fulham. Keep your hopes up and support them in what they do.
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