Sensational Season Starters

Cameron Ramsey 31st August 2018
Photo: Rex Features

It’s been a slow start, statistically, for Fulham back in the Premier League, but performances have done much to allay the fears of the fanbase. Cameron Ramsey looks back at the some of the finest games with which Fulham have started league campaigns in the past.

So, we’re three weeks into the 2018-19 Premier League season and Fulham, albeit after two defeats, claimed their first three points of the campaign with a scintillating 4-2 scalping of Burnley at Craven Cottage, an open encounter where we saw exactly what our offensive outlets are made of, whilst wincing amid some rather questionable defending faux-pas, of course.

But that’s genuinely not a defining problem, however, because Slav’s dogged men dug deep and buried the Clarets with a barrage of devastating blows, particularly Jean-Micheal Seri’s thunderous pile-driver, which is undoubtedly a Goal of the Season contender, and I’m not even being bias, it simply blew Joe Hart, the net, and the awe-gripped spectators into a state of unbridled pandemonium.

Okay, we can’t stop watching it over and over for the life of us either, but what we have for you today is another one of those glossy, harping episodes where we delve back into the history books to salvage a few marvellous examples of where we’ve previously impressed in the early stages of a domestic schedule, just because it gives us all another excuse to revel in those glorious occasions with a pair of Elton John-inspired rose tinted shades at the ready, and I’m talking about the tasteless, oversized novelty bins, too.

Fulham 5-0 Norwich City – 18/8/2012

The smell of freshly cut grass and ice cold lager usually signifies the start of a football season, but a 5-0 whitewash at the Cottage in the sunshine? That’s something that doesn’t crop up too often, although Fulham’s first game of the 2012-13 schedule threw up an absolute riot down by the river.

Damian Duff sparked the rout after latching onto a sweeping missile dispatched by John Arne Riise, and with John Ruddy scrambling to make himself a problem, the nimble Irishman poked the ball into the bottom left corner. In the 41st minute, debut boy Mladen Petric nodded the Whites 2-0 up, and though Jonathan Howson appeared to have cleared by a whisker, the ball had actually crossed the line by a matter of millimetres.

After the break the dependable Croat notched his second and Fulham’s third with an expertly weighted 30-yard arrow and number four of the tie was registered by Alexander Kacaniklic, who sprung the Canaries’ deep sitting defence to roll home in font of a jubilant Hammersmith End. The ‘apology letter’ was issued by Steve Sidwell from the spot in the 87th minute and the onlooking faithful had just witnessed a ruthless drubbing, a divine date that will live long – unless you’re a wounded Norwich fan, obviously.

Fulham 4-1 Bolton Wanderers – 17/8/2002

Fulham’s second season in the top-flight would see the Whites ground share with Queens Park Rangers for two season, and the first meeting of the 2002-03 campaign saw Bolton Wanderers venture to Shepherd’s Bush, where they would be led astray by Jean Tigana’s rampant set-up and mauled like perilled lambs to the slaughter.

The Trotters did draw first blood, though, through Michael Ricketts from the penalty spot in the 4th minute, although just moments later Fulham’s enigmatic French hit-man Louis Saha would also steer ferociously pastĀ  Jussi Jaaskelainen from 12 yards, restoring parity in the tie. Two more goals would come for the Whites before the break through Sylvain Legwinski and Steve Marlet, who tallied his first of the campaign with yet another penalty after spurning a catalogue of golden opportunities.

The second 45 was more of a sparring session with both folds trying to lure one another into a vulnerable state, but Fulham’s rout was sealed in the 78th minute by Legwinski with a fizzing hammer blow, having capitalised onĀ Paul Warhurst’s butchered attempted clearance to notch himself a deserved brace.

Fulham 1-0 Newcastle United – 5/8/2016

Newcastle United’s sores after being relegated from the Premier League in the previous campaign were still smarting, and their opening Championship encounter was against Fulham at Craven Cottage under the lights, a televised confrontation that pundits had marked down as an accomplished triumph for the Magpies before kick-off.

Rallied by a raucous home following, the Whites matched Newcastle in every department on the turf and showcased their efficiency on the ball effortlessly, reducing the Toon to aimless long balls once possession had finally been retrieved. Moments before half-time, Matt ‘Smudger’ Smith sprang highest and glanced Fulham into the lead following Tom Cairney’s arcing corner, a justified reward for the Cottagers’ proficient patience and composure.

The remainder of the tie was evenly poised and both squads had their fair share of chances to punish. Penalty shouts and close shaves occurred, but what’s most memorable about the second 45 was Denis Odoi’s ingenious pirouette on the parameter of the park, a resourceful flick from his back which had his marker, Daryl Janmaat, hailing a cab whilst ordering a hot-dog in dazzled bewilderment.

Tottenham Hotspur 0-3 Fulham – 30/8/2003

Having lost 3-1 at Goodison Park against Everton in their second fixture, Fulham’s third of the 2003-04 season would also be away from home at White Hart Lane, where Tottenham Hotspur would be eagerly waiting to presumably whip the Whites mercilessly, although the Cottagers had a healthy dose of redemption to dish out in north-London on that faithful day.

In front of a full house, Spurs were on course for a second victory of the season after downing Leeds United on the opening day and drawing against Liverpool the following week, and though Glen Hoddle’s men probed, it was Fulham’s Barry Hayles that found the net first with a left-footed drive after evading virtually every onrushing Tottenham defender in his path.

A goal to the good the interval, Chris Coleman would have braced himself for a spirited reply from the hosts, but Fulham caught their opponents with a swift combination of devastating strikes within the space of 4 minutes, with Hayles nabbing his second in the 67th minute and Luis Boa Morte diverting an incisive Steed Malbranque cross in the 71st, an assailable 3-0 cushion which was all too much for the Lilywhites to overturn in the sparse time that remained.

Fulham 1-0 Arsenal – 23/8/2008

It may not have been a turbulent goal fest by any means, but Fulham’s inaugural home encounter of the 2008-09 welcomed Arsenal to the Cottage after a discouraging 2-1 defeat at the hands of newly promoted side Hull City at the KCOM Stadium, and if the Whites were to answer their critics, they’d have to floor and resist Arsene Wenger’s calculative Gunners.

The first half was played at an exceedingly frantic pace and the north-Londoners simply couldn’t penetrate Fulham’s resolute defensive quarters, and whilst the Cottagers also initially failed to breach Arsenal’s rearguard, Brede Hangeland battered a towering header, as per a sumptuous Jimmy Bullard corner, goal bound in the 21st minute, the Norwegian’s first for the club and thankfully the game’s only goal.

Arsenal struggled to suppress Fulham’s desire to press throughout proceedings and Wenger’s contingent were muzzled further thanks to the Whites’ studied spells in possession, measured phases that ultimately subdued the north-Londoners’ hunger to hound and hustle, and though ‘Le Prof’s’ feverish side markedly pestered Roy Hodgson’s in the latter stages, the riversiders heroically clung on to the 3 points in what was one of the more intense victories of the club’s first spell in the Premier League.

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