Fulham - Is European Football A Poisoned Chalice?
Now that we are only one point from a place into the "Europa League" (formerly the UEFA Cup), talk of Fulham playing in Europe next season seems a lot more realistic.
West Ham, who sit seventh with 44 points, have to play Aston Villa, Liverpool, Chelsea and Everton in the remaining six games of the season whereas we play Aston Villa and Everton both at home and then Chelsea. Fulham sit eighth with 43 points. We have already taken points off Chelsea and Aston Villa this season and a result at home against Everton is certainly on the cards. Our other games are Middlesborough away (an opportunity for an away win?), Stoke at home (which should be three points) and Newcastle away (another possible away win?). With our run in, especially in comparison to West Ham`s, we stand a good chance in grabbing seventh place and in doing so bagging ourselves a European spot for next season.
This is all very well and good. However, what will European football bring the club? Some have said that European football could sink us as our squad would become over-stretched and our league performances would falter. An example of this was Ipswich`s unfortunately brief spell in the top flight not so long ago when, having finished fifth in their first season, they were relegated in their next, arguably due to the added burden of European football. The depth of our squad has not been tested much this season due to the exceptional fitness of our first eleven and our luck with injuries. However, the addition of European football would surely stretch us and unless we played a second team every game in Europe, could we not befall the same fate as Ipswich did?
On the contrary, European football could help us in building a stronger and deeper squad that would enable us to cement our position in the top flight more firmly. Perhaps we would be able to attract more "exotic" talent to our club (provided we did not completely fail) and possibly even get our hands on some silverware.
European football or not, our season has been a huge success. We are easily the most improved team in the league and in my opinion, there is no reason why Roy Hodgson should not be nominated for manager of the season. If we do qualify for European football, we will have an opportunity to shine. If we don`t, then we will have an excellent platform to launch an even stronger league campaign next year and we can be sure of not overburdening ourselves with the extra fixtures and travel that come with European football.