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Fulham 2010-11: The calm *after* the storm?

13 August 2010
You’d expect an unfancied Prem side that’s entering a 10th straight season in the top flight would have very little drama from season to season, but the last four years have packed a lifetime of highs and lows for supporters of the Cottagers. Now, after two escapes from relegation, a shocking march into Europe and an even more stunning run to a Europa League final, this may be the season where Fulham lives up (or down) to its status in the league.

What could have been a very damaging summer has, to this point, pretty much turned neutral. Despite missing on Martin Jol, Fulham landed a very capable replacement for Roy Hodgson in Mark Hughes. They also have kept their top players in the fold, for now, and appear to be smartly adding good-value pieces like Belgian wing/striker Moussa Dembele and Algerian defender Rafik Halliche. They should improve the quality of depth on a team that Jake and I lovingly refer to as Team VORP for all of its similar-talent pieces.

In the big picture, though, this could be a relatively uneventful season at the Cottage. Without 19 extra Europa League games, Fulham should be able to more fully concentrate on finishing the full league schedule properly, but will that amount to enough for a legitimate challenge for a spot in Europe? Even if you believe Aston Villa could fall off in the aftermath of Martin O’Neill’s depature and the selling of James Milner, Fulham still would have to also pass Everton, Spurs or Liverpool to finish in the top seven. That’s asking a lot.

On the plus side, a club that has compiled 53 and 46 points the last two seasons — the latter while bagging a handful of Prem games down the stretch — should be comfortably above the relegation battle to see who will join Blackpool in the nPower Championship next season. We’ll know pretty quickly whether Fulham are poised for something this season. The first 10 games on the schedule feature five could-go-any-way away matches and four very difficult home fixtures.

Most likely, I’ll settle in for 10 months of individual moments. Maybe we’ll get a result at Eastlands (again). Maybe we’ll beat two of the historic Big Four at home (again). Maybe we’ll actually get a win in one of our final 18 away matches. If we land Craig Bellamy and have a team worthy of a more legitimate top-seven challenge, so be it, but after all the excitement of the past four years, one restful season might do me some good.

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