So in the end, Fulham wasn’t doomed by a rogue executive decision, or the uniquely unfair and haphazard demands of another covid-ravaged season.
Good crosses still bring goals. Good headers too. Put the two together and great things can happen. Fulham got the point they deserved thoroughly, and justice was done.
The Premier League was right to insist that this game be played, and Fulham took up the challenge. It was a good night for football, regardless of the initial controversy
Scott Parker’s Fulham took up the challenge after the late change of fixtures this week
And while they are the first to be put into action on a relatively short notice, Fulham will not be the last. Southampton’s match against Leeds is the latest match to bite the dust – bumped into Southampton’s postponed FA Cup match against Shrewsbury – and Aston Villa have already requested a rescheduling of their match with Everton.
As these spare games pile up, inventive ideas need to be entertained to catch up. Playing who you can, when you can is really the simplest solution.
And it certainly wasn’t outrageous, as Fulham manager Scott Parker suggested. The idea that coaches are such advanced strategists that they need the best part of two weeks to prepare for a single game is relatively new anyway. It dates from the 1991-92 season, the year before the Premier League started.
Prior to that time, games were often rescheduled between Saturday and midweek. Called FA Cup replays, for decades they thrived like long-awaited occasions in the season, with just the turnaround that Fulham got.
And when that finally changed, it wasn’t even the idea of football. It was the police who decided that they could not check the FA Cup replays within ten days notice, which changed the league and English domestic football forever.
Ivan Cavaleiro is being embraced by teammates after taking a point for Fulham at Tottenham
As a result of the new restrictions, one repeat became the maximum allowed and we now have in mind that a football game is such a complex pursuit that it requires the same turnaround time as the Battle of Midway to make it happen.
Fulham’s basic complaint was that they were not told until Saturday to prepare for a game on Wednesday. And while, yes, this is unusual in the Premier League era – as so often this season – it really is no different from an old-fashioned cup rerun. It’s what happened every year and every round until pretty much the start of the Premier League.
At the time, no one was concerned. In fact, everyone enjoyed the uncertainty – or at least they just kept going. Announcements were made in club programs to tell fans whether the repeat would be Tuesday or Wednesday in the event of a tie.
The cash registers then opened on Sundays to meet demand. And then the game continued. It wasn’t ideal, but it was necessary. Just like last night’s clutch was.
And those days provided wonderful entertainment. The 1988-89 season saw the last of the epic FA Cup sagas. Newcastle – Watford, four games over 11 days, watched by over 90,000 fans.
Jose Mourinho and Scott Parker had traded barbs ahead of the rescheduled match
Newcastle were at the bottom fighting relegation while Watford pursued promotion. Still, both played their strongest teams in every game, three of which went to extra time, played on January 7, 10, 16 and 18 – as well as in a league game in between meetings.
And these sagas were not entirely uncommon. In 1979, Arsenal and Sheffield Wednesday met five times over 16 days, in front of 143,916 spectators, including three repetitions on old Filbert Street in Leicester, scoring 16 goals from ten different scorers.
An Arsenal supporter living in Highbury would have traveled more than 900 miles to watch every game. And that’s not even the FA Cup record. Alvechurch and Oxford City played in 1971-72 Saturday, Tuesday, Monday, Wednesday, Saturday, Monday for a total of 11 hours.
Graham Allner, who played every minute for Alvechurch, said the two teams were on first name towards the end and silence underscored the manager’s team’s talks as there was nothing about the opposition that the players were unaware of.
We naturally consider ourselves and our football to be more sophisticated these days.
Take the unnamed Fulham source expressing his outrage in the run-up to this match. “Scott is preparing for games months in advance in terms of player loading and training,” he said.
The Tottenham players trudge away after slipping a one-goal lead against Fulham at home
Really? Months? Seems like a very intensive strategy for two league wins all season. And if he was preparing for Tottenham months ago, why the fuss over the short term?
The original game was not canceled until December – tactically, preparation has long been in the bag. As it seemed.,
In short: keep it up. Nobody wants this disruption, and certainly not the Premier League, who sell their packages to broadcasters in neat playing weeks.
And who has not allowed their life to be disrupted by the pandemic? Whose plans have not been canceled? Many companies had no plans to become skint by 2021. At least football survives, in one form or another – at least it strives for solutions.
As for Wednesday night’s game, it was a reasonable result. Fulham got exactly what they deserved as games are won and lost on the field. Not at offices.