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Will Fulham Become the 2001 New England Patriots Or the 2005-06 Middlesbrough?

Sports News - May 02, 2010

Fulham are on the brink of history. On Wednesday, they will be playing in the Europa League Final against Atletico Madrid. Win or lose this match, Fulham will leave some sort of historical mark. The question is which historical direction will Fulham go?

If they win this Final, I would compare this season to the 2001 New England Patriots. No one in the beginning of that season picked the Pats to win the Super Bowl. I don’t even know if any experts had them making the playoffs. This team was not made up of superstars. It was more about the “team” than the individual players. The quarterback was a 6th round pick in his second year. His name was Tom Brady. What the Pats had was a belief that they could win. They also had an incredible head coach named Bill Belichick. Each week Belichick put the Pats in a position to win. They were underdogs I believe in every playoff game. They beat 3 teams who were all favored to beat them to winning the Vince Lombardi Trophy. All 3 of these wins were victories that went down to the wire. Each time the Pats figured out a way to win. In concluding, this was an unexpected Super Bowl winner.

For Fulham, they are not made up of superstars. They are made up of players that play a very disciplined style of football. The club is extremely well drilled. They do not beat themselves. Their manager Roy Hodgson like Belichick puts his club in positions to win each week. During the Europa League, Fulham had tremendous victories over Shakhtar Donetsk, Juventus, Wolfsburg, and Hamburg. They were not favored in any of these match-ups. Somehow they found a way to win. They would also win in dramatic fashion. The second legs against Juventus and Hamburg were dramatic endings. Fulham would be an unexpected Europa League Champion.

I see many similarities between the 2001 New England Patriots and this current Fulham Football Club. If they lose this comparison would make no sense. To be compared to a champion you need to be one.

If Fulham lose the Final they could be compared to the Middlesbrough Football Club of the 2005/2006 season. That particular club got to the UEFA Cup Finals against Sevilla. They lost this match 4-0. Shortly after the match Steve McClaren left Middlesbrough to become England Manager. Three years later, Middlesbrough were relegated to the Championship.

For Fulham, losing this match isn’t devastating, but they will be compared to a club that lost their manager to England and then 3 years later was out of the English Premier League. Ironically, Roy Hodgson has been mentioned as a potential England manager someday. For Fulham Fans let’s hope he stays with the Cottagers for a long time.

I have heard and read many comments regarding the lack of importance of the Europa League. For a club like Fulham, the Europa League has provided them with European Football. I personally think this tournament is viable and has offered great competition. Look who Fulham have beaten to get to the Final.

They first beat Shakhtar Donetsk. In my opinion they are the most talented club to play in this tournament this year. They won the UEFA Cup last year. Fulham beat them 2-1 at Craven Cottage. They then tied them away 1-1.

Fulham then beat Juventus. The Italian giants are a legendary club. They might be having a down year, but beating them is a great accomplishment. Juventus won their home leg 3-1. Fulham then beat Juventus 4-1 at Craven Cottage to move on to the Quarterfinals.

Fulham then beat Wolfsburg. This club happens to be the defending German Champions. In the first leg, Fulham beat Wolfsburg 2-1 at Craven Cottage. In the second leg Fulham won 1-0 in Germany. They would then move on to the Semifinals.

Fulham then beat Hamburg. This club is very talented with great players up front. They have players like Ruud van Nistelrooy and Mladen Petric. In the first leg, the score was a 0-0 draw. In the second leg at Craven Cottage, Fulham came from behind to win 2 – 1. They scored two goals in the second half to move on to the Finals.

I accept that some fans just don’t think this Final is that important. I wouldn’t tell that to the Fulham Fans and the players. I think they were pretty excited. If you don’t believe me please check out this video from entitled “Post match Festivities at the Cottage.”

No matter what happens on Wednesday, Fulham’s accomplishment has been remarkable. The only question left is their legacy in the Final. Will Fulham become the 2001 New England Patriots or the 2005-06 Middlesbrough Football Club?

Russ Goldman is a Fulham blogger who posts regularly on his website His website is a part of sbnation. This is a network of 250 sports blogs. There are several soccer related sites and many more to be added soon.

Editor’s note: View an online magazine celebrating the final in Hamburg between Fulham and Atletico Madrid.

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  1. Patrick Dresslar

    May 11, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    Russ – I agree, Fulham do resemble that Patriots team slightly.

    But the Europa League (formerly UEFA Cup) has always kind of fascinated me because its almost an exhibition tournament. I mean, in any competition, the winner has to be the champion of something, and not just the champion of that competition, which is really a moniker for the winner of an exhibition (i.e., Community Shield champion).

    Champions League winner is European champion – best team in Europe.
    World Cup winner is World champion – best team in World.
    Super Bowl winner is NFL champion – best team in NFL.

    What is Europa League champion? Best Europa League team? Just weird, always has been in my opinion, just like FA Cup, etc.

    They are cool competitions, but aren’t truly relevant. But i’ll admit, they are a big deal to smaller clubs and games are still full of quality.

    • Russ Goldman

      May 12, 2010 at 7:38 am


      Thank you very much for your comment. In regards to the Europa League it reminds me a little like the NIT Tournament in College Basketball.

      The NIT are teams that didn’t get into the NCAA tournament. The Europa League however does get teams that were eliminated in the Champions League. They also get teams that are very good in their leagues. They just are not at the top of their leagues.

      For a team like Fulham this tournament is such a reward for finishing 7th the year before. Every year Fulham have to fight to survive in the EPL. Three seasons ago they had to fight off relegation. That is what makes this story so incredible. Fulham have come so far in such a short period of time.

      Even though some people don’t respect the Europa League it has given Fulham an outlet to a European Competition. Fulham will probably never get into the Champions League. They just don’t have the financial resources.

      The reason I compared them to the 2001 Pats is not about the Championships. It is about the “team” makeup, the coach and the difficulty of getting to a Final both teams endured. Both clubs were not built on Superstars. They were built on hard work and discipline.

  2. Stupid comparison

    May 11, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    Fulham are playing for 17th place. The Patriots played for #1 in the league.

    The UEFA Cup is the 17th place cup. Nothing more

  3. Eious

    May 11, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    Neither. What Fulham is doing is good for them but far from this INCREDIBLE achievement that some are making it

  4. Django

    May 11, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    sucka 99, it was Oklahoma, not Ohio State, that Boise State beat in the Fiesta Bowl.

    • sucka99

      May 11, 2010 at 4:31 pm

      thank you. I knew it was an O 🙂

  5. tonyspeed

    May 11, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    patriots? boise? who?

  6. Russ

    May 11, 2010 at 11:14 am

    I can see your point about Boise State. That is not a bad comparison.
    The Europa League has been very good competition. Is it the Champions League? Of course not, but that shouldn’t take away how big this game is to Atletico Madrid and Fulham. I still think my comparison is valid considering how far Fulham have come.

    I do appreciate your opinion.

    • sucka99

      May 11, 2010 at 4:35 pm

      Only reason I say that was because of the cache the game had. Whereas the winner Super Bowl and Champions League (and the BCS Title game most of the time) are looked at as the undisputed champions, the Europa League Final is not – as was that Fiesta Bowl. It could be that people talk about it more than the Champions League final as was the case with Boise State and the Statue of Liberty and the marriage proposal, but after a bit of clamoring everyone settles in for the bigger game.

      • Russ

        May 11, 2010 at 5:47 pm


        First of all I really do appreciate your comments.

        When I wrote this I was more thinking of the clubs rather than the championships. I see many similarities between how the Pats played that season compared to how Fulham played this season.

        I guess my point was that the Pats and Fulham are more about the “team” and manager than Superstars. Also, both of their journey’s to a Championship game were very difficult. They both had to beat superior teams to get to the final game.

        Neither team is flashy. Both clubs figured out ways to win each week. If Fulham win they do remind me very much of the Pats. The dramatic victories for the 2 clubs are similar as well.

        The comparison is about the similarities of the 2 championship runs leading up to the Championship game.

        While Boise was a great story, their journey to the Fiesta Bowl is not the same as the Pats journey to winning the Super Bowl.

        Does that make any better sense?


        • sucka99

          May 11, 2010 at 6:53 pm

          Ahh OK I got you now. It’s hard for me to see a direct comparison because Fulham would probably not make it through a Champions League run the way they have in the Europa League – plus the fact that US leagues have more parity. But in terms of comparison teams, let me also suggest the 2004 Detroit Pistons or even the 1990 New York Giants. Maybe even 2004 Greece?

          • Russ

            May 11, 2010 at 7:38 pm


            Those are all very good comparisons. Thanks for coming up with those teams.

            Fulham would probably not make it through a Champions League run. You are right.

            But, for anyone that has watched Fulham from the Europa League Group stages to now knows how great this run has been. The competition has been very good. Shakhtar Donetsk, Hamburg, Wolfsburg, and Juventus are all very good clubs.

            I am reading the comments about the Europa League. There are many fans that don’t respect the tournament in general. That is fine. Everyone is entitled to their opinion.

            I am entitled to mine. The games I have watched have been great.

  7. sucka99

    May 11, 2010 at 10:56 am

    2001 Patriots? Maybe – if they were in the Champions League Final. Perhaps a better comparison is Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl playing Ohio State a few years back.

    • Jean-Christian

      May 11, 2010 at 7:37 pm

      Boise State played Oklahoma, not Ohio State. Ohio State was in the title game that year.

  8. mick taylor

    May 11, 2010 at 9:16 am

    Incredible that Roy Hodgson is named manager of the season, yet in 2006 McLaren never got a mention having come back from two almost impossible turnovers in EUFA cup quater and semi finals, and also got Middlesbrough to FA cup semi final the same season.
    Nothing against Fulham but I hope they get stuffed 4-0 and see how the press react to old Roy then.

  9. mac?man

    May 11, 2010 at 7:10 am

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    My blog has published a football shirt.
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