Behind Enemy Lines: Fulham

MILLWALL continued their 100 per cent home record and unbeaten start to the 2019-20 season on Saturday after ending Sheffield Wednesday's perfect start.

The Lions played almost 50 minutes with 10 men against the Owls but an outstanding defensive performance saw them hold their 1-0 lead and make it two wins from two at The Den and two clean sheets for the season, something that took 15 games last season to achieve.

The Lions are back on the road this week and face two tough tests. The first of those is Wednesday night as Neil Harris and his charges make the short trip to Craven Cottage to face Fulham, who have won their last two games in the league.

Alex Grace spoke to Fulham fan Jack Collins from The Fulhamish Podcast this week.

Twitter: @jackjcollins @FulhamishPod

Why do you support Fulham?

Been in the family since my Grandad wandered over to west London from Cork in the 1950s. Dad took me when I was three, got me my first season ticket at five, and let the black-and-white bug hook another generation in my brother and I. That whole side of the family is Fulham, so it's a family affair still.

What has been your favourite season following the Cottagers?

The 2009-10 Europa League adventure. Knocking out Roma, Shakhtar Donetsk, Wolfsburg, Hamburg and Juventus on the way to a European final is the kind of thing reserved for other teams, not for Fulham, but it happened, and it happened in my lifetime. Special moments that probably won't happen again.

And the worst?

First year back down in the Championship where we very nearly got relegated. I'm too young to remember the darkest days where the club nearly merged with QPR and we nearly lost the Cottage, but that season, the first that I could remember outside the top flight and just being absolutely awful from start to finish, was atrocious from a footballing perspective.

Is Scott Parker the right man for the job?

He's got a lot to learn but I don't see why not – he's already shown briefly that he's learning from his mistakes and that he can adapt in this league, which is going to be crucial. It's always a risk having a rookie in the dugout, but if Scott can take lessons from the managers who he has learned under – Mauricio Pochettino, Slavisa Jokanovic and Claudio Ranieri – there's no reason he can't be a success.

Did all of the new signings last season cause a disruption to the team that may have contributed to relegation ?

Plenty of things went wrong last season, not just the new signings. We were unlucky in some regards, like Alfie Mawson's injury, and losing to a Burnley side who didn't register a shot on target.

Ultimately, the reason I feel we were relegated was the appointment of Ranieri to replace Jokanovic. Claudio tried to make us into a defensive unit to shore up the back, but didn't realise he had players who wanted to play in possession and work the ball around. It was a match made in hell, and his inability to adapt to the squad around him was the biggest contributor to our downfall.

What have you made of Fulham's summer business?

What was asked for was some Championship experience to help us look to promotion again, and that's exactly what's been brought in with Knockaert, Cavaleiro, Reid, Reed, Arter and Onomah.

I think we could have done with one more defender but the emergence of Steven Sessegnon as a first-team player could put those fears to rest. I think everyone is mostly pretty happy with the squad we've put together.

What are your expectations for the season?

With the attacking talent on show, we'd be mad not to be looking towards promotion again this season, though expecting anything is dangerous in a league as demanding and difficult as the Championship.

I hope that if Parker can continue to grow then we'll be in the mix come May, and with that front three of Mitrovic, Knockaert and Cavaleiro, we're always going to have a shot at scoring goals, and thus winning games.

What have you made of Millwall's summer business?

Matt Smith was always well liked at Fulham, but never really fitted tactically, and it feels like he's finally found a club where he can lead the line and who will play to his aerial strengths. I think he'll be a massive success at The Den and I'm delighted for him (apart from when he scores on Wednesday night!).

Jon Dadi Bodvarsson is a very decent back-up/partner for him. Frank Fielding and Alex Pearce are good additions with Championship experience.

But the one I'm excited to watch is Connor Mahoney. Whole lot of talent there, and a good delivery from what I've seen – was surprised Bournemouth didn't loan him out this season to be honest. Think it's been a good summer down at Millwall, lots of new names who should fit nicely.

What are your thoughts on Millwall boss Neil Harris?

He always has a lot to say when Fulham are in town. Quite the mind games merchant is your gaffer, but someone who I have a lot of respect for.

The year that Fulham went up I thought Millwall were good enough to be in the play-offs and I was very glad that we didn't have to face you because he'd overseen a really good unit that was far more than the sum of its parts.

Harris knows his stuff, he's a tough cookie and he plays to his strengths constantly – I think he's a very decent man to have in the dugout.

Who do the Lions need to watch out for on Wednesday?

I've mentioned them already, but there's an abundance of talent in the Fulham attacking corps. Knockaert is the one getting people off seats already but it was Cavaleiro who popped up with a stunning winner against Huddersfield and you'll be well aware of what Mitrovic can do as well.

Behind them, if Tom Cairney can get into his stride he's one of the best in the business at this level and Bobby Reid will probably come off the bench looking for his first goal in black and white – he's shown he's got the ability as well.

Will you be at the game on Wednesday evening?

I will indeed. Our first game under the lights at the Cottage this season, there's nowhere else I'd rather be on a Wednesday night than tucked up in the Hammersmith End.

What is your predicted Fulham starting XI and formation?

4-3-3: Bettinelli; Sessegnon, Ream, Mawson, Bryan; Arter, Johansen, Cairney; Cavaleiro, Mitrovic, Knockaert.

Finally, a score prediction?

I 100 per cent think Matt Smith is scoring against his old club, but I hope that we'll get the early impetus and be able to get a few ourselves. My heart says 3-1 Fulham, my head says a far nervier 2-1 win – just about surviving a last-minute aerial bombardment.

Graphic: @ShedCreative