This is Eric Beard‘s second piece for The Shin Guardian. Eric is Wikipedia-like on global soccer. He founded and created the excellent A Football Report and he also is a recent great pick-up for The NY Times.
We’re all in a long distance relationship.
Some of us are casually making an effort to keep in contact with good friends. Others want to maintain a more intimate relationship. Sometimes sacrifices are made to keep this symbiotic relationship thriving.
Thankfully, it’s easier than ever to endure distance with technology shrinking our desired surroundings so that they are accessible at our fingertips. T
That being said, the ever-potent poison to any relationship is apathy. There needs to be a spark, a connection that keeps us interested in continuing a conversation.
While some are more committed than others, all American soccer fans have developed a relationship with Fulham. Many of us have been in a relationship with Fulham for nearly a decade, since Brian McBride moved to England permanently in January 2004 for a mere $1.5 million. Again, the feeling is mutual.
As McBride explained earlier this year, “While our Premier League rivals are only now just discovering the delights of America’s top leagues, it’s fair to say that [Fulham’s] been unearthing its hidden treasures.”
Eddie Lewis’s cup of coffee as the 2000s decade turned creaked the door open, but it was McBride who paved the path along the Thames River. Soon following were Carlos Bocanegra, Clint Dempsey, Kasey Keller, and easy Eddie Johnson.
Fulham earned and embraced the nickname “Fulhamerica.”
American Airlines advertisements began popping up along the Cottage’s pitch and on the club’s official website. For American fans, Fulham became a second home in a land that made American players fight for every word of praise.
The turn of the 2006-20007 to 2007-08 season was iconic for two of American soccer’s best attacking players of all time.
McBride earned the captain’s armband in August, but it was Clint who had just kept Fulham afloat in the Premier League with a match-winning goal against Liverpool on Cinco de Mayo two short months earlier.
McBride decided to move back to Chicago at the end of 07-08 campaign, but only after he was named Fulham’s Player of the Year in back-to-back seasons. McBride was not only a dream player for any manager, but he was an honest, hardworking person. In the most English manner possible, the club granted him legend status by naming a pub inside Craven Cottage “McBride’s.”
But as one club legend departed, another had finally been given the freedom to showcase his talent. Clint lifted his game and the club reached new heights with an unbelievable run to the Europa League final. No American, English, or Italian fan will forget that chip against Juventus, but little did we know that such an ineffably perfect goal only scratched the surface of Deuce’s potential. Clint soon became Fulham’s all-time leading goalscorer and one of the highest regarded players in the Premier League.
Of course, this isn’t new information. You know exactly what Clint and Brian have accomplished, but isn’t it nice to bask in the nostalgia?
As nice as it is to look back, nostalgia’s presence at Fulham is problematic. Not to go too abstract, but nostalgia’s roots lie in two Greek words: nóstos (homecoming) and álgos (ache). Fulham and American fans long to see another driven header from McBride or a 35-yard-blast from Dempsey, but it’s clear that these things won’t be occurring at Craven Cottage ever again.