LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 13: Fulham Chairman, Mohamed Al Fayed walks out on the pitch ahead of the Barclays Premier League match between Fulham and Aston Villa at Craven Cottage on August 13, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
I'm not normally one to get ahead of myself, but the simply cosmic display of entertainment at Craven Cottage on Sunday afternoon was something so resplendent and classy that you have to wonder whether Fulham have turned a rather exorbitant corner in their history. It wasn't the extravagant 5-0 scoreline that won my plaudits but the manner in which it was achieved.
Here, I look at five reasons why this is probably the best time to be a Fulham fan and why things will only get better.
1. Martin Jol - The Dutchman was Mohammed Al Fayed's original choice before the appointment of Mark Hughes as it was anyway, and as such, you know that he has the full backing of the club board. In this regard, it is also clear that he has some degree of staying power - Roy Hodgson flew off to Liverpool and Hughes, well, the less said about him, the better. It's clear that Jol has long term plans here, especially when you look at his predominantly youthful signings, and you feel as though he wants to stay.
That fact brings assurances and the team are quite palpably thriving right now. We've enjoyed three straight wins, something actually quite rare in the Premier League, and the players are responding to Jol's visionary tactics. He likes attacking, free-flowing football and as much was clear in our defeat of Wolves. It's nice to witness from a neutral perspective and even better when you're a fan but we're all aware it comes with risk. Hodgson instilled a crisp, passing game, but he fused it with great defensive stability - something which you sometimes felt held us back somewhat, away from home particularly. Jol is a fan of the 'best form of defence is attack club' and while it's working, so am I.
He worked wonders with his previous Tottenham squad, and is ours really too far off of that?
2. The Squad - With the investments Al Fayed has sanctioned, we seem to have built ourselves a team that is truly brimming with talent. Mark Schwarzer, Brede Hangeland and Aaron Hughes are stalwarts at the back, offering the stability which was so important under the Hodgson era. In midfield, Danny Murphy still dominates and still influences most of our attacks in some way or another, but even if there are doubts over his age, the newly positioned Moussa Dembele is a perfect, ready made replacement. It was Jol's idea to pull him back into a central midfield role and the Belgian is showing it to be a masterful idea.
Clint Dempsey is one of the greatest midfielders in the Premier League as it is, with his ability to not only score goals, but create them. For the second season in a row, he is our top scorer and despite the rise of Pavel Pogrebnyak, you have to feel that Dempsey will end up as top dog. Bryan Ruiz has been inconsistent at best but has shown glimpses of talent that would more than justify his hefty price tag. He's another player in the ilk of Dembele, who can create moments of wizardry that can instantly turn a game.
Up front, as stated, Pogrebnyak is clearly a player at his peak. He only has three Fulham games to speak of but he has bagged five goals and they've all been well taken. If he can offer even half of what he has done so far this season, he's a player well worth keeping and Jol will certainly look at making his move permanent.
3. Zamora's gone - While he may well have been one of our best players in Fulham's latest generation, over the last campaign he's clearly been somewhat of a drag on the field. He started the season well but began to fizzle out and his performances were lackluster and ineffectual. In removing the dead wood, Jol has not only improved performances on the pitch, but freed some funds which will probably be spent in the Summer. Simple, yet effective.
4. Youth policy - This season has seen the likes of Kerim Frei flourish and Jol's signings - both in January and over the Summer - show he has an eye on the future of the club. Pajtim Kasami, while not being given a huge amount of time on the field, has been impressive and has also been heavily linked with a move to Juventus, while Marcel Gecov has proven himself solid when called upon. Marcello Trotta has impressed away on loan and the January transfers of Ryan Williams, Jack Grimmer and Lasse Vigen Christiensen show what we can expect in the future. If we think the current squad is impressive, then we could well be in for a treat when these players of such great potential reach the big time.
5. Mohammed Al Fayed - While the Egyptian's money and investment is by no means a guarantee, you can't help but feel safe and stable under his chairmanship. He funds the right transfers when he deems them necessary but he doesn't do so excessively. He doesn't interfere with the manager and he keeps up a strong relationship with the fans and the club as a whole.
His latest proposals for the improvement of Craven Cottage look ambitious yet sustainable and his visions for the club are purely positive. He won't be around for ever but while he is, we will continue to prosper.