During Scott Parker’s pre-match press conference this Thursday, Fulham fans received a rare bit of good news: Alfie Mawson was closing in on a return from injury.
Although the anticipated comeback of the central defender will be welcomed during the Whites’ run-in, the news comes as too little, too late for Fulham.
“Alfie Mawson’s progressing well, we need to try and get an Under-23s game under his belt,” Parker told the club’s official website. “He’s been drip-fed into the squad pretty well, so injury wise we’re looking okay.”
Supporters will rightly point to Fulham’s narrow win over Huddersfield Town in late December as a turning point in their season.
Although Fulham churned out a dramatic 1-0 win in a six-pointer, Mawson went off injured at half-time — the last time he has played all season.
Right when Fulham’s defence had been appearing to solidify, with a first clean sheet against Newcastle United, and a 1-1 draw against Wolves, disaster struck.
Mawson is undoubtedly Fulham’s best defender, a powerful centre-half who can marshall the backline, win aerial duels, and effectively clear his lines.
Losing Mawson was a massive factor in Fulham’s continued defensive ineptitude, with Fulham forced to play the significantly less adept Havard Nordtveit, Denis Odoi, Tim Ream, and Maxime le Marchand in his absence.
If Mawson can make it back on the pitch for the closing matches of the season, it will be a boost for Fulham, but will cruelly remind Fulham fans what might have been.