Not long ago Fulham were considered good enough to make an unlikely bid for a Champions League place, while their manager, Roy Hodgson, was being touted as a possible future England manager. But there is a vast difference between the strength in depth at the leading clubs and sides like Fulham - made clear by the recent results that have seen them drop alarmingly down the table. Five successive league defeats have followed since they beat Manchester United 3-0 just before Christmas.
Their confidence has been hit as injuries to Bobby Zamora and Clint Dempsey, who have 18 goals between them this season, proved particularly significant. The arrival of the pacey Italian striker Stefano Okaka on loan from Roma will aid Fulham's cause as they bid to end their poor run against Portsmouth at home tonight. But their captain Aaron Hughes, who has been forced to play out of position at right-back as the injury problems mounted, said the Londoners have not hit the panic button.
"I wouldn't say we're overly worried about it," he said. "It can happen in this league." "You can go on a four or five-game winning streak and everyone's jumping around, but you must never lose sight of the fact that it can also go the other way, and we know that. "Sometimes this happens and you've got to show a bit of character and strength and just keep going to get out of it." Those sentiments will be echoed by Portsmouth. They are bottom of the league with little money and seemingly even less hope. Their fans despaired once more on transfer deadline day with the sale of goalkeeper Asmir Begovic to Stoke City.
Given their financial plight and David James's return to fitness, the deal was expected, but Mark Jacob, the club's executive director, said that was not the case. "In the end he asked for a transfer and the club has to be bigger than any individual," said Jacob. firstname.lastname@example.org Fulham v Portsmouth, Midnight, Showsports 1