The unveiling of a statue of Michael Jackson at Craven Cottage was followed by an entertaining match, though sadly not a thriller.
The statue drew a mixed reaction from supporters. Some questioned its relevance to Fulham Football Club. Others felt that it bore as much resemblance to Jackson as Blackpool's rearguard does to a Premier League defence.
Mohamed Al Fayed, the Fulham chairman who was a friend of the late King of Pop, commissioned the statue. He was unrepentant. "If people don't understand and believe in things I believe in, they can go to Chelsea," he said.
Ian Holloway, Blackpool's manager, was enthusiastic. "He was the greatest musician of my era," he said. "On the pitch he was magnificent. Not so sure about off the pitch."
On the Craven Cottage pitch Bobby Zamora scored twice on his first start since breaking a leg and damaging ankle ligaments on 11 September and Dickson Etuhu added a third as Fulham, who were relegation possibles at Christmas, edged into the top half of the Premier League. Their manager, Mark Hughes, said: "We've been talking about being a top-10 side all season and have never wavered from that view."
Blackpool are a point above the bottom three. The comfort with which Fulham won the 100th match between the clubs suggested that the 101st might not take place for a while and Holloway was concerned that his team had not shown their customary devil-may-care approach after Zamora's first-half goals.
"I saw body language that I haven't seen and they've got to get their heads up," said Holloway. "We got promoted on the strength that we didn't care about someone scoring against us, we'd go and score ourselves. At this level, if you feel sorry for yourself, you're on a hiding."
Blackpool were ridiculously open, allowing Fulham to do more or less as
they pleased. They could have taken the lead in the 15th minute, when Zamora and the impressive Moussa Dembélé set up Damien Duff, whose low shot was bound for the bottom corner until Richard Kingson touched it on to the foot of the far post.
Having stood and admired most of Fulham's work, Blackpool were even more obliging in the 23rd minute when their striker James Beattie inadvertently produced the pass of the match, sending Zamora clear of a surprised defence to charge into the penalty area and beat Kingson high at his near post.
Five minutes later Duff was fouled on the right, having appeared to be offside earlier in the move. Duff swung the free‑kick in with his left foot and Zamora outjumped Craig Cathcart to glance a header past Kingson.
"I thought this was the perfect game for him and we couldn't have asked for a better impact," Hughes said. "He showed qualities we have lacked."
Blackpool stuck to their attacking style and nearly scored before the break when Brett Ormerod's header beat Mark Schwarzer, only for Chris Baird to head clear. Beattie hit a shot against the woodwork in the second half but Fulham sealed their victory in the 72nd minute when Etuhu tapped in Brede Hangeland's mis‑hit shot after Clint Dempsey's header had hit the upright.
"Fulham were so incisive and decisive when they had their chances and that was the difference," Holloway said. "I shall be cracking the whip when I get back home. I've told them all to go away and watch how we got promoted last year, the goals we've scored this season. You need to remain totally positive. We could have five defeats and two victories and still stay up. If we do that, it will be a fantastic achievement, better than last year."
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