Philippe, I am sorry for the way I have treated you over the past couple of years. I’m sorry for my tired looks of resignation every time I saw your name on the teamsheet and for the pangs of fear induced by your every touch. I am sorry for the terror invoked in me when you played well; a panic borne out of the absolute certainty that the better you play, the bigger the mistake you are likely to make.
Don’t get me wrong, you still frighten me. You still have it in you to do a worryingly good impression of Geneva’s answer to Titus Bramble. You still have one rather significant error in you every game. However, you are also a very decent central defender. You may have the turning circle of a 430 bus that traverses the Fulham Palace Road, your second touch may often be a tackle, and you still have the ability to look as flustered as a hen unsure of its chicks’ whereabouts, but you have added real steel to the team since your recall to the side.
You have improved as a player, you have matured as a defender, and you now provide a palpable and consistent contribution to this Fulham team. In previous years that had not been the case. The team now looks stronger for your inclusion. You are now a decision maker rather than an indecision maker. Of course, you still have your limitations; your capacity to drop a clanger every 90 minutes remains understandably infuriating and your weakness when isolated one-on-one is an irrevocable flaw. But every player has their weaknesses. It is those players who adapt and allow for their weaknesses that achieve the most.
You are still making those mistakes; Wayne Rooney’s winner at the Cottage in January, the penalty away at Sunderland, to name but a few. However, you are making up for those errors with the rest of your contribution. You are showing leadership qualities, you are finally taking responsibility for your actions, making bolder decisions with regards to when to press, when to drop back, when to charge forwards. You are finally proving the seasoned naysayers, like me, wrong; good on you.
I’m afraid that it will take some time, and indeed therapy, to rid myself of the Senderos-inspired shudders that accompany watching you play for Fulham, but I’ll gladly say that you have won me over.