How long do love affairs last, if they don't end up in permanent union? Two and a half years, does that seem about right? And the more intense and perfect it seemed at one moment, the more inevitable the split comes to seem, in the aftermath. That's what it feels like with Roy Hodgson, anyway, if you're a Fulham fan. The very talents that made us love him meant that ultimately we wouldn't be able to hold on to him.
There are lots of high-grade people Fulham haven't been able to hold on to, as a relatively small club, in recent years – Kevin Keegan, Jean Tigana, Louis Saha, Edwin van der Sar – but the loss of Hodgson hurts the most. It feels wrong and unjust, as if we have a right to him, because we showed the British football world what he could really do, after all those years of not being properly appreciated in his own country. We enabled him to come into his own.
But fans' anger at the injustice of it all is muted, it was clear from looking at the club website bulletin board yesterday. There are a few angry voices, but most people haven't got the heart not to wish him well, even as he deserts us.
We owe him too much. The footballing brain (the first thing he said on arrival was: "These players are all the same size!" and he bought 6ft 5in Brede Hangeland and we stopped shipping goals at set pieces), the common decency and kindness, the public praising of players the fans hadn't taken to, such as Chris Baird. The results he delivered – unlikely Premier League salvation, seventh in the table, a great European adventure – in three successive seasons. Most of all we owe Roy a commodity which now seems in very short supply. He provided us with hope.
Yeah, it's only a game. But they were golden days at Craven Cottage, and now they're done.