Even well meaning advice raises hackles and Mark Hughes's have been shooting through the roof for most of his time as Blackburn manager - "We threatened to play well on a number of occasions last season but it wasn't reported," he said - yet even he admitted that expediency had to come before thrills in the mission to keep Rovers in the Premiership. A battle of attrition seemed to be on the menu, which made the outcome all the more surprising.
Blackburn shed their dowdy garments, kept well behind the line between hard and unfair and, with Tugay in his conductor's outfit, played some one-touch football that made you wonder whether aliens had abducted Hughes's team and substituted look-alikes.
Blackburn crowned the performance with goals, both thunderous volleys, which provided a problem only in deciding which was the better. Stuart Hall, the BBC commentator, described Morten Gamst Pedersen's as the best goal he had ever seen while Pedersen himself thought he had been outdone by Tugay.
Often losing managers use strikes of such quality to hide the shortcomings of their own team, but Fulham's Chris Coleman was having none of that. "Unacceptable" was one of the more benign words he used about the collective first half. If he did not have eight players unavailable for Wednesday's away game against Arsenal, he would drop several. "Too many of my players did not want to take responsibility, they passed the buck," he said.
Coleman's most damning critique, however, was to utter "it was like last season" with withering contempt, which was probably true, but is also a sharp sword he will not want to unsheathe too often. True, his players underperformed last term but the passing buck he mentioned often ends up in the lap of the manager.
Goals: Pedersen (15) 1-0; McBride (49) 1-1; Tugay (71) 2-1.
Blackburn Rovers (4-5-1): Friedel; Neill, Todd, Nelsen, Matteo; Emerton (Flitcroft, 90), Savage, Tugay, Reid, Pedersen; Kuqi. Substitutes not used: Enckelman (gk), Gresko, Gallagher, Johnson.
Fulham (4-4-2): Warner; Volz, Knight, Rehman, N Jensen; Malbranque, Diop, C Jensen, Boa Morte; Radzinski (John, 81), McBride (Helgulson, 81). Substitutes not used: Batista (gk), Leacock, Elrich.
Referee: H Webb (S Yorkshire).
Booked: Blackburn Rovers Reid, Savage; Fulham Diop, John.
Man of the match: Neill.
Attendance: 16,953.Reuse content