Premier League 2021/22 review - Analysis of every team's seasonMay 23 | 22 min read
Aleksandar Mitrovic follows Guy Whittingham in scoring 40 in English season
Mitrovic scored twice against Preston as Fulham secured promotion.
Guy Whittingham has saluted Aleksandar Mitrovic for ending his reign as the last man to score 40 goals in an English league season but believes the Fulham striker will be even happier with promotion.
Mitrovic scored twice against Preston to reach the magical landmark last achieved when Whittingham went on to notch 42 for Portsmouth in 1992-93.
And the win brought with it promotion to the Premier League, continuing Fulham’s yo-yo run and seeing them go one better than Whittingham’s team almost 30 years ago, who remarkably missed out on goals scored despite his exploits.
“Fond memories obviously, but the lasting memory was the disappointment of not winning promotion,” Whittingham told the PA news agency.
“That was the closest I got to a promotion, they come around very rarely.”
Mitrovic’s goals have come in 40 appearances and Derek Dooley’s post-war record in the second tier – 46 for Sheffield Wednesday in 1951-52 – could still be within range.
“I think there was one even longer ago got 56 or something,” said Whittingham, referring to George Camsell’s 59 for Middlesbrough in 1926-27. “That’s just crazy.
“(Mitrovic) needs (three goals in four games) to beat mine so I can’t see him not doing it.”
Despite the individual accolades, Whittingham was quick to share the credit for that season with his team-mates.
“You’re only as good as the players around you,” he said. “I had Paul Walsh, Mark Chamberlain, Alan McLoughlin, Steve Wigley, Ray Daniel, and a side where (manager) Jim Smith wanted to get crosses into the box.”
Walsh, indeed, beat Whittingham to Pompey’s player-of-the-season award that year after playing a key role in attack.
“He was – and rightly so, I’ve never said anything different,” said Whittingham. “He was the fulcrum for the team that year.
“He doesn’t (mention it), he was a very humble player.”
Mitrovic has been able to thrive in what Whittingham acknowledges is a “very similar” team environment, with every one of his goals coming from inside the penalty area as Marco Silva’s side continue creating chances.
When your confidence is high, you expect the chances to come. But you’ve still got to finish those chances off
- Guy Whittingham on Aleksandar Mitrovic
“He’s got (Harry) Wilson, (Ivan) Cavaleiro, (Fabio) Carvalho all creating chances for him,” he said. “The players know you and you know where to make those runs.
“When your confidence is high, you expect the chances to come. He’ll have worked with those players all year, or for a couple of years, and you have those relationships. But you’ve still got to finish those chances off.
“The pressure is off in a way because if you’ve scored that many, if you do miss one, you don’t put the pressure on yourself to score the next one.”
The toughest task for Fulham, once again, will be to stay in the Premier League.
The Cottagers have been promoted twice before in recent years only to slip straight back down both times, while Mitrovic, who scored only three Premier League goals last season, has been either promoted to or relegated from the top flight in every season he has been in England dating back to his arrival at Newcastle in 2015.
“It’s so difficult, you look at the teams who went up this year,” said Whittingham, with Norwich and Watford propping up the table and changing their managers, while Brentford’s success is the exception.
“There’s no easy games and the amount of money around now, the players you have to get in – you’ve got to try and plan, and not to panic.
“But Fulham have got that history of going up and down – and you look at Norwich again this season, West Brom were the same in previous years – how do you plan for that and get the right players in?”