Marco Silva will not be persuaded to change the goals he has set for his Fulham players, even if they move into the Premier League’s European places by beating Brighton on Saturday.
A win at the Amex Stadium would send Silva’s side sixth and into a Europa League qualification spot, far exceeding expectations that accompanied the team’s return to the top flight after winning last season’s Championship.
Victory against Nottingham Forest last Saturday means they have taken 16 points from the last eight games and are buoyant, having lost just twice in the league since November.
But the manager remained staunchly cautious despite the Cottagers’ heady league position and refused to publicly set his team’s sights on new goals until he was satisfied they had collected the points required for safety.
“We are not going to change,” said Silva, whose side will leapfrog fellow high-flyers Brighton with victory on the south coast. “It’s not a lack of ambition. The best way for us to prove (ourselves) is on the pitch, not with words before or during the match.
“We don’t change the targets. We have a target inside the club in terms of points. Until the moment we achieve it, we are not going to change our target.
“It’s clear for us. If we get our target – that at the beginning of the season was our goal – I will be the first to create another.
“We need this. The players will know it first and after you will know it. It’s not important for the moment to say we’re going to fight for something different if we haven’t achieved our main goal. But it’s not a lack of ambition.”
Despite Silva’s caution, Fulham are chasing a first season in Europe since 2011/12 when they qualified for the Europa League via their fair-play ranking.
After progressing through four qualifying rounds they were eliminated in the group stage after Danish side Odense came to west London and snatched a draw with a dramatic 93rd-minute equaliser in their final game.
Two years earlier, Roy Hodgson led them on a stunning run to the final where they were beaten in extra-time by a Diego Forlan goal for Atletico Madrid in Hamburg.
The run saw some of the most memorable matches ever played at Craven Cottage, including a 4-1 win against Juventus in the last-16 when the team fought back from 3-1 down on aggregate.
Yet Silva would not be drawn on talk of Europe. With a first qualification in a decade in their sights, the manager called for supporters to keep things in perspective should the team fall away in the season’s final weeks.
“In football, when you’re winning and getting results, everyone is smiling,” said the manager. “The mood is completely different. But I want the same if something comes along in the future.
“I said from the first day, ‘the only thing I asked of our fans is to be always with the team, not just in the good moments but in the bad moments’. It will not be all sunshine.
“You have to be always on the same page. Football is so easy when you’re winning games, keeping clean sheets. Everything is so nice. Everything is perfect. But football is not always like that. What makes the difference?
“Some managers at some clubs stuck with the same manager and the same ideas. See where they are right now. They are really in a better position than before.
“It’s what I ask of our fans. If something comes that is not so good in the future, stick behind these players, because they deserve it.”