Author Archives: chopper68

Losing with style – the new winning

I am still reading Inverting the Pyramid, the brilliant book about the development of football tactics by Jonathon Wilson. This morning on the way to work I read a passage about the Brazil side of the 1970 World Cup. Considered by many (including me) as the zenith of football ability, combining success with artistry. Wilson makes an excellent point that had Brazil not won the World Cup that year many of their most celebrated moments (Pele’s lob from the halfway line against Czechoslovakia that hit the bar and his dummy to evade Uruguay’s goalie which he followed by missing an open goal) would have been viewed as counter productive extravagances rather than beautiful football.

I continue to be frustrated by so called analysis on British television that rarely tells you anything you couldn’t have seen for yourself and is very much focused on contentious decisions and praising the side that won the game. A player might receive great praise one week because he played a key part in a side that kept a clean sheet but be taken apart the following week because he made one mistake that led to a goal. I understand that winning is important, I know I would not be happy if we lost stylishly EVERY week, but I’d like to see football analysts look beyond the result a little more often.

The great thing about live football is that you see the game you want to see. I’m thoroughly enjoying the current style & panache of Martin Jol’s Fulham. Sunday’s match was the first time I can remember enjoying a game we lost. Early on we were so comfortable it looked like we’d cruise to an easy win and there’d be little need to get excited. Hangeland’s sending off changed the game (a ball winning tackle that ironically brought to mind Bobby Moore’s tackle on Jairzinho in the 1970 World Cup) and wasn’t helped by the fact we’d not long replaced Alex Kacaniclic. Despite the imbalance in numbers we still dominated the first half and to my mind were the best side in the second half too.

Berbatov was supreme throughout, drifting into fabulous positions and picking out passes that perhaps only Johnny Haynes would have been able to see as clearly. Ruiz buzzed about and, though he does have a tendency to give the ball away at bad moments, looked like he was going to be able to unlock the Sunderland defence until his unfortunate injury. Having replaced Ruiz, Petric started like a steam train and even when struggling a little after getting studded whilst scoring, looked threatening for the rest of the game. So many positives throughout the team that I felt the performance outweighed the result.

Even at 3-1 down I felt we had a chance to get a result. I was enthralled to the end and proud that we didn’t try and shut up shop and went for the win. Perhaps at times we were a little naive in defence but I think rather than try and posit blame on individuals we need to understand the disruption caused to the team balance from the loss of a player. Poor old Philippe Senderos got a tonking from some of those people around me. Whilst I’ve not yet been convinced of his abilities myself, he really was on a hiding to nothing and left horribly exposed on several occasions.

Obviously results do matter. If we lost stylishly every week I’d soon tire of it but we’re having a great season so far and I’m excited to see this Fulham side playing. We’ve got a tough few weeks ahead in which we’ll be missing key players. Hopefully this will give the opportunity to some of the squad to show us what they’re capable of. Senderos will almost certainly get a little run. He needs to perform. I’d like to see more of Dejagah and Petric. I’d also like to see what Rodallega could do in a more central role. Whoever plays though I’m sure it’s going to be fun.

Christmas Shopping from Ashwater Press

Christmas is just around the corner so it seems like a good time to remind you all about our good friends at Ashwater Press who have a number of goodies available this year that would be just perfect for your fellow Fulham supporters.
Over to Ashwater …

 

THE ASHWATER 2013 DESK DIARY

               

 

After last year’s sell out in five weeks, and by popular demand, it’s the Ashwater desk diary for 2013 with pictures from Ken Coton ’s archive. Again it’s 128 pages with around 70 black and white and colour pictures and Fulham images, a number never seen before. It’s naturally a functional diary and a quality hardback production (9½ x 6½ inches). The pictures are from across five decades of Ken Coton ’s archive. This year it has even more detailed captions and extra snippets/trivia. It contains a weekly ‘anecdote’ relating to Fulham’s colourful history over the last fifty years and also a foreword from David Hamilton. It costs not much more than an ordinary diary, and remember that it’s not just a diary – it’s a Fulham book as well! Like last year, buy 2 diaries and save 10%. We have held the price at last year’s value (£9.95+postage).

Please note: We are once again printing only a limited number, so please order as soon as possible to avoid disappointment. (15% of the dairies have already been pre-ordered before delivery to us.)

And also for the first time:

THE ASHWATER 2013 WALL CALENDAR

         

 

After many requests, we’re delighted to offer our first ever colour Ashwater wall calendar for 2013. It features Fulham pictures from Ken Coton ‘s archive (some of them never seen before), superbly printed to A4 size. When opened up for hanging, the calendar measures 16½ x 11½ inches (420 x 297mm). Each month has a captioned full-page picture above it, and the calendar runs from January 2013 to January 2014. It is priced at just (£5.95+postage).

As this is a new venture for us, we are printing only a limited number, so please order as soon as possible to avoid disappointment. We like our calendar! We hope you will too …

We are also offering multi-buys this Christmas to help out your spending. The multi-buy options will be for the 2 items above plus this year’s Tales from the Riverbank (Part 3) a brand new book with 224 pages and 125 photographs (many never seen before) relating to two full Fulham seasons under Bill Dodgin in the Seventies ending up in promotion! There is also David Hamilton’s popular book A Fulhamish Tale. Buy the 3 or 4 products together posted to the UK and save 20%. (Saving around £10 and £13 respectively) See website for details.

 

Also, to ‘clear the decks’ for the new books arriving in 2013 and for a great Christmas deal, we will be offering a clearance of the few remaining copies of all other Fulham books; The Johnny HaynesThe Maestro book at over 60% off, and a number of books at just £3.95 (plus postage). There is also a very attractive multi-buy offer on eight other books, buy any three of the eight together posted to the UK for just £18.85 INCLUDING postage. See website for details.

 

We will have copies of the Ashwater desk diary and the Ashwater wall calendar at the home games with Sunderland (18th Nov) and Tottenham (1st December), but please be aware that we can only transport a limited number of ‘collections’ to the Cottage, and we always sell out at the home games – so apologies, but it will be first come, first served. If in doubt, and to be guaranteed whilst the stocks last – please order through the website.

 

To order any of our books (or calendar):

Visit www.ashwaterpress.co.uk

Where you can order using a PAYPAL account

Or using your debit / credit card as a PAYPAL guest

Ashwater can also accept a credit or debit card order by phone.

Telephone us on: 01344 – 624231 (Mon – Fri 9am – 7pm, Sat 9.00am – 1pm)

On the Ashwater website you can also download an order form and pay by cheque, using the post at:

Ashwater Press, 68 Tranmere Road , Whitton, Twickenham, Middlesex. TW2 7JB

For any other information, please e-mail us on ashwaterpress@btinternet.com

Ashwater Press – Fulham books written by Fulham Supporters for Fulham Supporters – Thank you for continuing to support us in 2012.

Chop’s Monday Malaise

There are days when I feel a bit of a fraud writing about football. I don’t spend a lot of time watching games that don’t involved FFC. My awareness of the rest of Premier League only extends as far as what I can glean from Match of the Day highlights and my knowledge of players outside of the UK is appalling. So bad I think even Alan Shearer could give me a run for my money. I’ve been reading “Inverting The Pyramid” and Jonathon Wilson’s excellent prose about tactics and the development of the modern game has drawn my focus to how limited my view of football really is.

To compound this as far as Fulham is concerned, I rarely go to away games and this season, because I’m only sharing a season ticket, I won’t even make all the home games. Then I have the audacity to come on here and write something about a game I’ve only followed via online commentary and the subsequent two minutes and forty seconds of televised highlights.

That said, it seems if I had to miss a game Saturday’s toil against Aston Villa was not a bad one to pick. I could sense the frustration building in Gentlemen Jim’s voice as the game seemed to be destined to end goalless but then up popped Bairdinho with a smart finish to what at first glance appeared to be a well rehearsed set piece. Jim was ecstatic, the crowd sounded loud and I … well I was trying to put a straight face on whilst Mrs Chop explained something important to me about something one of my sons will be doing next weekend. Jol later showed endearing honesty by admitting it was probably one of the worst corners he’d seen and he was relieved Chris Baird had reacted smartly and turned into something useful. Of course, knowing Jol, it might be he just didn’t want to give away one of our secret game plays – though based on our historical poor corner taking ability it was most likely the former.

Collecting three points from this type of game is fantastic. This is a team that’s still getting to grips with each other and inevitably we’re seeing some inconsistent performances, so to take 4 wins out of out first 8 matches is an excellent return. There are also some signs that a team togetherness is starting to form. It seemed everyone on the pitch went over to congratulate Baird and Diarra jumped so high to join the group huddle he landed on Karagounis’ shoulders. The joy on the bench was equally unconstrained and there was a nice moment between Jol & Petric that suggested all is well between them.

Following Alex L’s excellent article on Friday Match of the Day 2 provided us with further proof that our squad is getting on a bit. Based on the weekend’s starting elevens we had the oldest team in the Premier League averaging a little over 31 years (and that didn’t include the 35 year old Karagounis). Despite this I’m not hugely concerned, Jol is well aware he needs to bring in younger players but he has a nice spine of experienced players that will surely make that job easier and has already demonstrated he is not shy in giving youngsters a chance. In the meantime I’m going to enjoy watching Hangeland, Diarra, Berbatov and co. whenever I get the chance.

Five Ages of Ray Lewington

I initially began writing this before Ray left the club to assist Roy Hodgson with the England squad. It’s taken a while, maybe I missed the boat a little in marking his departure but an International break seems like the right time to finally publish it. It started off as a kind of top five (people who know me will understand my preference for that format) and I retained the basic structure but sometime in the writing it morphed into something huge. I hope it’s not telling you too much you already know it’s intended as a tribute to a man who has been a huge part of the club and who I think deserves a bit of credit. Hats off to Ray!

Ray Lewington was, in one form or another, involved with Fulham almost the entire time I’ve supported the club. Joining as a player in the early eighties he moved into coaching before becoming manager during some of our most difficult years. After a break in which he enhanced his coaching and managerial credentials at Crystal Palace, Brentford and Watford he returned to the backroom staff under Chris Coleman and during that post-Sanchez and post-Hodgson periods Ray again stepped in to keep the club stable. Having been offered a “job for life” by Al Fayed in recognition of his efforts he was shifted around various backroom posts. In the end his recent elevation to the England staff is perhaps the best reward for his many years loyal service.

1. Player (1980-1985) – Despite having played 85 times for our less erudite neighbours Ray did not take long to win the Fulham faithful over. Arriving at the end of the 1979-81 season, after a short spell at Wimbledon, he proved himself a willing worker who enabled other players to shine. He was a fiercely competitive midfielder, a consistent performer who rarely took the limelight but always gave his best.

He was too late to prevent Fulham’s slide into relegation but was a mainstay in the young side that Malcolm MacDonald put together and his experience helped us win promotion back to the Second Division in 1982. The ’82-’83 season saw us close to achieving back to back promotions and reaching the top flight for the first time since the late sixties. Lewington was an ever present in the league that season and remained a first team regular as that side was sold off player by player. Ray stayed longer than most but was eventually sold to Sheffield United in July of 1985.

2. Player/Manager (1986-1990) – Less than a year later Ray was back at Fulham. Following relegation to the Third Division, Ray Harford was sacked and the club came under new ownership with dubious intentions. Lewington stepped into the breach and received something of a baptism of fire into the world of management. Early results were mixed and included that famous 10-0 thrashing at Anfield in the League Cup. Eventually it would emerge that the owners Marler Estates intended to capitalise on the value of the land at Craven Cottage by merging the club with QPR and developing flats on the ground. It was a dark period in our history and throughout it Lewington was a stabilising influence. Having flirted with relegation in his first season we steadily improved.

Jimmy Hill led a takeover in 1987 and though we still did not own the ground we had received a stay of execution as a club. Results for Lewington began to improve and in 1989 we achieved our first appearance in an end of season playoff. After a narrow defeat in the first leg at Bristol Rovers we were thumped 4-0 at the cottage. The following season Rovers would win the league whilst Fulham struggled and avoided relegation by a single point.

3. Caretaker Manager (1991,1994) – Alan Dicks took over in the summer of 1990 and Lewington was effectively demoted to first team coach. Dicks benefited from an influx of money from the ongoing ground ownership situation and, according to Dennis Turner in 1995’s “Fulham – The Team” managed the worst playing record in our history with “the most expensively assembled Fulham side ever”. Dicks had made a complete hash of the job and we missed relegation that year by two points and a huge slice of luck (league restructuring meant only three sides went down). Dicks survived through to the following November (despite the regular, and unintentionally hilarious, chants of “Dicks Out!”) but finally lost his job following a 2-0 home defeat to non-league Hayes in the FA Cup.

Ray stepped in as caretaker for the remainder of the year until Don Mackay’s arrival in the New Year. MacKay initially appeared to have turned things around but with nine games to go in the ‘93-94 season Fulham were 17th and in trouble again. A particularly chaotic performance at Leyton Orient saw Jimmy Hill storm into the dressing room at half time and relieve MacKay of his duties. Lewington was given his second opportunity as caretaker manager but could not ignite the required change in form and, despite an enjoyable 2-1 win at Brentford along the way, a 2-1 loss at Swansea saw us relegated to the lowest tier for the first time in our history.

4. Reserve/Assistant Manager (2005-2010) – It was the right thing for Ray to leave the club when he did, a fresh start was needed not just for the club but also for Ray. He had spells at Crystal Palace, Brentford and Watford, all clubs where he began as a coach and ended up in either a caretaker or permanent role as manager. At Watford it seemed he’d done little wrong, achieving consistent mid-table finishes amidst familiar financial difficulties. He returned to the Cottage with Watford for a pre-season friendly in 2004 and received a very warm welcome. The same season, following a run of poor results, he was sacked. At the start of the next season Chris Coleman, perhaps beginning to feel a bit of pressure himself, brought Lew back to the club as Reserve Team Manager.

Following Coleman’s dismissal towards the end of the 2006-07 season Ray stepped into a first team coaching role alongside caretaker manager Lawrie Sanchez. When things imploded for Sanchez it was Ray the club turned to for his third spell as caretaker manager. He kept the ship steady over the Christmas period and, despite a drubbing at Spurs, picked up important points at home to Wigan and away at Birmingham.

When Roy Hodgson arrived he was happy to work with the existing coaching team and Lewington became assistant manager. Ray would make a big contribution to the success we achieved in this period and it must have been incredible for him to be involved with a Fulham side that reached the Europa League final a mere 16 years after he’d seen us drop into the basement division. Once again he was called into action as caretaker manager following Hodgson’s departure to Liverpool. He faced no competitive games during that period but undoubtedly played an important role in maintaining morale and ensuring the team was ready for the start of the season.

5. Various coaching roles (2010 – 2012) – Mark Hughes appointment saw him turn up with a veritable menagerie of assistants and coaches. Despite this, and thanks to Al Fayed’s recognition, Lew remained as a first team coach. However as the season progressed it was clear that Ray wasn’t going to have much of a role on match days and he was eventually dropped from the main coaching team and given the job of leading the club’s Youth Development Program.

One of Maarten Jol’s first acts after replacing Hughes in June 2011 was to reinstate Lewington as First Team Coach in June 2011. Jol said at the time “We started off with him because he’s a main figure here, at this club, he knows everything”. More recently it seems they may have fallen out, yet again Ray was dropped to Reserve Team manager and Billy McKinlay replaced him on the bench.

When Roy requested Lewington to help him with the England job there was a mini tug-of-love. Perhaps that had more to do with Al Fayed feeling slighted by Hodgson than any desire to really hold back Ray but compensation was agreed and Lew now finds himself at the very top of the pile again.

As a player between 1979 and 1990 he made over 270 appearances and scored 24 goals. As a manager he was in charge for over 200 matches in five separate spells during which he achieved 70 wins, 59 draws and 81 loses. He won’t be remembered as one of our most successful but he certainly deserves to be considered one of our most dedicated.

A Fulham legend in any sense of the word.

Chop’s Tuesday Tirade

I’ll be honest. I’m running out of words that begin with “M”. Luckily I’m also out off kilter due to the Sunday kickoff and therefore running late enough to push this to Tuesday and open up a whole new world of words. Possibly I should leave it there but if anyone can think of a better name for this, let’s loosely call it, weekly column, I’m all ears.

I followed the game this week via the new Fulham App which enabled me the joy of listening to Gentleman Jim’s wonderful commentary. Jim manages to find the perfect balance between calm, rational comment and total devotion to the Fulham cause. I’ve always enjoyed listening to him but now I can do so via my phone I think I’ll be making a habit of it.

The game itself seemed a mixed bag. Fulham poor in the first half, Southampton poor in the second and neither team really capitalising on their spells of domination. Both Saints goals looked avoidable and both came from set plays. Turns out we’ve conceded more goals from set plays (six) than any other Premier League team this season. Should we be worried? It’s probably too early to tell but it’s worth keeping an eye on.

I’m finally reading Jonathon Wilson’s excellent “Inverting The Pyramid” so I’m hoping my tatical awareness will be suitably improved in the coming weeks and I’ll be able to identify any defensive weakness. Hangeland & Hughes did not appear to be on top form but I wonder what other factors could cause this to happen. Perhaps the way we have Sidwell & Baird deployed, though I’d have thought they would have helped our cause rather than hinder it. Maybe our carelessness with possession (a side-effect of trying to be more positive in attack) contributed to increased pressure on the defence and more opportunities for error. Maybe we just had a bad day (I’m only on page 40).

I’m not convinced we’ve yet played a game with Jol’s preffered starting eleven. We have certainly been unlucky with injuries, though this may well be a result of the age of the squad (as Rich hinted at on Friday we’ve given some young talent a go but are possibly more reliant than ever on the over-30s in the side). I’m enjoying the football though and when we do get everyone fit I think we could see some truly exciting football.

petric

Chop’s Monday Monologue

My original intention with these Monday posts had been to provide an alternative view of the weekend’s action. That’s quite a tricky thing to do when you’ve written the match report yourself so Today’s post may be a little aimless* (* which isn’t to say they weren’t fairly aimless in the first place).

After Friday’s announcement from Richard I feel I ought to say a few words to thank him for all he achieved with Craven Cottage Newsround & The Fulham Review. We both started blogging about Fulham within a week of each other some 6 years ago. Back then I didn’t really have a clue what blogging was all about but after some false starts it was Richard who encouraged me to keep it going.

CCN was always a little different to the other sources of Fulham discussion and that was entirely down to Richard’s style of writing and his desire to really understand what made football tick. I’ve wondered over the weekend if people will really still want to read CCN without him. A bit like the Velvet Underground when Doug Yule took charge after John Cale, Lou Reed & Sterling Morrison had all left. Time will tell but for now we’re going to give it a go and I’m sure we’ve not heard the last of Richard’s writing in some form or other.

Saturday really didn’t go to plan for me. As mentioned in my match report, I was late arriving which meant not only did I miss our goal but I also failed to be there in time to sell some Fulham reviews. There were some positives though.

1. We held the Premier League champions for over 80 minutes and it took the arrival of several millions of pounds worth of talent from the bench to finally break us down.

2. Petric takes almost as good a penalty as Danny Murphy.

3. Reither is looking like he could be our best right back since Steve Finnan, even though I’m struggling to cope with two full backs in the team with only minor differences in pronounciation. I lost count of the number of times I mistakenly shouted well done Riise when I meant Reither. He’s gonna need a nickname.

4. Schwarzer is still a world class keeper.

5. We don’t play in burgandy.

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Fulham 1 Manchester City 2

A gallant effort but one ultimately doomed to failure. Fulham did their best to resist the attacking fluency of City and for 80 minutes seemed to have succeeded until late changes to both sides saw the current league champions finally find a way past our defence.

I’d love to be able to give you some flowing prose about the opening exchanges in which the Whites were perhaps the stronger side. Unfortunately my arrival at the ground was delayed due to my Dad getting stuck on the M25 and we missed the first 25 minutes. In that time we’d taken the lead after Riise had won a possibly soft penalty that Petric calmly converted. Rodallega had almost collected a Chris Baird through ball, and later done well on the left wing to set up Petric, who scuffed his shot over the bar.

By the time I was in my seat City were beginning to take a greater hold on the game and the chances came thick and fast. Riise looking a little exposed on the left (with Fulham lined up 4-3-3) was struggling to contain Zabaletta and City were retaining the ball better than we could. A goal mouth scramble saw the ball poked towards the net but somehow Schwarzer combined with a bevy of Fulham defenders to stop it from crossing the line. It was a brief respite though as, with two minutes to half time, Tevez fired in a deflected shot that Schwarzer did brilliantly to save but our old nemesis Aguero popped up to poke in the rebound.

The second half struggled to find the same spark of excitement. City dominated possession but rarely looked capable of carving out a clear cut opening. Baird & Sidwell worked hard in the middle to disrupt their attacks, and both fullbacks strove manfully to contain City’s wide men. Tevez departed to a chorus of insults to be replaced by Balotelli and Fulham switched to 4-4-2 as Alex Kacaniklic replaced the fading Petric. We managed glimmers of hope with a couple of counter attacks as the game became stretched. Good work from Kacaniklic seemed to have gone to waste as he ran into a wall of defence but he did find room to cut back a pass and Ruiz fizzed a shot towards goal that force Hart into a prompt save.

Baird signalled to the bench he’d done something to his leg and was replaced with 10 minutes to play by the eagerly anticipated Karagounis. The greek was straight into the fray, disappointly conceeding a free kick in the edge of our box. Thankfully, after some ball placing shenanigans, Balotelli smacked his attempt straight into our wall and the threat was wasted. Luck would not remain on our side though. City’s strength in depth was highlighted further when they introduced Edin Dzeko late on. He scored within a minute after out defence, surely running on vapours by now, failed to clear the ball and his sliced shot flew past Schwarzer into the top corner. A well taken goal but a bitter blow.

IHN SPT 181110-15

Chop’s Monday Mumble

These things are always going to be trickier to write when all I’ve got to go on is 8 minutes of Match of the Day highlights but it would be remiss of me to abandon this project a mere two weeks in. Actually 8 minutes is pretty good coverage for Wigan v Fulham. Mike Whalley is no longer tracking who ends up last on Match of the Day but I’m fairly sure in the five years he did this fixture was the one that appeared most regularly.

There were enough glimpses to suggest the positives from our performance against West Brom had been maintained. Berbatov looked guileful, Duff continued to rampage down the right and the Baird/Sidwell combo looked strong in the middle (to the point of taking down the referee). The standout player for me? Mark Schwarzer. Three top class saves (with his shin when faced one on one with Arouna Kone, at close range from McCarthy then quickly up to put off the follow up and a fingertip touch onto the crossbar from  a late header) that kept us in the game and gave us that all important first away win.

We all know how poor our away form has been since joining the Premier League but it’s not really that much worse than 60% of the league. That said, last years’ tally of four wins was our best since 2005 when  Chris Coleman was getting the best out of the team that Jean Tigana built. In his pre-match conference, Jol discussed hoping to pick up four or five wins on the road this season, which suggests he realises the need to improve and will be more prepared to give it a go on our travels.

This is our best start to a season since 2002 and, despite none of the “big” clubs playing, it was rather nice to see us in the top four places come the end of Saturday fixtures. David Moyes made the very sensible point in his post match interview that you can’t really judge a team until they’ve played 10 games. Mark Lawrenson concured and then promptly wrote off Swansea & Reading’s chances this season. Our next five games see us face Man City, Aston Villa & Everton at the Cottage, whilst travelling to Southampton & Reading. If we could pick up another 8 or 9 points from that set of fixtures I think we could all be very pleased with our start indeed.

So, in summary, a good away win (that should prevent the pundits from banging on about our form until at least December), a first goal for Rodallega (that should boost his confidence) and a fine goalkeeping display (that should confirm why he’s our number one).

Berbatov (c) NickSarebi on Flickr

Chop’s Monday Musings

Saturday was my first chance to see Fulham live this campaign. It was a perfect day to watch football and it turned out to be a perfect game too. It certainly inspired me to do a bit of writing again, and I though I’d have another go at a regular CCN post. A Monday morning alternative view of the weekends events, something a little off the cuff but hopefully something worth reading.

The pre-match talk in my bit of the Hammy End was all about injuries to key players (Ruiz, Petric, Richardson & Diarra all out), excitement over Dimitar Berbatov and concern over how the midfield partnership of Baird & Sidwell would cope.

Berbatov (c) NickSarebi on Flickr

Berbatov oozed class. One of those pinch yourself moments when a player of genuine quality plays at the Cottage. He strolled around the park without appearing to break a sweat yet popped up time and again in the perfect position to contribute to our attack. At times he reminded me of Danny Murphy; gaining those vital yards of space thanks to his speed of thought rather than his speed of foot, cajolling his team mates when they didn’t pick the right choice but encouraging them when they did and, of course, calmly sliding home the penalty that effectively won us the game. He seemed a natural leader, a shining example for those around him. Perhaps this was a one off, the thrill of being a big fish again, a game that gave him room to express himself. We shouldn’t get too carried away but I think I’m going to enjoy watching Mr Berbatov.

I love Saturday afternoon games in the sun. There’s a feeling of optimism in the air helped by my memory suggesting we always win in the sun (I know we don’t really but my brain eliminates the losses as abberations). West Brom played some neat football but were let down by a moment of madness from Peter Odemwingie. With Fulham a goal to the good already the normal concerns about playing against ten men were allayed. When the penalty was converted it felt like the games was won (I’ve seen us thrown away leads before, I’m rarely completely confident but this would have taken a complete disaster to lose and so it proved). Not the most thrilling of second halves then but enough to keep us entertained and the joy of three points in the bag.

Other than King Dimitar it was the youngsters that caught the eye.Kacaniklic had a stormer of a first half causing all sorts of chaos down the left wing and creating both the first two goals. Second half he tailed of a little, perhaps the West Brom defence wised up a little, but he continues to show enormous promise. Rich suggested in his match report that Kasami tried too hard but I enjoyed his late cameo in the game. He charged about like a bull in a china shop but there was a desire to make something happen that I felt revitalised the game just when it needed it. The surge forward that led to the final goal was perhaps not the most elegant piece of football but just as it seemed he’d overcooked it he manage to stab in a left foot shot that caught everyone by surprise and eventually fell to Sidwell. Poor old Rodallega must wonder if he’s ever going to score and I felt for him a bit as he pounded the ground with his hand having seen his header bounce back off the crossbar. Finally a word for Alex Smith, who seems to have been part of our academy/reserve set up for ages. He didn’t get long on pitch but it’s great that Jol is happy to give youth a chance.

Riverbank

Ashwater Press – Tales From the Riverbank part 3

Well, it’s been an age since I posted anything on here and I’m not entirely sure I can remember how to do it. I’ve also left this reminder of Ashwater Press’ new book a little late in the day. They go to press very soon so if you’d like to pre-order and have your name printed in the book as a subscriber you’ll need to do so before THIS Sunday (9th September). There will be a limited number of part three of the Riverbank books printed, so don’t hang around if you want to get a copy (I can highly recommend them from the previous two volumes).

With over 125 photographs (many of these pictures never seen before), this 224-page hardback book is a breathtaking and detailed insight into two more turbulent seasons at Craven Cottage (1969-70 and 1970-71). It’s a time when Fulham start their climb back to respectability. Every game, every goal, all the comings and goings on and off the pitch; every detail relating to life at Fulham FC at that time – well over 100 matches are covered. What’s in this volume? Well …………….

The shock departure of Malcolm Macdonald / Fulham go crazy with eight goals at Halifax Town / Fulham score sixteen goals in just three league games / The Doncaster Rovers thugs come to town / Johnny Haynes gets the Fulham goalscoring record / The Luton Town floodlight failure / George Cohen’s testimonial match / The first round FA Cup knock out at Fourth Division Exeter City / George Cohen takes charge of the juniors / The Bristol Rovers leaflet protest / John Richardson scores one of the goals of the season in a rare Fulham TV appearance / Johnny Haynes’ final Fulham game / Fulham’s two wins in eighteen games, and morale at rock bottom / A great revival and Fulham push on to fifteen league games unbeaten / The Fulham youth, victorious in Düsseldorf / Jimmy Conway and Steve Earle head the league’s goalscoring charts / The departure of Johnny Haynes and the arrival of Jimmy Dunne / Barry Lloyd made captain at twenty-one / The Watney Cup thriller with Derby County / All five forwards score against Bradford City / Rodney Marsh’s first return to the Cottage and Rangers being rattled out of the League Cup / Cup specialists Swindon Town become Fulham’s next League Cup victims / Another fifteen game unbeaten run / Stan Brown’s testimonial match / Dad winning the FA Cup duel of the Dodgins / League Cup quarterfinal heartache at Ashton Gate / The Gillingham pantomime on ice / Three goals in eight minutes at Priestfield / The Fulham champagne promotion party at Bradford City / The Preston North End final letdown / Fulham Town Hall celebrations / The Riverside stand gets the go-ahead. ……………………..phew! That’s just a thumbnail summary.

Just to confirm, we are holding the price at the same level as six years ago, despite increases in printing costs. Regrettably postage is now a bit more, but that aspect is out of our control! Tales from the Riverbank Part 3 will be available early into the new season (early to mid October). It will be possible to collect books from both Ascot and Twickenham and for two games outside the Craven Cottage ground (Aston Villa and Everton games).

We can now definitely confirm that we will be producing an Ashwater Desk Diary for 2013 later this year after the great feedback we received regarding last year’s diary. We will print more this year, as we know many were disappointed that we sold out. We will also be producing an Ashwater Wall Calendar for Christmas as well. We will send out another update in a couple of week’s time when the details are finalised.

To order your copy / copies of Tales from the Riverbank Part 3:

Visit http://www.ashwaterpress.co.uk (Click link)

Where you can pay and subscribe using PAYPAL

Or where you can download an order form and pay by cheque using the post.

For any other information, please E mail: ashwaterpress@btinternet.com

Or telephone: 01344 – 624231

Alan Dzagoev celebrating

Euro Crush: Alan Dzagoev

The most disappointing aspect of Russia’s, difficult to comprehend, elimination from the tournament is that we won’t see any more of Alan Dzagoev. Dzagoev’s three goals in the opening two fixtures seemed to have set Russia on a comfortable course for the knockout stages and placed him as a contender for top goalscorer, but a limp performance in the final game saw them miss out.

Ostensibly playing on the right side of an attacking front three, he had the freedom to go where he wanted and looked lively and alert. His first goal came 15 minutes into the game against the Czech Republic, reacting smartly to fire home the rebound after Kerzhakov’s header had hit the post. It swung the tie in Russia’s favour after the Czech’s had started reasonably well. His second calmed nerves and restored the two goal lead, arriving from deep to collect Pavlyuchenko’s neat reverse pass and shoot sharply passed Petr Chech. Against Poland he opened the scoring with a well placed header, though this was assisted by some pretty poor defending.

It wasn’t just his goal-scoring exploits that caught the eye, his movement off the ball and ability to cut in from the wing and look for the killer pass made him at least as important as Arshavin to Russia’s early success. Unlike Arshavin, he also looked like he was happy to get involved at the other end of the pitch. A lethargic team performance against Greece produced few highlights but Russia’s best two chances both involved Dzagoev. In the first half he cut in from the right and found Arshavin with a neat chipped pass which Arshavin fired limply at the ‘keeper. Later Arshavin returned the favour with a great cross which Dzagoev got his head to but saw his effort curl agonisingly wide of the far post.

At 22 (today actually) he should be entering the prime of his career and he’s certainly not picked a bad time to perform well at a major tournament. He’s been with CSKA Moscow since 2008 and made over 100 appearances for them. Much as I’d love to see him in a White shirt I think it will be one of Europe’s leading sides that wins his signature. In the past he’s been linked with Real Madrid and more recently both Arsenal and Chelsea have been strongly linked. It’s a good time for him to try his talents elsewhere, though he only need talk to his national skipper to appreciate the challenges that may face him.


Dave has supported Fulham since he was 6 and the Whites reached the ‘75 F.A. Cup Final. He went to his first game in 1979, enjoying a 3-1 win over Burnley, but saw the team relegated the same season thus ensuring he was well prepared for life as a Fulham fan. E-mail him or follow him on twitter.

Five thoughts on the SW6 derby

I think we should petition the F.A. to have all Fulham v Chelsea games to be played at 8:00 on a Bank Holiday from now on. Keegan once remarked that the atmosphere at Craven Cottage under floodlights could be a bit special and combined with a day off and the visit of our nearest neighbours this made for an electric atmosphere.

1. Even at 1-0 down, with our efforts to score looking increasingly unlikely and time slipping away, I felt it had been a cracking game. Though the subsequent stats slightly disprove this, I thought we’d dominated possession and certainly looked like the most likely winners. When the equalizer finally arrived it was almost as good as a winner, the ground united in joy, the reduced Chelsea contingent silent.

2. DEMPSEY DEMPSEY DEMPSEY! Clint never fails to impress does he? Five years on and he just keeps getting better. If the big clubs come calling this summer it will be a sad day for our club but who could argue he hasn’t given us more than we could possibly have hoped for. A terrific player who is finally getting the plaudits he deserves. That said I really hope that we get to see him claim a testimonial in another 5 years time. How many players are likely to achieve that these days?

3. The Penalty & Lampard. I’ve still not seen a replay of the penalty but at the time (from just behind the incident) I thought it was Stephen Kelly’s rash challenge that had caused the offending contact. Difficult to know how great a connection he made but mates who have seem it on TV suggest it was dubious at best. Lampard’s reaction after scoring suggests that our humorous jibes about him being porky are actually having a bit of an effect. What really annoys me is that celebrating the way he did in front of the home fans did not draw an automatic yellow card. Players taking their shirts off or celebrating too wildly with their own fans get a card every time yet a player rubbing it in doesn’t? How can that be right. Either way, we got our own back on the night and I reckon we’ve got under the skin of fat Frank which should make his next visit just as fun.

4. Formations. Whilst I’ve moaned previously about our inconsistency this season it has been nice to see Marten Jol comfortable changing formations and tactics to suit available personnel and opposition. With Pogrebnyak, Ruiz and Johnson all injured our options up front were limited and the switch to a 5 man midfield almost inevitable. The central triangle of Murphy, Diarra & Dembele worked wonderfully. I think Diarra had his best game yet and surely this was in part thanks to the extra cover Murphy & Dembele provided. In fact it seemed whoever pushed forward could rely on at least one of the other two to hold back and provide that much needed cushion of safety if we lost the ball. It seems there’s always a surprise inclusion in our team against Chelsea and this time round it was the return of Karim Frei. Interesting that after Kacaniklic had so impressed against Norwich & Bolton he wasn’t chosen for this game. Perhaps this was just done to keeping the team fresh but I also wondered if, with only Dempsey up front, Jol wanted Frei’s ability to hold onto the ball over Kacaniklic’s ability to put in a cross. Whatever the reason, it certainly worked and Frei deserved his man of the match award.

5. Good things followed Swansea.  My friend Mark made an interesting point that the performance against Swansea may have worked in our favour. If nothing else it has seen the return of Aaron Hughes to central defence and (I may be biased regarding this) I think this has made us more solid again at the back. Hughes was excellent on the night and Hangeland looks more confident with his old comrade alongside. I shouldn’t get carried away of course but we seem to have gained a little boost with the changes in personnel and I’m feeling positive for the last five games of the campaign. Onwards and upwards.

Five thoughts from Fulham vs Norwich

I have been conspicuous by my absence on here of late so I thought it was time I pulled my finger out and tried to contribute something. In keeping with my normal modus operandi here’s five random points of interest from the game for you to mull over.

1. Winning games can overcome all sorts of concerns and doubts about a team. Much as I might claim to be more interested in the way we play than in the results we gain, you need those boosts of three point tallies to keep feeling positive. Saturday was an enjoyable afternoon for all sorts of reasons. The sun had disappeared and there was a definite chill in the air but it felt like the right sort of weather to play association football. Norwich arrived with their bright yellow & green kit, their fans in good voice and their own variation of pass and move football. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Norwich gave us a little more space than Swansea a fortnight ago and this allowed us to grab an early lead. Despite that I felt we’d need a 3rd goal or a lot of focus to take the points and so it proved. The Canaries pressed harder as the first half progressed and the formation change at half time saw them back on an even footing. We were unlucky not to nick that 3rd goal but ultimately it was pleasing to see us hold on to lead during that fraught final 10 minutes.

2. Ruiz looked much more effective in a central role. He did fabulously well for the opening goal. He even put in a decent shift defensively, one moment in particular standing out when he slid in to win a ball in the middle of the park having chased his man down. He still has some way to go to win me over. He still had a few moments that left me exasperated and his input faded as the game went on but I’ll leave any further criticism of him for another day.

3. The half time shootout was a joy to behold. I missed the announcement about where the kids were from but I got the impression they were from somehwere in Europe. It was lovely to see almost every player attempt some sort of trick or misdirection on their run in to goal. It seems to me this is one of the things English youth development gets wrong. Too great a focus on winning games and not enough focus on having fun (I realise the irony of this statement based on my Ruiz comments). They scored some corkers too.

4. Stephen Kelly in the penalty area! A much improved performance from Mr Kelly capped by the bamboozling run that ended with him laying the ball off for Duffers and bombing into the box but then running into traffic so that he was unable to get in a decent shot. An exciting moment though.

5. Alex Kacaniklic making his debut. Losing the Pog so early was a blow but Kacaniklic impressed greatly, particularly in the second half. He had pace and control and, I felt, really brought our attacking play to life. He used the ball well and was unlucky not to score a glorious debut goal as he curled a right foot shot towards the top corner only to see Ruddy get a glove to tip it onto the crossbar.

Christmas Shopping

I’m sure most of you will be aware of the wonderful books about Fulham produced by Ken Coton & Martin Plumb through the Ashwater Press imprint. They’ve had some issues of late trying to engage with the club and this has put them in a difficult position regarding the production of future books. This would be a crying shame as Ken and Martin have produced most of the very best books about Fulham, and certainly filled the void that exisited from the official side for many years. Both Richard and I are keen to give Ashwater any assistance we can and so, it is with a slightly shameful face (I should have done this weeks ago!), I finally get round to reproducing their recent advert for the new Ashwater 2012 Fulham Desk Diary.

———————————————

First of all we would like to thank you all for the calls, e-mails and letters we’ve received from you with regard to Fulham FC’s decision to ‘de-select’ us as a supplier of books and heritage material. We also would like to thank you for all the correspondence that you’ve sent to Fulham as a protest; we are flattered and it is sincerely appreciated. From what we understand, no-one to date has been given a satisfactory reply as to why Ashwater books cannot be stocked alongside those of another ‘licensee’.

Anyway, many of you have asked us whether we could produce something for this Christmas. Well, Fulham’s decision came far too late to finalise any significant book offering, but instead we have provided something hopefully just as good – an ideal stocking filler for Mum, Dad, granddad, uncle, son, brother, friend and any other relative – and a great present for yourself.

The

ASHWATER 2012 DESK DIARY

With Fulham pictures by Ken Coton and from the Ashwater archive.

It is naturally a proper functional diary, but not your ‘usual’ diary of course ……………..

  • It is a 128-page diary, approximately 9 inches by 6½ (235mm x 165mm).
  • It will be a quality hardback production. It has over 70 colour and black and white Fulham FC pictures.
  • Across five decades of Ken Coton’s archive.
  • Many of the pictures previously unseen or not seen for 30–40 years.
  • It contains detailed captions and Fulham trivia.
  • It contains a weekly ‘anecdote’ relating to Fulham’s colourful history over the last fifty years.
  • A foreword from Steve Pound – MP.

We sincerely hope that you will support us in this project as it could be the basis for next year’s books.

The price will be £9.95, but that’s not much more than a decent ordinary diary, and remember it’s not just a diary – it’s a Fulham book as well! You will be able to collect from outside the ground before the start of the four December Fulham home matches (assuming we haven’t sold out by then).

We can also post you copies. Postage will be £2.25 per copy in the UK (Overseas postage rates available on request). You can order now by sending your details with a cheque for £12.20 payable to ASHWATER PRESS to Ashwater Press, 68 Tranmere Road, Twickenham, Middlesex TW2 7JB. Thanks! Maybe you could buy two, one for keeps and one for daily use! We’ll post two copies for £22.

Please Note: We would like to stress that we have printed a limited number this year and 60% of them have already been sold in the last four weeks. For those not collecting we would request that you order soon to avoid a Christmas disappointment.

Any queries or mailed orders, either e-mail ashwaterpress@btinternet.com or use the Ashwater order line and leave an order by phone on 01344 – 624231

Best wishes – and thanks for your support

Ken Coton and Martin Plumb.

www.ashwaterpress.co.uk

Fulham Programmes 1980-81

Memories are funny old things. Events become fine tuned to specific key moments and time merges into a mass of indistinguishable snapshots. Dad took me to a lot more games this season yet looking through Phil Cowan’s archive none really spring back into focus. I know I went to a lot of games because I had a large stack of these bawdy, yellow bannered, programmes. Tony Gale was again selected as the season’s “cover” boy, in typical buccaneering pose closing down the opposition ‘keeper (oddly Leicester City for the second season in a row – Ken Coton must have had a good stack of decent pictures from that game).

The drop in Division did little to improve our form and Bobby Campbell was relieved of his duties in October 1980 after a run of six consecutive defeats. Malcolm MacDonald had previously been employed as the club’s Commercial Director and on the surface appeared to be a cheap fix to our troubles. However, as my Dad explained to me at the time, MacDonald had an exceptional footballing pedigree. Born in Fulham, down Finlay Street if Dad is correct, he’d made his league debut for the Whites in 1968. Fulham, undergoing a previous period of turmoil, let him move to Luton Town the following year and it was with the Hatters that he made his name. He was soon snapped up by Newcastle United, scored a hat-trick on his debut against Liverpool, earned a call up to the England side and became known as Super Mac. After 95 goals in 187 appearances he moved on to Arsenal where he managed a further 42 goals in 84 appearances before a knee injury cut his top flight career short. When he took over his first managerial role at the Cottage he was only 30 years old.

Super Mac not only turned around our season, saving us from any threat of relegation and managing a creditable 13th place finish thanks to nine wins and two draws in the last seventeen games, but he did so by giving our youth a chance. Whether this was a result of MacDonald’s eye for talent or just down to Ernie Clay’s refusal to give him any money is unclear, but this policy would form the foundation of a much more successful campaign the following season.

The game I’ve picked out from this season is at home to Newport County in March 1981. Newport wore orange shirts and I’ve always enjoyed Fulham playing teams in bright and unusual colours. My memory suggests that Fulham play best on sunny days, against teams in colourful strips and, whilst this may not be supportable by statistical proof, I’d suggest Q.P.R. think carefully about their next away strip should they be in any danger of a return trip to the Cottage next season.

We played Newport twice in consecutive seasons and won both games. 2-1 in 1980-81, then 3-1 in 1981-82. In one of those games my, clearly fallible, cognitive process provides a clear image of Sean O’Driscoll scoring directly from a corner. Noisy was one of my favourite players, he rarely wasted the ball and always worked his socks off. He was one of the less celebrated members of that squad and rarely scored. However, having checked both Turner & White’s Fulham Facts & Figures and Phil Cowan’s scans of subsequent programmes, it seems this is not the case. Either someone nicked their head on it before it crossed the line or that goal was in another game.

Whatever the truth, and if anyone really can remember that goal I’d love to know which game it was in, the moment has lived with me ever since.

It’s oh so quiet

The International break means there’s little Fulham news to talk about. England did what they needed to do and qualified for Euro 2012 but the press had a field day over Rooney’s sending off. How perfect for the British media that the man most in the spotlight should rise to the bait and give them something to write about. With hindsight I should have put a bit of money on it.

The interruption to league football must make it difficult for all league clubs to maintain momentum but it’s probably still the best solution to fitting the fixtures in. It’s frustrating though that we get hit by two pauses so early in the season. Meanwhile, the Rugby World Cup is in full swing down in New Zealand. Wayne Rooney might feel at home there, at least he’d have someone to share the burden of press admonishment. English clubs in the Aviva Premier League have, however, continued to play. Did it used to be like this in Football too? I know we didn’t always have the long break in league football, but back then Fulham internationals were few and far between.

We’ve actually only got eight first teamers away so the club might not be completely devoid of life. Zamora & Stockdale didn’t feature in the England game and with no mid-week match will be on their way home already. Damien Duff played 75 minutes in the 2-0 win over Andorra, whilst Stephen Kelly remained on the bench. They have their final qualifier in Dublin on Tuesday night. Chris Baird played 90 minutes in Northern Ireland’s disappointing loss versus Estonia. Philippe Senderos picked up an injury in training so failed to play for the Swiss, Moussa Dembele saw 90 minutes in a 4-1 win for Belgium and only John Arne Riise will line-up for Norway against Cyprus as Brede Hangeland is suspended.

Despite this, I read that Martin Jol had returned to Holland for a brief break. I have visions of Motspur Park being like school when the headmaster isn’t in and no-one has worked out exactly who’s in charge. Lots of running in the corridors, kids playing practical jokes and the occasional fight.

If you’re struggling to fill the gap left by a lack of Fulham then perhaps you might enjoy this
interview with Joey Barton on the BBC (apologies to overseas readers). You might not like him very much but I think he’s a decent footballer and has a more interesting view of the game than many of his English peers.

Running for Roger Brown

I hope Richard doesn’t mind but I wanted to draw everyone’s attention to a charity run on 23rd October 2011. A few weeks back I wrote about Roger Brown following his sad passing at the age of 58. Subsequently I discovered that his son-in-law to be, Peter Drakeley, was running for charity. There’s only a few weeks to go and I think Peter could do with a sponsorship boost. I know times are hard but even the smallest donation can make a difference. Here’s what Peter had to say;

As I am sure most of you are aware Fulham Legend Roger Brown sadly passed away last month aged only 58 years:

http://www.fulhamfc.com/Club/News/NewsArticles/2011/August/RogerBrownTribute.aspx

Roger was a good friend of mine, and my father in law to be and in his honor I have (perhaps a tad foolhardy) decided to attempt the Great Birmingham run to raise money for St Giles Hospice; a place where Roger felt safe and was well looked after in the last months of his life.

It’d be great if some of you would make a donation to this attempt in Rogers name.

If you would like to donate you can do so online at JustGiving:

http://www.justgiving.com/Peter-Drakeley

(You can also read more about my reasons for trying and my inadequacies as an athlete).

Please also spread the word to anyone you think might like to donate that probably won’t see this thread!

Thanks,

Pete

Fulham Programmes 1979-80

Recently I have been enjoying the discovery of the wonderful www.fulhamfootballprogrammes.co.uk an Illustrated History of Fulham Football Programmes and matches from the club’s formation to the present day. Created by Fulham fan Phil Cowan, it really is a labour of love and features full scanned copies of Programmes from every era of Club’s history.

Initially I thought I might do a top 5 programme covers. This is, after all, how my brain naturally works. However, having realised that every season has some lasting memory for me I decided I might work my way through the years highlighting a particular game that has particular resonance for me.

My first season following the Fulham was 1979-80 and my first ever live match was the home game against Burnley. It was the middle of September and we won 3-1 but the season went downhill thereafter. I love the fairground style font used for the second season in a row to depict the club name. I love the colour and of course the montage of Ken Coton photos. The shot of the top showing the “ghosts” at the back of the Stevenage Road stand. Les Strong battling against an unknown Leicester City player, Tony Gale and (I think) John Lacy in mid-aerial lunge, Peter Kitchen our most expensive purchase at that point with the spikey hair and seventies ‘tache.

I don’t remember a great deal about the game itself other than it being a gorgeous sunny afternoon. Peter Marinello got sent off with the score still 0-0 and the crowd sang “There’s Only One Marinello” for the rest of the game. The referee, Ron Challis (Tonbridge, Kent), took a lot of stick for that decision and I learned a few new words. Despite this we went on to win 3-1 thanks to two goals from Gordon “Ivor” Davies and one from Kevin Lock. Goals, sun, singing, excitement. It’s what football is really all about and why I still have a primal connection with watching it live.

After the game Dad walked me round the ground, under the Eric Miller (Riverside) stand and along the Putney Terrace, to take a look at the famous Craven Cottage. As we were about to head home Peter Marinello came out from the changing rooms, heading for the player’s bar. Someone stopped him to ask about the Old Firm (I didn’t know what that meant then but it sounded quite exciting). Marinello stopped for a chat before heading on his way, every inch the dashing hero. It was Ivor though who had really caught my imagination. It was Ivor who scored the goals that mattered and would continue to do so quite regularly from then on. It was Ivor who always had a cheeky wink or word with the crowd.

I went home very happy, expecting every game to be like that. I soon learned that wasn’t the case. Fulham struggled to maintain consistency and were relegated at the end of the season. I’d been bitten by the bug though and our Saturday afternoons were never quite the same again.

Five (late) observations from Odense

Our recent performances have been more positive I think. We’re still desperate for that elusive Premier League win but I’m feeling much happier than I was a few weeks back. Tomorrow’s going to be a tough game to watch though. We’ll all be on edge the longer we go without scoring and should we go behind, well I think it might get ugly. Watching the Odense game highlighted the difference between European & English football. We had so much more time on the ball and dominated possession. Despite that Odense could rightly claim to have had the best of the chances. I know it’s a little late but here’s some more stuff that I noticed.

1. Matthew Briggs is fast turning into a real player. I thought he had a cracking game and was thrilled to see someone with real pace bombing down the left flank. He is almost unrecognisable from the 16 year old who made his debut at Middlesbrough under Dirty Sanchez. I think he played holding midfield that day and seemed destined to become a centre back, since then he’s thinned out, picked up some fancy footwork and found a barber with a sense of humour. I felt he combined well with Duff who looked much more comfortable on the left than he has on the right. Matty has been called up to the England U21s too, so bright days ahead for him I suspect. He might even be that full back England need to win the World Cup again.

2. ITV commentators (and I suspect every other channels) clearly get all their facts and figures from the pre-game press pack. For the second time this season I played “spot the UEFA stat” and chuckled away as they read facts from the sheet provided. I was counting the time after Sidwell came on before Peter Drury felt obliged to mention Steve’s own goal against Odense when playing for Villa. He lasted about 30 seconds. I’m sure it wasn’t like this in Motty’s day.

3. Philippe Senderos needs better studs. I’ve not been a big fan of the Swiss defender’s efforts so far but I felt he was having one of his better games until the comedy stumble in the second half. In normal speed it was hard to work out what happened. Initially I assumed he’d been injured but then he tried again to close the attacker down and slipped again. He pulled off his fine impression of Bambi on ice and got away without conceding what seemed to be an inevitable goal but that moment seemed to knock his confidence. From then on his performance was littered with errors. A pair of black boots with white trim, I suggest Philippe, and good old fashioned full length studs.

4. OB’s goalkeeper, Stefan Wessels, who Peter Drury gleefully informed us played briefly for Everton in 2007-08, looked remarkably like he’d been transplanted from an archve film of J.P.R. Williams playing Rugby for Wales in the seventies. Like a live version of the recent Match of the Day titles. All hair and legs.

5. Andy Johnson proved that hard work and persistence can sometimes provide just rewards. Though his end product HAS been disappointing at times he has impressed me with his willingness to run all day and work hard to find that crucial opening. Wessels should have done better with the first goal but AJ’s second was a thing of beauty and had me off the sofa and dancing round the room … again.

Coping

I get miserable when Fulham aren’t winning. The odd game is OK but the longer a winless run continues the more I begin to brood on it. Pretty sure I’m not alone in that.

The Blackburn game was a chance to put everything right, start finding that missing 10%, that final killer ball, that clinical finish in the box. A game against a side that’s struggling as much as us and, on paper, doesn’t look especially worrying. We might have dominated possession, in the second half at least, but we never looked like we completely knew what we were doing. Popular opinion suggested that whilst our early start to the competitive season might mean a long hard season we should at least “hit the ground running” and get off to a decent start. Clearly that’s not going to happen.

Expectations will need to be revised.

It took us four games with Hughes to win a game but we’d drawn the rest and were sitting 5th in the league on a decent 6 points. By the end of November we were 17th and had only averaged one point a game. It took the miracle at Stoke to lift us out of the mire and set us up for a remarkable points collection from then until the end of the season.

To coin another popular turn of phrase, it’s a marathon not a sprint.

Of course none of the above probably makes you feel any better about the team. It certainly hasn’t helped me. So, how to cope. I can’t go on holiday, I only just got back from a lovely week in Cornwall. That at least enabled me to be more or less completely oblivious to the closing of the transfer window. In fact the first I heard about any deadline day deals was when Mrs Chop overheard a man in Morrison’s suggest Arsenal had signed five players. It turned out he was right, though it would be another four hours before the BBC was able to confirm this. Which just goes to show something. Possibly.

Maybe I should grow up a bit and accept that football isn’t the most important thing in the world and there are far worse things happening than my team losing the odd game. Obviously that’s not going to happen. I’m with Bill Shankly on this one.

In the end I think I’ve found the most solace by living in the past. I finally got hold of a copy of the late Peter Thompson’s (Pensioner round these parts) original book “Following The Fulham” and it has been a joy to read. A reminder that we’ve never had it so good. That we’re at the top of the game and that really, things aren’t so bad after all.

I can’t say I’m happy but I’m optimistic enough to think things will turn around sooner rather than later. We have two tough games coming up. We might not win them. There’s a good chance we’ll lose. But at least we’re there, we’re playing the best teams, not just in the League but also in Europe.

Bring it on, I’m ready.

Numberwang (slight return)

The end of the summer transfer window draws ever nearer and there continues to be some fairly tantalising numbers free in our squad. Shirts 7, 9 and 11 are all up for grabs.

If I’ve learned anything from 10 years of summer transfer windows it’s this …

a) The player you felt sure was on his way out of the club after 3 seasons of doing nothing more than turn up for training and complain about his ear injury, will still be warming the bench come September the first.

b) Those two or three signings the manager suggested were still to come will end up being a 17 year old from non-league football and a 35 year old midfielder on a free from Tottenham Hotspur.

c) The numbers don’t mean a thing to professional football managers.
In other words, don’t get your hopes up.

The numbers DO mean a thing to me though. I’m always pleased to see a player that fits my expectation of the type of player who should be wearing that number. My expectations were formed watching football in the late seventies and early eighties, fit a rigid 4-4-2 formation and only apply to numbers 1 to 12. I suspect people who grew up in different eras have their own number definitions which fit the formation and style of the time.

I’m always a little disappointed when our current players don’t fit my requirements. I not completely obsessed, I can be flexible about hair colour, but I do like to see players roughly fit this mould. A no-prize for anyone who can identify all the players who have helped form these definitions.

1. Goalkeeper – Either the tallest or fattest member of the team.

2. Right Back – Young and athletic, decent turn of pace, generally dark hair.

3. Left Back – Dead ball specialist, clinical penalty taker, generally fair hair.

4. Holding Midfielder – Combative player prone to rash challenges and regular receiver of red cards.

5. Centre Back – Towering defender, physically very strong, good in the air, often sporting a head bandage.

6. Centre Back – Cultured defender, rarely booked, good on the ball with a great eye for a pass.

7. Striker – Prolific goalscorer, small but nippy, not always involved elsewhere on the pitch but has an excellent eye for a goal-scoring opportunity.

8. Creative Midfielder – Quietly effective central midfield player who pulls the strings, not always noticed but able to keep the ball moving and pick out a decent pass.

9. Striker – Old-fashioned centre-forward. Large physical presence, good in the air, doesn’t score as many goals as perhaps he should.

10. Right Midfielder – Flair player of the side, sometimes plays centrally requiring another number (usually 8) to play “out of position”, excellent in possession, often goes on mazy dribbles across pitch. Decent shot.

11. Left Midfielder – Hard working winger with a decent left foot cross. Ginger hair.

12. Substitute – Nothing to add here.

I’m not sure if anyone who has grown up since the arrival of the Premier League and the introduction of squad numbers feels the same way? I kind of doubt it as you’d struggle to find any consistency in the numbers used but would be interested to know if there are any numbers beyond the traditional twelve that have started to mean something.

Roger Brown

Six foot two, eyes of blue, Roger Brown is after you!

This was not the post I intended to write this week but I’ve been somewhat taken aback by the news that, former centre back and club captain, Roger Brown passed away this morning at 58 years old.

Roger signed the year I started going to Craven Cottage. He was injured on his debut, a 2-1 loss at home to Chelsea, and didn’t make another appearance until the following season by which tie we’d been relegated. He played regularly in that first year in Divsion Three and, if my memory serves, was made club captain only after Bobby Campbell had been sacked and Malcom MacDonald taken charge of the team.

The next two seasons, which corresponded with me attending nearly every home game as well as several away, he was an ever present. He scored an impressive 12 goals in 1981-82 including the header, pictured below, against Lincoln City which confirmed our promotion. His presence contributed to an incredible season in 1982-83 which saw us almost achieve back to back promotions, reaching the very brink of First Division football before failing at the last.

The 1983-84 season saw Malcolm MacDonald resign due to non-football related press allegations, and subsequently the team that had done so well systematically broken up. Roger returning to Bournemouth, the club who had given him his first professional job, towards the end of 1983.

It may not have lasted long but Roger left his mark on Fulham history. To me he WAS the heart and soul of Fulham. A lion on the field, physically tough and completely committed, but a gentlemen off it.

Rest in peace Roger.

Photo copyright Ken Coton check out more of Ken’s work via the link

Fulham 0-0 Aston Villa

A game that threatened to spring into life on a couple of occasions but, in the end, failed to deliver.

We may be five weeks into our competative campaign but there was still a buzz surrounding the opening league fixture. The sun was out and a clear run to the ground provided plenty of time for a pre-game beer by the riverside. Most people I spoke too were optimistic for a winning start, expecting our Europa League games to give us the edge. It wasn’t to be.

Both teams tentatively proped each other in the early exchanges. Not taking any serious risks but happy to try a pot shot or two when the chance was presented. Duff fouled someone on the edge of our box, seemed to have got away with it but then looked at the ref to check and was promptly pulled up for it. Like a naughty schoolboy caught by his own reaction. Villa sent that effort comfortably wide. Andy Johnson, who seems to have got his falling down trick sorted again (witness the penalty he won against Split), got us a free kick in a similar position at the other end. Murphy played a nice ball into the box which Clint nudged on, but John Arne Riise blazed over the bar. Riise will score goals for us and I suspect most of them will be belters. Shortly after that Duff collected a far post cross, had a swipe from distance but saw it curl lazily wide of the Villa post.

Something yet nothing. Murphy was having one of those days when only 50% of his passes came off. He wasn’t alone in this, but frustration got the better of him mid-way through the half and a lunge at Heskey (I think) got him the first yellow card of the day. Villa started to benefit from our carelessness, catching us on the counter whenever we lost the ball. Bent was caught offside twice in quick succession and Petrov tried one from distance.

Though we were ostensibly lined up 4-4-2, John Arne’s forward thinking often left us with three at the back. This may be why Jol is persisting with Hughes in the right back slot. Riise looked solid defending and exciting going forward. I can understand why Jol would want to make this work. However, I hate seeing the Hangeland/Hughes partnership broken up and, perhaps partly due to my own prejudice, felt Senderos was not nearly as assured as Hughes would have been in the same postition.

We started the second half at full tilt and dominated the game for a good 15 minutes. Duff & AJ combined well down the right before Given saved from Zamora at point blank range. Duff then switched to the left and exchanged neat passes with Riise only to see the cross cleared and Etuhu’s follow up shot blocked. AJ in particular looked lively all day. Working his socks off with or without the ball, he went on a number of jinking runs but just couldn’t find the finishing touch or the perfect lay off. The best chance of the game fell to Bobby in the 63rd minute. Murphy played a sumptious hollywood pass over the Villa defence to find the big man in space on the edge of their box. Zamora controlled well, cut back inside the defender but then misfired his shot straight at Shay Given. Moments later Murphy again found the killer pass, but AJ also failed to really connect with his effort.

Mark Albrighton replace N’Zogbia in the Villa midfield and the advantage seemed to swing back towards the visitors. Heskey had caused all sorts of problems, most of them physical, in a three man front line but now dropped back to a forward thinking midfield role. Demebele replaced Zamora with around 20 minutes to play but again struggled to get involved in the game. I’m not sure if he’s carrying an injury or just lacking match fitness but I think it will be a few more games before we see the best of Moussa. Villa forced three corners in quick succession but we held on and the game was allowed to fizzle out.

A fair result for two teams that looked a little rough around the edges. A better result for Villa undoubtedly but not such a bad result for us either.

Steeeeeed

It’s late and I should be off to bed. I’m going down to the Isle of Wight tomorrow with my boys and we’ve got an early-ish start. But if I don’t post now it’s going to be another week missed and for now I’m keen to maintain the one post a week schedule. Also one of my favourite former Fulham players is in the news this week.

Steed Malbranque is my second favourite Fulham player, second only to the mighty Gordon Davies. Signed in the build up to our first ever Premier League season Steed slotted into our team like he’d been there for years. He always looked comfortable in possession and once in control was difficult to knock off the ball. He fitted the club too. Apparently quiet and unassuming off the field but a willing worker and excellent team player when on it. It’s always annoyed me when large sections of the crowd have booed him on his return. I’m all for a bit of banter when a player deserves it but it seemed to me Steed left as much down to a lack of support from the management as any desire to find greener pastures.

His spell at Spurs didn’t pan out as well as he’d hoped. Signed by Martin Jol (hence the rumours of his return) and making some 50 appearances but then released by Juande Ramos. The move to Sunderland gave him more regular football for two seasons but last year it was apparent he was no longer viewed as a garaunteed starter. Steve Bruce recently confirming this by stating that whilst he had done remarkably well for the club it was probably time to move on. And so back to France and to St. Etienne, a club with a great history but one that is currently in the shadow of their great rivals (and Steed’s first club) Olympic Lyons.

Steed made over 200 appearances for Fulham and scored over 40 goals. He was never as prolific anywhere else. We got to see him at his very best. The video below highlights everything I loved about him. The excellent control, the stooped run, the awareness of other players. A quick pass, a continued run, a neat finish. We beat Manchester United 3-1 at Old Trafford. I think this was the first day I began to believe we deserved to remain in the top flight.

Greenpole Fulham F.C.

When my Dad first started taking me to Fulham regularly we’d stand more or less in the same place every week. Back then the Hammersmith End was terracing and there was plenty of space to pick where you wanted to be. Having watched my first ever game from the very middle of the terrace the old man clearly decided things were a little too “vocal” for my seven year old ears and we flirted with the posh seats in the Riverside for a couple of games. I didn’t like it there though. I wanted to be in the end where all the singing happened. I wanted to stand and shout and feel more a part of what was happening.

We returned to the Hammy End but moved to the side of the terrace nearest the river. There was a large black fence that separated that third of the terrace from the rest of the end. It must have been something to do with segregation but it only ever housed home fans during the time I attended. We’d walk past the bulk of the home fans who clustered behind the goal around the large green girder that held the roof up, and moved on towards slightly quieter climes. The spot my Dad had chosen was roughly where he had stood with my Grandad in the 30s and 40s. It’s also not far from where our season tickets are now and where I’ve already taken my eldest son. That continuity is part of what makes following Fulham, and Craven Cottage in particular, very special to me. I feel a connection with the past at the Cottage that I don’t think exists anywhere else in the world.

All this was a precursor to me explaining that I didn’t really have a lot to say. The video below is a song called “Sold My Soul” by Emergency Bitter. They’re a punk band formed by a bunch of Fulham supporters who recently released an E.P. of songs inspired by and about football. “Sold My Soul” name checks the greenpole, the same girder that held the roof up when I first came to the Cottage. The same girder that still holds the roof up. It’s had a coat of paint but, rather pleasingly, the club kept it green.

History. It’s small things like this that keep me happy.

Emergency Bitter play the Fighting Cocks in Kingston this coming Wednesday. If all goes to plan I’ll be there. Might see you down the front? There’s a bit of swearing at the start of the video, for those who might be offended by such things you might want to skip on 30 seconds, otherwise it’s straight down the middle punk rock.

Maarten Jol’s Black & White Army

Well hello again. It’s been a while, I hope you’re all keeping well.

Last season I attempted to maintain some level of Fulham writing by providing occasional top fives for this esteemed blog. Time rather got the better of me and the extensive research required (i.e. reading Wikipedia) to produce a top five due to my appalling memory for facts hampered me even further. A recent round robin email discussion initiated by Timmy has reignited my desire to write about Fulham so I thought I’d try and produce a weekly post. Hopefully a fairly lighthearted compliment to the excellent analysis done by Richard and Timmy. Let me know if I outstay my welcome.

The other week I made the short trip to Kingston for the Fulham XI friendly against AFC Wimbledon. I was born in Kingston and with the ground only a 20 minute train ride and a short walk away it would have been rude not to go. Whilst the team was always going to be largely made up from Development Squad players (are they still called that?) it’s nice to see some of the academy kids, players you otherwise only know by name. Lork wrote a fairly extensive report on HammyEnd.com so I won’t go into great detail suffice to say that we played some decent football but lacked a bit of guile in the final third of the pitch.

Stockdale marshals Fulham defence

It was lovely to stand on a terrace again. I know a lot of us 40-somethings probably sound a repetitive droning on about how much we miss be able to stand, but it really is the best way to watch football. The low roof over the Kingston Road stand gave the game a sort of wide-screen appearance I rather liked. It was also nice to be able to mingle with home fans. I chatted with a few Wombles fans and enjoyed a spell of “identify the player” for both teams, it seemed The Don’s had almost as many trialists and academy players in their side as we did.

A rare example of an in-focus picture that includes some action & a ball

A small group of Fulham fans put in a good effort on the singing front which helped give the match a bit of atmosphere it might otherwise have liked. Within the first quarter of an hour we’d managed a call of “Maarten Jol’s Black & White Army” and received a cheery wave from our new manager who was sitting in the stands. This was interesting I thought. I don’t remember us attempting a version of “Mark Hughes Black & White Army” until several months into his reign. Was this because we didn’t warm to the man very quickly or just a result of the lack of syllables in his name? Maybe this lack of early support contributed to the Welsh man’s decision to cut an run. I think it’s a good sign that we’ve got off on the right foot.

Mr Jol seems happy to be here and I’m excited about the adventure ahead in a way that I didn’t feel last season. Clearly selecting a manager with a three or four syllable name is the right way to go and should be a factor for consideration in future managerial appointments. Actually, I’ve not entirely thought that through. Lawrie Sanchez had four syllables but had a difficult possessive apostrophe. Don Mackay, who I believe was the first boss on whom we bestowed the honour, proved to be a great song leader but a poor manager. On the positive side we have Adams, Keegan, Tigana, Coleman & Hodgson. If Jol can live up to the achievements of that group we’ll all be happy.

Fulham 0 Sunderland 0

Sunderland have been a bit of a bete noire for Fulham at the Cottage in recent years. A 3-1 loss in 2008 was the moment I gave up hope ahead of the miracle of the Great Escape. The following season a 0-0 draw was one of the worst performances seen under Roy. Today was no classic but I found it an engaging game with moments of great effort and endeavour indispersed with moments of comedic failure. I’m undoubtedly in a small minority, certainly based on the general reaction of those around me, but in many ways this was exactly the sort of game that makes me enjoy being a Fulham supporter so much.

Maybe it was the return of cult hero John Paintsil to side that lightened my mood. Waving to the crowd before kick off. Soaking up the rousing chorus of “John Painstil my lord” and the pre-match communal praying. Juggling the ball with his head whilst massively out of position on the left hand side (I still have no idea how he ended up over there) then theatrically collapsing under a weak challenge when he lost possession. Thumping a clearance towards Phil Bardsley’s head, which quite upset the tenacious full back, then doing the same thing to Zenden in the second half (though Bolo was worryingly out cold for some time before the game could continue). Then finally a JP lap of honour and a signal to keep our chins up as he applauded our support. With players like John Paintsil in the team I can forgive a lot.

So, the game. It started brightly enough with Fulham passing the ball well. Quick shot and accurate passing moves suggested we were starting to come to turns with the Hughes philosophy. A looping cross from Murphy didn’t quite reach Kamara in the box, but the clearance fell to Dempsey who sent a fine shot curling into the top corner only to see it well saved by Mignolet. Anton Ferdinand departed after 10 minutes causing a reshuffle in the Black Cats defence. We couldn’t quite find a way to take advantage.

As the half passed the mid-way point the action started to lull. Darren Bent kept finding sapce in our box and kept putting his headers off target. Sunderland were beginning to put us under pressure. A Salcido error (not a unique event) led to a dangerous ball into the area, and a spell of frantic defending. We were struggling to clear our lines effectively. Three minutes later Danny Wellbeck went on a run that ended with another blocked effort. We’d weathered the storm but the home crowd made their concerns heard as the teams trooped off at the half.

The second half saw Andrew Johnson replace Kamara and AJ got straight into the action. A bustling run and a lay off to Dempsey set the American up for a dinked shot towards the right hand corner but again Mignolet was equal to it. Sunderland, sensing the need to regain control, brought on Gyan and switched to 4-4-2. Salcido crossed early from the left flank and Clint was desperately unlucky not to make contact. Even the slightest of contacts could have seen it head goalward. But it was not to be our day. Both sides had chances but neither had the quality to finsh them off. Chris Baird replaced a fading Salcido at Left Back and Eddie Johnson came on to a rapturous reception. The Hammy End faithful desperate for something to amuse themselves with sang his name with gusto and cheered his every contribution. He’s an unlikely hero but one you feel deserves a bit of luck.

To summarise, too many long balls forward and too little quality in the final third. Who knows if Hughes can turn this around but let’s take John Paintsil’s advice. Keep our chins up and stick together, we’re still in it and still fighting. I’m feeling positive.

Arsenal 2 Fulham 1

Whilst it is always better to travel hopefully, I cannot say that I held any for us getting a result today. I went with my eldest who has remained stoically Arsenal, despite my best efforts, and was not expecting his unbeaten run at games we’ve attended to come to an end.

The first twenty minutes did little to dispel my initial opinion. Fulham looked hopeless, giving the ball away too easily and leaving plenty of gaps at the back for Arsenal to exploit. If it hadn’t been for the brilliance of Schwartzer, saving at point-blank from Arshavin and showing equally quick reflexes to prevent an Etuhu own goal, the game could have been beyond us before 20 minutes were up. Arsenal did take the lead on 13 minutes. A mistake from Hughes gave the ball to Arshavin who poked the ball through to Nasri in the box. The frenchman stepped inside first Hangeland, then Hughes and lashed home into the roof of the net before Paintsil could challenge.

Hughes had started with Matthew Briggs at left back but decided to replace him within the half hour. This seemed a poor decision, hardly an act that will increase the boys confidence. That said Briggs had looked vulnerable early on and Dempsey was clearly required to do a lot more supporting work to help him out. Chris Baird came on to tick off one of the few positions he had not yet been asked to fill in and within two minutes we’d equalised. Clint, released from his defensive shackles, created space in the centre with some good footwork and played a through ball for Kamara to run onto and fire home. The perfect chance for Diomansey as he had no time to think about his options.

There had been an accidental clash of heads in the Arsenal defence in the build up to our goal which led to Koscielny being replaced by Djourou. Subtly things were starting to turn in our favour and the rest of the game was a more even affair. Chamakh rose well to meet a good cross from the right wing but headed straight into Schwartzer’s hands. Kamara broke free again but this time saw his effort saved by Fabianski.

We looked to have more self-belief in the second half. Brede Hangleland was a tower of strength in the middle. Winning headers all over the pitch and putting in some game saving tackles. Gera saw a header cleared off the line then, following a later free kick, attempted a spectacular overhead kick that whistled wide of the post. The Fulham end was in fuller voice now too. Andy Johnson replaced Kamara to bring fresh legs to our attack. There was a sense that we really could take something here, and the team were certainly pushing for another goal rather than sitting back and hoping for a point.

In the end Arsenal’s undoubted class told. Van Persie replaced Rosicky and Walcott came on for Wilshere. Both players had a role to play in the winning goal. Theo went on a slightly aimless run from the right wing to the centre but eventually found a red shirt to lay the ball off to. Van Persie exchanged passes with Arshavin before finding that man Nasri in the box again. Another tricky run saw him outfox our defence and then cut the ball back past Schwartzer just as it looked like he’d run out of room.

We had a few half chances after that, and threw on Eddie Johnson for additional chaos, but we couldn’t quite muster another serious effort on target. One chance fell to Gera, who’d worked hard all day in an attacking midfield role, but Zolly skyed his shot so high it almost left the stadium.

Another mixed bag then whilst family honour in the Chopper household was just about maintained. Some poor ball retention and a lack of organisation early on could have cost us dear but a determined fight back and a desire to get something out of a difficult game showed we’ve got the spirit to turn this season around.

Fulham 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur

This is a team in transition. Gone is the precision organisation of Hodgson’s side. At times we seemed to be chasing shadows as we endeavoured to regain our shape. The brave new, attack minded, world of Hughes is yet to be fully unleashed. We’ve got a good group of players but they are struggling to adapt to a new direction. Spurs weren’t a great deal better but they had a clearer idea of how to construct an attack and I can’t say we deserved a lot more from the game.

The match was frustrating to watch, threatening to burst into life at any moment but never quite sustaining it. A mixed bag of inspired attacking moves, shambolic defending, poor passing and erratic performances.

Clint Dempsey made some surging runs early on but, in a preview of how his game was going to pan out, they came to nothing. He ran down blind alleys, found himself with no passing option or just gave the ball away. Clint didn’t give up, last season things would have eventually turned around for him, but not today. He gave the ball away again and again (Rich might chalkboard this when he gets back). He picked out poor passing options. He pulled Assou-Ekotto back by his ponytail and finally saw his frustrating day capped with a yellow card in the 85th minute.

Despite all this Clint still played a vital role in our goal. We’d been having a good spell going forward. Kamara headed a Simon Davies corner just wide of the right hand post. Dempsey, Dembele and Salcido were combing well down the left and created a couple of half chances. Baird played a short pass forward to Davies who lobbed a ball into the box and Dempsey, coming in off the left side, collected it with his chest. Running across the area and away from goal Clint managed to squeeze a reverse pass beyond the feet of the Spurs defence to find Diomansy in space and able to side foot home under little pressure.

My mind was elsewhere as Spurs found a very rapid response. I looked up from sending a text update to Richard in time to see van der Vaart clip a shot over Schwarzer and against the crossbar. A short moment to breath a sigh of relief before Pavlyuchenko popped up to tap home from short range. It seemed I was the only one with my mind briefly elsewhere. The stats tell us that teams are not as vulnerable after scoring as the pundits would have you believe but this was as clear an example of a team switching off as your likely to find.

Half time arrived and our matchday experience got even more bizarre as the Bodog girls strolled on to become some sort of human roulette wheel. Some supporters had seemingly picked a number each and stood next to the appropriate girl as the sponsors annoucing explained the winner would get a trip to Las Vegas. The scoreboards flashed up a spinning wheel and the number was called out. Que man in number 6 t-shirt celebrating wildly as he hared off towards the away end. This was humerous enough but when the entire posse of Bodog girls set off after him this surreal moment of Benny Hill-esque comedy was complete. A half time to compare with Micheal Jackson’s visit and Al Fayed’s rap with The Gay-venettes.

Spurs brought on Lennon at half time and things were about to get a lot harder for our Mexican left back. Time and again Lennon would scorch down the touchline leaving Salcido horribly exposed. Thankfully it seemed that for all his pace Lennon didn’t have a clue what to do with the space he created. He made life difficult though and when Danny Murphy departed a mere 5 minutes after the restart we knew it was unlikely to be our day.

Murphy and Greening had been excellent in the middle. Murphy pulling all our strings and looking a lot better than the last time I’d seen him. Greening might just have had his best game in a Fulham shirt. He filled in for Etuhu perfectly, playing simple passes and providing Murphy with an easy option whenever he was required. He even managed a few longer passes forward. With Murphy gone we lost our conductor and whilst Bairdinho did his best we didn’t have the same attacking verve.

Spurs began to raise the tempo and when Huddlestone recieved the ball from a half cleared corner we failed, not for the first time this season, to properly close him down. Huddlestone’s got a shot on him and he sent back a rocket, that elluded the legs of both Fulham and Spurs players before nestling into the right hand corner of the net. We almost got away with it as the linesman had his flag raised for offside. After a long discussion with the lino Mike Dean decided to give the goal after all and the game was all but up.

As the game came to a scrappy conclusion Kamara, who put in a typically erratic performance, wasted two decent chances to bring us level. Gera replaced Dembele and Eddie Johnson replaced Jonathon Greening in a final desperate throw of the dice but it was never going to be enough. We continue to miss Zamora up front and must hope that Murphy’s injury is not too serious if we’re going to get to grips with Hughes new template sooner rather than later.

Fulham and England

If Bobby Zamora makes his debut for England tonight, and all reports suggest he will, he’ll be only the fourth Fulham player to feature for the national team since we arrived in the Premier League 10 seasons ago. At 29 not even Bobby’s greatest fan could have predicted this opportunity a year ago but having completed one of the most amazing seasons in his career thus far he undoubtedly deserves his chance.

England are at a low ebb right now. If nothing else, our performance in South Africa opened a few eyes. We’re not quite as talented as we once thought and need to improve in a lot of areas if we’re going to compete with the world’s best. In the short term this means building a team for Euro 2012. Could Zamora be a genuine contender to be a part of the squad? The experience of Fulham’s other recent English hopefuls suggest it won’t be easy.

In February 2003 Sean Davis became the first Fulham player to be selected for England since George Cohen’s last game in November 1967. The friendly played at Upton Park saw England lose 3-1 to Australia and despite Sven-Goran Eriksson using 22 players Sean remained on the bench. Davis played one more full season for Fulham before moving on to Spurs but has yet to be selected for England again.

An injury crisis in defence gave Zat Knight his chance during a summer tour of the USA in May 2005. England played two friendlies and Zat featured in both. The first match, a 2-1 win over the States in Chicago, saw Knight replace Sol Campbell at half time. Zat earnt his first start, and played the full 90 minutes, three days later as England beat Colombia 3-2 in New Jersey. The tour was more about financial rewards than developing a team for the 2006 World Cup but in truth Zat didn’t do enough to suggest he deserved to be any higher in the Centre Back pecking order. Much like Sean Davis, selection for England raised Zat’s expectations but it was another two seasons before he moved on to Aston Villa.

The inimitable Jimmy Bullard secured our most recent brush with the three lions. Selected for back to back World Cup Qualifiers in September 2008. An unimpressive 2-0 win against Andorra was followed by a stunning 4-1 victory over Croatia in Zagreb. Both games were negotiated without the need for Jimmy to remove his tracksuit and after less than four months JB was on his way to Hull with a price tag befitting an England International.

Can Zamora stake a claim to feature in the squad for more than just one game? Can he be the first Fulham player of the Premier League era to earn a cap in a competitive match? To do so he would need to convince Capello that he has something to offer in qualifying for the 2012 European Championships. Despite a poor World Cup, Wayne Rooney remains key to a successful English team. Bobby may well provide the perfect foil for Rooney’s talent. He’ll certainly bring a work ethic to the side that appeared seriously missing in South Africa.

I’ve made the mistake of getting over excited about Fulham players picked for England in the past. I really upset some scousers when Jimmy B got the call and with hindsight they were probably right. I do hope that Bobby does himself credit and will be very proud to see him take the field however long he gets.

Fulham and the 25 man squad

Richard is away and I feel a little like the neighbour who has promised to take the milk in and feed the fish but then decided to use the oven to bake a cake. Hopefully the cakes worth eating and I’ve not made too much mess in the kitchen.

This season sees the introduction of the new 25 man squad rule implemented as a first step towards reducing squad sizes and increasing the number of home grown players at the top level. This excellent article on TwoHundredPercent examines what this means for the Premier League and got me thinking about how the rule would affect Fulham in the coming season.

TwoHundredPercent suggest that the rule will have little impact. Initially this certainly seems to be true and very few teams will have to make serious changes to ensure their squads conform to the new regulations. Looking at our current team we have exactly 25 players over 21 of which 13 can be considered home grown. This is consistent with most of the Premier League. Only three teams (Bolton Wanderers, Manchester City & Wolverhampton Wanderers) have squads bigger than 25 and only one team (Liverpool) have more that 17 players not considered home grown.

This is no accident. You can be sure the Premier League studied the existing team squads very closely before ratifying any changes to the rules. A home grown player is considered any player who spends three seasons, up to and including the season when they turn 21, registered to an English or Welsh club, regardless of their nationality. For Fulham this means Nigerian international Dickson Etuhu qualifies alongside his English, Irish and Welsh teammates.

Clubs will also be allowed to supplement their squad with an unlimited number of players under the age of 21. The Premier League’s definition of “Under 21” is a player born on or after 1st January 1989. This is of more value to the big teams and means the richest clubs can continue to stockpile the very best youngsters.

The squads won’t even take effect from the beginning of the season. The first deadline for naming 25 man squads is 1700 BST on 1st September (24 hours after end of August transfer window). This is good news for Fulham as, thanks to the delays in sorting out our manager, we’re likely to be conducting our business right up to the very last minute.

Changes can be made only during transfer windows, although in exceptional circumstances (e.g. goalkeeping injury crisis) moves could be allowed. Players named in the squad who are subsequently loaned to Football League clubs cannot be replaced, but can regain their spot on return to parent club. Finally the rules apply only to Premier League matches, so any non-registered squad members who we retain would be eligible to feature in the FA Cup or League Cup.

There’s plenty of room for manoeuvre then with our current squad. The table below shows our existing 25 senior pros and highlights those who are home grown (HG) or not. I’ve also listed the current contract periods (thanks to White Noise at Friends of Fulham for a lot of this information). NB: I’ve seen no confirmation of either but Gera must surely have had a 2 year extension activated to take him through to 2012, and Simon Davies was hopeful of agreeing his own extension prior to the Europa League semi-final.

No.	Nation	Pos	Name					Contract
1 	Australia 	GK 	Mark Schwarzer		Not	Final Year
2 	R.Ireland 	DF 	Stephen Kelly		HG	2012
3 	England 	DF 	Paul Konchesky		HG	Final Year
4 	Ghana 	DF 	John Pantsil			Not	Final Year
5 	Norway 	DF 	Brede Hangeland		Not	2013
6 	N.Ireland 	DF 	Chris Baird			HG	Final Year
8 	England 	FW 	Andy Johnson		HG	2012
11 	Hungary 	MF 	Zoltán Gera			Not	Final Year/2012
12 	England 	GK 	David Stockdale		HG	2013
13 	England 	MF 	Danny Murphy		HG	Final Year
15 	Senegal 	FW 	Diomansy Kamara		Not	Final Year
16 	R.O.I		MF 	Damien Duff			HG	2012
17 	Norway 	MF 	Bjørn Helge Riise		Not	2012
18 	N.Ireland 	DF 	Aaron Hughes		HG	2013
19 	Switz. 	GK 	Pascal Zuberbühler	Not	2011
20 	Nigeria 	MF 	Dickson Etuhu		HG	Final Year
21 	U.S.A 	FW 	Eddie Johnson		Not	Final Year
22 	Sweden 	DF 	Fredrik Stoor		Not	2012
23 	U.S.A	 	MF 	Clint Dempsey		Not	2013
25 	England 	FW 	Bobby Zamora		HG	2012
27 	England 	MF 	Jonathan Greening	HG 	2012
29 	Wales 	MF 	Simon Davies		HG 	2010 ?
34 	SouthAfrica MF 	Kagisho Dikgacoi		Not	Final Year
35 	Sweden 	FW 	David Elm			Not	2012
— 	Switzerland DF 	Philippe Senderos		Not	2013

Of the players with reasonable contract periods Hangeland and Dempsey seem the most likely to attract bidders. Having shown ambition in our choice of manager it would be a shame to lose any of our best performers now. Hangeland seems to be a man who knows his own mind and has been quoted as saying he would like to stay. If Roy comes knocking though I wonder if he could turn down the chance to play for Liverpool. Dempsey may also consider that this is his best chance to move up a level. If nothing else his agent is looking to capitalise on his current status. Should either go we would undoubtedly miss them but should at least recieve a decent transfer fee.

Mark Schwarzer has been heavily linked with a move to Arsenal. £2.5 Million is a good return on a 37 year old who we signed for free but we’d need to spend a lot more than that to find someone genuinely capable of replacing him. The arrival of Hughes may be enough to convince big Mark to stay but if he does leave we must hope to attract a quality replacement. The talk has been of Robert Green or Joe Hart which says a lot about our clubs current standing in the top flight.

Frederik Stoor has another two seasons on his contract but seems a prime candidate to depart. No doubt he sees Hughes arrival as a second chance but he may not have much time to impress. John Paintsil has rather wonderfully dismissed reports linking him with a move to West Brom and I would expect Hughes to be keen to tie down our Ghanaian hero to a extended contract.

Two more hot candidates to move on are Diomansy Kamara and Eddie Johnson. Both are in their final year and have not been involved in regular first team football at Fulham for some time. I suspect our attack to be the main focus for Hughes in the next few weeks. With Andy Johnson looking like a long term injury concern it will be a priority to find someone to support Bobby Zamora. AJ may even find himself out of the initial 25.

Assuming Hughes brings in 4 or 5 new players there may well be a couple of last seasons key contributors missing out. There are a number of players in their final year and not all of them will be highly sort after, however well they performed under Hodgson. I’ve stared at that list for so long now an image is burnt into my eyes. It’s not easy picking who else to leave out. Kelly, Greening, Dikachoi or Elm? Maybe (super utility man) Baird, (captain) Murphy or (heaven forbid) Simon Davies?

A lot will depend on who we bring in of course. Whilst the 25 man squad may not radically change English football it will certainly introduce a new set of problems for a manager to come to terms with.

Top 5 Fulham players at the World Cup

The 2010 World Cup finals have drawn to a close. Unlike Richard, I can’t say I’ve particularly enjoyed it. Maybe I’m getting old, maybe I just didn’t see enough live games but this tournament failed to generate the excitement I’ve felt with previous years. There were moments though; Ghana did Africa proud, Germany entertained, Spain were incredible and Forlan worked his magic for Uruguay. Spain deserve to be champions and have reminded the world how football ought to be played.

Fulham had a record high of five representatives (six if you count Senderos) and this got me thinking about the top five Fulham players to have appeared in the World Cup finals whilst still at the club.

1. George Cohen (England, 1966) – It wasn’t a hard decision to pick the number one slot. George played in all six games and was a vital member of England’s only World Cup winning slot. If only Zamora hadn’t needed surgery on his achilles perhaps Fabio would have come back a happier man. Cohen was a mainstay in a defence that didn’t concede a goal until Eusebio scored for Portugal in the 82nd minute of the semi-final. One of the enduring images of the competition is Alf Ramsey stopping George from swapping shirts with one of the Argentineans after what had been a very physical contest. Cohen was left with a shirt with a four foot long sleeve. Cohen would almost certainly have featured in the England side that went to Mexico in 1970 had injury not cut his career short.
Apps = 6 Goals = 0 Furthest round = Winner

2. John Paintsil (Ghana, 2010) – Ghana’s progress was one of the undoubted highlights of 2010. Deservedly progressing to the knockout stages from a tough group in which they only lost to a vibrant Germany. They went on to win a closely fought game with the USA, before the heartbreak of a penalty defeat to Uruguay after one of the great World Cup injustices. In reaching the quarter-finals they’d gone one stage further than in 2006 but came oh so close to becoming the first ever African semi-finalists. Paintsil was present for all 5 matches and was a focal point of the team spirit. His post match lap of honour, flying the Ghanaian flag high brought a smile to the face. He also created a new set of trivia questions for future sports quizzes everywhere, adding a new misspelling of his name (Panstil) during the Serbia win and choosing to play in a shirt with one long sleeve and one short sleeve.
Apps = 5 Goals = 0 Furthest round = Quarter Final

3. Johnny Haynes (England, 1958 & 1962) – Our greatest ever player was also our representative to make most World Cup appearances. Haynes played in both the 1958 and 1962 World Cups though neither proved to be successful. In Sweden, Haynes featured in all four games, drawing with the Soviet Union, Brazil (the only team Brazil failed to beat that year) and Austria (Haynes scoring England’s first goal) before losing to the Soviet Union in a playoff. Four years later Haynes was Captain and led England to qualify from the group stages before losing 3-1 to Brazil in the quarter-finals. This was to be Haynes last ever England cap, after a bike crash later the same year kept him out of the game for almost a year. The fall out from the ’62 World Cup resulted in some major changes to the way the national side was run. Alf Ramsey was appointed in 1963 and became the first English coach to have complete control over team selection.
Apps = 8 Goals = 1 Furthest round = Quarter Final

4. Steve Finnan (Republic of Ireland, 2002) – Stevie Finnan was one of my favourite Fulham players and it had been his cross that had allowed Jason McAteer to score the goal that qualified the Republic for these finals. Despite this he started their opening fixture, against Cameroon, on the bench. Coming on at half time to replace McAteer when the Republic were a goal down. They drew that match and Finnan remained in the team from then on as they drew with Germany and beat Saudi Arabia 3-0. They met Spain in the last 16 and had to fight back from conceding a goal in the 8th minute. Ian Harte missed a penalty before Robbie Keane stepped up to pull the scores level, also from the spot, in the final minute of normal time. A fraught penalty shoot out saw Ireland miss three consecutive efforts, but Finnan successfully despatched his effort to bring the scores level at 2-2. Relief was short lived though, as Gaizka Mendieta slotted his shot away and Spain went through to the next round.
Apps = 4 Goals = 1 pen Furthest round = Last 16

5. Brian McBride (USA, 2006) – 2006 was McBride’s third World Cup and probably not one he’ll remember fondly. The USA struggled in a very tough group, failing to qualify for the knockout stage and finishing bottom of their group. Brian makes it into my top five (ahead of Clint Dempsey, who with 4 appearances and a goal in 2010 has a good claim to this spot) due to a display of tenacity and determination against Italy. The US could not afford to lose after an opening game horror show that saw them lose 3-0 to the Czech Republic. Italy took the lead but a sliced clearance from Cristian Zaccardo ended in his own net and brought USA level. Seconds later a shocking elbow from De Rossi left McBride with blood streaming down his face and saw the Italians down to ten men. A poor challenge from Mastroeni earned another straight red, and then a second yellow for Eddie Pope left the States with nine men. They fought on regardless and, thanks to some fabulous goal keeping from Kasey Keller, held on for the point.
Apps = 3 Goals = 0 Furthest round = Group

Fulham’s other World Cup representatives were; Luis Boa Morte (1 sub app Portugal, 2006), Carlos Bocanegra (3 apps for USA, 2006), Clint Dempsey (4 apps and a goal for USA, 2010), Mark Schwarzer (3 apps for Australia, 2010), KG (3 apps for South Africa, 2010), Dickson Etuhu (3 apps for Nigeria, 2010)

Top 5 contenders to replace Roy

I no longer believe anything I read in the media. I think they are scavengers desperate for news to fill their ever expanding empires of greed. I’m also eternally optimistic and, despite the evidence to the contrary, have been hoping that Roy would eventually turn down Liverpool (and/or England) and commit himself to Fulham. It didn’t happen. It’s a sad day for the club.

I’m getting ahead of myself though. Hello, I’m Chopper (Dave to my friends, David to my Dad) and I used to write The Hammy End Chronicle. Richard has kindly offered me the chance to write occasionally (and sporadically) for CCN and I’m delighted to do so. It means I can finally lay HEC to rest but still have an outlet for my ramblings about Fulham. I’m also slightly obsessed with lists and Top Fives so for the time being that will be the route most of my posts will take.

Much like the old saying about death or taxes, it’s inevitable that at some point a manager will either get the sack or move to a bigger/richer club. Picking a new manager is never easy. There is no magic formula for getting it right and even if you do there’s always a period of transition when you don’t quite know which way it’s going to pan out. These are the current top five contenders with the bookies.

1. Alan Curbishley – Managed Charlton for 15 years, winning promotion to the Premier League twice. He built up a very good reputation and was touted (not least by himself) as a contender for the England job in 2006. In December 2006 he took over at West Ham who remained favourites for relegation until a run of seven wins in nine games saw them safe. In 2007/08 he led the Hammers to a 10th place finish but resigned within a month of the start of the following season citing board interference in team selection. I doubt anyone would be excited by his appointment. I went off him towards the end of his spell with Charlton as he seemed too often to look for excuses for bad results rather than take them on the chin.

2. Sven-Goran Eriksson – I suspect we’ve all got a view on Sven. In many ways he’s quite similar to Roy. A cautious manager who doesn’t like to take chances and possibly influenced by Hodgson’s spell in Sweden around the time he began his own managerial career. He’s had a lot of experience managing a who’s who of European clubs including; IFK Gothenburg (League Champions, two Swedish cups and the 1982 UEFA cup), Benfica (two spells including three League championships, one domestic cup and runners-up in the 1983 UEFA cup and the 1990 European cup), Roma (a Coppa Italia) and Lazio (winning UEFA Cup Winners Cup in 1999 and Serie A in 2000 as well as a number of domestic Cups). Of course in England he’ll be remembered for his spell with the national team and his inappropriate off-field activities. Based on cold facts he actually did pretty well with England reaching the quarter-finals at the 2002 and 2006 World Cup Finals and the 2004 European Championships. His year at Manchester City (2007-08) saw him achieve a (then) respectable finish of 9th in the league and his departure was a result of interference from owner Thaksin Shinawatra. City fans were unhappy at this and mounted a campaign in support of Eriksson. Subsequently he has followed an odd path from Mexico to Notts County to the Ivory Coast but has failed to find the success of his early career.

3. Mark Hughes – The people’s choice? Mark Hughes is a young and ambitious manager with a respectable track record so far. Whilst still playing he became Welsh national manager in 1999. Wales were some way from qualifying for the 2002 World Cup finals but came very close to reaching the 2004 European Championships eventually losing out to Russia in the playoffs. In September 2004 he quit the Welsh job to take over at Blackburn Rovers. In his second season he led Blackburn to a top six finish and UEFA cup qualification. 2006-07 saw Rovers reach the last 32 of the UEFA cup and the Semi-Finals of the FA Cup. Hughes left Blackburn in June 2008 to take over from Sven at the newly flush Manchester City. His dismissal from City in December 2009 saw the club 4th in the Premier League, one of the dangers of managing a club with very rich owners.

4. Sean O’Driscoll – “Noisy” played almost 150 times for Fulham between 1979 and 1984. This coincided with my first visits to the cottage and what was a very exciting time under manager Malcolm MacDonald. O’Driscoll was one of those players you could rely on to put in a decent performance, never spectacular but always doing the job he was tasked with. He moved to Bournemouth in ’84 and stayed there for the rest of his playing career making well over 400 appearances. In August 2000 (after 5 years on the coaching staff) he took over as Bournemouth manager. His record over six seasons saw the club finish 7th, 21st (and relegated to League 2), 4th (and promoted back to League 1), 9th 8th and 17th. The move to Doncaster suggested Sean was keen to have the financial backing to match his ability. In his first full season at the club Rovers finished 3rd and promotion to the Championship. Despite being favourites for relegation they have achieved two very respectable finishes of 14th and 12th in that league. Rovers also won the 2007 Football League Trophy. At both sides O’Driscoll has formed a reputation for playing neat passing football and remains the same quiet and level headed person he was as a player. He was approached to take over at Burnley last season but opted to stay with Doncaster.

5. Carlos Queiroz – Yes, I’m not really sure why Queiroz is so high in the odds either. Actually Ray Lew was slightly ahead of him when I checked but, much as I like Lew, we really don’t want to go down that path do we? Obviously best known in this country for two spells as assistant to Sir Alex at Manchester United. In between those he had a season at Real Madrid but was sacked after only finishing 4th in the league and doing poorly in the cups. He has managed Portugal twice, his first spell from 1991 to 1993 followed a successful period as the under-20s coach. He is currently contracted to remain national coach until 2012, though has suffered a bit of criticism following Portugal’s performance against Spain in the World Cup.

My preference is Mark Hughes. He would be a contrast in manner and style but I think he’s a good manager who would be able to build on the foundations laid by Hodgson. A few days ago I would have been aghast at Eriksson getting the job but having written this his football qualities begin to sound more attractive. A couple of personnel favourites are ruled out due to their current roles. Martin Jol has a three year contract with Ajax and came very close to overtaking FC Twente last season. Steve Coppell has only just taken over at Bristol City. Slaven Billic has also been linked with Fulham in the past, he seems poised to move into club management but I worry about the “Sanchez factor” with him.

Whatever the outcome things are going to change and however you feel about Roy’s departure it’s going to be a fascinating few months.