Author Archives: timmyg

Highway to Fulham’s Danger Zone

By Tim

The fact that Fulham stink, that we’re terrible on both ends, that we can’t control the game anywhere, isn’t news.

But what’s worth exploring is just how bad we are.

Michael Caley (@MC_of_A) of Cartilage Free Captain has some great shot statistics that I highly recommend you check out. But what I want to focus on here is how he divvied up the one half of a football field into several Shot Matrix Zones. The word “matrix” makes even my head spin so bear with me.

Here’s the map:


(courtesy of Michael Caley)

And here’s why divvying the offensive zone is important: conceding shots closer to the net are easier for the offense to score. Shots further away are more difficult to score. This is a very simplistic maxim exists in most other ball/net games.

So, if a defense concedes a higher amount of shots closer to the net than they do the further away, it’s representative of bad defense.

Michael took Zones 1-3 and placed them into what he dubbed the Danger Zone (cue the Kenny Loggins!). Basically, if you’re conceding a high amount of shots from there your defense stin–

OH, OH MY, THAT’S FULHAM FC’S MUSIC!

Fulham are leading the league with 241 shots in the DZ. Next to them is Cardiff with 232, followed by West Ham at 184. If you take the total of all DZ shots (3040) and average it out per club we’re nearly 100 over the average.

Of that total, 92–NINETY FREAKING TWO– are what’s considered on DZSoT, or shots actually target (what Bent is incapable of doing; also somehow Cardiff are one worse than us). We all know how we are repeatedly getting outshot, but this takes that figure to a whole new level.

What about the Wide Shots? Fulham aren’t as bad in that category–17th!–but second worst when it comes to Wide Shots on Target.

What we can glean from this is our opponents don’t need to shoot from odd angles inside the 18-yard box. No, they just can pass or dribble to a better location! (Cue 2nd half highlights from that home Southampton game)

Next up is Shots from outside the 18 yards box, or Zones 6-8.

Fulham are 2nd worst behind West Ham, and just 3 above Cardiff and Sunderland with 242 shots conceded from outside the 18 yard box. 34 of those are on target.

So not only are teams literally dribbling down our throats, we’re affording them time and space from outside the box. Think Mucha at home in September. Or both times Shelvey scored for Swansea. Or or I’ll stop now.

What does this mean? It means we literally cannot defend in any facet of the game. The 5-0 loss on Saturday wasn’t an anomaly, down to some refereeing decision, or because we were playing a team who exponentially outspent us. There is empirical precedent for losses of that magnitude to happen; and will probably happen again this season.

In fact, it might even happen this Sunday!

Although not particularly notable in one specific facet, Everton are still in the Top 8 in Offensive DZS, WS, and SoB. Hopefully the spectre of catching Arsenal/4th place will be a bridge too far for them and they’ll bottle it. Otherwise it’s going to be a long, long day.

So what about our offense?

We’re currently 19th, tied with Crystal Palace on just 117 shots in the Danger Zone. Let me repeat: We are tied with Pulis-ball. Let me repeat again: we are tied with Pulis-ball. For DZ shots on target, we’re tied for 18th with CP, Cardiff, and Swansea at 45. Moving away from the net, we’re not as awful in the wide areas or outside the box, but still in the bottom half of the league.

But our offensive futility is a chicken/egg thing: is it bad because our defense is awful, or is it bad for other reasons? In January we shipped off our moody but still very talented forward, and only mercurial play-maker, and thus have been left with starting highschoolers and the-footballer-formerly-known-as-Darren-Bent. Hence since the start of 2014 we’ve scored 11 goals in 12 games.

What’s the point of all this?

I suppose if this was a business, lawyers would recommend we file for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy (or whatever equivalent you guys in England have) and reorganize everything.

(Kenny Loggins cued!)

[Quick tangent: Kenny Loggins looks so 80s in this video but I'm fairly certain the barista that served me coffee this morning looked just like him. Everything old is new again..]

Esteemed Company

By Tim

DID YOU KNOW

Yaya Toure’s hat-trick on Saturday was the 3rd hat-trick conceded by Fulham this season. This stat now ties them with 1994/95 Ipswich, 1995/96 Coventry City, and 1997/98 Bolton Wanderers for conceding the most hat-tricks in one EPL season with 3. (This paragraph has a hat-trick of hat-trick mentions).

All three of said hat-tricks have come in past two months, since Adam Johnson netted his in mid-January. This is worse than Bolton and Coventry who each conceded their hat-tricks over a 3 month span, yet better than Ipswich who conceded their three hat-tricks in just a month. (Ouch. And another paragraph with three hat-trick mentions!)

Ultimately, Ipswich finished bottom (22nd at the time), Coventry 16th (survived on GD, somehow), and Bolton 18th (relegated on GD). We’re probably going to finish somewhere thereabouts.

We could nuance the point away and look at who scored each of the hat-tricks:

  • Yaya Toure (cost City £24m–double our transfer fee record–and arguably Ivory Coast’s best player)
  • André Schürrle (cost Chelsea £18m, wunderkind)
  • Adam Johnson (doesn’t live up to hype/ego, but still cost Sunderland £10m)

Or look at the following chart from Sporting Intelligence (based on 12/13 and even 11/12 accounts) and somehow be surprised this hasn’t happened more often against the bigger teams (blue is transfer fees/yellow is wages):

wages and fees

But if there’s one silver lining to this turd: we’re not as bad as 2007/08 Derby County. And here’s how:

  • Fewest points in a season (11, we’re at 24)
  • They only won once (we’re at 7)
  • Kept just 3 clean sheets all season (we have 4!)
  • Had the worst GD in EPL history (-69; we’re at -40)
  • Conceded the most in 38 game season (89; we’re at 70)

Yet Derby DOES have a better TSR than us, as they posted .377 in 2007-08 and as of last week we had .3747–which may go down considering Saturday’s result.

A Statistical Look at Rene’s Reign

As to be expected, there is much gnashing of teeth over Rene’s sacking. The performances in the past 6 days suggested that maybe a corner had been turned, that maybe this “toilet bowl” of a season was finally getting some draino. Or, *gasp*, the bathroom was finally getting remodeled.

What’s also expectedly absent from so much of the writings are any form of research or analysis of Rene’s reign. But hey it sounds good to say Fulham are the next QPR or Cardiff or Leeds United. And that “madness” has taken over and we hit the “panic button” and that our “absentee owner has no idea who Felix Magath is”. I rarely assume anything different from the sport’s fans.

But pop open the hood and you’ll find Rene’s reign has been a bit of a dumpster fire to put it bluntly. Let’s look at some advanced stats from when Jol got canned to the current day.

{Warning, I’m going to use some of those newfangled things known as statistics. If you’re one of those “stats are bad” types, then just jump to the bottom where I discuss goals. You know, another type of statistic.}

TSR SV% Sh% PDO
Jol 0.316 70.5 27.9 984
Rene 0.371 65.1 25.7 908

In case you don’t know, TSR means Total Shots Ratio, SV% is Save Percentage, SH% equals Shot Percentage, and PDO is Scoring % + Save %. Read full definitions here. These are important because they, especially TSR, usually have a strong correlation to goal difference and points. Also, all stats are from James Grayson’s blog.

The only positive you can really deduct from the above is that Fulham are no longer getting outshot as exponentially as they were before. Each of the remaining metrics were down. It’s not good enough, it’s not sustainable, and the “moral victories” of the past week simply cannot paper over that fact.

For context, let’s look at Tony Pulis and compare what he’s accomplished, arguably with far less than what Rene has had to work with, to his predecessor.

TSR SV% Sh% PDO
Holloway 0.429 58.7 23.1 818
Pulis 0.461 67.9 20.2 881

His god-forsaken style aside, we see that Pulis has increased the teams TSR, SV%, and PDO. In layman’s terms, he’s shored up the defense despite the slight downtick in shot conversion (which is mainly due to his god-forsaken set piece/long-ball system). This is a sign of progress beyond what the current table shows, as standings can occasionally be disguised by smoke and mirrors (HI THERE WEST HAM IN 11TH!). This is why Crystal Palace have gone from regulation certainties to a steady lower/mid table finish.

If you don’t want to read or acknowledge all those fancy stats, here are some more basic ones:

One tenet of Rene’s reign was to go into the half tied at 0-0 or something thereabouts and have it fall apart. In fact, Fulham have been drawing at halftime a league-leading 15 times this season. Of that, 8 were under Rene.

Not bad on the surface, but only twice did Fulham get a result of any capacity in those matches: both wins, both in his first four games, both solitary goals. In total, when drawing, the club conceded 17 goals while scoring only 4 after halftime. Take those two victories away and it’s 2 GF and 17 GA.

Plus plus plus only in one game, his *second*, did Fulham take a lead into halftime and see out the result. Need I remind you we’re currently 20th?

Regardless of how you slice it, regardless of what disaster* of a squad you have, regardless of all the feel-good-emotions we’ve accrued in the past week…that’s beyond terrible.

It was a bungled removal from office. But Kahn really had no choice.

{*Okay, fine, it was a disaster before he got here. Martin Jol should have been fired last spring and we’re reaping that now. Also, MAF should have sold the club earlier or at least attempted to have *some* liabilities for the future owner, and we’re reaping that now. Also, until Mitroglou’s record fee, we’re also reaping not spending more than £500,000 on a striker for nearly 5 seasons (and that was on David Elm!) UPDATE: Since Berbatov, not Mitroglou, which was officially “undisclosed”. And on and on.}

Examining our central midfielders

Apologies if you hated my past post but I want to revist the +/- stat with regards to our four main central midfielders. Again, this stat isn’t a great indicator of causation, but correlation. It also doesn’t occur in a vacuum, as the entire team and certain dynamics of the sport play a hand in the metric. But, along with other indicators, I found it to be quite instructive, as seen below. So consider it more an idea board then a didactic study.

I left out wingers as I wanted to keep the scope on what we’re all in agreement is our main problem area: the center of midfield; particularly the Parker/Sidwell axis. StatsBomb recently did an amazing (and horrifying) job at comparing those two and Kasami to Barca’s Xavi, Busquets, and Iniesta. This is very much like comparing a Hank Williams or George Jones song to a Blake Shelton tune, but what can you do. I also broke up the stats by each manager to see if there’s any differences.

Sidwell

GF GA +/- +/- pG Apps
Jol 10 22 -12 -0.92 13
Rene 10 29 -19 -1.73 11
Total 20 51 -31 -1.29 24

It may seem like Sidwell has regressed under Rene (if “Sidwell” and “regressing” is somehow possible), but 6 of the 29 GA came in that Hull City match. Nonetheless our opponents have scored >3 goals a whopping FIVE times since Rene has taken over and Sidwell is on the pitch.

Parker

GF GA +/- +/- pG Apps
Jol 8 22 -14 -1.27 11
Rene 12 21 -9 -0.90 10
Total 20 43 -23 -1.10 21

Very similar to Sidwell, with the only visible difference is he was fortunate enough to escape that 6-0 Hull City thrashing. Like with Sascha Reither, there certainly seems to be a visceral notion that Parker belongs in the side. But beyond high interception and tackling rates, which as StatsBomb said is most likely down to the oppositions always with the ball/running at him…what are the justifications exactly?

Kasami

GF GA +/- +/- pG Apps
Jol 12 22 -10 -0.83 12
Rene 5 18 -13 -1.30 10
Total 17 40 -23 -1.05 22

This is where it starts to get interesting. Rene’s been using Kasami as a sub for the majority of his league reign–only 3 starts in his 10 games under Rene compared to 11 starts under Jol. This explains why the GF is way down but the GA still quite high. But, considering Fulham scored three goals in the entire month of January, it’s perplexing why he only averaged 15 minutes last month.

Karagounis

GF GA +/- +/- pG Apps
Jol 3 4 -1 -0.17 6
Rene 6 10 -4 -0.80 5
Total 9 14 -5 -0.45 11

I didn’t include Boateng because he had such a small sample size, but thought it would be interesting to see what Karagounis has done with ever-so-slightly more play time. Each manager has treated Karagounis differently: Jol used him as a sub for 5 of his 6 appearances; Rene started him in all his 5 appearances (albeit none since Hull City in December). But if we were to take away that Hull City game, we’d see his +/- to be fairly respectable, despite the small sample size–unlike if we subtracted result from Sidwell’s stats, they’d still be terrible. I’m not sure why Kara hasn’t been playing (hooray opaqueness!), but like Kasami, it’s clear he’s a necessary dynamic that’s being under-utilized.

No one needs to opine how the Parker/Sidwell duo has proved to be detrimental. But the idea behind these stats further reinforce such a notion, and that stems from the fact the two are always playing. Whether it’s down to them or other factors, it certainly feels like we’re at the point where, when we see both in the starting XI, much like seeing a bad #5 pitcher start, we’re going to lose.

I’d argue it’s not one part of the combination that needs to be replaced, it’s the entire recipe. Curious to know your thoughts as well.

Fulham’s record when scoring, and not scoring. Also just how bad are our defenders?

Thanks to Rich for graciously letting me guest post.

Of all the issues plaguing Fulham this season, two have stood out the most for me. First is Fulham’s knack for getting a result when scoring 2 or more goals (and lack of results when scoring 1 or less), second is which defenders have been privy to the various shellackings we’ve received so far.

Fulham’s inability to get a result when scoring less than 2 goals is no secret considering our terrible defense. Chances are we’re not scoring a lot is because we’re chasing games, and it’s often more difficult to score when a team is having to chase. Additionally, something I’ve been saying all season is that a club of our aptitude can’t expect to get a result when we’re not scoring. We could under Roy, we can’t now.

Our record when scoring less than 2 goals:

Team Pld GF<2 W D L F A GD GFA GAA   PpG Pts
Fulham 20 15 2 1 12 9 35 -26 0.6 2.33   0.46 7

For context, the league average for this is .811 PpG; and 9.45 Pts. So we’re 16th in Total Pts, but third worst (Swansea and WestHam are T-1st) in PpG. Taking a step back, we’re T-13th in amount of games when scoring 1 or less goals, but our terrible PpG shows our inability to “keep it close” and “grind out” draws: in 2008/09 we had 10 draws when scoring less than 2; in 2010/11 we had 12. This season we have 1.

Now here’s our record when we score more than 1 goal:

Team Pld GF>1 W D L F A GD GFA GAA   PpG Pts
Fulham 20 5 4 0 1 12 7 5 2.4 1.4   2.4 12

Again for context, the League average is 2.4 Ppg and 12 Pts. Right on par considering we’re also T-13th in this category. This stat also shows how terribly our defense has been regressing: in 2008/09 our GAA when scoring more than 1 was .75; under Sparky it was 1.08; even Jol’s first season was a .75(!) Last season was an atrocious 1.66, highest since the Coleman days.

So basically if we score more than 1 goal, there’s like an 80% chance we’ll win. If we score less than 2 goals that drops to 15%. (Now this is when the likes of StatsBomb and James Grayson stumble upon the site and rightfully lambaste me for my terrible arithmetic…)

Second is the Plus−minus (+/-) of the club’s Defenders. This stat is widely used in hockey, and even stretching to sports like Basketball and Ultimate Frisbee. It’s a bit incongruent in footy because of the numerous variables that don’t exist in the former sports (main being the lack of timeouts/substitutions, which can create wide variances). But there have been moments this season when we’ve thought to ourselves “Boy, Richardson is always playing when we’re losing a lot” or “Actually, Senderos might be better than we think”. Both are actually true.

Player Appearances +/- +/- pG
Briggs 2 0 0.0
Hangeland 8 -4 -0.5
Reither 16 -6 -0.4
Senderos 11 -6 -0.5
Riise 9 -12 -1.3
Zverotic 4 -14 -3.5
Richardson 15 -15 -1.0
Hughes 13 -15 -1.2
Amorebieta 14 -18 -1.3

Players like Amorebieta, Hughes, and Richardson have been on the field when the opposition is scoring a lot. Hangeland, Reither, and Senderos haven’t. Again, this is quite imperfect considering how awful the team was up until about a month ago, and the symbiotic nature of the game: defense is really only as good as the midfield, which is only as good as the forwards. Also, if we don’t ever see Zverotic again this might be why.

At some point I’ll crunch the numbers for our midfield, and our defenders of past seasons. But this is still quite telling: Hangeland and Senderos need to get healthy ASAP; and boy oh boy do we need a good Left Back.

there_will_be_blood1

Following The Money

City had 71% possession on Saturday. They attempted 23 shots to Fulham’s 7. They completed 646 of their 726 passes. Fulham attempted just 276. If those stats aren’t enough, the passing charts bear out the notion that this really was a match between the haves and the have-nots.

And so it is. Like Chelsea before them, and Leeds before them, and whoever else before them; City resembles everything that is wrong with current economics of football.

No, it’s not about wealthy owners coming in, “splashing the cash” (dear lord that cliche is awful), and buying whomever they wish. And it’s not it the media touting bullshit narratives like Mancini didn’t get all the transfers in he wanted; despite dropping nearly £90m over the summer.

Nor is it having loads of depth off the bench; that’s what good teams always have.

What’s so maddening is how they, like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern, et al, are freely able to amass talent and own not just the best players, but all the not-so-best-but-still-damn-good players too. And just pay them to basically do nothing in the reserves, or make an occasional cup appearance.

Honestly, what the heck is Victor Moses doing at Chelsea (anyone remember Steve Sidwell in a Chelsea shirt?) Or Nuri Şahin at Real Madrid? I’m sure we could flood the comments with other examples.

For all the chatter about how a salary cap will fix this issue; it won’t. It’s the fact that players get new contracts whenever they sign for a different club that spurs on the stratification. The wealthy owners will just continue to spend, spend, spend and ultimately kill the game not just because they can, but because the players are all willing accomplices.

Take a look at City’s bench. I won’t list the names, but how much they cost: £1m, £22m, £16m, £24m, £25m, £27m, £22.5m. Nearly £140m just sitting there; and that’s not including their annual salary. Most of them are bonafide stars, but several aren’t. And lets look at the players who didn’t even feature because of injury or whatever else: Jack Rodwell (£12m), Sinclair (£6.2m), Maicon (£3.5m), Kolo Toure (£16.m).

No wonder the likes of Wayne Bridge and Roque Santa Cruz are still on City’s payroll; and Adam Johnson and Jô were for so long.

I’ve written about this before, but how can any sporting system that allows this to happen even consider itself legitimate?

Take baseball in America: a sport that everyone loves to hate because the New York Yankees always have the highest payroll and  it’s the least socialistic in its share of revenue and payroll. “The Yankees buy everyone” is often the refrain; as the masses turn their attention to the NFL. Yet what limits the Yankees literally buying everyone like the big European clubs do is that they can only give good players BIG contracts when they are free agents. And so they often have to make do with the likes of Eric Chavez and Raul freaking Ibanez.

Players like Matt Weiters and Manny Machado from my local Baltimore Orioles, who will probably someday play for the Yankees, are going to remain an Oriole until their contracts run out. There’s little incentive for them to join a better team and possibly not play much if they’re going to get paid the same. It behooves them to play out their contract, and hopefully do really well in their contract year.

Yet if this was footy, they would be Yankees by this time next month when the season’s over, mainly because they’d see a huge increase in their salary. And the fans wouldn’t bother come watch the sport anymore.

This isn’t sour grapes, just something that annoys me. And I wish we didn’t have to play these type of teams as I get no enjoyment from  it; win, lose, or draw.

(Okay, I enjoy the win. But we all know the narrative won’t be about us winning, but them losing).

wigan win

Where will the goals come from?

Sunday’s match at Wigan will be the first since March, 2007 that Clint Dempsey will not feature for Fulham against that club.

That’s not notable in and of itself, but consider that in 10 games he scored 6 goals and that tally accounts for 42% of our 14 goals against them. Which is nearly half. (Go here for a full account of his feats.)

Sure, we have the Berba. Plus Ruiz and Petric should be coming back.

But it’s instances like this where the reality sets in. I sure don’t hope we miss our talisman.

***

As the prior two posts have mentioned, Sascha Riether had a great game on Saturday. Of the top six pass combinations, 5 include Riether either receiving or passing the ball. His dashboard is below.

4

The Best Sporting Event

Last Thursday I went to what could be considered the best sporting event I’ve ever attended. Here are some photos.

But first, some context: For those unaware, the Baltimore Orioles are on par for their first winning season since 1997, back when Fulham was in League One and Mohammed Al-Fayed just purchased the club. Not only that, they’re in a pennant  race with the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays. Going into Thursdays game, the Orioles were just one game back from the Yankees for the division, and clinging onto a wild card spot. A win and they’d be tied for the AL East.

Going into the season, the Orioles were projected by pretty much every pundit to lose about 90 games. During the offseason they hired a GM who last held a job in George W. Bush’s first term. I couldn’t name their starting lineup heading into opening day. Anticipation was quite low. So, no one saw this season coming.

Thursday was also a night to commemorate the greatest Oriole ever and my childhood hero: Cal Ripken Jr. All season the Orioles organization has been unveiling bronze statues of its greatest players and managers: Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Earl Weaver, Eddie Murray, Jim Palmer, and Cal. Imagine if Johnny Haynes had been alive for his statue unveiling; it would have been a similar raucous atmosphere. Take one part unbelievable pennant race and one part celebration of a player who breaking Lou Gehrig’s 56 year old record for consecutive games played, and you had a sold out Camden Yards.

(I should note that whereas weeks prior it was barely managing 12,000 attendance, Thursday had a capacity crowd of 46,298. And a majority were actually Orioles fans; Camden Yards often has capacity crowds when the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, and other come to town. But it’s often filled with those fans. Sort of like a Wigan-United match).

So on Wednesday evening when my friend calls me, offering a ticket four rows back from the Orioles dugout, I hopped on it. I had to. Enough of my typing, here are the photos:

Say, did I mention how great these seats were?

Cal’s giving a speech where his statue is unveiled. Images of his playing days scrolled across the top screen. I was hoping a poster I have of him eating Esskay hotdogs would appear. It didn’t.

Cal threw out the first pitch from the actual pitcher’s mound, not at the front of the dirt where most people do. We celebrated. Also note the only man sitting down: that’s legendary Orioles manager Earl Weaver. When we walked onto the field, he kicked dirt over the pristine home plate, like he used to so many times before. We celebrated.

Game time! Beer time! That’s “Fancy” Clancy Haskett. He’s such a storied presence at Camden Yards a documentary was made about him. He usually sells around the higher priced sections, so I don’t seem him around often. Needless to say I had to a buy that $8 Natty Boh.

The Orioles raced out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning, thanks to some wonderful hitting and a balk (hah!) by the starting Yankees pitcher. It was only the first inning, the stadium was unlike anything I had seen before. There were so many people I couldn’t get any cell phone reception; my buddy missed a text from a friend that was waiting outside for his ticket.

Also, ace pitcher Jason Hammel was returning from a lengthy leg injury just in time for the playoff run. That’s him pitching to Alex Rodriguez (and look at all the fans!!!)


Here’s the Oriole bird hugging his dancing partner after the 7th inning stretch. The Orioles always play John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy“, which really makes zero sense as Baltimore is not the “country”, nor does it have a rural history like the rest of the state (it was a big port and factory town). Nonetheless, a football club should adopt this.

Anyway, my point is that the stadium was still electric. The O’s were taking a 6-1 lead into the 8th. Confidence was high. But then the Yankees played like THE YANKEES, and scored a run in the top of the 8th. Manager Buck Showalter left reliever Randy Wolf, who had been filling in quite well for the prior two innings, in too long. Despite there being two out, there runners were on first and second, and the score only 6-2.


Here is Wolf walking sadly to the dugout, unable to get that final out.

And so out came releiver Pedro Strop: a talented player but also a headcase and a stress inducer. He could strike out the side but he’d still give you a heart attack.

Strop proceeded to give up a single, throw a wild pitch, walk a batter, walk another batter (and thus the 4th Yankees run), and then give up a single that would score two more Yankees. So, after leading 6-1 in the top of the 8th with two out, the game was now tied 6-6. Balls.


Like he had with Wolf, Buck left Strop in for far too long. The mood, a little on edge when Wolf was relieved too late, turned quite sour when Strop was finally taken out. This is him walking to the dugout, dejected.

Thankfully rhe very next batter popped out to end the Yankee rally. But the damage had been done. What was shaping up to be a historical night was going to be a historic collapse.

The stadium was still in a rather negative mood, and next Oriole batter Adam Jones, the team MVP, quickly found himself down two strikes. Oh brother. Here we go again.

But then things changed with the next pitch: Jones crushed a solo homer to left field. Just like that, the Orioles were back on top, 7-6. Hooray!

The next batter, Matt Weiters, singled to left. After him Mark Reynolds, a player that was so maddeningly inconsistent and error prone that he was just days away from being traded in July, continued his miraculous form and hit a homer to left field: his second home run of the evening and eighth in seven games. O’s up 9-6. Jubilation!

The Yankees changed pitchers, but it made no difference. The very next pitch, the first by Yankee reliever Boone Logan, was hit to right field by designated hitter Chris Davis (who had a rather poor night up to this point). Back it went until it was gone. Home Run. 10-6 Orioles and zero outs. Pandemonium!

There’s no photos of this particular part of the narrative as I was too busy celebrating and high fiving and screaming in joy. I did manage to take this shot though: the scoreboard read “O-Mazing”. It truly was.

The Orioles would cling to the 10-6 lead and win the game. They were tied for first. It was well after 10pm. The stadium was still full. What the heck is happening?!?

Here’s Adam Jones giving an interview about his game winning home run.

Moments later, he was pied in the face.

And so concluded the greatest game I’ve ever been to. It had it all: drama, home runs, blown leads, emphatic play, hereos honored, dancing Orioles, Natty Boh…

The Orioles would go on to split the weekend series with Yankees: they lost on Friday, won on a blown call Saturday (WHO CARES!), and got shelled on Sunday. They’be now 1 GB behind New York for the AL East, back to where they were on Thursday morning. There’s still 22 games left.

And this is the magic, and also the problem, of baseball: how one game, often lost in the marathon that is the 162 game season, can become so memorable yet be quickly forgotten.

We’ll always remember and discuss a football result because they only happen once a week. Baseball? Barely enough time before the next one begins.


Timmy Gelles is a writer for Craven Cottage Newsround. A Fulham fan since 2006, he’s caught up in this Oriole MagicE-mail him or follow him on twitter.

squad1.jpg

Transfer Window Assesment

Douglas McNeill is back with another guest post. Enjoy.

After my July piece on Fulham’s finances, I promised a follow-up once the transfer window had closed. So here goes. I see eight key points.

1. There has been a marked reduction in squad size. Eleven players have gone (Dembele, Dempsey, Etuhu, Gecov, Gryhgera, Halliche, Johnson, Murphy, Pogrebnyak, Riise BH, and Sa) and only six have come in (Berbatov, Dejagah, Petric, Richardson, Riether and Rodallega). That’s why…

2. …Berbatov is affordable. His transfer fee was relatively cheap, but his wages aren’t. He’s on a reported £100k a week, whereas I reckon that the average at Fulham is only about £40k. But with five fewer players in the squad, his arrival probably won’t mean an increase in the overall wage bill. And…

3. …there was a healthy overall cash surplus. It looks to have been around £13m, with the sale of Dembele and Dempsey leaving plenty left over even after the acquisition of Berbatov, Dejagah and Richardson. That sounds like a great start to the year, in financial terms. But on the other hand…

4. …the big financial change this season is the absence of Europa League income. Last year, there would have been £8-9m of that, I reckon. But having banked a £13m surplus in the transfer window just ended, Fulham can expect to break even in cash terms this season – even if the Premier League campaign goes badly. In fact…

5. …we could probably finish bottom of the league and still break even. In contrast, a ninth-place finish – as currently predicted by the spread-betting markets – would mean a surplus of around £10m. So…

6. …Jol’s budget in the January transfer window will depend heavily on league form. If a top-half finish is on the cards, then I imagine he’ll be allowed to spend away that £10m. If not, then his spending power will be reduced accordingly. Of course, he may also want to make some disposals in January, especially since…

7. …nearly half the squad is out of contract next summer. But of the players in question, probably only Senderos has resale value in January. He’ll be 28 next year, whereas the others will all be 30 or over. Ditto for those whose deals expire in summer 2014 (e.g. Berbatov, Riise, Sidwell). But at that point, a number of players will be sub-30 and still have a year left on their contracts – namely Dejagah, Frei, Kacaniklic, Kasami, Richardson, Rodallega, Ruiz and Stockdale. Therefore…

8. …it looks like summer 2014 will be the next chance to bring in some significant cash from the transfer market. So whilst it looks to me as though Jol will have £10m at his disposal in January, he might actually prefer to keep it up his sleeve until next summer.

Incidentally, a version of this piece appears at SummingUpSoccer.blogspot.co.uk where I’ve also written on Chelsea, for anyone who is interested.

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Prisms

This post has taken me four days to write. And I’m still not certain it’s good enough.

How does an American write about Clint Dempsey? Especially one that is a soccer fan, and a Fulham fan at that? How do I write about a player that has meant so much to this club and to this fan, when it all ended so messily and murky?

I can attempt it, but only through the selfish prism of an American fan of Fulham Football Club.

If Brian McBride was the player that made Americans aware of Fulham, Dempsey was the player that made the club everyone’s second favorite team. Impartial, casual footy fans statside (the type that follow the domestic leagues loosely, but watch every Euro/World Cup match) would often ask me, “How’d Dempsey do?” without caring for the result or whatever else was going on. He was one of the few athletes that caught everyone’s attention.

So when he jettisons our club for Tottenham, a club that many footy fans in America choose to follow because they wish to be “unique” more than anything (Bill Simmons is a fan after all: Manchester United used to, but now City get all the glory hunters; Liverpool draw the fans that care about ‘history’; Arsenal draw the ones that care about the means not the end; Chelsea still mostly get the assholes), it stings. Probably more so than Dembélé leaving.

Perhaps it’s a bit of jealousy that my friends will now “care” about Spurs like they used to “follow” Fulham, perhaps it’s my disdain toward Spurs (and this is all without Harry Redknapp as their manager); but this move didn’t have to end like this.

Especially for someone that time and again forced his way into the starting XI through hard work, determination, and that cliche “never say die” attitude that Americans pride themselves on. This just felt so heavy-handed. It hasn’t undone everything he’s accomplished here, but there is now a stain.

We all have our thoughts and suspicions on just how everyone got here but writer Ty Duffy has the best answer I’ve heard yet:

Why this move? Why did it take so long? Well, it went much as we predicted heading into the summer. Dempsey was in the Donovan/MLS trap. He had no leverage. At 29 with a year left on his contract, he was worth more to Fulham than Fulham could command on the open market. He would have to force a move and the buyer would have to overpay for him. Tottenham would. Liverpool would not.

Dempsey held out and only got rewarded at the last minute for his behavior (if only that worked for the rest of us.) He is currently getting paid 2.5 times as much as he made at Fulham. Whereas before I had valued Dempsey at an easy 10m, I possibly viewed that as a Fulham fan. He was worth 10m to me. To others? For Liverpool it was 3m, or whatever derisory amount. Spurs spent 6m.

Months of drama ended in only 30 minutes or so. Late on Friday, we lost the leading scorer in our Premier League history, a feat that probably won’t be matched anytime soon, to a club a few miles away.

Clint last played for Fulham on May 6; scoring a wonderful free kick goal in the penultimate match of the season against Sunderland. It would be his 23rd in all competitions, and be a new record. He would never wear our laundry again. Since then, we’ve lost Andy Johnson to QPR, Danny Murphy and Dickson Etuhu to Blackburn, and Moussa Dembélé to Spurs as well.

Sure, we brought in Berbatov. But this move reminds me of when a baseball team trades away a promising pitcher and a stalwart shortstop…and signs an aging but star slugger that’ll bat DH. It’ll excite the fan base. It’ll get words typed from the press. Several friends (one’s that are actually “real” fans) even sent me congratulatory texts.

But for the first time since January 27, 2004, there isn’t an American in Fulham’s first team. For the first time since January 11, 2007, Clint Dempsey isn’t with the club. And this is going to take some getting used to.

Dempsey once famously said “once you can’t do it for the game anymore, the game don’t care.”

Too bad us fans still will.


Timmy Gelles is a writer for Craven Cottage Newsround. A Fulham fan since 2006, the upcoming international break will do little to placate him. E-mail him or follow him on twitter.

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Deadline Day: Hughes’ Desk on Transfer List

Sky Sports understands that Martin Jol is placing the office desk Mark Hughes’ ego signed in 2010 for sale on craigslist.

“My doctor told me it’s best I not sit down 8 hours a day,” Jol told a source near the giant office desk. “So I’m going to order one of those desks where you stand up instead. I read it’s healthy”

Jol decided the move after recently reading an article in Men’s Health magazine, which cited a study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise that stated of more than 17,000 men and women over 13 years, those who sit for most of the day were 54% more likely to die of heart attacks.

“Martin realizes he’s not the fittest tool in the shed. So he’s doing everything he can to improve his health,” the source said. “He tried one of those exercise balls the mayor of Portlandia uses, but couldn’t stop bouncing up and down on it.”

Rumors were that Fulham’s management had asked Hughes to take the massive office desk with him when he abruptly departed in 2011, but management found the office trashed with “Ambition” spray-painted on the desk.

Another source told Sky Sports, “Hughes’ is in for a surprise: we’ve been to Loftus Road before. He’ll be lucky to get an office larger than a corner cubicle.”

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Deadline Day: Tim Tebow Released

Martin Jol released alleged miracle worker Tim Tebow after it became apparent that his charade of being a quarterback in the National Football League looks to continue another season, sources are reporting.

After performing a miracle in the NFL playoffs for the Denver Broncos in January, Tebow was traded to the New York Jets in March. Fulham have been monitoring Teblow’s situation closely through the American sports channel ESPN’s fellatory coverage of the player, but have decided to part ways after his most recent outing where he completed just 4 passes, including one interception…and wasn’t immediately cut.

“We signed Tebow under the impression that he’d join Fulham in February, once everyone finally realized he’s a terrible quarterback,” a source close to management said. “Unfortunately it seems the circus will continue.”

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It’s Official

“A star player will be sold for a decent amount of cash around a transfer deadline. The club will then use that money to unearth some overlooked talent.”

***

The Club can today confirm that it has reached an agreement with Tottenham Hotspur for the transfer of midfielder Mousa Dembélé.

The 25-year-old Belgian international has successfully completed a medical and will sign for an undisclosed fee.

Following two full seasons at Craven Cottage, the Club would like to thank Mousa for his contribution and wish him well throughout the rest of his career.

On one hand I’m going to miss Dembélé. Here is a player that we’ve seen grow up in just two seasons, and yet, it feels like we hardly know him. He’s not a Finnan, or a Coleman, or a McBride, or even a Gera that will been immortalized through their duration and actions. Nor is he a Dempsey or a Malbranque or a Zamora, players that could be in our Hall of Fame had there not been such a messy divorce.

He’s a remarkable talent that Clint Dempsey said was one of the best players he’s ever seen. He was just beginning to fully come into his own, but there’s no memorable cup run or giant killing that we’ll be able to associate him with. We’ll never get to see him fully blossom while wearing a piece of white laundry with our badge iron to it. And this is so heartbreaking.  It feels like a blue chip college athlete that decides to go pro after one year, only to get drafted by a mid/upper tier, but certainly not elite, team. When, had they just stuck around, perhaps something tangibly memorable could have been achieved.

On the other, if not a more purely financial, hand it’s a good bit of business for a player that has only been truly remarkable for about six months. Now, don’t take this as me slighting him; I’m really not. He was always a fixture in the starting lineup, the epitome of our unshackling of Hodgson’s uber-defensive style. But, for a while, the refrain from pundits was often “When’s he going to start scoring goals?” or from the fans “Dembélé’s out, again.” We had a unusual talent on our hands, but we didn’t really know where he fit in; or if he even did. Yet Jol found the magic formula and molded our current system to suit his strengths. Much like I’m disappointed this only happened in February and so we’ve  barely had 4 months of seeing it in action; perhaps there was a cold, logical notion that this was as good as it’ll get.

To use a Baltimore Orioles baseball analogy, (sorry, en route for the first winning season since 1997!) he could become the next Erik Bedard. Or, conversely, could become the next Curt Schilling. Take the risk that it’ll bite you in the ass, but always have an eye toward the future.

Contract clause aside, when a team comes around with a £15m quid offer, (highest ever since Saha’s departure for £12.5m or so), why wouldn’t we take the money? We all know the economics of football are total horseshit, and the big clubs will continue to poach from the tiny clubs and amass talent whenever and wherever players are allowed new, big contracts at the new, big club. Until this changes (it won’t), there will always be a Dembélé. Much like there was a Saha. And a Rooney. And whomever. Players will follow the money until there is no money. It’s their job. Clubs like ours will produce players for money until there is no money. It’s their job.

This sucks. It really does. But if we were really taken by surprise over this we’d go support Barcelona. Or take up cycling.


Timmy Gelles is a writer for Craven Cottage Newsround. A Fulham fan since 2006, he is currently sad. E-mail him or follow him on twitter.

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Moussa Dembele is good, with visuals

Apologies if this is redundant, but I wanted to share some visuals to back up Rich’s previous post.

Dembele’s dashboard is below:

For those wondering, the ‘X’ is a tackle, the hexagons are take-ons. Orange is successful, purple is unsuccessful. And as we can see, he had many successful tackles and take-ons all over the pitch; all while posting a 96% passing completion rate. Simply stunning.

What made Dembele’s play yesterday even more outstanding isn’t really captured in stats or visuals. When United pressed and scored three times (one didn’t count mind you) in a matter of 15 or so minutes, Dembele was a non-factor in our play. There were several points where I was left wondering if he was even on the field as United pinged the ball left and right.Yet, when normal service resumed a little bit into the second half, our play increased mightily. And he was the catalyst behind it.

Below is Dembele’s chart against Norwich City. I leave this here because although quite impressive, it’s probably not as good as yesterday. And how often can we say a player did better away to United than at home to Norwich?

Just for good measure, here’s the overall passing charts. Although United completed about as many passes as we attempted last week, we still maintained a very decent defensive shape. And still had an 89%(!!!) passing completion rate.

Now watch him get sold to QPR and we’ll get tonked by West Ham. Ugh.


Timmy Gelles is a writer for Craven Cottage Newsround. A Fulham fan since 2006, he is not prepared for West Ham to continue their hoodoo over his team, nor lose Dembele. E-mail him or follow him on twitter.

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Chalkboards!

Hallelujah, the Chalkboards are back!

Well, sort of…Go get your hands on FourFourTwo’s Stats Zone app. The chalkboard functionality is free for UK users, while US users need to pay a paltry $2.99.

Below is the chart of both club’s passing.. Note that Norwich didn’t have too bad a passing stinker (or, otherwise known as “Pull a Stoke”), but, Fulham managed attempt nearly 600 passes. And complete 90% of them.

As we saw several times last year, Fulham love to maraud up the left flank. If you were to draw a diagonal line  the top right corner of Norwich’s penalty box across the field to the point where the half line and the sideline intersect, you’d have…10-15 passes? Part of this could be down to playing the left-footed Duff inverted on the right. Part of it could be us going at Norwich’s new signing Robert Snodgrass (who got subbed out at the 55th minute.)

But, if you were to look at the player influence map, it’s really because of Riise’s presence along the touch-line. (Ruiz may seem nonexistent, but he’s just hidden by Dembele.)

Again, if we were to draw that same line, it would leave Duff all alone in that section. And look how little his name is.

What I find fascinating about this is how it relates to what we saw with Spain in last summer’s Euro 2012, coupled with our collective groans at not signing more forwards. When I was listening to the new ESPN FC podcast (at least I think it was that) previewing the season, they mentioned how several clubs would emulate Spain’s new-found tactics of fielding zero strikers.

Although we fielded one, notice the tiny footprint of Petric, and to an extent Rodallega; our goalkeeper had more influence than our starting forward: Schwarzer received 31 passes, and completed 24 of 37 attempts (going 2 of 13 on his long passes). Petric received just 18 passes and completed 14 of 15.

And yet we still won 5-0.


Timmy Gelles is a writer for Craven Cottage Newsround. A Fulham fan since 2006, he is happy to have some blogging material back. E-mail him or follow him on twitter.

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Fulham’s Tough Start

According to sportingintelligence, we have the sixth hardest starting schedule in the league for the first 7 matches. And it’s not like today wasn’t already a downer!

From Brian Sears:

Within an objective ‘tough rating’ system, the lower the rating, the harder the start. Liverpool have the lowest rating at 41, followed by Southampton at 44, while at the other end of the spectrum, Swansea’s rating is 87, and West Ham’s is 78.

***

To arrive at the ‘tough rating’, we simply added the finishing positions of last year’s Premier League teams (1 to 17), and then rated Reading at 18 (automatic Championship promotion in first place), Southampton at 19 (second) and West Ham at 20 (play-offs).

I won’t lift their chart, so be sure to go check it out. If you need reminding what our opening matches are: Norwich (home), United (away), West Ham (away), WBA (home), Wigan (away), City (home). That gives us a “tough rating” of 60, 1 better than Arsenal in 7th, and 6 less than Stoke and QPR who are both tied for 4th. But even with that data aside, our opening set is against two big guns, one bogey team, and two matches that could really go either way. Eesh.

If at first glance this season seems harder than last season, it is (although this season has one less game in their sample size). Last year we were tied with City for third easiest opening set. And we didn’t win until the 7th game. But data and expectations can often deceive. Which is why last season I maintained that it’s easier for anyone to play their equals at home and our unequals away. Playing your equals away is difficult; playing your unequals away is playing with house money: you lose, oh well; you win; GRAVY! and although their data proved otherwise, check this: our matches away to Wolves, Newcastle, and WBA that ended with just 1 point gained and 1 goal scored. These reverse fixtures saw 6 points (really should have been 9) and 11 goals scored.

Nonetheless, unless we are undefeated, today’s Dempsey situation won’t help our outlook come October. But it was probably going to be a dreary one anyway.

***

Unrelated thoughts: how ’bout that website redesign? Love it!


Timmy Gelles is a writer for Craven Cottage Newsround. A Fulham fan since 2006, he just wished fulham’s site utilized responsive design. E-mail him or follow him on twitter.

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Timmy’s Season Preview

Season previews always seem so half empty. Not because the writers are lazy (okay, some are) but because there’s always that spectre of “well, shit can get real around the transfer deadline, so, here’s some vague material that should be read skeptically. Enjoy!”

With that in mind, here’s my preview. It’s not vague, and it shouldn’t be read skeptically. I guarantee all of the following events will happen. In some capacity.

Fulham will defeat a Sky Five club or two at home. (Sadly, it won’t be Chelsea.) The story line won’t be about us though.

Fulham will lose at Everton.

“JOL OUT!” will be a message board topic by, oh, mid-November. Such sentiment will ossify by Christmas.

Fulham will lose at least once to a newly promoted side on the road. They will also trounce at least two newly promoted side at home.

A star player will get sick; media will speculate there was a “bust up” and he’ll “surely be sold.” He won’t.

A star player will be sold for a decent amount of cash around a transfer deadline. The club will then use that money to unearth some overlooked talent.

MOTD will feature us last at least 66% of the time. We will all complain about it. Alan Shearer will respond “For me, they’re just not a big club.” Alan Hansen will counter with “Fulham are now a decent side.” Lawro will still predict us to lose every week.

David Stockdale will be sent out on loan. We’ll all make a fuss.

There will be a series of matches where Fulham play like crap and concede extremely late goals. This will force us fans to threaten ending our fandom. Fulham will then immediately play some beautiful football, achieve some great results, and get sucked back in.

Fulham will have a clear path to a cup final, and somehow screw it up.

Fulham won’t score many goals on the road, and pundits will point to how awful their road form is. All while turning a blind eye to how amazing their defense is on the road.

Fulham will finish a very respectable midtable. A few smart pundits will clap and say “good job!”, and then promptly discuss the horrors of Manchester City purchasing another title.

At next season’s preview, pundits will say “Boy, Fulham don’t get the credit they deserve!”.

The cycle will repeat.

(Featured image found via ebay)


Timmy Gelles is a writer for Craven Cottage Newsround. A Fulham fan since 2006 who hopes Fulham will finally win at Goodison Park. E-mail him or follow him on twitter.

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Dickson Etuhu Leaves

From the official:

The Club can confirm that Dickson Etuhu has joined Blackburn Rovers on a four-year deal for an undisclosed fee.

Dickson made over 125 appearances for the Whites since joining four years ago and played an integral role in our 2009/10 Europa League campaign.

Since replacing Jimmy Bullard on Boxing Day in 2008, Etuhu was a fixture in the lineup until this past season. In 2008-09, he started every single match from Boxing Day onward, bar one. He scored one goal, which coincidentally was one of the two matches I’ve ever been to.

Even though he was greatly involved in our Europa League run, he still played more league minutes that he did last season. In the league he started 14 matches and subbed in 6 times. He did not play in the first few Europa League Group Stage matches, but would ultimately make a massive impact in the later rounds: his goal at Juventus would prove vital in the setup for what is arguably the most memorable match in the club’s history. Yet, I had completely forgotten he scored that until twitter reminded me. Shame on me.

Under Mark Hughes Etuhu started 23 matches, and was a substitute five times (with four coming in the last five matches). He played in 57% of the league minutes, scoring twice in the league and one in the FA Cup.

But things changed last season. Etuhu was struggling for a starting position. He started just nine games in 2011-12, none after February 4, and was a substitue for just 13 matches totaling just 26% of the overall league minutes. When Jol dropped Dembele into the center of midfield, it was the beginning of the end. Dembele thrived in that free role at the center of the park and elevated his game to a new level. Etuhu would muster just 74 total minutes of playing time in the final 14 matches (that’s an average of about five per).

It may be easy to simply point out Etuhu didn’t fit into Jol’s plans, and so he had to move on. But that’s only telling half the story. Etuhu signed a four year extension in September 2010. He is currently 30 and still had two years left on that deal. Although additional financials aren’t revealed, those facts alone are a bit worrying. He’s a good player, but a four year deal was too much. It was simply time to annul.

He will be missed.


Timmy Gelles is a writer for Craven Cottage Newsround. A Fulham fan since 2006 who, unlike Rich, doesn’t hope Hugo gets a haircut. E-mail him or follow him on twitter.

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Bjorn Helge Riise Leaves, I Think [UPDATE]

According to the Norwegian media, Bjorn Helge Riise is a Lillestrøm SK player. In fact, according to a video interview on their own website, he’s an LSK player.

But, according to Fulham’s own website he still plays for the club. Screenshot below:

Perhaps this is just a technicality and the Fulham PR and web team are posting a release announcing his departure while simultaneously taking down his profile page. But, it also sums up Riise’s time here, doesn’t it?

For the past two seasons, it seems we were only ever reminded Bjorn was on the team when he was loaned out. He would continually make the “Who do you see leaving this transfer window?” post on all the message boards since 2010.

Signed in summer of 2009, there was a collective sigh that he was not the other, better Riise we had hoped to get years earlier. Ironically, this would happen a few weeks later when Hodgson signed David Elm, brother to the better Rasmus Elm.

In his first season with the club, Bjorn made 12 appearances in the league (including 5 starts) and 7 in the Europa League (starting every group stage match). He’ll probably be remembered most for his wonderful work down the right wing in the Group Stage finale against Basel, teeing up Bobby Zamora twice in the first half. He would make a handful of league appearances later in the season thanks to the club focusing solely on the Europa League.

Under Mark Hughes, Bjorn was on the bench for the first nine matches, and made two substitute appearances. He would only make the bench once the rest of the season. In February of that season he was loaned out to Sheffield United in the Championship; only to see the the club be relegated at season’s end.

This past season, the only time Bjorn saw the field for Fulham was in the early Europa League Qualifying rounds that took place over a year ago. In September he was loaned out to Portsmouth, wherein he played a total of 130 minutes in two matches. He returned to Fulham two months later in November. Coincidentally, Portsmouth would be relegated at season’s end.

And so the Bjorn’s story ends. Or has it?

Update 8/3: It’s official.

In addition, the Club can confirm that Bjørn Helge Riise has joined Lillestrøm on a free transfer following the expiration of his contract with Fulham.


Timmy Gelles is a writer for Craven Cottage Newsround. A Fulham fan since 2006 who, unlike Rich, doesn’t hope Hugo gets a haircut. E-mail him or follow him on twitter.

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London Club Attendances

Next we have a look at attendances over the years for London clubs, an analysis by b+w_geezer. Fascinating stuff…

London Club  Playing Rank (of 96) Attendance Rank (of 96) Average Attendance  Playing Rank Minus Attendance Rank
Arsenal 5.8 4.6 38,776 +1.2
Tottenham 9.5 6.2 35,880 +3.3
Chelsea 12.1 9.2 32,135 +2.9
West Ham 17.9 15.8 25,544 +2.1
Charlton 29.2 33.4 15,994 -4.2
Fulham 33.2; 35.4 15724; -2.2
QPR 33.4 37.4 14,087 -4.0
Palace 40.3 31.2 16,631 +9.1
Millwall 46.7 44.1 10,987 +2.6
Orient 57.5 60.3 7,481 -2.8
Brentford 58.7 54.2 8,514 +5.7

Four London clubs have mostly been in the top division, four have averaged second tier, the others third tier.

It’s striking how similar Attendance Rank is to Playing Rank, with even the greatest variance (Palace) being just 9 places out of 96.

Attendances vary by era, with high averages in the post-war period, then a slump, then a partial revival.
Brentford’s average gate of 12.8k for the first quarter century was 50th best, whereas gates of only 7.1k ranked 50th in the next quarter century.

Credit for these stats is gratefully offered to the resource at European Football Statistics. Pasting into a spreadsheet, it took very little time to compile averages. An hour or two would complete the job for clubs throughout England…..but I have stuck to London..

Including the first post-war season would slightly have boosted Fulham’s averages, but making it 65 seasons allows me to study the 15 since Mohamed Al Fayed took over, preceded by two contrasting quarter centuries. The two most similar clubs are shown for comparison.

Charlton Fulham QPR
Past 15 seasons (to 2011/12)
Average Playing Rank of 96 24.9 18.3 36.4
Average Attendance Rank of 96 23.5 27.5 38.2
The 25 pre-Fayed seasons (1972-96/7)
Average Playing Rank (of 96) 34.5 48.8 15.0
Average Attendance (Rank of 96) 41.8 49.5 24.8
25 seasons from 1947-8 to 71/2
Average Playing Rank of 96 26.5 26.5 50.0
Average Attendance (Rank of 96) 30.9 26.0 49.5

Charlton have fluctuated least, while Fulham’s metrics for the middle period are almost identical to QPR’s for the early period.

All three clubs have generally attracted the attendances you would expect for their league standing. This particularly applies to Fulham for all the pre-Fayed years, to QPR for the first 25 years and to Charlton and QPR for the most recent 15.

In the middle period, Charlton’s attendances suffered from years of exile from The Valley, and QPR couldn’t fill Loftus Road to the extent the team deserved. However, this was an era of low gates nationally — Chelsea averaged 21.8k for the period.

Fulham would need to raise ground capacity by 8k to accommodate crowds matching mid-table Premier rank. A current planning application seeks to do so by 5k.

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Fulham sign Hugo Rodallega

Hugo Rodallega signed for Fulham today on a free transfer. The 26 year old penned a three year deal.

My gut reaction was a bit of worry: Wigan started winning last season when Hugo stopped playing (club went 4-1-2 in the 7 weeks he was out, including some massive wins over Arsenal and Liverpool), he netted just two goals (both coincidentally in January, both losses), and was often out with knee injuries. All this in a contract year.

But perhaps this helped in Fulham’s negotiations. Hugo clearly has talent: he scored 9 goals in 2010-11, 10 in 2009-10, and 3 after being a January arrival in 2008-09. He currently holds Wigan’s record for goals scored (24) in the EPL. Despite being right footed, 6 of those goals have come from his left foot, and 2 from the penalty spot.

This for a club that’s never been higher than 16th (which was this season) in goals scored in the past five years. And, for me, if I ever was watching a Wigan game, I’d usually just focus on him.

Speaking of which, enjoy this video (while we can) of all his goals for Wigan that was floating around twitter today.

So make that three signings as of July 12, with zero transfer fee outlay. Still some holes to fill overall, but good bits of moneyball, eh?

(featured image via the official site)


Timmy Gelles is a writer for Craven Cottage Newsround. A Fulham fan since 2006 who, unlike Rich, doesn’t hope Hugo gets a haircut. E-mail him or follow him on twitter.

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Summer Listening: Beach House

This is the third in a series where we take off our Fulham hats, put on music-blogging hats, and suggest a band to check out this summer. Minor apologies if you think our selections suck.

I’m going to keep this short and simple: go listen to the latest album from this Baltimore-based group.

For a band that’s had wonderful and noticeable progression through each of their prior three albums, Bloom marks the pinnacle of their song writing ability. It’s an album that’s so good you fear they’ll call it quits soon.

To quote pitchfork (sorry):

Bloom doesn’t stray far from the structure or the emotional tenor of its predecessor. It finds the band making small, sharp adjustments to its craft, but these shifts are so subtle it takes a few listens for them to sink in. The songwriting is tighter, yet the atmosphere feels more diffuse; the lyrics are more straightforward, yet they’re somehow suggestive of larger things. By just about every measure, Bloom‘s wingspan is fuller than anything Beach House have done before.

If you liked them before, you’re going to like this. If you didn’t like them before, you’re probably going to like this.


Tim Gelles is a writer for Craven Cottage Newsround. A Fulham fan since 2006 when he saw Fulham defeat an Iain Dowie led Charlton. He resides in Baltimore. E-mail him or follow him on twitter.

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Orlando Sa

Orlando Sa left the club yesterday. His contract was terminated by mutual consent.

Sa made 12 appearances for Fulham, 4 coming in the Europa League. He started three league matches and just one Europa League match. He scored one goal, away at Norwich on New Years Eve. Often injured throughout the season, he played just once in 2012, coming on as a 81st minute substitute on Easter Monday.

My lasting memory of Sa will be the waning moments of the Europa League Group Stage finale against Odense. The match where he played one whole minute. Rich dedicated a whole post to it.

Sa had the ball in open space, and instead of just blasting it on or over the net, or taking it to the corner (like your taught to do) so to fully waste the few tens of seconds remaining, he tried to find a trailing Duff, couldn’t, and passed it to an unopen Frei who subsequently turned the ball over. Odense broke and scored the equalizing goal, and the game was over. In a matter of moments, we were out of the competition. And I was never really able to forgive him for that.

“Seriously, there was twenty-fucking-seconds left. Either kick the ball so hard it goes out of the stadium, or take it to the corner. Show some fucking composure.” Is basically what went through my head, and I’m sure countless others’ as well.

Of course, it wasn’t all his fault; Fulham played like garbage in that and the previous few games and didn’t fully deserve to advance. Additionally, Briggs, Gecov, Baird (at center midfield) and an unfit Hughes started, while Neil Etheridge made his debut in net. There are sub par lineups, and then there are straight junk lineups. This was the latter. (Not being harsh on the players, but mainly Jol for underestimating the match and leaving Etuhu, Riise, Senderos, et al on the bench.)

But there’s something about how some of us, who often rely on the better angles of our nature so often, can be so irrationally singular and unwavering in our blame. Like Snodgrass’s Muff or Merkle’s Boner, and perhaps even more contemporary to Steve Bartman and Wide Right. This phenomena is nothing new.

And for me, it squared solely on Orlando and those dieing moments on that miserable December evening.

At least we’ll always have this unrelated photo.


Tim Gelles is a writer for Craven Cottage Newsround. A Fulham fan since 2006 when he saw Fulham defeat an Iain Dowie led Charlton. He resides in Baltimore. E-mail him or follow him on twitter.

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EURO Crush: Mathieu Debuchy

The right back position is one Fulham haven’t really had figured out since the 2008-09 season. Last season Stephen Kelly led the team with 21 starts at the position. Chris Baird led 2010-11 with just 16 starts. John Paintsil, making 37 starts in 2008-09, had just 21 in 2009-10.

In fact, since 2001, only 4 players have made 30 or more appearances (which equates to a little over 75% of the season) at right back: Finnan 01/02; Volz 03/04, 04/05; Rosenior 06/07, Paintsil 08/09.

Perhaps this is the same for most other clubs of our stature, but if there is a moment to change this trajectory and a player to do that, I don’t know how we could look past French national and Lille’s Matheiu Debuchy. If consistency is what we desire, how’s this: he has only ever played for Lille and made 218 appearances since 2003. Although he turns 27 next month, he is a little less than two years younger than Stephen Kelly.

Yet, according to Lille coach Rudi Garcia, Debuchy “plays high and attacks but defensively is also very rigorous and he exudes confidence”. I think I like the sound of that, as would Martin Jol (remember how many marauding runs Kelly made toward the end of last season?). He was also named to the Ligue 1 UNFP Team of the Year last season.

Sure, the fella got hosed on Saturday against Spain when French manager Laurent Blanc moved him up from right back to right midfield. But imagine for a moment if Fulham, against say City, decided to play Kelly or Baird at right midfield. It would be a disaster, as it was for France.

Allegedly, Lille rejected a £4 million bid from Newcastle last week (the same amount also allegedly bid in January; hmmm), which if true is a laughably small fee. I’d hate to see my favorite French team be dismantled further as they attempt another Champions League run, but it’s not a stretch to say Debuchy deserves a shot at a top notch league.

And we could really use a bona fide starter at right back.


Tim Gelles is a writer for Craven Cottage Newsround. A Fulham fan since 2006 when he saw Fulham defeat an Iain Dowie led Charlton. He resides in Baltimore. E-mail him or follow him on twitter.

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Summer Listening: Tennis

This is the second in a series where we take off our Fulham hats, put on music-blogging hats, and suggest a band to check out this summer. Apologies if you think our selections suck, but we’d rather write about this than complain about our lack of forwards when it is only June 20th.

Tennis is one of those bands that you secretly enjoy but dare not tell anyone. In fact, I didn’t even want to write this little post. But, after listening their sophomore album Young and Old on the ride home from summer league frisbee Monday evening after a few months off from them, well, I just had to.

I suppose what causes this guilty pleasure about Tennis is how harmless they sound. You could probably play this for your parents and they’ll bop their heads. Your friends that don’t like “indie” music will probably bop their heads too.

The band, composed mainly of married couple Alaina Moore (vocals and keys) and Patrick Riley (guitar), create some of the best dream pop this side of Best Coast. But, unlike other dream pop contemporary Beach House (spoiler: the next music post), the songs are the type you listen to constantly for a month, and then move on to something else. Which happened to me in February and continued through March. Part of this could be the fact that only one song clocks in at over three and a half minutes. Another is that they’re much more polished than the likes of The Drums, Best Coast, Dirty Gold, and the similar ilk, so there’s not much to explore after awhile.

Yet, starting with the catchy mellow silvery strumming on opening track “It All Feels the Same” as the perfect hook, and continuing through “Origins”, “Petitions”, Take Me to Heaven” to the indisputable standout track “My Better Self” (though still trying to wrap my head around that video…) the first dozen or so listens are beyond enrapturing. If you get initially get hooked, it’ll be hard to put them down.

Now, I haven’t had a chance to delve into their debut Cape Dory as much as Young and Old, so perhaps this recommendation is only half-completed in that sense that I’m selling them short. So my apologies on that. But if there’s an album for those breezy, timeless summer evenings at the beach where the sun is out until 9:30pm or so (later for you Brits, right?), this just may be it.

But hey, it’s already halfway through June. So my by count, by the time you grow tired of them it’ll be autumn and you’ll want spartan acoustic pensiveness over unobjectionable fuzzy dreaminess.

Enjoy.


Tim Gelles is a writer for Craven Cottage Newsround. A Fulham fan since 2006 when he saw Fulham defeat an Iain Dowie led Charlton. He resides in Baltimore. E-mail him or follow him on twitter.

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Euro Crush: Olof Mellberg’s Beard

I wanted to make this post before the England-Sweden game, then worried I may be assaulted once he scored, but now feel it’s okay as enough time has elapsed.

But oh how I’ve missed Olof. He’s one of those players that just catch your eye, which for a defenseman is quite impressive in our highlight-driven (read: goal scoring above all else) culture. Not sure where he’d fit in considering his age and our wonderful central-defense partnership, but the man still has plenty to offer. We took a flier on Grygera; why not on Mellberg?

Also, Jol should find a spot for him if only for that amazing hipster beard. As someone with serious beard envy (not that the missus allows it, but I think if I attempted to grow a beard, I would look like LA Kings Captain Dustin Brown), I swoon at the sight of the towering Swede. All he needs is a fixed gear bike, jorts, and a PBR in hand and he’d fit in at any Whartscape.

That said, Fulham are lacking in the facial hair department are we not?


Tim Gelles is a writer for Craven Cottage Newsround. A Fulham fan since 2006 when he saw Fulham defeat an Iain Dowie led Charlton. He resides in Baltimore. E-mail him or follow him on twitter.

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Euro Crush: Ludovic Obraniak

All EURO 2012 we’re going to post players that we’ve fallen in love with and think could actually fit in with Fulham next season. Today’s installment is Poland’s Ludovic Obraniak

If we are to assume we’re losing Clint Dempsey, and maybe even Danny Murphy this summer, then Poland’s Ludovic Obraniak might just be the perfect replacement either if not both.

What’s been fascinating to watch with Obraniak is his ability to seamlessly transition from playing behind the forwards (against Greece), in the center (first half versus Russia), on the wing (second half versus Russia),  and anywhere else in between. Obrianiak simply wouldn’t miss a beat in Fulham’s fluid offense.

Although we’ll never forget that Polazo from Jakub Błaszczykowski on Tuesday, Bobby McMahon of Forbes said Obraniak should get a share of the plaudits:

The goal from Blaszczykowski will be remembered for a long long time but the pass from Obraniak was timed and weighted beautifully. There is no doubt either that Obraniak is priming the attacking pump for Poland – 5 chances created by him against Greece and another 8 against Russia.

Just look at the video below for proof of the great through ball (and note how the Russian announcer voice drops when the goal goes in).

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xrhtjd_www-online-soccer-ru-russia-1-1-poland_sport?

Additionally, against Russia he completed 77%of his passes (37/48). Against, Greece, he was 80%, (32/40). Not amazing, but not too shabby.


Obraniak had an interesting season in 2011-12. Never quite finding a starting XI spot for defending champions Lille for the past two seasons, he moved to midtable Bordeuax in January. When he faced his former club just a month later, he scored two goals, including the winner in injury time. Bordeaux would win their final 6 games and lose only three times in the final 17 matches, with Ludovic rotating between LM, CM, RM, and FW.

Could a summer move be in the cards? Probably not. His club situation seems settled and he is 27.

But oh I sure hope so.


Tim Gelles is a writer for Craven Cottage Newsround. A Fulham fan since 2006 when he saw Fulham defeat an Iain Dowie led Charlton. He resides in Baltimore. E-mail him or follow him on twitter.

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Summer Listening: Hundred Waters

This is the first in a series where we take off our Fulham hats, put on music-blogging hats, and suggest a band to check out this summer. Apologies if you think our selections suck, but we’d rather write about this than banal transfer rumors.

With that disclaimer said, truth be told, I’m pretty bad at reviewing music. Or at least I’m very self-conscious of my ability to do so. And so trying to convince you to listen to Hundred Waters this summer is incredibly difficult as their music is quite complex and varied when compared to anything else I, and probably you, listen to.

But, much like with the band Dirty Projectors, or múm (of Finally We Are No One era; whom I think they sound like the most) if you are able to go beyond the initial thoughts of “What the hell am I listening to?” and the subequent inability to compartmentalize them into any genre, there’s a treasure trove to behold.

The Gainesville, Florida-based band takes musicality quite seriously: there’s maybe one song that could be even remotely summed up as “catchy”. Instead there’s a deep appreciation of sound and rhythm, and how sound and rhythm can support vocals; unlike most music today that seemingly has vocals plopped on top of sound.

There are so many sonic elements, be it woodwind, percussion (in “Theia”), electronic (er, most of the album), flute (in “Visitor”), lyrical word play (in “Me & Anondyne” and “Boreal”), keyboard (in “Thistle”), that you could easily argue they wrote compositions and not songs. Each time I listen to the album, there’s a different piece I don’t recall hearing before.

Oh, and the vocals. Keep an eye out for Nicole Miglis, whose range may best utilized in the wandering “· · · — — — · · ·”

So give Hundred Waters a listen to this summer. May take a few go rounds, but if you stick with it, you’ll wish you heard of them sooner.

(videos via Off The Avenue)

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Andy Johson, Free Agent (To Be)

Twitter and the messageboards blew up today when it was “reported” that Danny Murphy, Andy Johnson, and several others were released.

As nuance is never social media’s strong point, the list everyone was referring to (as can be seen here) was simply a list of every play who is out of contract at the end of the season. If we were to apply it to American sport, it would simply be a team’s list of unrestricted, restricted, etc free agents. Or, if anyone works in a field that utilizes a lot of seasonal workers (like I do), it’s simply everyone that is out of contract at X-date.

So this list is not an admission of Fulham saying Murphy et al will be released. Or be resigned. Or given a cookie. Just a statement of fact that’s probably required in the Premier League’s bylaws.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, just who is out of contract anyway?

Richard Michael Barroilhet (Who?)
Jonathan Graham Cosgrove (Again, who?)
Grygera Zdenek (Not surprising)
Courtney Harris (Hmm, name sorta sounds familiar…)
Andrew Johnson (Yay!)
Daniel Ben Murphy (His middle name is Ben? Why hasn’t he gone by D.B. Murphy? D. Ben? Danny B?)
Pavel Viktorovich Pogrebnyak (Eh)
Bjorn Helge Semundseth Riise (Wait, he has another name??)

Outside of Danny Murphy, losing any of these players would elicit nothing more than a shrug (though, Pogrebnyak deserves his own post arguing the pros/cons of extended his loan deal).  But in the case of Andy Johnson, I really hope he’s gone. Like, right now.

Rich wrote about his goal-scoring “feats“, but I especially liked this wonderful nugget:

AJ’s goals have come against Wigan, Newcastle, Spurs, Sheffield Wednesday, Kettering, Portsmouth, West Brom, Bolton, FK Vetra, Amkar Perm, Wigan, Villa, Wolves, NSI Runavik, Crusaders, Split, Twente, Odense and QPR.

Add Wisła Kraków to that list, (scored against them in Fulham’s home fixture, which occurred after Rich’s post was written. It’s also the last goal he’s scored for the club) and you basically have the ROI on a 10 million quid player. If that’s not enough, below are charts of his league playing time each season since he’s been at the club. (Note: I excluded the Europa League and other cup competitions as it skews the data. If you wish to see how he fared in each of those, go here.)

Now, if we just assume that each team averages about 4 matches per month, and each match is 90 minutes, a decent, if not forgiving, benchmark for a starting forward would be 300 minutes played (comes out to 75 minutes per game), no?

Well, as you can clearly see he’s met that benchmark just once since his inaugural season. He’s cracked 200+ minutes in just 9 of the last 30 season months. It must be said though that he actually did participate in this season’s Europa League, playing in every qualifier and 5 of the 6 group stage matches. Though, he missed the finale against Odense due to a red card received the match before at Twente. Hmph.

It’s one thing to not renew a forward’s contract because he cannot score goals; or just goals against lowly opposition. It’s another to not renew because said player couldn’t even get on the field because of continual and various injuries.


Tim Gelles is a writer for Craven Cottage Newsround. A Fulham fan since 2006 when he saw Fulham defeat an Iain Dowie led Charlton. He resides in Baltimore. E-mail him or follow him on twitter.

stockdale dive

The Loneliness of David Stockdale

Lately I’ve been listening to WNYC’s wonderful RadioLab show, and recently came upon “The Loneliness of the Goalkeeper” episode. Turns out it was originally broadcast on BBC Radio 4, so you Brits may have already heard it before. (And here I was hoping to break new ground.)

If you haven’t listened to it, go do it. If you have already, do it again. It’s that good.

The award-winning piece delves into the hypothesis that no position in the game is as thankless or as lonely as that of a goalkeeper.

Which made me wonder, if this hypothesis is true, what do we make of our very own David Stockdale? If being a goalkeeper is the loneliest profession, what must it be to a 26 year old that has a lot of potential, deputized admirably; but still cannot get the starting role?

Especially considering it’s different compared other backups Fulham have had. Pascal Zuberbuhler seemed quite content with his loneliness, only ever featuring once in three seasons with the club (yet isn’t that bad when compared to Hilario at Chelsea, or Stuart Taylor at Villa/City). Tony Warner and Jan Laštůvka came out of the lonely wilderness only for us to immediately demand they be sent back. Can anyone even remember who was the backup to Edwin van der Sar?

Stockdale has already been with the club for four years. Bobby Zamora, John Pantsil, Paul Konchesky have all come an gone during his tenure (with AJ and Dickson to follow?). He has over three times as many appearances with various clubs on loan than he does with Fulham. Fulham’s #1 goalkeeper, Mark Schwarzer signed an extension in January that will keep him here until at least next summer.

If we were to be brutally honest with ourselves and rank the likelihood of a specific player to leave this summer, would Stockdale be in your top three? He would for me.

Why? Just ask yourself how much more lonely can it get for him.


Tim Gelles is a writer for Craven Cottage Newsround. A Fulham fan since 2006 when he saw Fulham defeat an Iain Dowie led Charlton. He resides in Baltimore. His current headshot is temporary. E-mail him or follow him on twitter.

michu

Rayo Vallecano, the Baltimore Orioles, and Clint Dempsey

You may have missed it amid all the hoopla in Manchester and our own hand-wringing over Clint Dempsey’s absence and subsequent future, but Madrid was really the place to be on Sunday.

No, not at the Santiago Bernabéu where Real Madrid celebrated their title-winning season with a GF and GD that makes a mockery of the competition.

Instead, the Campo de fútbol de Vallecas, the 15,550 capacity home to Rayo Vallecano and the smallest stadium in La Liga (and 10k smaller than Craven Cottage), was the site of utter pandemonium. Sid Lowe of theguardian:

Rayo 0 Granada 0 in Vallecas. For the last 32 minutes, it had been kill or be killed: both came up from the Second Division last summer, Rayo had been away for a decade, Granada for three of them. One of them was going back again. In the last 30 seconds that had changed with a goal 401 kilometres away, but amid the tension, the noise and the desperation, few realised that they could both survive. Raúl Tamudo had missed a sitter for Rayo; a minute later, Jara had done the same for Granada. Now Rayo had a minute and a half to save the earth. David Cobeño went up for a corner. The trouble with sending your goalkeeper forward is that if you don’t score you have to send him back again. And so it was that in the 92nd minute, the very last seconds of the very last game, everyone knew that they had to run, and run like mad, but no one knew quite where to.

Seen from above, it appeared completely at random. Like someone had dropped a bomb into the middle of the pitch, sending everyone fleeing in different directions. The corner was cleared: Cobeño panicked and started sprinting back towards his own unguarded goal. Some team-mates went with him. Others went in the opposite direction; some right, some left, some up the pitch, some down. Granada’s players pursued, others protected. Desperate shouts from the touchline: Get back! Go forward! The ball was loose. Then it wasn’t. Some were dashing into the area, others dashing out of it. A shot, a rebound, through the defender’s legs, Michu stretching, the goalkeeper stretching, the ball off the bar, on the line. Tamudo there, a header. The ball in the net. It’s still moving when the first invasion starts; match and mayhem, merged seamlessly. Safety.

If you’ve had a chance to see some of the photos or video, it makes Fulham’s survival a few years ago look tame. And that’s not a slight to us, the raw emotion and jubilation was not lost on the crappy 400k stream I was watching. It was literally awesome.

And then the camera’s kept rolling and this happened:

This all reminded me of what happened here in Baltimore last fall. It reminded me of how the thrill of surviving might be more powerful than the thrill of victory. How amazing feats need a narrative or else they fall into oblivion.

It was a Wednesday night in late September. The haughty Boston Red Sox, in the midst of a record setting end-of-season collapse, came into the season finale against the lowly 93-loss Baltimore Orioles. A win and the Red Sox would still make the playoffs despite their nosedive. A loss and they’d perhaps at least make some odd play-in game, but it wasn’t a definite. They needed to beat a team that sucked.

I was at the first part of this game, but left around mid-7th inning once the thunder and lightning rolled in and didn’t look like leaving. It’s probably one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made of my life. (But how was I to know what would happen after the 90 minute rain delay??)

Trailing 3-2 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth: an Oriole doubled to deep right. Then, another double to even the score. And then, bloop single to left by the then-maligned Robert Andino. Winning run scores.

Boston lost and collapsed their way out of the playoffs (thanks in large part to New York collapsing against the Rays). The Baltimore Orioles are once again relevant in the national consciousnesses for not just for “winning”, but mostly, for surviving.

Johnathan Bernhardt for Et to, Mr. Destructo? and Tom Sccoca of deadspin have a wonderful recaps of what that game meant in terms of an overall narrative, so go read those. Now. But it’s this passage from Sccoca that sums it up for me:

Andino emerges from a pileup between second and third with his jersey untucked, and starts stalking back toward the home dugout. As he goes, he tips his head toward the visitors’ side. “Motherfuckin’ SHIT!” he says. The lip-reading is pretty straightforward. His hand flicks back, in dismissal. “TAKE YOUR ASS HOME!”

Sure, it’s profane. But it’s the essence of his celebration,similar to that of Rayo Vallecano’s Michu singing, dancing, spraying beer, et al in his jockstrap, is what is so moving. To finally be that center of attention; not because you came in second place but last place, for so long, is my sporting fandom raison d’etre.

And it’s that absence in regards to Fulham this season what made this past year seem so surreal. And made Clint Dempsey’s setting of club and American goal scoring records feel as if it existed in a vacuum.

This season didn’t really have much of a narrative. Fulham had no flirts with relegation like in 2002-03 when Coleman took over, 2007-08 when Roy took over, or even last year when Hughes struggled for the first half. Nor we were we really ever the EPL’s darling like we were in 2008-09 during our run to 7th, and 2009-10 during our fairly tale Europa run.

We were just fairly consistent at being mid-table. Because the team was doing “just okay”, there was nothing to attach his feats to like there might have been in any of the seasons above.

And so all we can really do is remember how great it all was; not how he saved our asses from the drop. Or put us into Europe. Or a cup final. (Perhaps it’s just pulling a double over Liverpool for the first time ever?)

And so the thought of losing him after all this stings more so than if it was him singing, dancing, spraying beer, et al in his jockstrap on video. Or telling Harry Redknapp to “TAKE YOUR ASS HOME” on the final day as we clinched a Europa spot (provided he was fit to play then).

Am I crazy to prefer that?

(featured image via @RVMOficial)


Tim Gelles is a writer for Craven Cottage Newsround. A Fulham fan since 2006 when he saw Fulham defeat an Iain Dowie led Charlton. He resides in Baltimore. His current headshot is temporary. E-mail him or follow him on twitter.

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The season by the numbers

So, just how did Fulham finish ninth, their first ever back-to-back top 10 finish in the top flight?

Chances were, if we were winning at half, we’d win the game. And if we were losing, we had a better chance than most at getting something out of the match. And that’s not all:

  • Never lost a single match when winning at half (10-1-0)
  • Conceded just 4 goals in the second half when winning; one behind leaders Stoke City
  • Finished 2nd overall in total points gained when losing at halftime with 8
  • Finished 18th overall in total points gained when drawing at halftime with 13
  • Tied with United overall for least amount of points dropped with just 6
  • Yet, somehow, conceded 17 goals in the final 15 minutes, more than in 2007-08

How did our home record stack up with our away record?

  • Had 7th best home record, behind every team that’s going to Europe
  • Nipped Stoke City for *not* having the least away goals scored in the entire Football League.
  • Swansea City was the only team in the bottom 10 that defeated us at home
  • Liverpool was the only team in the top 10 we beat on the road
  • Beat Arsenal, Norwich, Sunderland, Stoke, and Wigan all by 2-1 at home

Anything else cool that may have helped?

  • Didn’t have a single red card all season
  • Spurs’ win on Sunday meant they won the London Derbies Cup, though we conceded the least amount of goals
  • Clint Dempsey set a whole bunch of records. And then some.

Got any other stats worth mentioning?

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New Design

Hi all. Hope you like the new design, but more importantly, the new direction this site will take over the summer and coming season.

I don’t want to speak for the editor-in-chief, but we’re hoping the slight change of direction will breath some fresh life into this site that is going on its sixth year. (Right? It’s been that long?) Think of it as a step-up from simple blog to a digital fanzine.

Don’t worry, there will still be the same excellent editorial and match reports from Rich, but the site will also feature more video, music, and anything else we feel like sharing. We may also be looking to hear from additional voices, so stay tuned.

There may be some rough edges over the next week or so as we beta test this and that (due to the current setup, it’s all live), but it’ll all be smoothed out soon. I hope.

Cheers.

-Tim

[featured image via alfie priestley]

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Fulham 0-2 Tottenham: Or, a Side Show of the Big Show

Fulham was a team with little really to play for, a bad away record, and missing its leading scorer. They faced a Tottenham desperate to win at home and qualify for the Champions League under a suddenly refocused manager. Needless to say it was over after 90 seconds.

That’s not to say there were no bright spots on the day for our club who finish their 2011-12 Season 317 days after it started in a very respectable 9th spot. There were plenty in fact.

But at this point, with the title madness in Manchester and the lingering questions about the future of several key players seemingly overshadowing everything, does it amount to much beyond a round of applause and tip of the cap?

Well have more analysis on the match, and the season later. But for now…

Final Table

Counting out Time

Welp, just over one week left. Two match days remaining. The 2011-12 Season carriage will soon turn into a pumpkin at the stroke of 5pm GMT Sunday, May 13.

How do you see things shaking out? After using the BBC’s pretty darn cool predictor, I see us splitting our remaining two matches to finish a respectable ninth. Full table and results below.

So, QPR and Aston Villa manage to survive. Bolton and Blackburn drop down. Spurs pipe Arsenal for third. Newcastle finish fifth. Wigan’s dramatic late season run is mitigated by the fact they still only finish 15th with a horrific GD.

Do post your own results in the comments below.

Britain Soccer Premier League

Fulham 1-0 Liverpool: The View From South Texas

(Rich’s report was eaten by the internet, so here’s the next best thing: HatterDon’s View From South Texas)

Historic Victory for Fulham At Uninspired Liverpool

Ho-hum, yet another double by the Mighty Whites.

There’s a point to be made that Liverpool purposely fielded a weakened XI against Fulham Tuesday evening, since they have the FA Cup Final on Saturday. And Ian Darke made that very point 273 times during the 90+ minutes of his “commentating.” I’m sure there will be plenty of press decrying Liverpool’s makeshift side, and using this fact to denigrate Fulham’s victory. Truth be told, there was only one side showing any creativity out there and that was Fulham. Despite fielding Kuyt, Carroll, and Maxi, the three most creative players on the pitch were Dembélé, Dempsey, and Kacankifrei. Ably assisted by Danny Murphy who pulled the strings masterfully, Fulham basically played without being under sustained pressure for a moment. And the result? The fact that despite the typical crowd size, the “few Fulham supporters who bothered to make the trip” [this quote again from Darke] could be heard clearly. I especially loved the “Take Me Home, Al Fayed” and Moussa’s song.

Fulham fielded three ex-Reds, with Special K joining Riise and Murphy in the lineup. The young left winger looked very dangerous early on, and it was a neat combination play between him and Dempsey that resulted in the goal. Dempsey put Special K through and, with Pogrebnyak pressuring Liverpool’s defense, Martin Skrtel put into his own net off his shoulder. And that was pretty much that. Liverpool fired off a raft of shots, but the majority of them hit everything nowhere near Mark Schwarzer’s goal. They nearly scored after an unusual gaffe by the Fulham keeper, but Jonjo Shelvey’s weak shot was cleared off the line by the excellent Brede Hangeland.

Liverpool’s most threatening shot on goal came from the forehead of Andy Carroll, but Tha Big Aussie had little trouble with it. Most of the evening the local “faithful” groaned as pass after pass was misdirected. Initially, most of the interceptions came from and active alert defending up and down the pitch. In the end, though, Fulham scarcely had to move to gain possession as Liverpool players – out of original ideas – passed across the pitch to a wide open Fulham player time after time.

Fulham might have scored twice more. Dempsey set up Frei, who came on for Kacaniklic, and the youngster hammered a fierce shot that threatened to shatter Doni’s right hand post. Later, some brilliant close control by Moussa Dembélé put Dempsey through, but the Texan’s curler was met with a brilliant piece of goalkeeping by Doni. Skrtel attempted to screw up a back pass to his keeper and, possibly, open up yet another opportunity for Dempsey, but there was barely a foot between the two Liverpool players, and Clint was lucky to be able to put a boot on it.

How did Fulham look? Composed, controlled, a bit disjointed when the passing came to Pogrebnyak (The Russian received a pass from a teammate and passed it to another teammate in the 73rd minute. This was, to my knowledge, the only time this sequence occurred). Kacaniklic started off brightly and troubled the right side of Liverpool’s defense for about 15 minutes, but Liverpool’s Kelly soon figured him out and his contribution was reduced to dribbling too long and giving up possession. He is DEFINITELY a prospect. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him make the left wing position his by Christmas. Frei was a good substitute for Special K, and his pace and quick movement was also troubling. But after his wood-work adventure, Frei became less and less vital to the attack. He was, however, brilliant in defending Downing who came in to cause some threat from the Red right wing. Dembélé left with a knock, as did Pogrebnyak, but the Belgian should be giving several Liverpool players nightmares as he ran and juked through their side with the ball seemingly velcroed to his boot.

Fulham’s defense was very good. Except for a near suicidal 5 minutes from Aaron Hughes in the second half, the Liverpool attack didn’t trouble them much. The most enjoyable matchup was the Carroll v. Hangeland affair. The Houston-born Norwegian won most of the 50-50s, but Carroll was a creditable presence up front.

The best player on the pitch tonight was Clint Dempsey. The enigmatic Texan helped create both our goal and Frei’s near second. He also had a good shot beaten away by a superior goalkeeping effort.

HatterDon’s Man of the Match is Clinton Morrison Dempsey. A close second is Alexim Kacankifrei.

And so we have matched our points total from last season, and, with two matches left we’ve put three points between us and West Bromwich Albion. We’re equal on points with Liverpool, albeit 6 down in goal difference. We could pass them, though, as they have a couple of tough matches to come after their FA Cup Final against Chelsea. We’ll see.

On to Sunderland at the Cottage. COYW

Aston Villa

Not to take away from Rich’s most recent post, but lost among Chelsea’s guerrilla tactics on Tuesday was the fact Aston Villa choked a lead away and lost, at home, to relegation candidates Bolton.

So, with three games left, Aston Villa are just three points above the drop. And if Mark Schwarzer’s parry hadn’t fallen to the feet of Andreas Weimann at the death last month, they would be one point above the drop, with three matches left.

Let me repeat that:

Aston Villa could easily be one point above the relegation zone with three matches left.

How the heck did we get here? From Staurt James of theguardian

Extraordinary not because McLeish came from Villa’s rivals, Birmingham City. Extraordinary because McLeish had just suffered his second relegation with Birmingham in three Premier League seasons. And extraordinary because he is synonymous with a brand of football that, to borrow the former Villa manager Graham Taylor’s recent description, “looks [like] you are preparing a side not to lose”.

This season has been abysmal and the statistics make for painful reading. Villa have won only seven league matches all season, the lowest in the division with the exception of already relegated Wolverhampton Wanderers. Only Wigan have scored fewer than the 19 goals Villa have managed in 18 home fixtures. McLeish’s side have won only four league games at Villa Park and just one in the past five months [ed note: thanks Mark!], meaning that they are guaranteed to finish the season with the worst home record in the club’s history.

Against that backdrop, it is little wonder that there is so much apathy surrounding the club. There were 10,000 empty seats inside Villa Park for the Bolton game, which has been a common theme this season. Villa’s average attendance is 33,755, which is more than 6,000 down on the peak of four years ago and nine per cent down on last season, when Gérard Houllier’s side flirted with relegation…In fact more fans watched Villa in David O’Leary’s last season, when the club finished 16th and supporters held up a banner that said: “We’re not fickle, we just don’t like you.”

It’s easy to blame McLeish for Villa’s faults, which some of them are, but it’s been a combination of injuries and paucity of experience that is dooming this club.

What’s remarkable about the club is they only have 4 players over 30,  (in comparison, we have 10). The average age of their starters is just 24.

So when Richard Dunne and Darren Bent are out for the season in February, the likes of 21-year old Nathan Baker, 23-year olds Eric Lichaj and Chris Herd, and 20-year old Andreas Weimann get called upon to fill in. Not to mention relying on 22-year olds Marc Albrighton, Barry Bannan, and Ciaran Clark anyway.

Add into this equation the fact that over the summer,Villa lost Nigel Reo-Coker, John Carew, Brad Freidel, Stuart Downing, Ashley Young, and Luke Young (the first three were released, the last three sold), only to be replaced with Shay Given, Charles N’Zogbia, and Alan Hutton, and you could see that trouble could easily flare up.

To blame McLeish for Villa’s fault is only portion of the story yet seems to be the entire story. What should be looked at as an exemplary yet dangerous transition to a youth/academy squad, is being overshadowed by dirge and doom. One could look at chairman Randy Lerner looking to gut the squad, sell off any assets, and hire an unpopular manager to shield any criticism; but the flip-side of attempting to rebuild for the future with a promising core is just as easily viewable. Heck, if Jol signed the likes of Bannan, Albrighton, et al, I’d be ecstatic.

McLeish’s goal that the media refuses to perceive is similar to that of Martin Jol’s: reduce the wage and age bill.  Jol has found success partially because he’s been able to rely on the old guard. McLeish has no remaining old guard to speak of.

Needless to say, this summer will be interesting. I hope Villa don’t make it an omen.

No Dempsey, Again

Hey look kids, Clint Dempsey is not in the PFA Team of the Year!

That’s right, the player that’s tied for 4th in the league for goals and isn’t even a striker!

And is responsible for nearly 50% of Fulham’s entire offensive output! The same team that is tied for the least amount of away goals in the entire Football League (hooray we’re now tied with Stoke!)

Exclamation Points!

PFA Player of the First Few Months Award

Awards that are not based on statistics or anything that’s actually measurable are hogwash. And so we turn to the PFA Player of the Year shortlist.

Which doesn’t include Clint Dempsey. Or Grant Holt. Or any player that is carrying an entire team on their back. But does include three City players (including the goalie), Arsenal’s best player, England’s Great White Hope, and Wayne Rooney.

Hmph. Let’s just enjoy this video of all of Clint’s goals this season and smugly mutter to ourselves….

Oh wait, we can’t watch this video because the EPL pulled it. Makes as much sense as handing out an award before the season is even over.

Ruiz Out for the Season

Yesterday’s news, but still worth a post. Per the official:

Following an injury sustained against Bolton Wanderers on Saturday 7th April, the Club can report that Bryan Ruiz sustained a fracture in the 5th metatarsal in his foot.

A small operational procedure has taken place to repair the damage, and the Sports Science team advise a 10 week recovery period, prior to any form of training

Welp, with just about 5.5 weeks left in the season, I think it’s safe to say Ruiz is done for the year. Which is probably the most logical decision as we’re not getting relegated nor are we pushing for Europe.

Ruiz came under a banner of fanfare only to be thrown to the wolves (no, not those Wolves) and make an rather forgettable first appearance against Blackburn. But by the end of his maiden season he was a magnificent cog (if a cog could ever be magnificent) in Jol’s midfield machine.

Sure, the headline stats might not back it up (just two goals and three assists), nor did he have defined role like Dembele, Murphy, or Dempsey. But it was his supporting play where he shined.

His record as a starter is 8W 5D 4L (our overall record is 11W 10D 12L), accounting for 29 of the total 43 points. Of our regular starters, he’s in top 5 in passing completion percentage with 80 percent (according to the Telegraph’s stats), while keeping a relatively low turnover and dispossesed rate (according to whoscored.com). That same site also has him only two-tenths of a point behind Dembele and one-tenths behind Dempsey for “key passes per game”.

On the other hand, he’s been notably absent in our few romps. He came in the 75th minute during our 6-0 romp over QPR, when we were already up 6-0. He was withdrawn at half in our 5-2 win over Newcastle, and we would go on to score all 5 goals with him out. He didn’t even make the bench in Fulham’s 5-0 demolition of Wolves because of injury. And perhaps its an omen or a testament to his ability, but Fulham’s record when Ruiz was subbed into a match is a paltry 1W 4D 5L.

I asked Rich if he had any thoughts about Ruiz’s injury. He said that because it was clear Ruiz was improving every match he played, its almost like 6 games of learning gone for him. Which feels like a rather big deal. Rich added that he can recharge the batteries and gear up for a full pre-season.

“Next year’s a big one for him, especially if we lose Dempsey (likely) or Dembele (possible).”

Indeed.

(Photo sort of sums him up, no?)

Fulham 1-1 Chelsea

In a match where it was beyond evident both teams played just two days earlier (with us the only one actually having to travel), Chelsea mustered three shots on target. I don’t recall any of them.

Nonetheless some late dramatics were required from Clint Dempsey and Peter Cech to ensure both sides walked away with a point. Thankfully for us, Mark Clattenburg was not in this equation (in the second half, that is).

Lastly, I’d like to hereby dub Stephen Kelly “Mr. Oven Mitts” due to the bandages on both his hand (what a trooper!). If anyone can find me a photo, I’d love to post it below.

Rich should have a full report up soon. I just wanted to get that image request in…

Shut up about our road form

There’s a stat going around the interwebs that states our (mighty) 8 goals scored on the road is the worst in the entire Football League. And as a result, we’re 18th in the away table.

But here’s another stat for you: we’re somehow tied for fifth best in the EPL on away goals conceded with just 19. And would be tied for 4th had Bobby Zamora not completely skied a wide open net against Everton in October.

Here’s the top 5 away goals conceded for the EPL. Who top the list? Take a wild guess…

POS TEAM W D L F A
1 United 11 3 1 34 12
2 City 7 4 4 28 15
5 Chelsea 5 5 5 18 15
9 Everton 5 4 6 15 18
7 Liverpool 6 1 8 17 19
13 Fulham 2 5 8 8 19

That’s some pretty fine company I’d say. And if you look down the entire Football League, only five other teams have conceded less than 19 goals on the road, with three others concedeing exactly 19. They are:

POS TEAM W D L F A
9 Hull City 7 6 7 17 17
2 Reading 10 3 6 25 18
1 Charlton 13 4 3 32 14
7 Stevenage 7 8 5 25 16
3 Sheff U 9 4 6 30 19
6 Oxford 7 7 6 21 18
12 Morecambe 7 8 4 26 19
1 Swindon 8 2 8 21 19

You may think “comparing us to Swindon negates your argument. We’re EPL. They’re League 2″ True, they are. But they and majority of the other teams with a equal-to-or-less-than-19-away-GA are in promotion places in their respective leagues and have decent away records. Fulham are enjoying mid-table mediocrity with a terrible away record.

Additionally, Fulham are mathematically on par for another record low (though not lowest) season of goals conceded on the road. Last season, they conceded just 20 goals on the road: tied for first with Chelsea. In 2009-10 they conceded 31. In 2008-09 it was just 18(!!!), which would only place them fifth (First-place United would only concede 11 on the road all of that season. Three of which Fulham scored).

Going back further: in 2007-08, it was 29. 2006-07, 42 (which put us last in the league). In 2005-06, 37; in 2004-05, 34.

Now, Fulham still have trips to Goodison, Anfield, White Hart Lane, and yes, even the Reebok, that could muck all this up. But I’d say we’re on par for a pretty commendable season considering how our offense has misfired on the road.

And speaking of that and the original stat, here’s some context: under Roy Fulham scored only 11 goals on the road in 2008-09, and 12 in 2009-10.  Only teams that were relegated did worse than that (except for Stoke in 2009-10). So Fulham would only need to score at least 3 goals in our remaining road fixtures to equal that. (Could they get as many wins or points? Probably Not. Goals? I’d sure like to think so.)

Ironic though that Jol is commended for his offensive prowess (at Craven Cottage that is), yet he’s actually done a wonderful job with our defense. Even better than Hodgson, once.

Jol & Ferguson

I posted this back in December, but it’s probably worth the repost.

21.12.2011 Fulham 0-5 Manchester United
26.08.2007 Manchester United 1-0 Tottenham Hotspur
04.02.2007 Tottenham Hotspur 0-4 Manchester United
09.09.2006 Manchester United 1-0 Tottenham Hotspur
17.04.2006 Tottenham Hotspur 1-2 Manchester United
22.10.2005 Manchester United 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur
04.01.2005 Manchester United 0-0 Tottenham Hotspur

7GP 0W 5L 2D 2GF 14GA

HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND EVERYONE

On “Rant”

Rich’s post yesterday about overreacting makes sense to an extent. Fulham and teams of our ilk will never win the League title, and we can only pray for an appearance at Wembley or another Europa finale. If this makes you upset, there’s the door.

But what about if your team is *supposed* to be competing, what then? Perhaps Chelsea is a good example of this, but they overreacted in firing a manager they hired to act more as a business consultant than a simple coach (cut the overhead but keep the sales flowing. Right…). If City somehow blows the title chase, then they would probably be the best example in England.

But there’s a better example going on with another team I root for. A team that has more potential; and yet is squandering it more than is imaginable.

From the excellent Bruce Arthur of Canada’s National Post:

It has become a comprehensive collapse, a system failure. Since that 6-3 win over Edmonton on Feb. 6, Toronto is 4-15-2, which means that in some essential way, these are the same old Leafs. The faces and birth certificates have changed, sure. They always do, like the waxing and waning of the moon. They are younger, to be sure. They have more recognizable prospects in the pipeline, if no more can’t-miss stars. There is reason for relative optimism if you want to find it, depending on what you define as optimism.

***

This season, in its own way, has been worse. This season the Leafs put themselves in a position to play games that mattered, in a league where the playoff race begins months before the end, and they have simply come apart. They have collapsed without a significant wave of injuries, like the ones endured by Pittsburgh or Philadelphia. They have collapsed without an answer, or even much of a response…

Well, on Tuesday night some people didn’t come. The tickets were no doubt sold, which means when fans in this town vote with their feet, they are voting with their wallet, too. Those in attendance simply seemed resigned. They roused themselves to boo late, and a lot of people left early. A very faint “Fire Burke” rose and fell late in the third; it later trended Canada-wide on Twitter…

This may get me in trouble with the hockey fans around here (all 3 of us), but it’s what I think: the Toronto Maple Leafs *should* be one of the best teams in the NHL. They traded their dilapidated, but character-filled historic arena for a cold, soulless one in order to garner more revenue. And as a result, they have the highest fan cost index in the entire league. Forbes ranked them the #1 most valuable team. Additionally, they’re owned by a faceless consortium of whom the leading stake holder (the Ontario Teacher’s Pension Plan), just sold their shares for nearly $1.32 billion.

And yet, even with a brash GM that promised a change in fortunes over 3 years ago, the team cannot make the playoffs. For the past 7 seasons. In a league where 16 of 30 teams make the playoffs. Where wins only earn 2 points, not 3. And some losses can actually earn you one point.

So, even in such a socialistic league and with the prospect of new ownership, I as a fan don’t see changes in the horizon. The revenue stream is never ending so there’s no real need to jump hoops to win and get more of it.

Now, hockey isn’t football where teams with the most money win. Or, at least are in better positions to. But there are instances like this where I wish there was more overreacting here. I wish fans would do more than boo and chant “Fire [insert name]“. (No, please don’t kidnap players or set the stadium on fire).

At least for Fulham fans and the like that overreact, there isn’t “always next year”.

The Power of Sport

Do watch this powerful video about how a group of people are doing here in Baltimore in coaching a soccer team of comprised entirely refugee kids from all over the world (sort of like Warren St John’s “Outcasts United”, if you’ve read that).

I’d normally write more, but I think the video says enough.

(And for more background, here’s a wonderful story in our local newspaper about the team from this past September.)

Our man Neil Etheridge in Nepal

Ah shoot. I meant to have this post up in preview of the event, but work, life, and my forgetfulness all got in the way. Anywho, Neil Etheridge is currently in Nepal with the with the Philippines competing in the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup. And doing a pretty fine job too.

In a group with North Korea, Tajikstan, and India, the Philippines had a fairly straightforward group. Although, according to an AFC press release about the draw, they had a “proverbial mountain to climb…with the only ASEAN nation in the finals pooled in Group B with inaugural champions Tajikistan, 2008 winners India and DPR Korea, who emerged victorious from the 2010 competition.”

Neil Etheridge and his fellow Azkals would ultimately finish second in the group; losing the opening match to North Korea 2-0, defeating India 2-0, and then coming from behind to beat Tajikstan 2-1 on an 80th minute goal by Ángel Guirado just a few hours ago. Will post video when I can find it.

The Philippines face Group A winners Turkmenistan on Friday. My math may be off, but they kick off at 4:30am EST. Ouch.

COYAzkals!