Andy Johnson finally has his big Fulham moment

Andy Johnson’s hat-trick and ongoing contract talks got me thinking. Should we renew?  Tough call, but my instinct is that if we do it should be very much on our terms.  He’s been a good player to have around, but the time he’s spent off the pitch should be a red herring  flag (herring indeed!) given his age (this may be very unfair, but may not be).

Johnson’s a strange player in that he seems to like us and we seem to like him (at the ground he’s exceedingly popular; on the internet you get more negativity but that’s to be expected), but he’s never really got any momentum going at the club.  Most obviously, he missed the fun bit of the European run, and when the story of Fulham’s great seasons in the 2000s is written his contribution may be surprisingly light. Contrast Johnson with Diomansy Kamara, an inferior player who nevertheless made some telling interventions when we needed them most, or with Zoltan Gera, who flickered in and out of the team but who made himself memorable with some of the most enthralling moments some of us will ever see.  Danny Murphy, who probably arrived at Fulham with more to prove than Johnson, has achieved his place in our affections through both big moments and consistent performances.

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.

Now those goals all needed scoring and we’re very pleased he scored them, but until two days ago you couldn’t come up with a more humdrum catalogue of triumph if you tried (obviously you could: Eddie Johnson would have been delighted with that hit list, but Eddie Johnson wasn’t a highly paid frontline striker). Everyone else had their big moments, their event that would ensure a place in our memories long after they’re gone.  Johnson was missing that. He’s been a good player for Fulham, but until Sunday there was no defining moment there. It’s tempting to think that we’ve never really seen him at his best, but is that right?  Perhaps this has been him: good, but not quite what we’d hoped for. He must have felt this, and it must have nagged away at him.

So I’m glad QPR happened. It was a huge result, fun notwithstanding, and to grab a hat-trick like that instantly gives him his folk-lore. He’s worked hard for Fulham, and while his form may occasionally have disappointed, his effort never has.  He deserved that moment, and whatever happens now, his place in the Fulham story is secure.  Nice, one, AJ, chuffed for you.

9 thoughts on “Andy Johnson finally has his big Fulham moment

  1. Am sure most of you notice at the end of each game AJ makes more of an effort to applaud the fans, often coming down to the Hammy end alone to salute us (and take the applause).
    A real favourite as Rich says, a grafter. I hope he stays too.

  2. Yes he’s very likeable, very hard working, selfless. The difference on Sunday was that he put all the chances away. That’s what strikers do. And he has often not done that. He runs tirelessly, gets in positions, but how many times have we seen him with goal scoring opportunities, which he’s missed, especially when one on one with the keeper. Hopefully its a confidence thing, and he will ride this wave for the rest of the season. If he finishes this season with 15+ goals, then he will have proved himself.

    1. He was also involved in two of the other goals. On the day he finished like Jermaine Defoe, while continuing to work like Andy Johnson. If he can maintain the second part of that equation against everyone and the first part at least against the weaker teams (Rich’s list of clubs is telling) he will be a15 goal man this season with additional value.

      In a changed scenario from a month ago, it’ now probably the fitness issue alone (plus behind-the-scenes-issues, if any) which stands between him and a new deal on good terms — no longer whether he’s deemed worth keeping.

  3. Mike H in the thread below mentions that the problem has been that too often he has played as the lone striker. Alex L, in the same thread, says that people don’t realize how well he plays with Zamora.

    The way I look at it, the problem is he’s never found a settled and acceptable role in the team in his three seasons here:

    2008/2009:
    Under Hodgson in his first season he lead the line with Zamora almost playing in the hole. While the team was successful as was Johnson (10 goals in 36 appearances is not a terrible return given our defensive style that year), that neutered Zamora as a goalscoring threat.

    2009/2010
    We saw this in Johnson’s second season. He was basically out all seasons, forcing Hodgson to play Zamora at the head of the attack with support from Gera (or another midfielder). Zamora became a Premiership star that year and the preference became to stick with the system that allowed Zamora to shine.

    2010/2011
    Thus, in 2010/2011, in the absence of suitable alternatives to Zamora but a desire to stick with the same system, Johnson was asked in Zamora’s absence to lead the line as the sole striker with one of Dempsey, Gera or Dembele behind him. In the 15 games that he started last season, 13 were with one of those midfielders, whereas only 2 were with Zamora. The need for Johnson to play with his back to goal like Zamora and his much smaller stature effectively neutered him.

    As a result, it is hard to draw conclusions about Johnson’s worth to the team going forward. Jol is clearly playing a more attacking and passing team than his two immediate predecessors. Zamora has adequate backup in Sa. Johnson then is best seen as one of 6 players fighting for the three attacking roles that play around Zamora (along with Dempsey, Duff, Dembele, Ruiz and Kasami). Given his versatility, hard work, and ability to scrap a goal, I make him potentially a very valuable member of an exceptionally well-balanced squad.

    It strikes me that the best thing we can do right now – given the well-rounded nature of the squad and the emergence or purchase of a fair amount of young talent – is to give this group of players this year to integrate with each other and see what they can do in 2012/2013 with a view to transitioning some of the young stars (Kasami, Frei, Briggs, Gecov) into consistent first-team roles in 2013/2014. So, if all goes well over the next month or so I would hope that the club will make a serious and concerted effort to sign Johnson to the deal we’ve offered (two years plus an options for a third) as well as extending Dembele’s contract.

    1. Excellent comment, and one that is often missed when it comes to discussions about Johnson – he really has had a changing role in the team. I guess the reason it is so often overlooked is because the rest of the team has essentially remained the same, as has the playing style.

      Jol has shaken things up, and if we can continue our fluid attack for the remainder of the season, not only will Johnson score goals, we will be bloody exciting to watch too!

  4. His ten goals in 2008/9 were vital considering how Zamora and Gera were both misfiring that season. Fortunately they came good the following year when AJ was injured, although our most reliable finisher, albeit further down the pecking order, was Erik Nevland.

    I remember Roy saying at the time of AJ’s injury that he would always carry a legacy from it, and it appears to have taken until now for him to regain full form and fitness. My comments on CCN after the Odense match were critical of all except Johnson, who apart from his goals looked like a man who new exactly what he needed to do, and was able to do it; a thoroughly competent performance.

    You are right to question his value in view of age, injuries and goal scoring record, but I would love to see what he can do in a settled attack which is playing the Martin Jol way.

  5. We were right not to sell in the summer as the fee would not have brought a player of similar quality.

    However, in that respect AJs improved form should also make him more valuable in the January window

    As such it is a difficult balance in terms of not risking losing him for nothing in the summer but at the same time avoiding a knee jerk reaction and signing him up on a bumper long term contract at this stage in his career

    Bullard is a good example – fans (including myself) didn’t like it at the time but it was absolutely the right call

  6. My theory (after seeing a fair bit of AJ live before moving back to Aus)

    His ‘standard’ shot on goal seems to be between the keepers legs – simple shot, no angles, and for keepers with no history of him it seems to work. See the first one (I think) against AJ. I got sick of shouting to my mates ‘shoot wide, shoot wide’ as he was running in – only to see him kick straight at the (waiting) keepers legs.

    The trouble is that most current keepers in the Premier League know his basic shot is thru the legs, and cover that shot. As AJ has not been prolific, keepers from Europe and new teams probably don’t do that much research on AJ any more, they will spend time looking at footage of BZ, Depsey and Duff.

    1. If that is his strategy (shoot tho’ keeper’s legs) its a very high risk one and would explain why he’s missed so many one on ones for us. My suspicion is that he doesn’t try to do it deliberately. Just that when he’s not high on confidence, he snatches at it. His confidence is high right now, so hopefully he’s hit a long, long purple patch. I’ll be putting him in my Fantasy League time for a few weeks ;-)

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