The giant flag saying “Still Believe” still hangs from Craven Cottage, but with the air of an “EVERYTHING MUST GO” sign in the window of a shop that closed 18 months ago.
Still believe? In what? In the youngsters? Sure. In the manager? Well maybe. In the club overall? Well there’s nothing to not believe in really, is there, unless we’re talking about the club’s ability to win football matches, which is a different question and not so easily answered.
In any case, they’d be better taking it down.
Today Fulham lost to a spirited Millwall side that had the gumption to get ahead and then stay there. The opener looked soft, with Ricardo Fuller putting in a cross that floated across the box and was volleyed home at the back post. Scoring goals should be harder than that.
Going a goal down at home means that you’ll probably have most of the ball and most of the attack, which Fulham did. That’s how the game goes and we should be wary of getting too excited about what followed. 62% possession? Fine, but that’s normal under the circumstances. The trick is to hurt the opposition and again it didn’t necessarily feel that we were. Part of this is fitting a story to an outcome: if Eisfeld’s early drive had crept in early on then that’s a different game. Hugo Rodallega, willing and present amid most of our good moments, looked to have a clear chance in the second half, but shot straight at Forde in the Millwall net. He had a better chance soon after, but wanted a bit more time than seemed absolutely necessary and his eventual dig at goal was cleared off the line.
The chances were kind of there and I’d say we weren’t that far off, but goals decide games and we didn’t deliver on that front. My friend Lewis, a Millwall fan, mentioned that it was probably a good thing for them to get Fulham now rather than in a few weeks time, and I can see that. There still looks like half a useful team brewing here, but I think we all know that it’ll take time.
The question I have is whether Magath has the patience and know how to develop this young squad. It’s dangerous to read too much into these things but Shaun Hutchinson, warming up, had the air of a man with the wind taken out of his sails. I have a real issue with his being dropped after a single game. If you think that one game is sufficient to discard players then that says a couple of things: you misjudged them in picking them last week, or you think that pulling young players in and out of the team on one game’s evidence is the way to do things. I associate the latter with knee-jerk reactions among supporters, not with managers whom you’d hope might select a player then back them. By way of an analogy, it is generally accepted that the England cricket team is better off now that it gives its chosen players a run of games rather than switching them around after every match. I feel that the same applies here. That’s not to say that rotation isn’t a good thing either, but that’s more controlled, that’s more ‘horses for courses’.
Speaking of fans, and this really is low hanging fruit, some of this lot were pretty ordinary today. Stan and I were sitting right at the front and couldn’t see much at the other end, but the people behind us were effing and blinding about everything. They were particularly pulling people up on not shooting from distance when they could have. Never mind that you can’t see how far out players are from where we were sitting, it’s stupid to take hopeful pot-shots unless things really open up. Finally, Scott Parker punted one into row Z of the Putney End, rather making a point. It never ceases to amaze me how angry people can get about things that they either can’t see or don’t understand or both. It’s funny how the message boards talk about ‘johnny come latelys’ not ‘getting’ football, and Fulham’s place in same, but most of the bile comes from grizzled old gits who you’d assume have been going (and moaning) for years. Yeah, football is for letting off steam, if that’s your bag, but lots of people just seem to want to shout and swear for the sake of shouting and swearing. Now that’s fine, too, but it can add up to an atmosphere that isn’t as positive as it might be.
Anyway. I was too close to the pitch to have any sense of space and movement and could only judge what I saw on an incident by incident basis (Hoogland slides, wins tackle, yay Hoogland; Parker tackle, yay Parker; etc, etc) which makes judging a game basically impossible (but perhaps explains why everyone loved Steve Sidwell, who was pretty good in the incident by incident stuff but perhaps not in the bigger picture). So I have no idea who played well and who didn’t. Rodallega seems to have attracted criticism but I’d be more inclined to praise him for being in good positions and being involved with what appeared to be most of our opportunities. The two full-backs continue to impress me, but we’ll have to see the goal again on TV to see what happened on the goal. All three midfielders looked like they did alright to me. Maybe Williams on the wing struggled to get into the game but I might be miles off on that.
Let’s not go overboard. This one could easily have gone either way and I’m not sure that our start proves much beyond the fact that a team with mid-table inclinations can very easily lose two close games in a row. Three in a row, four in a row even. This season is 46 games long and we know it’ll take time. How can it not, when you’ve essentially built the team from scratch? So if we know it’ll take time we need to find it in ourselves to give the players and the manager time.
2 Hoogland Yellow Card 47′
6 Bodurov Yellow Card 63′
3 Stafylidis Yellow Card 77′
21 Christensen Subbed Off 45′
7 Eisfeld Subbed Off 61′
30 David Subbed On 77′
26 Abdou Subbed Off 78′
11 Woolford Goal 12′ Subbed Off 62′
19 Fuller Subbed Off 73′
8 Easter Subbed On 73′
10 Bailey Subbed On 62′
Weather 20o. Wind 10mph Westerly. Partly cloudy.