Euro Crush: Alan Dzagoev

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

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

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

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


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

Five thoughts on the SW6 derby

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five thoughts from Fulham vs Norwich

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas Shopping

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

———————————————

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

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

The

ASHWATER 2012 DESK DIARY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best wishes – and thanks for your support

Ken Coton and Martin Plumb.

www.ashwaterpress.co.uk

Fulham Programmes 1980-81

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s oh so quiet

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

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

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

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

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

Running for Roger Brown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks,

Pete

Fulham Programmes 1979-80

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five (late) observations from Odense

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coping

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

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

Expectations will need to be revised.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bring it on, I’m ready.