Thursday, August 31, 2006

Steeeeed & Leggy & six keepers

The only really good thing about the current transfer windows are when they close, you at least know you can forget about players coming or going for a few months and concentrate on the football. I fairly pleased with our success this window, we've filled the problem areas in the team, and had a good clear out of players who weren't going to make it with us. Our only outstanding problem is finding an intelligent centre back with leadership qualities, between now and January the current crop can try and prove we don't need one! Also slightly bizarre that with five goalkeepers officially on our books we go and buy another one. Jan La┼ítuvka is a Czech Republic goalkeeper described as "understudy to Petr Cech", strangely Jaro Drobney who we released having never played a competitive game for us was also described as "understudy to Petr Cech" when we paid £500k for him just over a year ago. Maybe that's just the fate of all Czech goalies whilst the mighty Petr stays fit.

So the Steed saga finally ends and I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. From a business point of view I think Fulham did the right thing, they got £2.3 Million for a player that could have walked for nothing in a years time. However, from a footballing point of view we've lost one the best players I have ever seen in black & white. There has been a steady traffic of Tigana era players leaving the club and I am sure the main reason for this was the contracts agreed at the time when money was flying around, rather than the quality of football. Steed has been vilified by the club and by many fans - but I don't think he really deserves it. Football clubs as a whole need to take more responsibility in the contracts they offer. I wish Steed well with Spurs (except against us) and I will be clapping him on any return to the Cottage for 5 years of magic and style.

Sylvain Legwinski also moved on, another Tigana player who fell foul of the good contract he was given. Leggy never gave us less than 100% whenever he played, and always made the effort to show his appreciation to the fans at the end of each match. Its been a tough year or so for him, as he has clearly not been in CC's plans at all, so I'm glad to see him get the chance to revive his career elsewhere.

Game 3 - Fulham 1 Sheff Utd 0

Finally back in the land of Broadband. First game I've seen enough off to really assess Fulham's performance and, despite the result, it wasn't promising. Sheffield Utd. looked poor, I thought they would at least give us some problems with their work rate and physical approach but really we should have won by more.
Jimmy Jimmy Bullard is already firmly established as our new cult hero, and without him we would have looked equally bad. JJB was everywhere on the park, and adds the spark of creativity we used to get from Steed. What a great free kick, I haven't seen one like that since Micky Adams stopped playing!
We seem lacklustre at present, which would be disappointing at any time in the season, but especially so at the start. There's some difficult games coming up (Newcastle & Spuds away, Chav$ki at home) and its hard to see us getting much out of any of them. I'd settle for another 1-0 win over the Filth though.
The last few seasons have seen our quality players leave one by one (Finnan, Davis, Saha, Van Der Sar & Malbranque) to be replaced by grafters. Maybe that's harsh as the direct replacements for those players were Voltz/Rosenior, Diop, John, Niemi & Bullard, but overall the squad does seem to be more dour than when Tigana left.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Game 2 - Fulham 1 Bolton 1

Parent sitting in sunny Bexhill (the place that people from Eastbourne go to retire) so not really in touch with the outside world. My impression gleaned from Sky Sports News and TFi is that this was another poor game, which was looking for all the world like being our second defeat and setting us off to the worst possible start. A late late Jimmy Bullard penalty saved our skins and maybe covered over the cracks. We had won all 5 previous Premiership encounters with the thugs from Bolton, and there was no way that could continue much longer, so being pragmatic I guess a point is OK. Right now I'm not feeling so positive about Coleman in charge, its not the results that matter, its the apparent lack of fight or quality. We seriously need to improve our game if this is not going to be a season (and a Blog) of misery. Sheff Utd on Saturday is looking a tough prospect - and my first proper game is not until September (The Filth) which seems a very long way off. At least the old man gets Sky Sports so I'll have the chance to see decent highlights on Football First instead of the inevitable 2 minutes just before midnight on MotD. Joy.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Game 1 - Man Utd 5 Fulham 1

Bollocks ...

I can't remember a worse first game of the season*. A frankly puzzling 4-1-3-2 formation left us far too narrow and gave Giggs and Ronaldo all the space they wanted to cut us to shreads. Another dreadful two footed challenge from Michael Brown, for which he should have walked, and only Jimmy Bullard can stake a claim to any credit. Very very poor and best forgotten about as soon as possible, the next two games really matter now.

* Having just checked soccerbase, since 1983 when we lost 3-0 at Barnsley - soccerbase didn't go back far enough to find a 4 goal reverse!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Season Preview

Football's back, like it ever really went away, and I'm excited. Coleman seems to have hacked back the squad quite severely this summer whilst bringing in some quality signings. It really does look like we have 2 players for every position, with the only area for concern being the right wing. "The Steed Issue" is obviously hampering our chances of signing a decent replacement as it seems until we've sold Steed we won't be able to buy someone new. It's all got a bit messy but we have another 2 weeks until the window closes so no need to panic quite yet. Jimmy Bullard is the real Steed replacement and we'll need him to provide the creativity in the centre of the park that will pretty much decide how well we do. I expect Diop and Brown to be doing the donkey work behind Bullard, with Boa pushing on the left. The right sides gonna be the problem - in a 4-5-1 I suspect Collins John will be asked to play the wide role, but in a 4-4-2 maybe Brown will get the job. Neither ideal, but I'd rather we spent our money wisely and got a genuine right winger than buy cheaply to fill the gap.
We've finally signed our first proper left-back (ignoring Bridgey's loan spell) since Rufus departed, and I think Franck Q will be a great player for us. Looks like Ian Pearce and Phillipe Christanval will start in the centre, but Boca, Zat and Zak will all be pushing for a starting role. If we had the money an intelligent and experience CB would be a welcome addition, but I think we can improve of last years shockers thanks to a resurgent Pearce and a fit again Christanval. Liams probably in front of Volzy for right back, but we're lucky to have two great players in this position and either can do a job for us.

Up front I think we'll be looking at McBride on his own for the trip to Old Trafford, but hope we'll revert to 4-4-2 when at home and that CJ will get a decent run in the side. Heider Helgusson is likely to be a regular substitute, and Bjorn Runstrom looks an exciting prospect, so hope to see something of him as well.

Sneaky feeling we can nick a point at OT, and if all goes well we can get a top 10 finish, and if my prayers are answered a Cup Final appearance. Bring it on!