Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Green Eyed Loco-Man

When did I become a news site? I'm sure I didn't used to try and write quite so much about what had happened during the day. Maybe it's because I am posting at the end of the day instead of in the morning. Whatever. Here is the news.

Michael Brown has finally completed his move to Wigan, the Official website said this was for an undisclosed fee (we really love those don't we - I wonder if we're laundering money for the Mafia?), but the BBC (amongst others) reported it was for £3million. If that's true it's an even better price than I first thought, though I'm sure there are actually all sorts of clauses in there before we'd get the full wedge. Good luck Browny.

Roy O'Donovan looks to have decided he would rather play for Sunderland. He was quoted today as saying Roy Keane was his idol and he always hoped that one day he would get the chance to play for him. Fair enough, you can't really compete with that can you? Sunderland played Cork last night in a friendly so that must also have helped them jump in and hijack our deal. All things considered it's not the worst deal to have been gazumped on, given the choice I'd rather have signed Chris Baird so I think we've come out ahead so far in comparison to the Black Cat's. I'll be interested to see how O'Donovan does though, definitely one to watch.

Following Sanchez's comments about signing 2-3 more players we've also been linked with a number of new signings. We've allegedly made bids for Charles N'Zogbia of Newcastle and Seol Ki-Hyeon of Reading. N'Zogbia is a nippy left winger who looked pretty tasty in the glimpses I saw of him playing for Newcastle last year. I'd be surprised if Big Sam was prepared to let him go, especially considering his comments about their dearth of players, but it has also been rumoured that Sam wants Diop as part of the deal. Seol ripped us apart when we played Reading away last season, but generally didn't get as many opportunities in the side as he'd hoped. I had read that he'd been played out of position a lot which could explain his subsequent dip in form, so he might not be a bad signing for us especially for £1million. There's was also a suggestion back in June that our new Korean sponsors LG were keen for us to have a Korean player on board so there may be more to the move than just squad strengthening.

Finally I completely forgot about the rumour from yesterday that we were looking at Anthony Le Tallec. He is owned by Liverpool, but spent the whole of last season on loan at Sochaux and the whole of the previous one on loan st Sunderland. Neither club subsequently picked him up, which doesn't bode well, however, he has been described as a tall forward who can hold the ball up well. If true he could well be useful as a back up to Brian McBride. With Kamara looking to feed off a big front man McBride has a big role to play this season and we don't seem to have another striker who can offer the same attributes. Either way its all rumour and hearsay so far so we'll have to wait and see.

Monday, July 30, 2007


Bit of a late post today as I had hoped to bring news of the confirmed signing of Roy O'Donovan. Roy was due at Motspur Park today for a medical but Roy Keane was reported on the BBC as making a late bid to take him to Sunderland instead. It was also reported by RTE (Irish radio station) that O'Donovan had NOT travelled to Fulham today as originally planned. I think it would be a great shame if we miss out on him, though it looks like the final decision will probably be down to the player. Interesting that we should find ourselves fighting over a second player in this window. We won through on Chris Baird so all may not yet be lost on this deal either. Come the season it will be interesting to see how we compare with Sunderland. You'd like to think we'll be finishing above them but they do have some serious backing and with Keano at the helm will surely have the media supporting them as well.

In other scurrilous rumour mongering. We were reported as having made a £4.2million bid for Hameur Bouazza of Watford. I got quite excited by this as I reckon he would be a very useful player for us. He's officially a striker, which would add another pacy forward to our set up, but can also play left (and possibly right) wing, which would provide us with additional cover where we currently only have Lee Cook. It does seem unlikely as only the other week Aidy Boothroyd was quoted as saying they would not let him go for anything other than a "head turning" bid, but maybe the player's desire to play in the Prem has come into play. I think the story originated in the Watford Observer so we'll just have to wait and see.

More ridiculously we have also been linked with a bid for Sean Davis. Allegedly we are looking for a replacement for Michael Brown, but I cannot imagine we actually need one with a decent set of central midfielders already in place. More to the point what sort of a reception would our former No. 23 get if he came back.

Finally Sanchez was interviewed on Radio 5 Live today in which he talked about making another 2-3 signings before the end of the window (be still my beating heart!) and also had this to say - "We're not going to win the Champions League, certainly not in the next three or four years, but we could get somewhere near a final," he said. "The fans obviously love the Premier League and that is obviously the mainstay, but I'd like to give the fans some day outs at major cup finals. "If other people aren't going to take it seriously, we certainly will. "And over the course of my time in charge at Fulham I'd like to think we'll be getting into Europe somehow, whether that be via the Intertoto, a cup final or our league position." Too bloody right Lawrie, if you can achieve that I think I might just love you forever!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

A Very Quiet Sunday

I've just had one of the quietest Sunday's I can remember. Mrs Chopper is poorly and stayed in bed for most of the day, Chop Jr is poorly and was happy lying on the sofa watching TV and Chop Jr II seemed equally lethargic. I'm not complaining, its actually been a really nice day, I've not really been able to get on with anything just potter about and occasionally browse the Internet. Just had a little kick about in the garden with Chop Jr but he got tired and had to go in. Score is currently tightly poised at 10-9 to Jr. We also watched "The Parent Trap" (starring Hayley Mills twice) all the way through and we all enjoyed it! Sunday Roast is now cooking but with most of the family not displaying very big appetites I think I'll get to eat most of it.

There's not much Fulham related to talk about as most of the Football world seems to be taking the day off. Roy O'Donovan is due at Motspur Park for his medical tomorrow. Michael Brown seems still yet to commit to Wigan. If you're looking for something interesting to read Craven Cottage Newsround is always worth a look particularly this article about Franck Queudrue. I had this comment to make on the situation.

"The Franck situation is definitely an interesting one. I was a big fan of him at Middlesbrough but was generally disappointed with what I saw in a Fulham shirt. I suspect all the talk is just to ensure we get the right price for him. However, if he does end up staying it could only be a good thing for us. More competition for the Left Back role and the possibility that I reckon Franck would make a pretty decent centre back. The other thing is how well this reflects on Lawrie, the impression I get is that he deals with these sort of conflicts head-on rather than take the (perceived) Coleman approach of sending a player to the doghouse."

I've also begun writing another Blog. Yes I know - what on earth are you thinking about? I just couldn't help myself though. Did I mention I got up at 6:30 this morning? Anyway it's completely unrelated to Football and is simply a list of my favourite Top 5's, I've been thinking of new ones all day. Its helped pass the time, and I reckon I can write it fairly easily without struggling too hard to devise new topics. If you want a look here's a link. It's a lovely sunny day out there so I really should be out making the most of it, think I'll just turn the roast potatoes and have a potter in the garden.

From St Andrew’s to Craven Cottage

Well it's Sunday so this seemed appropriate. The following text was posted on TFI during the week and caught my interest. It's advertising a book which examines the origins of Fulham F.C. when we were formed by a local Church. I am always interested in the history of the club and this seems to cover an area of which there was previously little information. Its only a fiver so I will be getting a copy and will report back once I've read through it. For now though here's the ad.

From St Andrew’s to Craven Cottage
How a church’s cricket and football club became Fulham Football Club by Morgan Phillips.

The football club may have outgrown its early ‘holy’ surroundings but St Andrew’s, a thriving church on Greyhound Road, is still very much around and the new book was launched at the church’s Summer Fair on 14th July, 2007.

In June 1879, at the suggestion of the first vicar of St Andrew’s, a curate of the church founded the West Kensington Cricket Club. During the winter of the same year, some of the boys attending the church Sunday School, played football on an area of ground known as the “Mud Pond” and thus what is now Fulham FC, played its first game.

Morgan Phillips, a life long Fulham supporter and unofficial Club historian, has written a fascinating book about these early days up to the move to the Cottage. It wonderfully evokes life at the time, including detail of the players who first turned out for the Club and the first games they played. It also shows how people had to stand up for their rights to maintain their environment even then. If developers of the time had got their way Eelbrook Common & Fulham Recreation Ground would have been built on.

The book is published by St Andrew’s Church Fulham, 2007 and can be obtained at £5 (including postage) from:

10 St Andrew’s Road, London W14 9SX

Or by contacting the church website


It is also hoped that the Club will allow copies to be sold in their shops.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Friendly: South China 1 - FFC 4

I'm sure I've already mentioned my lack of Sky thanks to Virgin Media and their high horse. No idea then about the game or how well we really played but the Offal has this report of the match and also Lawrie Sanchez post match reaction. There's also reports on Sky Sports and ESPN. The manner of the win seems to corroborate my opinion that we were better off playing South China than the Plod who incidently lost on penalties after drawing 0-0 with Pompey yesterday afternoon.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Michael Brown has (almost) left the Cottage

Almost certain now that Michael Brown is going to join Wigan for around £2 to £2.5million. It represents another decent deal for the club, with us receiving at least what we paid for him if not a bit more. It was hard to see Michael getting many games with Diop, Smertin and Davis already competing for the two central positions and Jimmy Bullard due back around November time.

I liked Michael Brown a lot. There was a point, around about the end of 2006, when he was probably my favourite player. It seemed to me that MB was the only one really trying, and whilst he was never spectacular he was always committed, reliable and occasionally quite fierce. There were those "horror tackles", v Sean Davis, v Ryan Giggs and v Ashley Cole, that were impossible to defend. Once may have been put down to exhuberence, twice maybe unfortunate timing but three times - well if it looks like a fish and smells like a fish ... its a fish. To some extent you probably don't get players that are that committed who aren't also capable of the indefensible, but it doesn't make it any easier to watch. That aside I think we owe MB a huge debt in the efforts he made to retain our status.

I first saw Browny play against us, when he was still in his early twenties, for Manchester City at Maine Road. I was impressed then by his energy and enthusiasm and he made a big impact on the game, one I think we lost 4-0. He moved on from Maine Road when first team opportunities became limited and became a cult hero at Sheffield United, I wonder if it was his time under the dubious tutelage of Neil "Colin" Warnock that added that nasty side to his game. With United failing to reclaim a Premiership spot, Spurs took an interest and he moved to White Hart Lane in 2004 when Jaques Santini was still in charge. Sometime between the fallout from the end of Santini's reign and Martin Jols eventual accumulation of every available midfielder in the country, Brown fell out of favour but whenever he did get an opportunity he put in a performance. I was very pleased when we managed to pick him up last year, and whilst it's only been 18 months since we signed him, feel that he's played a major role in retaining our top division status in the last two campaigns. He did go off the boil as last season descended into panic, but by then the wheels had well and truly come off the carriage. I think it's the right time for him to move on and wish him well at Wigan where I hope he finds a more long lasting home. I just hope he doesn't break any one's legs when we come up against him next season!

One last news item, it also looks certain that we have managed to complete the signing of "New Kevin Doyle" Roy O'Donovan from Cork City. Both the The Irish Times and the Irish Independent are reporting we have verbally agreed terms with O'Donovan being loaned back to Cork for the remainder of their season. I really quite like the "Current Kevin Doyle" so if the nomenclature is accurate I reckon we could have picked up a bit of a steal here.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Lloyd of the Rovers

The reserves played a friendly against Bromsgrove Rovers on Tuesday night, though you'd have been hard pressed to know it was on unless you searched really hard. I eventually found a match report, nestled between stories about an appeal for a missing pony and the Local History Society's exhibition in Chaddesley Corbett, on the online version of the Bromsgrove Advertiser. The report obviously skewed to the Bromsgrove perspective, suggests the reserves has the better chances of the game but having only taken one of them were held to a draw thanks to a last minute goal from Rovers hotshot Paul Lloyd. The whites fielded a fairly standard reserve side consisting of Brookes-Meade - Moncur, Briggs, Omozusi, Watts - Milsom, Anderson, Sanders, Goncalves - Hudson-Odi, Ehui. Ishmeal Ehui scoring from close range three minutes before half time.

I may well check back with the Advertiser to bring you an update on the pony situation.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The End of the World is Nigh

Well not really, though you may have been mistaken for thinking so if you'd read TFI yesterday. Fulham lost their first match in the Asia Cup 1-0 to Portsmouth. It means we'll probably play the South China select XI rather than Liverpool in our final (I guess you could call it 3/4th place playoff) match on Friday. Today's match was live on Sky and Friday's will be too, it will probably kick off at 11:00 GMT, but thanks to Virgin Media's ongoing strop with Sky I won't even get to see the goals. There's a reasonable report on the Offal but a more in depth one on ESPN soccernet.

The message boards were full of doom and gloom with Zat in particular taking a tonking. Sky also contradicted themselves after initially talking about the insignificance of friendlies they decided that having seen their beloved Pompey win they could safely claim that this was a good indication that Fulham would struggle next season. Pah! Probably won't do us any harm in the long run if everyone is underestimating us. In some ways I think a game against South China may do us more good right now than having to face Liverpool.

Friendlies are always going to be more about fitness than results, and whilst it has to be good to be winning, you can't really expect to fly half way round the world and perform to your best, no matter how much money you might be making out of doing so. The criticism of Knight is probably not completely unjustified, his concentration really needs to improve if he's going to continue playing at the highest level. However, if there's one thing I've noticed about Zat it's that he tends to improve when he plays more games in a row. I'm pretty sure Konchesky, Hughes and Baird will form the bedrock of our defence this year. Whether the last spot goes to Zat or Liam or one of our other defenders (Boca certainly has a claim to a starting position) remains to be seen.

Looking at the rest of the team it was interesting to see Dempsey get a long run out on the left wing. I reckon it will take Lee Cook a while to get up to speed for regular Premiership football and maybe Clint will be the man to fill the void. On the right hand side of midfield Simon Davies is likely to be first choice, but again it's interesting to see Liam get another run out in that position. This could be a good opportunity for Liam to get into the side assuming Baird continues at right back. Up front seems more straight forward, Kamara will start, probably alongside McBride. Healy will probably be useful as a sub, and CJ will continue as forth man unless we sell him and bring in a replacement.

In other news, the club finally confirmed that Bjorn Runstrom will be loaned to F.C. Kaiserslauten for the season. I think his contract may be up when that ends so I doubt we'll see him in a Fulham shirt again. Also the Reserves apparently played at Bromsgrove last night though I've been unable to find out the score.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Nostalgia - Les Barrett

Article written by Gordon Mills.

During one of Fulham’s perennial slumps in form during the middle sixties, the manager at the time, the globetrotting Vic Buckingham, took the unprecedented step of dropping the great Johnny Haynes, establishing George Cohen as captain and picking a group of untried youngsters from the youth set-up under the tutelage of one time water pistol bandit Mark ‘Pancho’ Pearson in a desperate attempt to turn the team’s fortunes around. One of the debutants that day was someone close to my heart, an ex-schoolmate called Les Barrett.

We knew Les would make it to somewhere close to the top because at school he had the knack of always being that bit quicker to the ball than anyone else. The funny thing was that he wasn’t actually the most gifted of footballers at our school – there were a couple of others, Clive Coast, Phil Hennessy, Alan Pooley, who were all his superior but they lacked Les’ determination and that knack to get to the ball first. When we got to school in first form, we were told in no uncertain terms that we wouldn’t be playing soccer, rugger was the sport for first formers. That didn’t faze Les who used his speed and anticipation to make it into the Under 12 team as centre or wing without any difficulty. When we went back for Form 2 he switched to football with a bunch of others while people like myself kept playing rugby.

Until he left school at the end of Fifth Form, we tracked each other’s progress and he was already on Fulham’s books by then. It gave us a sense of pride to see his name in the programmes as a member of the junior team and so we approached his first team debut with intense interest and anticipation. At that time he was playing as an inside forward – he wore number 8 on his debut – and while he didn’t exactly set the Cottage alight that day, he did retain his place after the 2 – 1 victory. (Can’t remember who it was against.)

Eventually he found his best position of course, which was on the left wing. For someone who was not naturally left footed he did remarkably well, using his speed to go past full backs on the outside and get as close to both the by-line and the goal before crossing low into the path of one of the strikers. He wasn’t a great crosser of the high ball but he got into some really dangerous positions from which his low deliveries caused havoc.

Les was one of the few Fulham players who excited the crowd when he received the ball; there was an air of expectancy, that something exhilarating was about to happen. He won Under 23 caps for England but never made it to the full side. I watched one of his appearances for the Under 23s in the traditional eve of cup final game between the full England side and the Under 23s at Highbury. The Under 23 front three were Clarke, Marsh and Barrett and they were unstoppable. Les gave George Cohen quite a roasting and Rodney, a QPR player by this time, tormented Bobby Moore all evening. The Under 23s won 5 – 0, Clarke 2, Marsh 2 and Barrett were the scorers. Unbelievable.
Les wasn’t a prolific scorer but he was a great provider. One season he was our leading scorer and I wondered if he was going to concentrate more on his finishing but he didn’t. One of his most famous and important goals was in the sixth round of the cup against Carlisle – the only goal of the game that took us to the semi final and eventually the final in 1975.

He didn’t have one of his better games in the final. West Ham put two men on him and Mullery and Moore kept moving the ball the other way towards Jimmy Conway. The Guardian in its headline above the report on the Monday said something like "Fulham Fail To Walk the Barrett Way" a play on the slogan of the Barrett’s shoe shop and the fact that Fulham didn’t get the ball to him enough. When they did feed him in the last quarter of the game, he made some typical runs down the wing but by then it was too late. (My favourite Guardian football headline was for a Crystal Palace game when Gerry Queen was sent off for fighting. The headline read "Queen In Rumpus At Palace".)

After the consecutive relegations, I was very surprised he stayed at Fulham but he was nothing if he wasn’t loyal and, like Haynes before him, he gave all his best days to the Whites. I wonder what he would have achieved though, had he moved to Tottenham as was rumoured on more than one occasion. In these days when the nomenclature "Legend" is bandied about without rhyme nor reason, Les Barrett stands tall as a true legend of Craven Cottage and I’m proud to have had him as one of my schoolmates.

Anyone who remembers this era is welcome to reminisce with Gordon at gmills@cob.edu.bs

Monday, July 23, 2007

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye?

Marvellous. I've been poorly and haven't eaten since Thursday night - starting to dream about food! It doesn't seem like I've missed much though. Heidar is almost definitely going to Bolton but there's been no official confirmation yet. Fulham have arrived in Hong Kong for the Asia Cup and Micheal Brown is missing from the Captains photo which adds fuel to the rumour that he may leave as well. Bjorn Runstrom looks likely to sign for Kaiserslauten in Germany. One of the tabloids carried a story that Collins John was causing unrest in the dressing room and may also be on his way out. Franck Q has talked about sitting down with the manager and agreeing to fight for his place unless a decent bid comes in. Nothing has been mentioned about Philippe Christanval.

UPDATE 19:30 - Official Site confirms Heidar has departed the club to join Bolton for an undisclosed fee. Sounds to me like a great move for Heidar and a good deal for Fulham (the Beeb had mentioned £2million as the likely fee). Best of luck to H hope it goes well for you, except in games against us of course.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Friendly: Brighton & Hove Albion 1 - FFC 2

Bleurgh! Been poorly today so not up to writing much. We won our friendly tonight, which is good, despite conceding a goal after 3 minutes. There's a report here. Some interesting selections and positions, particularly in the second half, but probably just shows these games are more about fitness than anything else.

Michael Brown's absence might add credence to the rumour that he is going to Wigan. The BBC are also reporting that Heidar Helguson may move to Bolton. Good luck to H if he does go, I've read a fee of £2million being mentioned as well which would surprisingly represent a small profit for the club.

Cook Finally Signs & Former Fulham Watch #1

So in a typically Fulhamish transfer saga we finally wrapped up the signing of Lee Cook from QPR. There's an updated post here all about Lee, as I got a bit over excited last week and announced we'd already signed him on Wednesday! Oops, I should know better but it was the BBC who got my hopes up. The deal has taken an age to agree partly due to the outcry from QPR fans who are obviously gutted to see their best player leave, but also due to medical concerns over the state of Lee's knee. The last time a player failed to sign for us due to dodgy knee's it was John Carew and seeing as he scored against us last season playing for Villa I reckon we'll be OK this time!

A couple of items I noticed during the week regarding former Fulham favourites. Micky Adams has taken up the role of Assistant Manager at Colchester United. It's his first job since being sacked by Coventry City in January. I think it could be a great role for him, Colchester are punching above their weight and if they continue to do so Micky can re-establish his reputation away from the spotlights glare of another managerial reign. Good luck Micky you deserve to do well. Then ex-Right Back Jamie Smith was forced to retire from the game after failing to recover from a knee injury. He was only 32. Jamie played during the Keegan era, and probably never achieved as much with us as he might have done. He never cemented a regular first team place, but always looked pretty solid when he did get a run.

It's Brighton at the Withdean tonight, if you're going take your waterproofs because it sounds like it's going to be wet!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

My First Match (and how I became a Fulham supporter)

I started supporting Fulham in 1975, just before we played in the F.A. Cup final against West Ham. I was almost 7 and don’t remember having seen football on the telly before that or even having much awareness of different football teams. My Dad must have told me about Fulham and that we had reached the Cup Final but I don’t think it really made much impression on me until he brought home two posters (one of each team) from the ESSO garage. Those two posters took pride of place on my bedroom wall and remained there for a long time after the final was over.

My knowledge of Fulham then was completely based on what information I could glean from those posters. For a very long time I confused Alan Mullery and Bobby Moore and it was some years later when I realised my mistake and had to convince my brain to reverse the faces I knew as Bobby and Alan. I also developed something of a soft spot for West Ham, knowing almost as much about their team as I did about ours. Strange that over 30 years later I would end up marrying a West Ham supporter. Before the Cup Final was played my Dad also brought home a souvenir copy of the Evening Standard, which had a full colour spread on both teams, and my Gran gave me a Fulham rosette which went up on my wall next to the posters.

I don’t remember the game at all though I’m sure I must have watched it but from then on we would watch the Cup Final every year. With televised football a rarity, and Match of the Day on too late, this was probably my only exposure to what was happening in Football. I don’t remember ’76 or ’77 but the 1978 final really made an impression. Ipswich the unfancied underdog’s took on the might of Arsenal, the Blues 1-0 win showed me how unpredictable football could be and how you could support a smaller team and still find it enjoyable. It wasn’t so easy to pick a team to cheer when Arsenal met Manchester United the following year so in the end I plumped for the London based side. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy the game as much, but I was unprepared for a game that eventually proved to be one of the most exciting matches I’ve ever seen. As Alan Sunderland scored that late winner for Arsenal I was hooked. Football was great and I wanted more of it.

My knowledge of Fulham increased a little further in 1979 as I completed that years Panini sticker album. Despite only being a 2nd Division team there was still a Team photo and a silver club badge to collect. Next to these was a short summary of Fulham facts and figures. I now knew that our capacity was a staggering 42,000 (another fact that stuck with me long beyond the point when the GLC stepped in and started introducing more realistic levels) our record signing was Peter Kitchen, for £100,000 from Leyton Orient, and our record sale was Richard Money who went to Liverpool for the unusual figure of £333,333.

I don’t remember badgering my Dad to take me though maybe by then I knew other kids at school had seen real football games and had might talked to him about going one day. However, when it happened it was completely out of the blue. I remember walking up the stairs, on the way to my bedroom, when Dad stopped me and asked;

"Would you like to go the match this afternoon?"

"What match?" was my nonplussed reply,

"Fulham!" Dad said,

"Really? … err yes please!"

Before I knew what was happening we were in the car and driving, the same route we used when visiting my Grandma and Granddad in Barnes. We carried on across the Hammersmith Bridge and I discovered a part of the world I had never seen before. I took in the whole journey, the places we passed the people we saw, and eventually, as we neared the ground, the crowd. We parked in a side road, walked down to the ground and entered the turnstiles for the Hammersmith Terrace. I think I got in for 50p and the programme was only 25p. By the time we were in there seemed to be a vast crowd probably more people than I’d ever seen in one place. Actually the attendance that day was 6,533 not bad, though nothing exceptional, but for an 11 year old at his first ever football match it seemed completely packed and very noisy.

It was 15th September 1979 and Fulham were about to face Burnley on a gorgeous sunny afternoon. I don’t remember many details about the game itself, Peter Marinello got sent off (possibly in the 1st half) and the crowd sang "There’s Only One Marinello" for the rest of the game. They also sang "The referee's a wanker" quite a bit. I had no idea what a wanker was but I figured it wasn’t a good thing. Next to us there was a huge skinhead with big lace up DM boots and drainpipe jeans. He joined in the vitriol screaming "Challis you’re a wanker". Challis, it transpired, was Ron Challis (Tonbridge, Kent) the unfortunate referee. He had become a Football League referee in 1968, the year I was born, and in 1975 was senior linesman to Pat Partridge for the FA Cup Final. He then took charge of that amazing final I'd enjoyed in 1979. In the end we beat Burnley 3-1, with two goals from Gordon Davies and one from Kevin Lock. I thought it would be like that every week. However, it was December before we won at home again and we were relegated at the end of the season, a fact that was probably more indicative of the years to come than that first victory.

After the game Dad walked me round the ground, under the Eric Miller 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 players bar, and someone stopped him to ask about the Old Firm (I didn’t know what that meant either but it sounded quite exciting). Marinello headed on his way every inch the dashing hero. He was my new favourite player, though I wasn’t to know that he wouldn't play many more games for Fulham, falling out of favour as our season went from bad to worse before moving on to Hearts via Pheonix Inferno. I would have a new a more lasting hero pretty soon, he'd already scored two goals in that first match, but for now Marinello was the greatest. I’d had a great day and as we finally left to go home I knew I’d be back.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Reserves Friendly: Lewes 1 - FFC XI 0

Its late and I really should be in bed by now but here I am trying to find out the result of the reserves friendly. Its clearly a low profile fixture as Fulham haven't even mentioned it on the Offal, and even if they had that appears to be down ... again. Never mind, I know some guys from TFI have gone so there will probably be an update on there by tomorrow.

UPDATE: Final score was 1-0 to Lewes. Bexhill Beast from TFI went and had this to say "1-0 to Lewes - poor game overall and if anything Lewes looked more like the Premiership outfit. Mostly younger players though - apart from Runstrom up front who was appalling! Watts best player overall, though Goncalves shone in first half - rather temperamental though, like watching Ronaldo!". It was also noted that ex-youth player Tom Davis played for Lewes, who also have Junior Lewis (Lewis of Lewes!?) on their books and have just employed Justin Skinner as their number 2.

Here's a YouTube video of Roy O'Donovan, an Irish striker we're apparently trying to sign up. Cork City have confirmed they have received two bids, allegedly us and Southend United, for the 21 year old hotshot.

Friendly Report: Dagenham & Redbridge 0 - FFC 1

The first friendly of the season was played last night and Fulham got off to a good start with a 1-0 win. Diomansy Kamara striking the winner with a spectacular shot on 44 minutes. There's a decent match report on the offal here with a rather fancy graphic showing the team formation. It has to be good to win these games, even though they are more about fitness, a few more of these under our belt and we'll be in good shape for the challenges to come.

The starting line-up is pretty close to the team I would expect us to start the season with. Niemi in goal and a back four of Baird-Knight-Hughes-Konchesky is the defence I was expecting. There's room for more variation in midfield Brown & Davis started, but it sounds like Smertin put in a good 2nd half performance and I would be surprised if Diop isn't pushing very strongly for a staring role. Franck Q played left wing, a strong indication for me that he is on his way. I am sure Sanchez will be pulling out all the stops to get a new left winger signed before the end of this week in time for the trip to Hong Kong. Simon Davies started on the right wing, but his place must also be feeling some pressure from Clint Dempsey. Finally great to see Kamara get on the score sheet straight away, apparently he played in a free role just off Brian McBride and seem to enjoy the freedom. The 2nd half replacements up front were Collins John who had a couple of early chances and David Healy.

All this emphasises the depth of our squad now, particularly in midfield, with the only obvious hole being on the left wing. How many players we retain will be interesting. Franck Q seems very likely to leave, both Newcastle and West Ham have been reported in being interested, and rumours have been circulating that Wigan want Michael Brown. Bjorn Runstrom has also been linked with a move away which based on his complete lack of first team action is not surprising. Gabriel Zakuani, Philippe Christanval and Heidur Helguson didn't make the squad but I don't think Sanchez will let anyone go who doesn't want to leave or doesn't attract the right bid.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Wisdom of George

I've just finished reading George Cohen's autobiography, the aptly titled "My Autobiography". My Dad got me a signed copy for my birthday (thanks Dad!) and it's a really great read. Well written and astutely observed, George cuts straight to the point without ever being caustic. In one of the earlier chapter's George makes some excellent comments about the game of football which seem to me, to have a great deal of relevance to both Chris Coleman's recent reign and Lawrie Sanchez' forthcoming campaign.

"Football is a simple game but a lot of hard work goes into making it so ... it will always be about time and space."

"It is not rocket science or advanced calculus, but it is a lot of hard work and a lot of concentration and if you don't learn to think and sweat at the same time you're going to be in a lot of trouble"

I think these are statements that Lawrie would agree with completely and might be considered the blueprint for the way we are going to play. I'm sure Cookie would agree with them as well, but I'm not so sure he was able to put it across as succinctly as George does.

One last quote from George that made me chuckle, Alf Ramsey in plotting England's route past Portugal to the 66 World Cup final told Nobby Stiles "I want you to take Eusebio out of the game" to which Nobby paused for a few seconds before replying "Do you mean for life Alf?"

Get your own copy at Amazon.co.uk or at AbeBooks.co.uk.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Annoyed of Shepperton

OK so I should know better. The media is always going to have a view of Fulham that doesn't match my own but an article in today's Times has really peed me off. In "The Game" there's an article examining every Premiership clubs transfer dealings and giving a mark as to how well the Times think each clubs done. Fulham get a C+. So OK we might have signed a lot of players but most of them have been playing in the championship. Anyway It doesn't really matter does it - it's just a bit of fun ...

Aston Villa get a B - Total incoming transfers 1, the massively over-rated Nigel-Reo Coker for an equally massive £8million. Apparently Martin O'Neil has £40million to spend but "will only buy big if the right players are available". So how does that make them a B - for heaven's sake!

Derby get a B+ - They've signed Earnshaw (£3.5million), Claude Davis (£3million from relegated Sheff. Utd) and Andy Todd from Blackburn. Is that better than us? I don't think so.

Man City get a B+ - They've only just announced their new manager, they've only signed two players. They claim they are about to sign Peter Crouch but they haven't yet have they!!

Wigan get a B - This is the one that really annoys me. A B!?!? What for? Their big signings are Koumas and Bramble. Titus Bramble - the unofficial "worst defender in the Premiership". They might buy Marlon Harewood, but Mr Times Journo, they might sell Leighton Baines!! Grrrrrrr!

Right, rant over. I got a bit cross there and it really shouldn't have annoyed me so much, but it is typical of the media's general opinion about Fulham and other supposedly smaller clubs. I always try and rationalise these things by saying that it's OK if the media underestimate you, it's what you do on the pitch that really matters. It doesn't stop me getting annoyed by it though especially when their opinions are based on personal preferences rather than actual facts.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Dario G

Dario Gradi is a football legend and deservedly so, his 24 years at Crewe is something to be proud of on its own, let alone the list of great players that have departed that club for bigger things. The BBC have a great article here about the planned handover of the managerial reigns from Dario to current academy boss Steve Holland. When Gradi finally makes way he will hand over the title of longest serving English football boss to Sir Alex Ferguson. I bet Fergie doesn't manage to give up the reigns at Old Trafford with as much dignity.

The list of former players makes impressive reading and includes David Platt, Rob Jones, Craig Hignett, Neil Lennon, Danny Murphy, Dean Ashton and of course ex-Fulham midfielder Wayne Collins. The one thing they all had in common was the ability to play good football. My other interest in Dario G is due to friends of my parents who lived in a maisonette above Dario's Mum. I had hoped that one day we might bump into him and could invite him up for a cup of tea and a bit of cake while we chatted about football, but alas it never happened. I wish Crewe well for the coming season and hope they have found the man to lead them on through the next 25 years.

Friday, July 13, 2007

New Signing - David Healy

Oh my giddy aunt! What a week - I'm breathless with anticipation. Striker David Healy has become our sixth signing of the summer so far, agreeing a move from Leeds for around £1.5million. Healy was one of the first players to be linked with Fulham, having been outstanding under Sanchez when playing for Northern Ireland. The ongoing saga of Leeds' attempt to come out of administration has delayed any transfer dealings but with Bates now back in control the deal has finally been agreed.

Healy began his career at Manchester United where he was restricted to 3 substitute appearances, before heading out on loan to first Port Vale and then Preston North End. He eventually signed for Preston making a total of 155 appearances and scoring 44 goals. He then went on loan again, to Norwich, before signing for Leeds United where he made 121 appearances scoring 31 goals. He has really come to prominence via his international career with Northern Ireland with whom he has won 46 caps scoring an impressive 19 goals. Those goals include the winner against Sven-Goran Eriksson's England in the 1-0 victory at Windsor Park in 2005, a stunning hatrick in the 3-2 victory over Spain in September 2006 and both goals in the 2-1 win over Sweden in March of this year.

New Signing - Paul Konchesky

Blige! It's all go this week isn't it. Out of nowhere we've signed Left Back Paul Konchesky from West Ham. Poor old Konch had been at Charlton for ages when he fell out of favour with Alan Curbishley, after a period on loan at Tottenham he eventually opted to move to West Ham, the team he supported as a boy, in July 2005. We were interested at the time as well but missed out. After a very successful first season, culminating in a goal scoring (see picture above) F.A. Cup Final appearance, last season saw Alan Pardew sacked and Paul's ex-manager Curbishley installed. It seems they still don't get along so the Spammers loss is our gain.

Konchesky played 70 times for West Ham scoring twice, having made 169 appearances for Charlton scoring 6 goals and 15 appearances for Tottenham. He's also played twice for England and 15 times for the England U21 side. His signing will almost certainly pave the way for the departure of Franck Queudrue who has made no secret of his desire to leave the club.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

It's all gone horribly wrong

No not the Lee Cook transfer. My six-a-side football team lost today in our last game of the season and in doing so blew our, admittedly slim, chance of winning the inter-department league. I'm gutted. I've been playing in this damn league for getting on for 18 years now and only managed to win it twice, both times when I sold my sole to the devil and played for our office equivalent of Manchester United. This would have been my first ever victory with my own team. We'd beaten said Man Utd clones a week ago, and had then seen results go our way setting up a final week in which we still had a chance of taking the title. Today we played an unfancied side, but with one player less (key man Brown choosing fishing over football) and needing to win by 3 clear goals. It was always going to be tough but we were 1-0 up at the break and the title looked on.

I had gambled on using the fresher legs of Welsh Boy Jones on pitch with me in goal but that plan fell apart as I made a series of catastrophic errors in the second half. I'd also broken my glasses in the first half which didn't help. Ginger Rich worked hard to cover the defence but as we pushed forward to try and score the necessary goals I was caught in no-man's land too many times and we ran out 4-1 losers. Jones scored our goal to finish as our top scorer - which is more than impressive when you realise he played over 3/4 of our matches in goal. I had hoped a league title might be seen as some kind of good omen for the coming season but it wasn't to be. I blame Brown. Fishing! I ask you.

OK so we haven’t got Lee Cook after all (I knew I’d end up regretting doing that piece yesterday) but there still seems to be a good chance we will get him in the end. He was born in Hammersmith and grew up a Ranger's fan but, despite rumours that he hates Fulham, it sounds like he wants Premiership Football and is happy to come to us. Fingers crossed, I've a good feeling about this one.

New Signing - Chris Baird

No really this time! Chris Baird has signed today for a smidge over £3million. This one has been rumbling on and off for a long time. Southampton really didn’t want to sell him, but after they accepted Sunderland’s bid it was inevitable he would move on. All that bid really achieved was to set the price, Fulham matched it and then it was down to the player to decide. Given a choice between working for Roy Keane, who let’s be honest is bound to shout at you in a very scary way at some point in the future, or Lawrie Sanchez, who you know already as your international manager, its not that surprising that we eventually got our man.

Baird is 25 and played most of last season at Centre Back. He won Saint’s Player of the Season award by a country mile and may have also captained the side. He began as a trainee at Southampton and made a total of 79 appearances scoring 3 goals. He has actually played most of his career at Right Back (which is also where he plays for Northern Ireland) and I still remember his outstanding performance in that position for Saint’s in the 2003 F.A. Cup Final. It will be interesting to see where Lawrie intends to play him. I reckon he may well fill the Right Back slot which could see Liam move to cover the Left Back role or not even make the starting eleven.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Reserve Fixtures

The reserve teams fixtures have just been published on the Offal. They kick off, like the 1st team, with a match against Arsenal. The reserves are at home though. Its scheduled to be played at Motspur Park but with the possibility of it being Jimmy Bullard's first match after his long-term injury and the fact that the kids will still be on their summer holidays maybe the club will consider moving it to a bigger venue. I went to MP for the Arsenal game at the end of last season and fancy going. Junior Chop the Elder is a Gooner and would love to see them beat us again, Junior Chop the Younger is so far untainted by a chosen team but would love to join his big brother for a late night out. We'll see.

The reserves also have some friendlies scheduled. They don't seem to be listed on the Offal yet so I asked on T-F-I and found the following games arranged so far.

18th July AWAY vs Lewes F.C.
1st August AWAY vs Staines Town
7th August AWAY vs Aldershot Town

There could be more to come. Lewes would be worth a trip, if only to see their famous Dripping Pan ground, but I think I'm going to miss out on that. Will probably head along to Staines Town though as it is just round the corner from Chronicle H.Q.

New Signing - Lee Cook

Width! Left Width! Finally after a typically lengthy transfer saga we have now signed left winger Lee Cook of QPR for something in the region of £2.5million. He's almost 25 and he's had a pretty good season for the bitters (voted last years Player of the Season), so much so that Chairman Gianni Paladini was quoted as stating that he would refuse to allow Lee Cook to be sold for under £10million. Really Gianni? Did you get that decimal point in the wrong place? The interest in Cook was first rumoured early on in the summer then last week I jumped the gun when the BBC suggested we'd captured Lee for £1.5million. Paladini made things difficult for us, partly due to the outcry from QPR supporters but in the end Lawrie got his man.

Cook has played 140 times for Rangers scoring 11 goals, having been signed for a paltry £125,000 from Watford where he had scored 7 goals in 64 appearances. Let's hope he can make the step up to the Prem, because by my reckoning he hasn't got much competition for his position.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The New Manager

Lawrie Sanchez did not make the impact I had hoped for when he came in as Fulham's very own Red Adair. I was expecting direct football, I was expecting passion and excitement, I was expecting a few more wins, but in the end he did the job he was asked to do. Having got quite excited at the prospect of Ronald Koeman (or another high profile manager) coming to the club, and a possible return to the pure footballing style of the Tigana years, I now accept that Sanchez was always the sensible and more likely choice. He's now got the chance to build the team that he wants and has certainly wasted little time in bringing in new faces. I am surprised by the size of the transfer fees reportedly paid so far, I thought Sanchez was brought in as a frugal option, but it seems the board have realised the need to keep investing in the team.

Comments made by Sanchez early on pointed the way to our future. He is looking for players who will give him 100% every week, he will get us organised in every department and will aim to play simple football with every player knowing his role. I think we are trying to emulate the pattern that has proved effective for Bolton and Blackburn and even Reading. This might not be pretty football, but if we can do it well it could be exciting. I also think Sanchez won't be afraid to give youth a chance so Elliott Omozusi, Gabriel Zakuani, Chris James and the like could all see some first team action. Matthew Briggs debut on Saturday at 'Boro last season made him the Premierships youngest ever player at 16 years 65 days, a nice touch by Sanchez, if a little self-aggrandising, and hopefully a sign of things to come.

Lawrie didn't waste much time in clearing the decks with Montella sent back to Italy before the 'Boro game, Radzinski and Claus Jensen released and Lastuvka and Routledge returned at the end of their loans. Ten days into July and we've already got three new players on board and Sanchez has talked about bringing in 3 or 4 more before we depart for Hong Kong, on the 21st July to play in the Barclay's Asia Trophy. Despite my early reservations I like Lawrie, he talks a lot of sense and seems to be single-minded and ambitious enough to succeed at this level. There's a story in the Vinnie Jones biography that says Lawrie was never much liked at Wimbledon and never considered one of the lads. Eventually this led to Sanchez getting involved in a fight with John Fashanu (awooga!). Fash is a big bloke and kept knocking Sanchez down only to see him get back up to his feet each time. Fashanu eventually asked if he'd had enough to which Sanchez replied something along the lines of "I will never give in to you, it doesn't matter how many times you knock me down I'll keep getting up". If Lawrie can instill that sort of spirit in our football team then I think we're going to do OK.

Monday, July 09, 2007

New Signing - Diomansy Kamara

BBC and Sky Sports both now reporting that Diomansy Kamara has finally signed for Fulham in a deal reportedly worth £6Million. Crikey that's a lot of money! No doubt the official Fulham website will get around to telling us about this by Wednesday or Thursday, by which time it will probably be an "undisclosed fee" - we like those. I doubt it's a full £6Million up front, there's probably staged payments and appearance related clauses but heck I'm just pleased we've got a striker through the doors. Diomansy is 26 and scored 21 goals (though most of them in the Championship) in around 60 appearances for West Brom. Prior to that he scored 4 goals in 25 appearances for Pompey and he has made 3 appearances so far for Senegal.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Mr Sanchez gets to work

Two players already signed and with a flurry of rumours being reported it seems it won't be long before we've got more players through the door. Today Sky Sports have reported that Fulham lodged a £4Million bid for Henri Camara with Wigan. It seems Lawrie's not content to sit back and wait for other teams to agree to deals, £4Million is a very serious bid but it must also put some pressure on West Brom and Blackburn if they are seriously considering letting their players go. The Diomansy Kamara bid seems to hinge around Heidar's reluctance to move to WBA. I'd be amazed if we are genuinely contemplating signing both K/Camara's so I think the move for Henri must be down to an inability to agree a price for Diomansy. The bid of £2.5Million for Roberts has apparently been knocked back, with Blackburn looking for around £4Million. Maybe they also will reconsider the price if they think we're just going to move on and buy someone else. Either way I think it bodes well for Sanchez mode of practice. Under Coleman we'd be linked with players but rarely did we hear of genuine bids being made. Mo might be backing Lawrie more in his first year than Cookie but it does appear that Lawrie is more comfortable with wheeling and dealing for a number of players at the same time.

Whilst it does look like we'll be buying two speedy strikers fairly soon, the news on David Healy has been very quiet of late. Leeds are clearly in a mess at the moment, and maybe we can benefit by picking him up on the cheap near the end of the window. If we do though he'll be fighting with 5 or 6 other strikers unless we manage to move on some of the old guard. I don't think Healy will be a regular starter but I do think there's a place for him in the Sanchez plan.

Franck Queudrue has been vocal about his desire to leave. He's clearly not happy with the new manager and suggests this is down to the style of football we'll be playing. I reckon it might have more with his failure to put in a decent performance (though to be fair I think he was injured) once Sanchez took over. We've not really been linked with a left back at all so it's possible we might see Bocanegra or Rosenior have to fill the role. Aaron Hughes is capable of playing right back, and Chris Baird (who seems set to go to Sunderland but may still join us) is actually a right back capable of playing in the centre. Moritz Volz could also be on his way, with the news that Celtic are interested. It would be very sad to see him go, but you couldn't blame him if he did as he needs to be playing regular first team football. Finally I heard a rumour, from a Spurs fan who's not one to pull my leg, that Martin Jol may be looking at Liam Rosenior if the £12Million (That does say twelve!) bid from the Filth for Pascal Chimobonda goes through.

All quite exciting and it would seem that the team that starts this season will look very different from the one that started last.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

New Signing - Steven Davis

Hurrah! Signing number 2 confirmed. Steven Davis (that's him above scoring against Man City) is 22 and generally a central midfielder. He came through the youth team at Aston Villa but despite his age has already made 102 appearances and scored 9 goals. He's also played 16 times for Northern Ireland, scoring once, and recently became his countries youngest captain standing in for our other new boy Aaron Hughes.
I think this is a great signing, he didn't get to feature as much last season as Martin O'Neil began to restructure his side, but in the 2005/2006 season he was voted Aston Villa Player Of The Season, Aston Villa Young Player Of The Season and Aston Villa Fans Player Of The Season. He's got good experience at this level and is still so young. I believe he has played in a wider role for Villa but I'm pretty certain Sanchez will want to use him down the middle. With Brown, Diop, Smertin, Bullard (soon) and potentially Dempsey (not to mention Simon Elliott!?) all vying for a central role I think it's likely we'll see someone shipped out too. Wigan have reportedly bid £2.5Million for Brown and maybe, as important he was for us at times last season, that might be worth considering. However, it's still not very clear where Alexey Smertin stands. He's not been seen since Coleman departed and there have been rumours that he doesn't get on with assistant manager Les Reed. Whatever the truth is I think at least one of those will now move on.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

New Signings

I have been pretty relaxed this close season about transfer activity (or the lack thereof). My feeling is that Sanchez has a style of Football that he wants to play and whilst the names we are linked with may not seem the greatest in the world, they will fit the plan. We certainly can't afford to compete with the likes of Arsenal or Spurs for the type of players that play quality football (at least not in the numbers we need) but we can become a more organised and disciplined side, one capable of doing the simple stuff effectively and making ourselves hard to beat. I am pleased with the names we are being linked with, they generally suggest pace and width and those are two attributes that the team that finished last season was desperately lacking.

The next four weeks are when we're likely to see the most activity in signing players. It does amaze me how long it takes to complete a deal. Diomansy Kamara has all but agreed to sign for us, with the BBC, Sky and the West Brom site all mentioning the likelihood that he is coming to us, yet there still seems to be a sticking point over the transfer of Heidur Helgusson in the opposite direction. Typically so far no comment from Fulham, and as we all know until the player has been announced on the Official website its not a done deal. I don't think we're likely to get "Reyna-ed" again but if H does not agree a move to WBA there could be more haggling to do over Kamara's price.

I wonder if the transfer window is this hard for everyone or is it just Fulham? Obviously being more interested in Fulham we pick up on the rumours and gossip about our club and don't pay as much notice to other teams. Is it really like that for every club in the Premier League or is it something unique to Fulham that makes things drag out for so long? Sky were saying on Thursday night it was a done deal and even the normally reticent BBC were reporting we were "close to signing" Kamara on Saturday, yet come Tuesday we've still not been able to announce it officially. Fingers crossed it will be done soon - it gets to the point where I don't actually care if the player's any good I just want to know the uncertainty is over!

Other potential targets mentioned have been Aston Villa's Steven Davis (central midfield), Leeds' David Healy (striker and Northern Ireland lucky charm), Blackburn's Jason Roberts (striker), Sheffield Wednesday's Chris Brunt (Left wing) and QPR-ha-ha-ha's Lee Cook (Right Wing). Now you too can start counting the days until they get announced!