Friday, September 28, 2007
The thrill of a gamble, however, was too much for him to resist. We briefly chatted about the Harry Potter books and what we thought of them and then out of nowhere he suggested the most outlandish bet I've ever been offered. A fiver that Harry would "get it on" with Hermione before the end of the series. I was reading the third book at the time, but felt fairly confident that, however you defined "getting it on", it was unlikely to happen as a) there were already suggestions that Hermione was keen on Ron and b) the books were primarily aimed at children. I decided that I'd be fairly lenient and accept a loose definition of "getting it on" but took the bet extremely confident it was £5 in the bag. It's taken over five years but finally the concluding book is in general circulation. I've not read it yet and neither has he, however, based on the lack of sensationalist news stories (and latterly confirmed by a third party) we have agreed that I have won and he will pay up.
I'm going to wait until Monday before I collect so I can gloat about our amazing 5-0 win over them this weekend ...
Thursday, September 27, 2007
I wasn't there, though I probably spent my time just as fruitlessly stuck at work. I left having achieved very little other than prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the aging tape drive recently returned from the manufacturer was indeed still broken. Already too late to see the first episode of the Heroes double bill, I got in my car in time to hear Bolton score their first goal to take a 1-0 lead. Great. It seems despite fielding a strong side Sanchez tried a different formation which didn't quite work, and then, despite reverting to 4-4-2, though possibly aided by some dodgy decisions, we still didn't have quite enough to win the game. Murphy, Seol & Keller all got starts, though probably only Keller really did well. In the 23 seconds of highlights ITV managed to provide at very-late-o'clock, I saw Seol provide a bit of magic to create our goal and Baird (who apparently did OK) manage to be implicate himself in the conceding Bolton's first goal.
There's a good report by Richard at Craven Cottage Newsround, a couple by Rob at Following The Fulham and another good report in The Times.
Despite all this I still feel strangely positive about the trip to Walham Green Dog Track on Saturday. They cruised past a decent Hull side (featuring J J Okacha and Henrick Pedersen) 4-0 and managed to rest a number of players whilst doing so. All the signs are that we're in for a bit of a tonking but I fancy us to surprise everyone and pull off a good result.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Football Blog "Who Ate All The Pies" stumbled across this picture of Chairman Mo doing his rap, alongside the Gay-vanettes, during one of the most cringe worthy moments of recent Fulham history. That Keith Allen has a lot to answer for!
Finally here's Hameur Bouazza's scorching free kick against Manchester City for those that blinked and missed it.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Poor Chris Baird has taken a bit of hammering and whilst I don’t want to have a go for the sake of it I do want to look at his performances this season. My first glimpse of Baird in the flesh was against Bolton. I thought he did really well, managing to hold the high line and cope with any attack down the flank. In fact he made a number of decent challenges in that game, and for me outshone Konchesky. The ‘Boro game has been consigned to my darkest memory archive so nothing springs to mind but I don’t remember having any great concerns so assume he played more or less as well as the Bolton match. The first warning signs came in the away match at Villa. Here, Baird had to cope with an Ashley Young who had pace to burn and was playing at the very top of his game. Having conceded a very early yellow card he was always going to be on the back foot thereon, and having clearly struggled it was not that surprising to see him receive a second and get sent off. He was back for the Spurs game and again had a torrid time from another young pacey winger, this time Gareth Bale.
During the City match I was probably paying more attention to his performance, though this wasn’t hard as so much of City’s good work came from Petrov on the left wing. Baird has a habit of backing off an attacking player, which in itself is not a problem as long as you are in some way making it difficult for the attacker to use the ball. City’s first goal came as Baird allowed Petrov all the way into our penalty area before attempting any sort of challenge, and when he did it was mistimed and ineffective. I think when backing off in such a way the defender should be making some effort to slow down the forward progress of the attacker or force him into an area where he is not so dangerous. Baird made no attempt to push Petrov wide, probably because he was concerned that in doing so the Bulgarian could get around him and provide a decent cross. However, Baird also failed to impede Petrov’s progress in any way, and by the time Petrov cut inside, Baird was too far ahead of him to make a meaningful challenge. I don’t think our defensive frailty can be blamed solely on one man though and City’s second goal came as the entire team switched off. Having just re-taken the lead a good through ball left everyone flat footed as Petrov glided through and had his shot saved by Niemi. Baird could have been closer to the rebound but was always going to find it hard to recover. The third goal also came down that right side, but this time Baird was left with no chance as Petrov burst through. Again the ball that did the damage came from the middle of the field. I think this might be a clue to our lack of resilience.
As a team I think we look a little lightweight. Against City we were too slow to react, and too slow to close City down when they had the ball. Bouazza and Davies are neat going forward but limited in the protection they can provide the full backs. Smertin & Davis can play some lovely football in the middle but neither of them is going to put in a big challenge or even just kick someone for the sake of it. I think every team needs an enforcer and this is what we might be missing. Michael Brown played that role until his sale to Wigan, constantly on the move snapping at people’s heals and yes, occasionally kicking someone just to let them know he was there. It’s not always pretty but I do think most teams need someone like that, Blackburn have Savage, Ch*ls** have Essien, Liverpool have Mascherano, Man United have Hargreaves maybe only Arsenal survive without that sort of player. Another player we’ve sold is Papa Bouba Diop and whilst not as busy as Brown he was also capable of “putting it about” as his Man of the Match performance for Portsmouth against Liverpool emphasised. Looking through our squad I’m not sure we’ve got anyone capable of playing that role now (except possibly Moritz Volz) so it’s going to be interesting to see how Sanchez deals with the problem. Whatever the truth there’s no doubt we have to keep a few clean sheets if we’re going to survive this season.
Monday, September 24, 2007
Having been given the go-ahead to leave for the Footy from my wonderful and beautiful wife, I broke the land speed record to get from home to my seat in a little under 45 minutes. I sat down with the game just 12 minutes old and saw Simon Davies head us in front. 1-0 Bang! Maybe I’ve got the magic touch this season. Of course at the back of my mind I was thinking about how we’d failed to win a match yet in which we’d taken the lead. We’ve got what it takes to create and score goals but it doesn’t need Alan Hansen to identify that our defence is lacking. Looking at our backline though I struggle to see why. I was impressed with Hughes (calm and intelligent just the sort of CB we’ve needed for so long), Bocanegra (hard working and committed, possibly as good a game as I’ve seen him play) and Konchesky (fast becoming the best defender at the club and outstanding again today despite one late error). A lot of fingers are, not surprisingly, pointing at Chris Baird as the weak link. I like to give a player the opportunity to settle in but I do feel Baird was responsible for more than his fair share of defensive lapses. It’s not all about one player though, the team as a whole has a responsibility to defend and I wonder if we’re lacking slightly in physical presence. I’m going to some back to the Baird situation later in the week. The other player that concerns me is Niemi. He had a shocker against Spurs and whilst he was better on Saturday there were still signs that made me think all is not well.
Maybe I am being over harsh. City were a good side. I noticed a significant drop in the number of offside decisions we won and I think this was down to City’s style of neat, first touch football. With some great simple passing moves and intelligent movement off the ball you can see why they are doing so well. Despite this, I thought we still had the beating of them and it was disappointing that our inability to hold on to a lead let us down. City’s first equaliser came as, having received a through ball from "wonderkid" Michael Johnson, Martin Petrov charged down the left wing. Baird backed off and backed off (as he does) allowing Petrov all the way to the penalty area where he was able to cut inside, wrong footing Baird, before unleashing a quick shot with the outside of his left boot. It was good footwork but the shot was not that powerful and I was disappointed that Niemi did not do better. He may have been unsighted as both Hughes and Boca attempted to close the danger and may also probably taken by surprise at the quickness of Petrov’s feet. For the rest of the half City looked the stronger team and created a number of chances that we just about dealt with. The nearest miss was a piledriver shot from Deitmar Hamman, which just shaved the outside of the post.
Kamara replaced Simon Davies at half time to inject some much needed pace to our attack and versatile Clinton Dempsey moved out to the right wing. Straight away Kamara’s direct running caused City problems and he won a free kick in a great position on the edge of the box. The angle seemed all set for the right footed Kamara to take the kick, but catching everyone by surprise it was Hammeur Bouazza who fired a superlative shot with the outside of his left boot to leave Kasper Schmeical clutching at thin air. It actually hit the net pretty centrally, which gives some idea as to how hard it was hit. Unfortunately we were sucker punched within two minutes of scoring a classic case of switching off having taken the lead. Petrov latched onto a good through ball to leave Hughes and Boca trailing in his wake and fired a good shot, which Niemi did well to save. The ball rebounded high though and Mpenza was quickest to react to head home with Niemi stranded. The momentum swung City’s way again and they took the lead on the hour mark as Petrov played a good 1-2 with Elano, left Chris Baird for dead, and fired a scorching near post shot past Niemi. A question mark again over Niemi’s positioning and anticipation but the shot was a particularly fierce one and Niemi would have done exceptionally well to stop it.
Now losing for the first time in the match Sanchez made two substitutions that would play a part in rescuing the game. Danny Murphy and Seol Ki-Hyeon came on to replace Healy (who’d had a quiet game) and Bouazza and Dempsey moved back to a forward role again. Seol, in particular, made a big impact playing wide left. He looked comfortable on the ball and constantly asked questions on the City defence. Both he and Murphy really wanted the ball and added some composure to our attacking movement. Seol created our third and final goal, a well controlled header from Niemi’s route one clearance was (possibly) flicked on by Kamara into the penalty area where Murphy finished exquisitely with a well placed right foot shot. With over 15 minutes still to play it was all Fulham and we had good opportunities to claim the win. Murphy shot over from the edge of the penalty area and Dempsey headed wide after doing incredibly well to get anywhere near the ball. A late (and only) mistake from Konchesky led to a nervous last effort from City, but this was well cleared and we finished three apiece for the second home game in a row.
Fulham lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows;
- GK 29 A.Niemi
- RB 34 C.Baird
- CB 18 A.Hughes
- CB 03 C.Bocanegra (c)
- LB 04 P.Konchesky
- RM 25 S.Davies
- CM 10 S.Davis
- CM 08 A.Smertin
- LM 24 H.Bouazza
- ST 23 C.Dempsey
- ST 09 D.Healy
Subs: 01 K.Keller, 11 D.Kamara (for 25 on 45), 27 D.Murphy (for 09 on 66), 07 S.Ki-Hyeon (for 24 on 66), 06 D.Stefanovic
Friday, September 21, 2007
Not … one … of … the … big … clubs. Well it’s kind of true, but clearly I still really want to go. Manchester City are on fire at the moment, second in the table and seemingly playing some nice football. They’ve made some interesting signings (Corluka, Garrido, Geovanni, Petrov, Elano, & Bianchi are all players I’d like to see) and have also got some exciting young players particularly Micah Richards and Michael Johnson. Before Sven’s late appointment I had been targeting City as a team that might struggle. Even though it looked like they would have the cash to spend I could not see them getting a team to gell that quickly, however, somehow they’ve managed it. Despite the introduction of a number of flare players though, its City’s defence that has seen them do so well in the league. They’ve only conceded 2 goals (away at Arsenal and Blackburn) and have won four games (all 1-0 except for the opening day brace at West Ham) without conceding. On paper our team doesn’t really compare, however, as Sven will be the first to tell you, Lawrie Sanchez knows how to get the best out of the players he’s got.
He spoke during the week about how we had not been outclassed by anyone so far (Spurs apart!) and that if we’d had a few lucky breaks, or been better at killing off games, it could have been us in City’s position. That might be making a rather big leap of imagination but I think what he is basically getting at is there’s not much between the two sides and a Fulham win is well within our capabilities. I think LS also knows that it doesn’t matter how good our performances have been so far we need to get points on the board. I think the Fulham team will be similar to the one that faced Wigan though we might see Seol replace Bouazza on the left wing. Hughes continuing in at centre back should help keep us more focussed defensively and we need to be focussed if we are to keep a first clean sheet this season. My prediction is 1-0 Fulham … I hope I’m there to see it.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Following Real Sociedad's second home defeat at the hands of Poli Ejido, and having gone out of the Copa del Ray at the first hurdle, Cookie was starting to feel the pressure last week. Chris called for patience from the supporter’s as his young team were going to take time to gell. This was always going to be the case as, despite losing several players in the summer (including Javier Garrido to Man City and Mikel Alonso to Bolton) Coleman was only able to add one player (David Vaughan) to the group of Spanish youngsters he had inherited.
Thankfully a 3-2 victory away at Las Palmas has helped make Sociedad’s position look a little healthier. They are now sitting 11th in the league after four games. Las Palmas were the team that knocked Sociedad out of the Copa del Ray a few weeks back so it seems that things are improving. Sociedad’s next game is on Saturday at home to Elche, who have a similar record so far and sit one place below RS in the league. Incidently, I reckon if Cookie makes it to the end of this season my knowledge of second division Spanish football teams is going to be second to none!
Coleman has continued to write his weekly postcards for the Daily Mail. They don't actually say a great deal but this weeks postcard number 6 covers his relief in getting a win and David Vaughan’s continuing good form. In postcard number 5, he talks about the Cup disaster and provides links to all the previous postcards in case you missed any.
A couple of bits of general football news that caught my eye this week. In their re-played Carling Cup tie, that had been previously abandoned due to the serious illness of Clive Clarke, Leicester allowed Nottingham Forest to score straight from the kick-off to re-establish the score in the previous game. I think this is an amazing piece of sportsmanship and whole heatedly applaud it, well done Leicester. The fact they then went on to win the game 3-2 shows that Karma really can pay you dividends.
Last weekend there were five Africans in Portsmouth's line up against Liverpool (Kanu, Utaka, Muntari, Diop & Benjani). Surely that can’t be a good thing for them come January/February and the African Nations Cup? I guess they won't lose all of them but that's still a sizeable chunk of their first team squad. Typically we play them in November and May so won't benefit from it anyway.
Finally my Touch Rugby competition went really well. Both our teams got through to the semi-finals and I managed to score two tries for the B-side before we were soundly thrashed by the eventual winners. A good day out even if I am now walking very slowly and finding any sort of movement painful.
Monday, September 17, 2007
In more linkage news Richard of Craven Cottage Newsround has been interviewed by Fulham USA about The Fulham Review which has just been re-published in a more deluxe format. The Review is a great record of an appalling season. Richard’s matchday reports are interspersed with Martin Kane’s humorous perspectives on events from a Southend supporter's perspective. Bruce McGuire of duNordfutbol.com adds his thoughts on the American contingent and there might even be a bit from me about the departure of Steed and Luis Bo (unless it got cut!). Richard and his friends will be dotted around the ground on Saturday selling copies so pop over and say hello.
There you go, if you don't have anything useful to say, link to someone who does! See you Wednesday.
Seeing as how I don't have much to add here's what my Dad thought of the game; "Having seen the highlights on Sky I would say Fulham played the best game of football I have seen since Lawrie Sanchez took over as manager. We should have been 3 - 0 up before Wigan scored their equalizer and if we had been maybe the penalty would not have happened. It's the first time that Konchesky has impressed me with his performance, perhaps he had not had sufficient opportunity to get really acquainted with the rest of the team in his previous outings? Bocanegra showed some quality in his leadership of the team and although Dempsey made a good job of the goal he scored I thought his other two efforts were a little on the weak side, he could have been the proud owner of a hat-trick and I think should have been!"
It seems to me we have improved in a lot of areas already but we need to start adding results to the performances. The arrival of Aaron Hughes to our backline must be a good thing and I'm looking forward to seeing what difference he might make when we play City on Saturday. Brian over at Craven Cottage Newsround reckons we'll also see Seol Ki-Hyeon replace Bouazza on the left wing and I think he's probably right. I think Bouazza was signed primarily as a striker, and whilst I've been impressed with his attacking play down the left I think Seol will over more to the team in terms of his all round game. Really pleased to see Clinton (as the BBC seem to persist in calling him) getting on the scoresheet again, and even if he did miss a couple of good chances at least he's getting in the position to do so.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Pre-season and most people, me included, were expecting Wigan to struggle this year. I have a high regard for Paul Jewell and, despite not doing so well last season, I enjoyed watching his Wigan team. I also expected Chris Hutchings to suffer the fate of so many football men who are successful "number twos". Instead the Latics have been pretty impressive so far. They have won both home game's (Middlesbrough & Sunderland) without conceding, grabbed a good draw at West Ham and narrowly lost at Everton and Newcastle. We've not got yet won at the JJB in the Prem and of course are on the longest current PL run (19 games) without an away victory, so Wigan will fancy their chances. We may also get to meet Michael Brown for the first time since he moved on. Hope our boys have got their extra thick shin pads ready!
We'll have missed our International players this week but like Wigan have probably been less affected than most Premier League teams. The two week break may also have given our newest players a chance to settle in. I suspect Sanchez will stick fairly close to the side that started against Spurs, and he was quoted on the Offal saying just that. Aaron Hughes is nearing full fitness and could start ahead of Bocanegra. Niemi was worryingly shakey against Spurs but can hopefully put in a more assured performance this time out. Dempsey was outstanding as the hold-up man so I hope to see him continue in that role. My predicted team is; Niemi, Baird, Stefanovic, Hughes, Konchesky, Davies, Davis, Smertin, Bouazza, Dempsey, Kamara, Subs: Keller, Bocanegra, Ki-Hyeon, Healy, Kuqi.
If we are going to be better this year though, this is exactly the sort of game we need to win. It is never easy to win away from home in the Premier League so you have to make the most of your opportunities and, with all due respect to Wigan, this is an opportunity. Last season's fixture at the JJB was probably a turning point in the fan's reaction to Coleman's team. We might have got a draw, but it was clear that no one was happy with our lack of ambition. At the time I talked about us being the new Coventry City. A team that just did what it needed to to stay in the league. I felt then that if that was as good as it got I'd rather we went down. Despite the subsequent panic of near relegation I still feel that way. I really want to stay in the Prem but if we're not playing good football, or at least exciting football, then I really don't think it's worth it. So whatever the score today I hope we turn up and have a go. If we give it our best shot I'll be happy.
Friday, September 14, 2007
1. Johnny Haynes
2. George Cohen
3. George Best
4. Bobby Moore
5. Allan Clarke
There's not much more to add. Seeing Haynes play in the flesh would have been something special. TV footage of the time is limited and doesn't really do him justice, but his stats say it all 658 appearances, scoring 158 goals for Fulham and 56 appearances (including the '54, '58 & '62 World Cups) for England, 22 of which were as Captain, scoring 18 goals. My Dad occasionally tries to explain how good a player he was, able to see passes no one else could and execute them perfectly, but I would love to have seen him play with my own eyes.
George Cohen's career was cut short due to injury in 1969 a mere 3 years after he had helped England lift the World Cup. 459 appearances for Fulham, scoring 6 goals and 37 appearances for England. I'm sure he would have made the 1970 World Cup squad had he continued playing and who knows what he could have achieved.
I only missed George Best by a couple of seasons, and whilst he was not at his peak when he played for the Whites, it would have been a privilege to have seen one of the world's greatest players at Craven Cottage. He managed 42 appearances for us and scored 8 goals.
Like Best, Bobby Moore was also at the tail end of his career but probably made a bigger contribution to our history. Leading us to the F.A. Cup final in his first season at the club and making a total of 108 appearances in which he scored just once. Another world great at the Cottage.
Allan Clarke was probably the ultimate goal scorer, his career stats show an incredible number of goals per game. He joined us as a 19 year old from Walsall, and played for two seasons during which he scored 45 goals in 86 appearances. We sold him to First Division Leicester City for £150,000. He would of course go on to be a legend at Leeds United where he scored a stunning 151 goals in 273 appearances. What would you give for someone who could score like that now?
Thursday, September 13, 2007
1. Gordon Davies from the left wing against Chesterfield (30th Jan 1982)
2. Simon Morgan header against Villa in Cup (23rd Jan 1999)
3. Rodney MacAree at Carlisle (5th April 1997)
4. "Super" Mick Conroy from the half way line at Wycombe (12th August 1997)
5. Kevin Moore equaliser against Walsall (13th August 1994)
I must have seen Gordon Davies score a hundred goals but I can't actually remember many of them. I guess Ivor was more of a "fox in the box" than a 40 yard man. This one has never left me though. A hoofed clearance from Roger Brown was latched onto by our Ivor who then shot from somewhere near the Stevenage Road byline right in front of the Cottage. It probably wasn't as far out as my memory would have me believe, but it was certainly not an angle from where you'd expect anyone to score. It shot past the Chesterfield 'keeper though and hit the back of the net, 1-0 Fulham, game over! A glorious goal.
The trip up to Villa Park for this 4th round F.A. Cup match was probably my first trip to a big ground with Fulham. I remember being stunned at how big the Holt End was and never believed we would get away with a win. Eight minutes in though and Simon Morgan rose to head home a Stevie Hayward free kick. I don't think I've ever seen Morgs get up so high and it was a real bullet header into the back of the net. Amazingly we went on to put in a really solid performance and after Stevie H had added a second just before half time, managed to defend our lead against the team that were then top of the Premier League.
OK, I have to admit I'm breaking my own rules here. I wasn't at Carlisle. I was with the three other guys I regular go to the football with at a mates stag do in London. None of us were best pleased with the timing but there was no choice to make. We bundled into a pub to try and catch news of the game and find out the Grand National result. The National had been cancelled but when news came through that we'd won 2-1 we were ecstatic. I couldn't have a top 5 list that didn't include this wonder volley from McAree, probably the most important goal in the history of the club so far. "Who put the ball in the Carlisle net? Rodney McAree!"
It was a first round league cup match, but Wycombe wasn't too far away and ground we'd never been to before. There'd been some chaos getting into the ground at the start and we'd ended up down the side in with a mixture of Fulham and Wycombe fans. Half the Fulham squad, including Kit Symons, were sitting behind us as well. It was a quiet sort of game, we weren't expecting too much as the teams trooped off at half time with the scores tied at 1-1. Then it happened. "Super" Mick Conroy controlled the ball in the centre circle, and then shot. "What the hell are you do ...? Oh my G ... GOOOOOAAALLLLLLLLL!!!". An unbelievable strike, I never thought it was likely to be even close but back then "Super" Mick could do no wrong. It wasn't quite from the half way line but it was near as damn it, and why should we let the facts get in the way of a good song.
My final choice is unlikely to be a goal many people remember. It was our first home match in the basement division, I had taken a philosophical view to relegation the previous season believing we could waltz the league title and re-establish ourselves once again. However, the stark reality of live at the bottom did not take long to hit home. The game was a fairly even affair but Walsall had taken the lead in the first half through Kyle Lightbourne. Attacking the Hammy End in the second half we just couldn't quite find the cutting edge to pull one back, until, in the final minutes, new signing Kevin Moore rose to head home a corner. I celebrated this goal like no other, the emotion of relegation and 15 years of steady decline had built up to the point where I actually shed tears of joy. Of course in the end it would get worse before it got better, but right then it seemed that we had finally turned the corner.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
1. 1999-2001 Home Kit (Adidas)
2. 1975-1977 FA Cup Final Kit (Umbro)
3. 1981-1983 Home Kit (Oscar)
4. 1993-1994 Away Kit (Vandanel)
5. 1952-1963 Home Kit
The vogue for adults buying football shirts really only started in the 90's, and so despite the fact that four of my top five kits are white the 1999/2001 Home Kit was the first white shirt I had bought since my Mum & Dad had bought a polyester replica Adidas top for me when I was about 12. I really liked this kit, it had a feeling of quality about it and was different to previous Fulham shirts whilst still looking quite traditional. Even a season under Paul Bracewell did little to dampen my enthusiasm and when Tigana arrived it got the chance to claim it's place amongst our most successful kits by seeing the team win the League and gain promotion to the Premier League. Player I most associate with it: Stan Collymore.
The kit we wore for our only F.A. Cup final appearance (to date) and then for the two subsequent seasons was possibly the first time we had deviated from a plain white shirt. The black collar and cuffs gave it a bit of seventies style and the "retro" FFC logo has remained popular ever since. Player I most associate with it: George Best.
This was the kit the MacDonald team wore as we won promotion back to Division 2 and then almost Division 1 the following season. Made by previously unheard of Oscar, this kit saw the addition of black eppilettes and was just as smart in the red away flavour. Oscar produced one more kit for the club in 1983/84 before disappearing completely from the kit manufacturing scene. Player I most associate with it: Ray Houghton.
I'm not sure I've got the year right but I'm sure I remember wearing this on that long trip down to Swansea to see us finally drop into the lowest league. It was the first of a series of red & black away kits that took their inspiration from the 1975 "A.C. Milan" away kit. Player I most associate with it: Gary Brazil
Really our kit hardly changed at all from 1903 right up to 1975, the reason I've singled out this period is that it was probably our "Golden Era" and for several of these seasons we wore some fancy stripey socks. The Historical Football Kits website has the stripey socks down as 1955-56 and 1959-61, so maybe they are correct, but scanning through the Turner & Coton book "Fulham - The Team" suggests players were less concerned with wearing matching socks back then. Anyway I'm basically saying I like the plain white shirt and this season's Nike version is just as good and could be a future Top 5 contender. We've not worn a completely plain white shirt since 1975 so it was due a return. Player I most associate with it: Johnny Haynes
Somehow I've failed to include any of the numerous away kits I have bought nor the 1977-1980 kit that was the first one I saw the team play in. That was a classic Adidas kit with black collars and the famous three stripes. I was maybe slightly put of it at the time thanks to that kit my Mum & Dad bought me as a 12 year old. My kit was always slightly too small, was made of a horrible polyester mix that was never nice to put on and had a badge that was a dodgy transfer which started to come of after a couple of washes. I wore it religiously to football training though, until eventually I had to accept it really was too small. Looking back it was a great kit as well but for now sits just outside my Top 5.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
1. Portsmouth 4 Fulham 4 (1st Jan 1985 at Fratton Park)
2. Fulham 7 Swansea 0 (11th Nov 1995 FA Cup 1st round at Craven Cottage)
3. Fulham 1 Lincoln 1 (18th May 1982 promotion clincher at Craven Cottage)
4. Fulham 3 Spurs 2 (11th Sep 2002 at Loftus Road)
5. Fulham 4 Stockport Co. 1 (26th August 2000 at Craven Cottage)
A New Year's Day trip to a windy Fratton Park and the most amazing game of football I have ever seen. Within the first 15 minutes we had already lost Robert Wilson to injury and had seen a Pompey goal disallowed for offside. Less than 10 minutes later and we were 3 goals down. Pompey added a forth thanks to Jeff Hopkins (never my favourite player) attempting a clearance that only managed to smash into Alan Biley's face before looping back over a stranded Jim Stannard and finding the back of the net. 4-0 down at half time and nobody in the away enclosure really believed we were going to win the game. As the Whites trotted out for the second half though the away end sang loud and clear determined to make the most of a Bank Holiday afternoon out. With the wind in our favour we made a great start scoring the first goal two minutes into the second half. Coney reaching a far post cross from Ray Lewington. "We're gonna win 5-4" we sang hilariously - as if! Then we added two more in three minutes and suddenly, with 15 minutes still to play, realised we actually could win. Pompey fought desperately to stem the tide and for a while it looked like our hopes would be dashed. Hopkins headed a Portsmouth free kick into our own net but miraculously we got a reprieve as the Ref ordered the free kick retaken. In the final minute Cliffy Carr surged forward and was brought down in the box. Kevin Lock stepped up, right in front of the away crowd, incredible pressure but Locky was always the consummate penalty taker and he slotted it away to level the match at 4-4. The away end erupted in joy and as the final whistle blew we knew we'd seen something spectacular. Even being held back for 1/2 hour after the game did not dampen our spirits, in fact if anything we were happy for a bit of extra time to bask in the glory of the greatest Fulham comeback of all time.
Quite often victories by big scorelines don't make for great games. Its all too one sided and there's no edge to the game. This F.A. Cup success was something different though. We weren't having the best of times and Swansea were doing well in the division above us. We took the lead after just two minutes, Nick Cusack flicking on a Tony Lange goal kick for "Super" Mick Conroy to fire home. Conroy got his second after 16 minutes before Lea Barkus had to leave the field to be replaced by Paul Brooker making his Fulham debut. We added a third within the first half hour as Duncan Jupp shot home after a Gary Brazil corner. I remember being slightly concerned that we may lose our momentum having lost Barkus, Brooker however, turned in one of the greatest debut performances I have ever seen. In the second half he ripped Swansea apart time and time again and by the end of the game I genuinely believed we had a new Fulham hero in the making. Conroy completed his hatrick, before Cusack and Brooker made it six. Martin Thomas then completed the rout with a cracking volley from a Robbie Herrera cross. At the time this was the biggest-ever defeat of a club from a higher division in the history of the F.A. Cup.A crunch match which could have seen either team claim a promotion spot.
It was a dark and misty old night with a big crowd of around 20,000. We struggled to find our rhythm, and Lincoln looked by far the better team. Then "Big" Roger Brown came crashing in with a header to take the lead and we were back in the driving seat. Lincoln pulled one back with around a quarter of an hour remaining, but we held on and the point was enough to confirm our promotion back to the 2nd division. As the final whistle blew the pitch was swamped by supporters, who carried the players from the field. We stayed to see the team come out onto the Cottage balcony to soak up the cheers and applause, a great night, my first promotion season and one I will never forget.
Another cracking Fulham come back, and THE game I think of when I remember our years at Loftus Road. 2-0 down, having lost Saha early on to injury and not looking that impressive, we came out for the second half a different team. Inamoto scored on 68 minutes to give us hope before Malbranque slotted home a penalty, with about 5 minutes left, to level the scores. Having pulled it back to 2-2 no one could have complained, but then Sylvain Legwinski raced onto a through ball and fired home an unstoppable shot into the far corner of the goal to make it 3-2. It was just about the last kick of the game and we went home unable to stop smiling.
This was the game when I realised exactly how good we were under Tigana. I'd missed a few of the early games that season due to the birth of my first son in May and I think this might have been the first chance I had had to see the team for real. We were so good that I actually felt sorry for Stockport. They couldn't get the ball of us, we just passed them to death and how they ended up on the scoresheet I have no idea. We probably could have won by many more but this was as impressive display as I have ever seen from a Fulham team. It would go on to be one of our greatest seasons and eventually see us achieve Premier League status for the first time.
Incidentally in case you are wondering about some obvious games not included in this Top 5 here's a few great games that I missed; Carlisle 1 FFC 2 (5th April 1997), Blackburn 1 FFC 2 (11th April 2001), FFC 1 Sheff. Weds 1 (16th April 2001), FFC 2 Liverpool 0 (22nd Oct 2005), FFC 1 Chavs 0 (19th Mar 2006) and FFC 2 Arsenal 1 (29th Nov 2006).
Monday, September 10, 2007
These are my favourite Fulham players that I actually saw play. Not necessarily the greatest to have pulled on a white shirt but the ones that I enjoyed watching the most.
1. Gordon Davies
2. Steed Malbranque
3. Ray Houghton
4. Simon Morgan
5. Louis Saha
Gordon "Ivor" Davies was my first and greatest Fulham hero. He scored twice in my first ever match, and went on to become Fulham's all time leading goalscorer. During his two spells at the club you just got used to the fact that Ivor would probably score. After he finally hung up his boots it was a very long time before we found someone who could score goals as often as he did. In fact we never really did.
Steed may have left under a bit of a cloud, but for five seasons he left me spellbound with his wizardry and work ethic. He brought a joy of playing to our team. Initially under Tigana he played his part in a team that could all play football the way it should be played, and eventually under Coleman he was the star man, the driving force behind a team of more workman like cloggers.
Much like Steed, Ray Houghton was the creative spark behind the MacDonald team of the 80's. A team made up of promising youngsters and a few old heads that went to the brink of the top division before spiralling back down again as the key players were sold. Signed for free from West Ham, Houghton was a bundle of energy, and played a starring role in our epic series of games against Liverpool in the League Cup. Having been sold to Oxford he got to claim a League Cup winner's medal (beating QPR 3-0 in the final and scoring the final goal). Having played for several seasons in a very successful Liverpool team he then moved to Aston Villa and during the 1994 World Cup scored his most memorable goal as the Republic of Ireland beat Italy 1-0.
The 90's was a grim time to be a Fulham supporter. Having spent a couple of years away from football, my return saw a team I didn't recognise. No one stood out and we were frankly appalling. As I got more games under my belt one player did start to set himself apart from the rest. Morgs gave 100% in every game, he worked his socks of and whilst he didn't look the greatest I appreciated the effort. However, as our fortunes slowly changed, and new managers came and went, it turned out Morgs really could play. Under Micky Adams he drove the team on, moaning at every contentious decision but putting his all into every performance. Having joined a team expecting a return to 2nd tier football, he ended up Captaining the side that dropped into the 4th tier. It's a testament to his character that he stuck with us through those dark days and saw us back in the 2nd tier and on the brink of the 1st before his knees could take no more.
Another "black sheep" of the Fulham family, Louis Saha arrived from Metz with no great reputation to boast about. A short loan spell at Newcastle had not impressed anyone, but under Tigana's guidance and playing in a team that was all about style, Saha flourished. Our top scorer in the team that won the Championship, he continued to impress in the Premier League. Two goals in our first match, a 3-2 defeat at Old Trafford, may have sealed his fate as far as we were concerned, but we did get to watch his style and goalscoring for a couple of seasons before he left us for "better things" and provided us with £12m which was just enough to offset the £11m we had wasted on Steve Marlet and ensure our return to Craven Cottage.
Saturday, September 08, 2007
Anyway, all this did get me thinking about the players left behind. We've actually still got a fairly large squad at home due to various reasons and I wondered how they were getting on knowing there's no game for another week. McBride, Bullard and Cook are still injured and there are a few other players on the fringes I've not included but here is a team of eleven players who I reckon are still at Motspur Park and are fit and able to play.
- GK: Niemi - Finland (Retired from International Football)
- RB: Volz - Germany (Not yet made the senior team)
- CB: Stefanovic - Serbia (Retired from International Football)
- CB: Christanval - France (Not played since 2002)
- LB: Konchesky - England (Not played since 2005)
- RM: Ki-Hyeon - S.Korea (No match scheduled)
- CM: Smertin - Russia (Not selected for current squad)
- CM: Murphy - England (Not played since 2003)
- LM: Bouazza - Algeria (No match scheduled)
- ST: John - Holland (Not yet made the senior team)
- ST: Kuqi - Finalnd (Not selected for current squad)
It's actually not a bad team. I guess the subs could be; Keller, Pearce, Timlin, Ehui & Omozusi. Keep checking the blogs for news of the international lads, and make the most of a worry free weekend.
Friday, September 07, 2007
There’s no doubt that being the son of a Fulham legend gave Liam a big leg up in many Fulham supporter’s affections. Leroy was a big bustling centre forward, who came through our youth ranks and was an instant crowd favourite. We were playing at Loftus road when I first heard talk that we were interested in signing Liam. Being the child of a former player does not guarantee anyone an easy passage to success, the game is littered with son’s and brothers of great players who were unable to live up to their forerunner’s standards. I had heard that Leroy was coaching at Bristol City so when I initially saw the name Rosenior in a match report I thought maybe he was still fit enough to have the odd run out. Liam made a few appearances for the Robin’s, mostly from the subs bench, and even managed to score a few goals. I think he was playing as a striker back then. Despite being a decent prospect, for some reason Bristol failed to sign him up to a professional contract. Fulham swooped and initially were able to sign him for nothing as he was effectively a free agent. I know Bristol weren’t very happy but eventually, either due to a tribunal or Al-Fayed’s goodwill, we paid a fee of £55,000 pounds.
In 2004 he went on loan to Torquay, where Leroy was now in his first spell as a manager, and played around 10 games, this time in midfield. There was a great article in Ful-Time last season, in which they interviewed Liam & Leroy and they spoke about how difficult it was being Father and Son as well as Manager and Player. I think they had a few arguments during this time, but Leroy knew that Liam was playing well below his level of ability. I finally got to see him play in a pre-season friendly between Fulham and Watford. It was a woeful game, which will largely be remembered for the argument over the number of subs we were allowed to make. This eventually led to the Referee officially abandoning the game at half-time and the second half continuing as an "exhibition match". Liam played right back in the first half, and although I was in the opposite corner that day, I was suitably impressed. He made his full debut in a League Cup match at Boston United. We won that game 4-1 but Liam managed to get himself sent off in the 90th minute.
In December, an injury to Moritz Volz saw Liam make his Premier League debut at home to Manchester United. He was superb that day and played his part in an excellent 1-1 draw. He continued to play, keeping Volz out of the side for a while, before switching to left back for the last few games of the season. The final match was played at Blackburn Rovers, a rare away win in which Liam was able to finish the season as he had started it, by getting sent off. This meant he missed the beginning part of the following season due to suspension, but he was soon back in contention. During 2005/06 he played some games at right back, but in a season where we were struggling to find a decent left back, Liam more often than not found himself filling in there. At times I felt Liam played better at left back than he did on the right. Despite not being naturally left footed he did a good job for us out there, and I wonder if the added concentration required to play out-of-position made sure he was more focussed playing there than when he played on his natural side. Last season saw Liam claim the Right Back spot as his own. Volzy was initially relegated to the bench, before being reborn as a versatile and combative midfielder. There was little to enjoy about the football we played in 2006/07 and Liam took more than his fair share of criticism. It was true that at times his passing went a bit awry, but then I think this was true of too many of our team then, and the general poor performances made it difficult for players to re-find their form.
Liam’s enthusiasm for the game always shone through, and it didn’t matter how many passes went awry I always felt he was giving his very best for the team. To me that counts for a lot and I’ll never criticise a player who I think has tried his all. One game that stands out in my memory was another League Cup fixture against Lincoln City. We fielded a typical mix of experience, youth and reserve players (it might have been the only time I actually saw Ahmed Elrich play). The game was an enjoyable shambles with Fulham racing into a 2-0 lead within ½ hour, before seeing Lincoln pull back to 2-2 by scoring late in the second half, the equalizer coming from a Volz O.G. We went into extra time and went 4-2 up, Liam scoring the third which was, I think, his only goal for the club. Incredibly we again let Lincoln back into the match as they levelled the scores at 4-4, before Brian McBride rose to head home the winner with seconds left in the game. Despite the chaos that was surrounding him, I could tell Liam was loving every minute. He really just enjoys playing football and sometimes I think professional footballers forget to do that. As we desperately made substitutions to try and salvage the game Liam was moved all over the park. Right Back, Right Midfield, Centre Midfield even up front for a bit. My point is that he didn’t really care where he played as long as he was playing.
I’ll miss Liam a lot, I think he was a true Fulham man through and through and I wish him every success in the future. Of the clubs he was linked with, I’m pleased he’s found a home at Reading. I think Steve Coppell is the right sort of manager for Liam, and will help him improve his football and hopefully achieve his potential. It looks as though Micah Richards is going to be the next great England Right Back, but I still believe there could be room for Liam. I’ll be just as proud as Leroy to see him pull on that white shirt for the very first time.
Thursday, September 06, 2007
Also Ahmed Elrich and Chris James have both been released by the club. I don't think many people will even notice that Elrich has gone, his appearances were rarer than the Loch Ness Monster's and he showed less impressive ball control than Nessy (who I belive once played centre forward for Inverness Caledonian!). Chris James was a really promising young midfielder, who has left due to the lack of first team opportunities at Fulham. He has been on trial with a number of clubs since leaving us (currently Leyton Orient) but has yet to be picked up. I'm sure he'll find somewhere soon though and wish him well for the future.
I've updated my spreadsheet which you can view here or from the side menu bar under "Hammy End Features".
I sponsored a duck, he was number 5865. He didn't win. I had hoped for some inter-FFC website fun with Rich at CCN and Si at TFI both sponsoring ducks as well, however, having checked the website it seems they only recorded the finishing positions of the first 30 ducks. I don't know if the CCN or TFI ducks are in there, so for now the title of "Fulham F.C. Fansite Duck Racing Champion" remains unclaimed.
For those of you still interested here are the official results lifted from http://www.thegreatbritishduckrace.co.uk/.
We are pleased to announce the winning ducks are:157791, 23300, 107146The remaining 27 prize winners are:
23495, 8427, 32707, 5932, 39440, 88491, 81462, 51777, 46791, 19035, 85596, 108095, 91601, 73853, 57887, 26171, 119323, 121924, 107176, 78914, 82033, 27292, 66495, 48203, 53664, 37230, 90857, 55204
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
The origin of Fulham F.C., like many other football clubs, is something of which very little is really known. Queen Victoria was on the throne and the area we now know as Fulham was a more rural environment, consisting of market gardens and small farms. Even the exact date of our formation is open to debate and certainly none of those men and boys who joined the original Sunday School side could have imagined what their club might eventually turn into. I am fascinated by the history of the club and enjoy reading about the classic era of Haynes and Cohen but I had never read anything that covered the very foundation of our team.
Morgan Phillips has done a wonderful job of piecing together the information available into one coherent story. The opening chapters describe what the area was like in those distant Victorian times and really bring to life the earliest days of Association Football. Playing on a pitch, the marvellously named Mud Pond, with no markings and spectators up to the touchline (that sounds familiar, anyone remember Derby in 1983?) what started as an unsupervised kick about slowly developed into an organised team.
Included are pen pictures of early players, reports of encounters with other local sides, such as Stanley F.C. and Christchurch Rangers (who would later merge with St. Jude's to become Queens Park Rangers), descriptions of the various grounds we played at, including the use of the Eight Bells pub as changing rooms, and, following the renaming of the club to Fulham F.C, the eventual move to a permanent home at Craven Cottage in 1896.
This is an essential and enjoyable little book that records for posterity the facts, or at least those that can still be determined, of the inception of our team.
If you are interested in getting a copy they are available for £5 (including postage) from;
10 St Andrew’s Road, London W14 9SX
Further information is available via the church website at http://www.standrewsfulham.com/
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
There's also a decent report on the Arsenal site here with some nice pictures at the bottom. They suggest the trialist was Andre Martins of which Wikipedia has this to say "a Portuguese footballer (born 26th March 1987), he is 1.80m tall and plays as a second striker/playmaker. At the youth level, Martins played 208 games and scored 266 goals. He was spotted by Bayern Munich and called for a trial in April 2007 but contractual difficulties - now resolved - stopped any possible transfer. Martins is now a free agent and will be in the UK during the summer transfer window where several clubs have expressed an interest in his talents. In July 2007 he scored the only goal of the game in a trial match for Dundee and is currently training with Doncaster Rovers".
The reserves played their second match at Aston Villa last night and were thumped 4-1. A report from the Villa site here and from the Offal here. The Villa side did feature Marlon Harewood but was otherwise young pros much like our own side. Our goal came on 66 minutes, Wayne Brown involved again, as his powerful shot was partially saved only for Adam Watts to scramble home the rebound.
Gabriel Zakuani has joined Stoke City on another season long loan.
Daniel Ljuboja, who was reported as being on trial with us, apparently failed to agree terms with Fulham and Derby County before Friday night's transfer deadline. He is now back in Germany with VFB Stuttgart.
The young Ghanaian midfielder Daniel Owusu was unable to continue with his scholarship at the club due to work permit problems. He has now penned a three-year contract with Germinal Beerschot where he will continue his development with Fulham's Belgian partnership club. This deal with Beerschot has been mentioned before although I've not seen anything official to confirm that it exists. It's a good name though!
Released Fulham striker Tomasz Radzinski has signed for Greek club Xanthi on a two-year contract.
Reading boss Steve Coppell admits he was disappointed to lose Seol Ki-Hyeon on Friday to Fulham. Coppell said: "It has been obvious for some time that he wanted to move on. I would have loved him to stay but only if he was fully committed to us and I don't think he would have been. I had to make a decision and a decision has been made". On the signing of Liam, Coppell adds "Rosenior was at a dead end there and was part of an exchange offer put to us. He's an under-21 defender and can add to what we have. He was a player who wanted to come here. That was important. We need players who are here by choice rather than here by force". The mention of Rosenior being at a dead end maybe adds some truth to the rumour that Liam's departure was not entirely related to football matters.
Papa had been immense for us in that first season, and certainly did himself no harm with those pile driver goals he scored against Ch*ls** and Man United. However, following the 2006 African Nation's Cup he was injured and never quite regained his potency. To add insult to injury having recovered from that initial ANC injury he played one game for us before flying out for a friendly and getting injured again. Had Coleman stayed I'm sure he would have been looking to offload "The Wardrobe" as well, although the performances he put in under Sanchez at the end of last season suggested maybe he had re-found his form. Something happened over the summer though, and it was clear during the friendlies that Papa was out-of-favour again. Smertin was back and playing well and the big man was reduced to the odd substitute appearance. With the ANC due again in 2008 I think it was a good time to move him on, he is capable of being a commanding midfielder but I fear those games come too few and far between.
Zat was only about 18 months away from completing 10 years with the club and that in itself is something worth noting in today's transfer market. Having been signed by Keegan for 30 tracksuits, he eventually reached the first team under Jean Tigana. Coleman made him a first choice regular, and it seemed early on that even Sanchez could see something worth keeping. Zat's made more than his fair share of bad decisions, both on and off the football pitch, but I still think he was a useful defender who just needed an experienced head alongside him to point him in the right direction and ensure he kept his mind focused on the job at hand. He was the first Fulham player to make a full England appearance since George Cohen (Sean Davis made the squad but never played) and made 167 (+14) appearances in which he scored 4 times. I really wish him all the best at Aston Villa and in scoring the first goal and keeping a clean sheet, as Villa beat Ch*ls** 2-0 at the weekend, I think Zat has found the perfect way to say thank you and so long to all Fulham fans.
Monday, September 03, 2007
Don't worry he's only on loan! The 30 year old "Flying Finn", Shefki Kuqi, has been brought in for four months, from Crystal Palace, to cover for Brian McBride's absence. Kosovan born Kuqi is a Finnish international with 5 goals in 49 appearances. He had a poor season for Palace last year and has subsequently been used mainly as a substitute so far this season. That's not a great recommendation it has to be said. However, Kuqi does have Premiership experience making 34 appearances for Blackburn in 2005/06 and scoring 7 goals. Prior to that he had played for Ipswich Town, Sheffield Wednesday and Stockport County following his arrival from his adopted homeland where he played for Mikkelin Palloilijat, HJK and FC Jokerit in Finland's Veikkausliiga.
As part of the swap deal that saw Liam Rosenior move to Reading, we received 28 year old South Korean Seol Ki-Hyeon in return. This move has been rumoured for some time, initially due to suggestions that current club sponsor's LG wanted a Korean player in our squad. The news that Seol had bought a house close to our Motspur Park training ground did little to quell the suspicion. Seol has scored 40 goals in 192 appearances for European clubs. Starting in Belgium where he played for Antwerp and then Anderlect, before his move to England with Wolverhampton Wanderers and latterly Reading. He has also played in two World Cups for South Korea for whom he has made an impressive 65 appearances scoring 13 goals. There is a large South Korean community based in New Malden and I wonder if this had some bearing on his keenness to sign for Fulham and his presence in the squad may help Fulham tap into this local community for support. I think he's a decent signing, he got off to a very good start for Reading last season, but tailed off slightly when he was asked to play as a supporting striker due to injuries. Following a period out of the team, he returned in his favoured left sided position in time for our match at the Madjeski. A game in which he caused us all sorts of problems. I think he's another decent acquisition.
Versatile midfielder Danny Murphy has been signed for free on a one year deal from Tottenham Hotspur. Murphy is another Dario Gradi graduate from Crewe, but was pretty successful in the seven seasons he spent at Liverpool. Since then Murphy has struggled to find a regular starting spot at either Charlton or Spurs. He brings with him a wealth of experience with a total of 396 domestic appearances and 62 goals, as well as 11 appearances for England in which he scored one goal. He's definitely got the quality but he's not shown it for 2 or 3 years now. It's only a one year deal so I guess we don't have a lot to lose and he will at least add depth to our squad.
I linked to it the other day but didn't give it a proper introduction. Following The Fulham is a brand new Fulham blog which started at the beginning of August. Rob is doing a great job of keeping it up to date and offers another view on the events surrounding F.F.C.
Finally, not specifically Fulham related but hopefully of some interest to anyone who cares about Football. My friend Andy is attempting to follow the F.A. Cup route to Wembley from the extra preliminary round right through to the final. Surely any serious football fan must have considered doing the same, it's up there with going to all 92 league grounds as a wacky idea that seemed good when you started it. I can't wait for the 1st round proper and the inevitable trip to Carlisle for a midweek reply. Andy's blog is Wick to Wembley? so please keep an eye on his progess and I'm sure he'd welcome any encouragement (just make sure you mention his resemblance to Jimmy Hill if you do!).
Sunday, September 02, 2007
I was running a bit late and having found a good parking spot a bit of a walk from the ground, I stepped out of my car a step straight into a huge bit of poo. Great! Just what I need. My Dad went to find a ticket machine whilst I attempted to clean my shoe with a scrap of newspaper. We then realised we had no change between us, so a quick dash to the petrol station to buy a paper and we were cutting things a bit fine. As we crossed the Fulham Palace Road I realised we had 15 minutes to kick off. As we eventually reached the ground there was an unusually large number of people still outside, some even walking away from the ground. Turns out there had been some problem with fake tickets, so it took us some time to get through the turnstiles. Walking to our seats we saw Kamara have a good chance saved (though apparently he was offside anyway) and eventually sat down with the game about 5 minutes old. Niemi did not look that confident early on and, unsighted by the sun, flapped at a Robbie Keane corner. That was thankfully cleared, but the next thing we know he's failed to deal with the resulting near post corner and Kaboul (of all people) is walking the ball home.
Niemi continued to look shakey and Fulham seemed to be second to everything and a yard off the pace. By contrast Spurs were lively and sharp, combining crisp passing with some excellent movement to leave us struggling in their wake. Indeed one such passing move put Berbatov clean through, with Stefanovic unable to get hear him he fired home a rasping shot. This second goal was followed by two more glorious opportunities for Spurs to go further ahead. First Jenas and then Keane wanted too long on the ball, and the Fulham defence were given second chances to clear the danger. This was to prove costly for Spurs as a Fulham corner in the last few minutes of the half saw Dempsey climb well and place a well taken header past the left hand of Paul Robinson. We held on and all things considered were happy to be only 2-1 down at the turn.
The second half saw some improvement, but it was still Spurs finding the best chances. Berbatov shot from distance forcing Niemi to tip the ball onto his crossbar, Jenas also shot from a way out which Niemi again saved well, then Steed hammered a shot against the post. In between all this we were starting to look more promising, but that went up in smoke when Bale broke free down the left wing and finished well to make it 3-1. Game over. Dead and buried. No way back. I had thoughts of the 3-2 win over Spurs at Loftus Road and felt there was no way lightning could strike twice. Somehow it did.
We didn't give up, Smertin and Davis beginning to get more control in midfield and we almost scored when Dempsey back healed a Smertin cross towards goal, but he was judged offside and Robinson saved well anyway. Healy replaced Bouazza and Kamara moved to the left. Then it happened, Dempsey, who was lying on the ground managed to get the ball to Smertin who found a bit of space and fired in a decent shot towards goal. It would have been on target but would probably have been collected by Robinson but it took a huge deflection off a Spurs defender and looped high over the 'keeper's head and finish in the far corner. 2-3 and game on! Smertin was replaced by Collins John and we went 4-3-3, with Simon Davies moving to central midfield and Steven Davis moving out to the right. Later even Stefanovic joined the fray as we piled the pressure on Spurs. A big throw from Baird was flicked on by Dempsey and spectacularly Diomansy Kamara placed an overhead kick in the top corner. 3-3 and we all go nuts. A stunning goal, and a point nicked to leave us feeling a lot better about ourselves during the international break.
Dempsey was outstanding throughout and my man of the match. Playing as the target striker he won a lot in the air and held the ball up well. Even when things weren't going for us he kept on trying and I was impressed with his work rate before he scored the first goal. Smertin and Davis also did well, growing into the game the longer it went on. Smertin in particular seemed to be everywhere and was the driving force in pulling us back into contention. Baird had another torrid time, Bale being his chief tormentor. I'd liked Baird in the first few games but the last couple of matches have seen him struggle to deal with pacey wingers. Niemi's performance was also a worry, he made some could reactive saves but did not look confident with balls into the box.
Fulham lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows, switching to 4-3-3 and then 3-3-4 as the subs came on.
- GK 29 A.Niemi
- RB 34 C.Baird
- CB 06 D.Stefanovic
- CB 03 C.Bocanegra (c)
- LB 04 P.Konchesky
- RM 25 S.Davies
- CM 10 S.Davis
- CM 08 A.Smertin
- LM 24 H.Bouazza
- ST 23 C.Dempsey
- ST 11 D.Kamara
Subs: 01 K.Keller, 02 M.Volz, 09 D.Healy (for 24 on 70), 15 C.John (for 08 on 79), 22 E.Omozusi