Thursday, January 31, 2008

New Signing #6 - Introduction to Tony Kallio

Hidden away at the bottom of the confirmation of Litmanen's sigining was the news that we've also signed Toni Kallio from Swiss side BSC Young Boys. The official website says "The 29-year-old Finnish international defender has made 15 appearances for his country including some impressive performances in Finland’s recent European qualifying campaign. The versatile defender can play at both centre and left back positions and he played previously for HJK Helsinki and Molde FK".


OK here's what it says on Wikipedia; "He started out as a winger, but during his time at Norwegian club Molde F.K (51 appearances & 6 goals) was molded into a defender. He is known for his forward runs and good heading, given his tall frame. However, he is also known for making occasional blunders in the national team as he has been forced to play out of his preferred position. He has also played for FC Jazz, TPV Tampere (18 apps, 6 goals) and HJK Helsinki (123 apps, 17 goals) in Finland's Veikkausliiga. He became Norwegian cup champion in 2005. In 2007 he briefly went on trial at Lokomotiv Moscow and played 3 times". He has also made 16 appearances and scored twice for previous Swiss side Young Boys. Clearly just squad material then, but experienced cover for the left back and centre back spots.

New Signing #5 - Introduction to Jari Litmanen

Genuine footballing legend Jari Litmanen has just been confirmed as signing until the end of the season. With a recent history of injury problems and, at 37, well into the twilight of his career, he is unlikely to feature as a regular starter but as a player of undoubted quality and massive experience, his presence can only benefit our squad.

Litmanen began his career for Reipas in Finland at the age of 16 in 1987. After four seasons he moved to HJK Helsinki, Finland's biggest club. A year later he joined MyPa with whom he won the Finnish Cup in 1992. He left Finland in the summer of 1992 to join Ajax for whom he would go on to make 159 appearances and score an impressive 91 goals . His first season in the Netherlands was spent in Dennis Bergkamp's shadow, but when Bergkamp moved to Inter Milan, Litmanen was given the famous number 10 shirt. He scored 26 goals in the 1993-94 season, becoming the league's top scorer, and leading Ajax to the title. In his seven years at Ajax he helped the team win a total of four Dutch championships and three Dutch Cups.

Under the leadership of Louis van Gaal Ajax reached the UEFA Champions League final twice in a row. Litmanen becoming the first Finnish player win the European Cup when Ajax beat AC Milan in the 1994-95 final. Ajax lost the final the following year to Juventus but Litmanen claimed the top scorer spot for the competition with nine goals.

In 1999 Litmanen left Ajax to join van Gaal at FC Barcelona. He only managed 21 appearances and 3 goals for the Catalan giants due mainly to injury problems and in January 2001 moved to Liverpool. Again struggling with injuries he only made 26 appearances and 5 goals, but did help the team achieve the "cup treble" of the Worthington Cup, FA Cup and UEFA Cup.

He returned to Ajax for a couple of seasons, and has gone on to play for F.C. Lahti, Hansa Rostock and Malmö FF but continued problems with injury restricted his appearances. After an operation to repair a damaged ankle during the winter break, Malmö FF extended his contract over the 2007 season but a further ankle injury in June 2007 forced Litmanen to cancel his contract.

Making his debut in 1989, Litmanen has now played 110 times for the Finnish national side and has been captain since 1996. He holds the record for most caps for Finland, and is also Finland's all-time leading scorer with 28 goals, the latest coming on October 11 2006 against Kazakhstan.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Bolton 0 Fulham 0 - Digesting the Elephant

There's an old Chinese proverb that runs something along the lines of the way to eat an elephant is to do so by taking very small mouthfuls. It seems appropriate to Fulham's current predicament. Whilst not many of us are going to be jumping up and down with excitement following last nights goalless draw at the Reebok, we have at least taken that first step towards a still unlikely escape from relegation. Our first point under Roy Hodgson. Our first clean sheet since Derby back in October of last year. A small but significant change in our fortunes. Both Hangleland and Andreasen made their debuts, Jimmy Bullard made his first Premier League start since that fateful day at Newcastle (and lasted 87 minutes) and Philippe Christanval came on as a second half sub in his first action of the season. We're a long way from any form of safety but we've begun the journey.

Monday, January 28, 2008

New Signing #4 - Introduction to Erik Nevland

Patience is a virtue? There I go moaning a few hours back that we'd not signed someone and lo by tea time we have. I had a sneaky suspicion that considering the prices being banded around we might be back in for Nevland, I just wasn't expecting it quite so soon. I'm trying not raise my expectations based on the new signings we've made. Past experience has shown we won't know how good they are until we've seen them play a few games, but, it certainly makes me feel more positive now we've got some reinforcements.

Erik Nevland began his career at Viking FK in Norway but was sold to Manchester United when he was only 19. During his time at United he was unable to establish himself in the first team making only 6 appearances in two years, but he did manage to score against Bury in the Worthington Cup. After a couple of loan spells he was sold back to Viking FK making over 150 appearances and scoring some 80 goals. In 2004 he moved to Dutch side F.C. Groningen for whom he has become something of a cult hero. According to
Wikipedia he scored 16 times in 20 matches during his first half-season and also scored the first ever goal in their new Euroborg stadium. In December 2007, Nevland was voted 'Groninger of the Year' by television viewers in the province. He was captain and made 116 appearances and scoring 53 goals. Nevland has to date only made 2 appearances for the Norwegian national side.

Marlon King - Where did it all go wrong?

I've not been back to update this entry on Marlon King since the negotiations broke down at a very late stage. There's some quotes from Mr Hodgson on Sky which give a few clues (if you read between the lines) as to what happened. Hodgson says "I wanted Marlon as a player, I met him and was happy to work with him at the club. Then, two aspects were out of my hands, ie the medical. First our staff, and then Mohamed Al Fayed's personal physician looked at the player, and then the negotiations with the player with regard to his personal contract. I believe that some sort of deal had been agreed between Fulham Football Club and Watford before that came about, and the information I was given, quite simply, was that the personal physician of Mohamed Al Fayed was not prepared to give a guarantee given the injury that it would not reoccur". Hodgson added "He's a good player and I'm sure he'll do well for Wigan, and I wish him well there. As far as I'm concerned I quite happily accepted the facts as they were presented to me and I have been moving on with other transfer targets since then, and as soon as it was made clear to me that Marlon would not be a viable proposition". My only comment on this is to wonder if Mr Al Fayed's current physician is the same man that performed the medical on John Carew ... we'll probably never know. I'll leave the following introduction to Marlon in place for the interest of any passing Wigan fans.

Finally, seventeen days into the transfer window, we've managed our first signing. Marlon King arrives from Watford in a deal suggested to be worth £5Million, with Collins John going the opposite direction on loan for the rest of the season. Striker King is a few months short of 28 years old and has previously played for Barnet, Gillingham, Nottingham Forest and (albeit briefly) Leeds United. He might not be that big imposing centre forward we've been looking for since Brian McBride got injured (though he is 6' 1'') but he certainly knows his way to goal. According to SoccerBase he's scored 100 goals in 239 league appearances, though most of those are outside of the top division. He missed most of Watford's season in the Premier League due to injury but did manage four goals in the thirteen games he played including, almost inevitably, a goal against Fulham in the 3-3 draw with Watford at Vicarage Road. King was touted as a target when Sanchez was still in charge, and having again been made to pay through the nose for a Championship player (hello Mr Kamara, I'm talking about you!) there's bound to be concerns that he won't be able to step up to the required standard. I'll not make any judgements yet, we'll see how good he is when he starts to play.

Still Waiting

Crikey it's Wednesday since my last post and in that time pretty much nothing has happened. I was expecting a flurry of transfer confirmations to come through and to be full of positivity ahead of Tuesday night's match at Bolton. It's not looking good. Marlon King has officially joined Wigan. It seems they only paid £3.5Million which is a long way short of the £5M we had apparently agreed. Whatever the truth behind the "failed medical" and our attempt to renegotiate terms the one thing I am really glad about is that we won't be playing Wigan again this season. Daniel Cousins is still waiting on FIFA clearance to allow him to play for three clubs in one season. He claims to be already training with us, but neither FIFA nor the Premier League (who may also have to ratify the decision) are renowned for their speedy responses. NEC Groningen have rejected our "last offer" for Erik Nevland, so unless we decide to renegotiate that deal looks dead as well. All a bit depressing really after the excitement of last week. The trip to the Reebok looks ever more likely to be a point-less one but I've still got my fingers crossed for the beginning of the revival.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

New Signing #3 - Introduction to Eddie Johnson

Eddie Johnson could be just the first of a hatful of strikers we're going to sign. Finally confirmed today following a work permit tribunal, 23 year old Johnson has agreed a 3½ year contract. Signed from Kansas City Wizards, for whom he scored 17 goals in 40 appearances, he previously played for F.C. Dallas scoring 24 goals in 84 appearances. More impressively in his 31 appearances for the U.S. National side, he has scored 11 goals in 31 games, though only one of those came against top class opposition. EJ the U.S.A's only goal in the 4-1 defeat by Argentina in the final of the 2007 Copa America. Plenty of good background information about EJ on Craven Cottage Newsround.

New Signing #2 - Introduction to Leon Andreasen

Leon Andreasen was signed on Tuesday from Werder Bremen. He's a 24 year old Danish international who plays defensive midfield. He began his professional career at local Danish Aarhus GF, for whom he made 105 appearances and scored 17 goals. In July 2005 he moved to German Bundesliga side Werder Bremen where he made 36 appearances scoring 4 goals. Having featured quite often in his first season, he found his chances limited thereafter and in January 2007 went on loan to FSV Mainz 05. He managed 15 appearances for Mainz and scored four goals in his first seven games, but unfortunately, and not a good omen for us, was unable to help them avoid relegation.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

F.A. Cup 3rd round replay - Bristol Rovers 0 Fulham 0 (Bristol win 5-3 on penalties)


BBC match report

New Signings a-go-go

Lots of activity being reported around Fulham today. I will do a proper introduction to each one as they get confirmed, but for now here's the highlights.

Genuine Football legend Jari Litmanen is already
training with Fulham. Whilst no mention is made of us actually signing him, Roy Hodgson is quoted as saying he could help with our fight against relegation.

We have completed the signing of 24 year old defensive midfielder Leon Andreasen from Werder Bremen.

Glasgow Rangers have accepted our bid of £3Million for striker Daniel Cousin, and the player is travelling down to Motspur Park for a medical tomorrow.

Marlon King's future seems to be in doubt following the news that his medical revealed a problem with his knees that may be inoperable. Thanks to Rich at CCN for this link. It sounds like Watford are playing hardball regarding his price and the fact that we have already moved to sign other strikers suggest Marlon could find himself in limbo which is very sad.

There's a number of other rumours flying around but FulhamWeb suggest we are close to bringing in South Korean striker Cho Jae-jin.

All good stuff. It's kicked off down at the Mem, currently still 0-0. Jimmy Bullard's started, so has young reserves star Wayne Brown, and Aaron Hughes might be playing as a defensive midfielder.

Raking over the ashes

I'm not feeling much better about the Arsenal game. I've talked it over with various friends and colleagues and end up with the same conclusions every time. Arsenal ARE very good, but we are also VERY poor. We are very probably going to go down, but if by some minor miracle we don't, it will be the best and most exciting end to a season in Fulham's history.

I took this picture at the game. It's not very good because I used the camera on my phone which is a) not really up to fast moving action and b) a bit foggy thanks to the lack of a lens cover and the inevitable contact with detritus that comes from spending quite a lot of time in my pocket. It does, however, capture the moment just before Gael Clichy crossed for the first Arsenal goal ... I didn't take any more pictures after that.

If the weather is kind and the Memorial Stadium pitch has recovered from the two matches (Bristol Rovers drew with Walsall on Saturday, whilst Bristol Rugby lost to Cardiff Blues on Sunday) that were played at the weekend we may finally get to play our F.A. Cup 3rd round replay tonight. There's a pitch inspection at 10:30 to assess the state of the pitch and, if the go ahead is given, the covers will be put back on until an hour before kick-off. I've placed my bets on a Rover's win and a draw to ensure luck is on our side, but a sell out crowd will almost certainly be anticipating another Premiership exit. I think we NEED to win this game to reclaim a bit of confidence, but to do so we'll have to find a stronger fighting spirit than we managed against Arsenal.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Football Fanzine Awards - Vote Fulham!

The team behind the Football Fans Census are running the New Football Pools Fanzine Awards 2007-2008 to recognise the great contribution that Fanzines make to the game we love - and the search is on to find the best. Nominations are open from now until Friday 8th February and I've been asked to let readers of The Hammy End Chronicle know all about it.

There are 10 different Awards; Best Fanzine, Best Editor, Best Writer, Best Blog, Best Premier League, Best Championship, Best League One, Best League Two, Best SPL and Best Non-League.

After nominations, a long list will be drawn up from the more popular nominees which fans can then give futher feedback on to create a shortlist for final judging (to make sure fanzines from smaller clubs are on an even playing field with those from the bigger clubs). There's more information on the Awards Site or by clicking on the banners.

It would be lovely if you felt compelled to vote for HEC but there are a number of good Fulham fanzines out there and I think the most important thing is we get a few votes in for any of the Fulham boys, I've not checked out the nomination process yet but I once I do I'll report back once I have.

UPDATE: I had to register with the site to nominate, which may put some people off, but I've nominated TOOFIF & David Lloyd in the Fanzine categories, Craven Cottage Newsround, Following the Fulham and White Lines in the Blog categories. I think the final voting list will be based on the number of nominations each site gets.

Fulham 0 Arsenal 3 - A walk in the park, a mountain to climb

Last week I took a few people to task on the message boards about giving up on Fulham with so much of the season still to play. Yesterday I realised I was wrong. This was like watching a Sunday football team (in fact a Sunday football team that I could play in) facing Brazil. We were never in it. Arsenal were nowhere near top gear and yet they cruised passed us without raising a sweat. In the past I've been able to enjoy our games against Arsenal, even in defeat I've appreciated their ability to play football, but Saturday was one of the most depressing matches I've seen for some time.

Regular readers will be aware that my eldest, Little Chop Senior is an Arsenal fan. He came along with us and so I watched the first half from the extra seat I'd bought him which was only four rows from the front. It gave a very different perspective of the game. Much closer to the action but more difficult to see the pattern of the game. Despite that it wasn't hard to work out that we weren't having much of the ball. Arsenal passed it around with consummate ease. Fulham struggled to close them down and at times were made to look like school boys chasing shadows. Two crosses from opposite flanks both found Adebayor in the box, where he was able to rise, almost unchallenged, and head home twice to give the Gunners a 2-0 lead at half time. Breda Hangeland, watching from the Cottage balcony will probably surmise from this that it won't take a great deal for him to walk straight into our starting eleven.

I moved back up to my normal seat for the second half, where it turned out there were a few spare seats. It didn't get much better. Jimmy Bullard came on for Steven Davis and, despite being short of match practice and surely not fully fit, managed to completely outshine any other player in a white shirt. We huffed a puffed for a bit. Bizarrely stuck with our five man midfield, with Simon Davies and Seol Ki-Hyeon on the wrong wings and poor old Clint ploughing a lone furlow up front. Nothing came of it, and Roy eventually conceded we needed a change bringing on Healy & Kuqi. At least this should some endeavour but unsurprisingly it was still fruitless. With ten minutes to go Eduardo twisted and turned past Dempsey (now playing right wing) fired a ball back across the penalty area to where a late arriving Rosicky was able to slot home the third goal and put us all out of our misery. LCSr was generous in victory and restrained his obvious glee at the win.

Friday, January 18, 2008

New Signing #1 - Introduction to Brede Hangeland

It's turning out to be an exciting week. Finding a dominant Centre Back has been a problem for Fulham pretty much since Chris Coleman's career was prematurely ended. Mr H's second (though it's actually the first to be officially confirmed) signing for Fulham is 6' 5'' Norwegian Centre-Back Brede Hangeland who would seem to fit the bill exceedingly well. He began his career at Viking FK, where he stayed for five seasons making 120 appearances and scoring 6 goals. During that spell he was managed by Mr Hodgson who was manager at Viking for two years prior to taking over Finland. In January 2006 Brede moved to F.C. Copenhagen for whom he made 69 appearances and scored 3 goals, he has also gained 41 international caps for Norway.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Cookie Watch # 8 - The final one

Chris Coleman's Spanish adventure has finally come to an end then. He appeared to be on rocky ground ever since "the night club incident" and when President Maria de la Pena resigned the end seemed close. He was asked to stay on until the new president was elected and last week it seemed like he and Steve Keane were going to stick it out. The objective had clearly changed though and promotion was now expected with money being available to bring in new players, instead of relying on building a side based on home grown talent. The first signing of the new regime was Fran Merida, who arrived on loan from Arsenal. He's considered the new Cesc Fabregas (as ridiculous as that might sound) and I saw him play briefly for the Arsenal reserves last season (he's OK). However something must have happened in the last 48 hours, maybe despite saying nice things the new president didn't really want Cookie to stay, maybe Cookie just realised he was on a hiding to nothing and cut his losses while he could. There's been a suggestion (though I wonder if this didn't actually originate from TFi) that Coleman could join Keegan at Newcastle. I think that's the sort of job that would be ideal for him. Wherever he ends up I wish him the best. Below is a round up of the last few weeks with Real Sociedad.

Results since last post

23/Dec/07 - Real 2 Tenerife 1 - Come back win for Real.
6/Jan/08 - Salmanca 3 Real 2 - Dodgy 94th minute penalty seals Sociedad's fate.
13/Jan/08 - Real 1 v Alaves 0 - Goal in the last minute of stoppage time ensures victory over local rivals in what turned out to be Coleman's final match.

Chris Coleman's Daily Mail column links

Postcard from San Sebastian No. 16 (23rd Dec) Chris discusses the sacking of Lawrie Sanchez and states he would not be in the frame to return to Fulham.
Postcard from San Sebastian No. 17 (3rd Jan) Chris talks about the forthcoming Sociedad presidential elections and the ramifications for his own position.
Final postcard from This Is London (15th Jan) Just two days before quitting Chris talked about how the support of the fans had convinced him to stay on.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Coleman parts company with Real Sociedad

BREAKING NEWS - The BBC are reporting that Chris Coleman is to announce his departure from Real Sociedad at a 4pm news conference today. More news when I get it (the Sociedad website is down at the moment!) and a final Cookie Watch to follow if it turns out to be true.

Now confirmed on the BBC along with the bizarre news that another former Fulham boss, Kevin Keegan, has just returned as manager of Newcastle.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

West Ham United 2 Fulham 1 - Keep the Faith!

Reduced to watching the Internet for text updates during the game I then caught the limited Match of the day highlights which as always provided scant detail of the game but probably told me all I needed to know.

Simon Davies scored an early goal with a wispy free kick that evaded everyone, including Bocanegra who was closest to it but whose presence did enough to prevent Robert Green from making a save. Bocanegra was then replaced, less than 5 minutes later, by Aaron Hughes having caught a blow to his face. West Ham levelled just before the half hour as Dean Ashton lashed home a wicked Freddie Ljunberg cross. Niemi kept us in the game with good saves from Ashton (twice) and Carlton Cole. It took 67 minutes for the Hammers to claim a second, Anton Ferdinand firing home another cross we were unable to deal with, but having conceded a second it seemed unlikely we would be able to respond. We had one late chance which fell to Chris Baird of all people. He was unmarked but unable to head home a Danny Murphy cross. Jimmy Bullard made his return playing the last 15 or so minutes. This is great news for Jimmy, and football in general, but must not be seen as the answer to all our problems.

I guess it's always the case but the doom and gloom on the message boards got to me this weekend. Many people seem to think we are down already, and whilst I don't doubt we have a mountain to climb I'm not prepared to give up just yet. I lambasted Chris Coleman shortly before his departure for his quote about having to "fight like dogs" when in a dogfight. Yesterday Roy upped the ante, according to the BBC, asking the players to "fight like tigers" in their remaining matches. It's going to take a few more games, a lot of work and maybe a bit of luck but Roy's certainly not going to throw the towel in, in his post match interview he said "There are enough games left. It won't be easy for us or many of the others around the relegation zone either. I believe we can do it. We had chances at the end and it was difficult to see a point disappear. I can't complain about the effort but our balance is not right and we will have to work to bring new players in".

Saturday, January 12, 2008

West Ham United v Fulham - Some kind of preview

Our apparently never-ending search for an away win continues today at the Boleyn Ground (or Upton Park as everyone in the known universe bar the BBC and a handful of West Ham supporters would know it). Can the side that struggled to draw with Bristol Rovers at home REALLY be capable of winning at a much improved West Ham? There's been encouraging news from the training ground this week regarding a number of injured players. Of those only Jimmy Bullard is likely to make the squad, but Jimmy's presence on the bench would surely give everyone a boost. Rather than struggle to come up with more words on how this will be a tough game and we'll need to show some real fight to get anything out of it I thought I'd have a trawl through some West Ham sites to see what their thoughts are.

Knees Up Mother Brown suggest that Luis Boa Morte could be back in the first team squad. Our former captain has been out of action since mid-December but is back in the frame after playing an hour in Monday's 2-1 reserves defeat at Aston Villa. They also have a excellent preview of today's game in which they correctly identify that "Hodgson now finds himself taking over a team devoid of confidence, which manifests itself in some typical relegation side characteristics such as being unable to defend set pieces and throwing away leads. Injuries have increased the scale of the problem; they would undoubtedly be a better side if Jimmy Bullard and Brian McBride had not been ruled out for large parts of the season. Securing players in the January window, in particular a central midfield, a striker and some defensive cover will be a priority".

West Ham 'Til I Die predicts a 2-0 win for the Hammers but realises that "Fulham have a new manager who will be ringing the changes and have a team of players who have something to prove". He believes the team will be Green, Upson, Ferdinand, Neill, McCartney, Etherington, Mullins, Noble, Bowyer, Cole & Ashton and that their key player will be Dean Ashton.

Finally the originally named West Ham Blog expect that "anything else than 3 points will really be unacceptable. Fulham are currently 2nd from bottom and quite rightly so, I cannot imagine a more bland, faceless club if I try. They are a club that fascinate me for some strange reason, mostly because I find myself asking what are they doing in the Premiership. The team is made up of decent athletes who are all individually fairly decent players (except a left back whose name I forget), but the sum of their parts never seems to make up the whole. They are like a Babylon football team, all can talk but none of them can talk the same language. Kind of like how my Championship Manager team looks after about 10 seasons on the go".

I was talking to my Hammer supporting pal in the pub on Friday and he felt that whilst West Ham would expect to win 3 points, Fulham are exactly the sort of side who could turn out to be a banana skin. Whilst Curbishly would be making sure the team did not get complacent, there's an element in all footballers who, despite being able to turn it on when they face Man Utd, find it harder to raise their games for this sort of fixture. Here's hoping we can be that banana skin!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Playing catch-up

So, a new year and a new resolve to spend more time doing important things has meant I've not been posting so regularly. Therefore, much like Fulham, I'm now playing catch up. I'd like to boast that I've got lots more accomplished because of my new direction ... but that doesn't seem to be the case. I spent the best part of the weekend tending the sick in the Chop household. Mrs C spent most of the weekend in bed and little chop junior was a bit out of sorts as well. All this meant I was not able to get along to the Cup game which I had hoped was going to be an opportunity for LCJr's first ever game. With no MOTD2 this week either I didn't even manage the briefest glimpse of the game.

I may be in a minority (possibly of one) but I actually think the replay won't do us any harm. I think we need some games to apply the principles Roy Hodgson is trying to implement, and a cup replay away from the "must win" attitude of the Premier League could be a useful opportunity. Premier League teams have an easy life to some extent, and we certainly play far fewer games now than we did when we were climbing the leagues. I was pleased that we fielded a first team, maybe an indication that Roy saw it as a good opportunity for the players as well, but our poor performance (see reports at
CCN, White Lines, 3pm Cottagers) certainly highlights how bad a state we are currently in. This must in part be due to a massive lack of confidence and I feel we desperately need 2 or 3 new players on board in this transfer window to help raise the spirit of the squad.

It's going to be tough down at the Memorial Stadium and Bristol Rovers will quite rightly fancy their chances. We need our players to show what they're made of and really compete. I think it's important we stay in this competition as long as we can. I'll also be reinvesting the £8.40 I won on the previous draw to ensure we don't slip up this time round. Winning games will lead to greater self-belief and, rather than being a distraction from survival in the Prem, I think it could be an aid. Failing to beat Bristol Rovers would leave us without a game on the 26th/27th January and I think the last thing we need right now is a week off.

Both Jimmy Bullard and Lee Cook played in the
reserves 2-0 win over Arsenal at Underhill. I believe that's Jimmy's third game in three weeks and there is talk that he could be getting close to a place on the bench. The suggestion from the physio team is that Lee Cook just needs to build up his fitness, so we may find that new signings or not we will have two new players available from February.

There's been quite a bit written about Roy Hodgson, (
not least on the Offal) yet each piece I read makes me feel more confident in his ability to really achieve something at Fulham. There's an excellent article HERE from Paul Doyle of the Guardian which is one of the best I've read and, more then any other, makes me think we've got the right man. It's been linked to by a number of other Fulham sites already but I feel it's worth doing so again if only for my Dad to read.

Finally I've picked up on a number of new (or at least previously undiscovered) Fulham blogs.
Championship At Best has actually been around for a while but is now "fully operational". It's an offshoot of and is a really smart site offering much more than the normal blog. There's some good stats pages and a very clever blog aggregator that picks up all the new posts from the various Fulham blogs as they are published. I get the impression it will add more features and content as time goes on. It was from this site that I also noticed Jason's Cottage which publishes the Fulham specific entries from Jason Gatties (HEC reader and comment poster) more rugby-centric Try Gol website. Finally I stumbled across 3pm Cottagers which follows the 2007/8 season at Craven Cottage from the perspective of season ticket holders who aren't necessarily Fulham fans. It looks like offering an interesting alternative view on the events in SW6 this season.

I think that's probably quite enough, back to doing important things again ...

Saturday, January 05, 2008

F.A. Cup preview - Que, Sera, Sera ...

Reading striker Dave Kitson has been quoted on the BBC saying "We are not going to win the FA Cup and I do not care less about it, to be honest. I care about staying in the Premier League, as does everybody at this club. Our league status is not protected by winning the FA Cup - simple as that". It seems to me a sad state of affairs that staying in the top division is so much more important than the chance to win the longest running domestic cup competition in the world. It's an indication of exactly how much money is available to those clubs that remain in the so called elite league. Is it really worth the effort if all you have to look forward to is a yearly battle against relegation? Surely any Premier League side should fancy their chances of winning the cup and the glory of winning it is worth the gamble?

I would love to see Fulham compete in a second Wembley final, but I also accept that right now we DO need to focus on doing whatever is needed to turn our team around and try and stay in this division. That said I hope the team we field against Bristol Rovers plays with the pride and passion that the competition deserves. It seems that, yet again, we are faced with a tricky 3rd round Cup game at a time when we are at our most vulnerable. Last season we eventually navigated our way past Leicester City despite our best attempts to mess it up. The season before that we were well beaten at the Cottage by Leyton Orient.

The year we lost to Orient I had planned to put a bet, at very generous odds of 9-1, on Orient winning as a way of ensuring we didn't slip up. I didn't and felt a lurch in my stomach when the result finally came through. I'm very superstitious about football and I would never bet on Fulham to win, but feel quite comfortable doing the opposite in an attempt to swing things in our favour. Last year I DID bet on Leicester beating us at the Walker Stadium, we only drew but at least we weren't out. Today I have bet on both the draw and a Rovers win. It should do the trick, if it doesn't it's not for want of trying on my part! I've also had a sneaky bet on QPR to beat the Filth at 11-1, you never know!

The last time we met Bristol Rovers was in the 1998/99, when we completed the double over them on the way to winning the Division Two (now League One) Championship. Most Fulham fans will have stronger memories of the 1989 playoff matches. Rovers beat us in both games including a miserable 4-0 victory at Craven Cottage. The Pirates are currently sitting in the lower reaches of League One, following their playoff success last term. Having beaten Orient and Rushden & Diamonds in the previous rounds of the cup, they will be fired up for an encounter with a struggling Premier League side. Ex-Fulham midfielder Paul Trollope is manager and, whilst not being the most loved player during his spell at the Cottage, is sure to receive a decent welcome from the home fans on Sunday. All the ingredients are there for an upset, I just hope come four o'clock we're still in the hat for the next round draw.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Billy the Badger - New Cult Hero

Since Fulham introduced Billy the Badger as our new mascot a few seasons back he has been slowly growing on me. Most top clubs have a mascot of some kind and I think it's a good thing to keep the kids interest up and encourage new young supporters. The badger was a nice idea being a) black and white and b) a bit unusual. I don't know of another professional football team with a badger as a mascot. Anyone who remembers the club's first attempt to introduce a mascot will surely appreciate they have done a much better job this time around. Sir Craven was in principle a good idea but very poorly executed. Apologies to the guy who WAS Sir Craven, as I know he is a big Fulham fan, but my overriding memory of him was the wobbly shield and hat that looked like it had been made for a junior school project. Billy looks much more professional and has now achieved cult status (in my book) by accosting Avram Grant on the way back from the half time break. Classic.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Fulham 1 Ch*ls** 2 - Early effort not enough for the points

Despite a first half performance which looked more organised and hard working than any previous game this season, an understrength Ch*ls** team still proved too good for us over the full 90 minutes.

Moritz Volz made a welcome return to the starting eleven due to the suspension of Hameur Bouazza. Simon Davies was switched to the left wing where, as had been seen under Sanchez, he was far less effective whilst Volzy played on the right. Volz looked comfortable on the ball and made a couple of decent surging runs forward, he also combined excellently with Junior Omosuzi, who continued at right back, often double teaming Joe Cole and effectively neutralising any threat from that flank. It was a Volz run that led to our goal, the German bursting into the box before being brought down by Joe Cole.

Danny Murphy comfortably dispatched the penalty sending Hilario the wrong way. 1-0 up after 10 minutes and we all knew that wouldn't be the end of the story. Ch*ls** found a way through our defence a number of times, using long balls to exposing our lack of pace. Kalou had an early chance grasped by Niemi, and Shaun Wright Phillips raced past Konchesky (not for the last time) only to fire his shot across the face of goal but wide of the target. These were warning signs of what was to come. Murphy had an excellent first half. Both he and, the much maligned, Steven Davis harried and closed down opposing midfielders whilst Murphy found a number of searching passes as Fulham strove to find the second goal they knew they would need.

The second half saw the ineffective Steve Sidwell replaced by John Obi Mikel, a substitution that (as Rich identified on CCN) was to change the shape of the game. Essien previously playing the holding role in midfield was now freed up to push forward and alongside Michael Ballack take control of the game. We were now much more on the back foot and seemed unable to either win the ball back or retain it. A familiar story. Stefanovic, captain again, appeared lucky to get away with a handball as a cross from the bye line struck his outstretched hand and deflected behind. Referee Halsey awarded a corner despite loud complaints from the Putney End. The equaliser was not long in coming, a later corner evaded Stefanovic and Brazilian defender Alex muscled out Bocanegra at the far post to head back across goal where Kalou, who had left Volz trailing in his wake, was on hand to nod home.

Fulham were conceding more and more free kicks and it was from one of these that Ch*ls** took the lead a mere 8 minutes after their equaliser. A crowd of blue and white shirts rushed towards the oncoming ball, and seemingly a Dempsey tug on Ballack was enough to send him crashing to the ground. It was hard to judge from the Hammersmith End, but contact must have been minimal. This time Mark Halsey didn't disappoint the away support and a penalty was awarded. Ballack recovering his composure to finish in a remarkably similar fashion to Murphy. A visibly tiring Volz was replaced by Seol - not the most popular of introductions but at least it allowed Simon Davies to return to the right hand side - Davis was replaced by Smertin and not long after Kamara was replaced by Healy.

We huffed and puffed but really there was little left in this game. Healy managed an early snap shot from distance which was close, but not close enough. Seol went on a run down the left, felt the ground tremble as Essien closed on him rapidly, somehow managed to side step the imposing Ghanaian, before sending a hopeless cross over the head of Healy at the far post. It was a performance indicative of our season so far. Not enough players performing well enough at the same time, and hardly anyone capable of maintaining their performance for the full 90 minutes.

Omosuzi had probably his best game in a white shirt and was my man of the match. Both Murphy and Volz shone brightly in the first half but faded badly in the second. Both Dempsey and Davies (both contenders for player of the season so far) had off days and Konchesky, Kamara and Seol were all shocking. At least we showed a bit of fight, I actually enjoyed the game, and there were signs of the first steps being taken in the right direction. However, we need to gain something approaching 25 points from our remaining 17 matches if we're not going to rely on others to fail. I think that's going too be very difficult indeed.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year!


To everyone - I hope 2008 brings you happiness and joy.

I also hope 2008 is a better year for Fulham than 2007 was.

Keep the faith & come on you Whites!