Friday, February 29, 2008

Paul Jewell gets angry

No one's going to argue that Fulham haven't had a shocking season so far. However bad it might have been for us, spare a thought for fans of Derby County. A paltry 9 points, a goal difference of minus 44 and only one win. A team already resigned to relegation and fast closing in on Sunderland's record for the lowest ever Premier League points tally. A grim season then but they could play a huge part in our own fate. They face Sunderland at home on Saturday, will play us in a few weeks time and entertain Reading in their final game of the season.

Paul Jewell was not hiding his anger after their 2-0 loss at Wigan last week and didn't mince his words "I'm embarrassed at the way we played. I can accept losing but not like that, it was a disgrace. Some players are not worthy of being here and the sooner we can get them out the better". I like Jewell a lot. I was a big admirer of the Wigan side he got promoted to the Premier League, and considered him a decent propostition for Fulham manager following the departures of both Coleman and Sanchez. I'm not saying I'd take him over Roy now, I like Hodgson enormously, but if we did find ourselves looking for a new manager I think we could do a lot worse than look at Jewell. He has a passion for the game I like and (though my view could be skewed by that fairly brief spell with Wigan) seems to like to play football.

He hadn't calmed down by Tuesday when the BBC Derby spoke to him "I don't regret it at all, What I said was true, 100% true. I'll defend the players whenever I possibly can if there is decent reason. But I'm still angry now and it's Tuesday morning. I have to stand in front of the media and justify certain things - or try to justify certain things. But I'm not going to try and justify the performance I witnessed on Saturday". Sometimes it's easy for a manager to lose his rag with the players and then find he's still not capable of getting the reaction he wants. Jewell must know that this Saturday is as good a chance of adding three points as they're likely to get (Fulham aside) and I don't think there will be anyone in the Derby squad this Saturday under any illusions about what is expected - "I have to be careful I don't make changes for the sake of it but if I was out of the team on Saturday I'd certainly expect to be in it this Saturday".

As we go into a game that no one expects us to win, Derby might actually be able to make a more significant contribution to our survival attempt. I've got everything crossed!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Sanchez - Enough already!

Whilst his time at Fulham is not one I think many of us will look back fondly on, and despite the fact I was very keen for him to go before he eventually got the sack, I've not felt any great level of hatred for Lawrie Sanchez. I was disappointed he hadn't lived up to his own billing. I was a bit annoyed with his apparent arrogance regarding his responsibility for our failures. But I didn't hate him - Alan Dicks, Don McKaye, Bobby Campbell - those are managers I disliked. However recent comments in the media, whilst they may just be an attempt to keep his name in the frame for another job, have begun to really rile me, and yesterday I discovered this story thanks to FulhamWeb.

Sanchez says "The reason I was appointed was because the team had won only two games towards the end of last season. It was not as if they were flying high. Fulham thought they were going to get relegated but I came in and got them the points to keep them up". Well I agree that is factually correct but we all know you only actually managed to gain a point against Blackburn and a very lucky win against Liverpool (Mr Fowler - the cheque is most definitely in the post!). A grand total of 38 points. With hindsight I reckon Coleman would have achieved that.

"Having dropped into the bottom three for the first time I was then sacked having changed players - 15 in and 15 out. Any sensible person will tell you it takes time for a team to settle. Why undertake the rebuilding of a team if you are not going to see it through? The ironic thing is that I was sacked when they were one point in the relegation zone and now they are five points from safety". This seems to be trying to suggest that Roy Hodgson has actually made things worse. We're not mugs Lawrie, we can see with our own eyes. Things have dramatically improved, Roy has already improved the squad, using less money than you did to wreck it. He might not save us from the drop but we're all more than happy that we'll be much better off with him at the helm wherever we end up next season.

"I am disappointed it ended the way it did at Fulham. I am also disappointed I gave up the Northern Ireland job. If I had been stronger, I would have done both jobs because at least I would still be considered a quality international manager". Now that's just bollocks and we all know it is. There was never an option to do both jobs. Had you been strong enough to turn down the vast sums of money Fulham were foolishly prepared to throw at you, you wouldn't have got the job. Instead you could have overseen Northen Ireland's failure to qualify for Euro 2008. I wish you'd have been a bit "stronger" as well, then maybe we wouldn't be in the mess we find ourselves now.

"It is disappointing I only survived for four months at Fulham. I only hope that those few months will not wreck my managerial career" Frankly Mr Sanchez, I am fast developing the opinion that I'd be more than glad to never see you work in football again. If you are capable of convincing someone of your "credentials" (winning goal in a cup final, Northen Ireland up 91 places in the world rankings, saved Fulham from relegation, completely destroyed a half-decent squad the following season) I'll watch on with no little enthusiasm if it all goes horribly wrong.

Rant over.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Thanks to Rich at CCN for bringing my attention to this story about Shefki Kuqi. He's never been the most popular of players at Palace and it seems the barracking he's received finally got to him at the weekend. Whilst I might be similarly annoyed with a Fulham player reacting that way, it did give me a chuckle that our temporary target man managed to upset most of the Crystal Palace support and Neil Warnock in one foul swoop. Nice one Kuq.

It also reminded me that I hadn't got around to writing a suitable farewell to the flying Fin. He was never going to be the greatest player to wear the white shirt but I felt he did a decent job at what he was asked to do. His biggest contribution was his appearance from the subs bench in the home win against Reading. He arguably made the difference and certainly contributed as much as anyone towards that precious 3 points. I think he only started in three games, and whilst we lost all three, they were possibly the toughest set of matches we'll play all season (Liverpool, Man Utd & Everton - all Away). He gave his all whenever called upon, and looked like a player who wanted to impress. That Roy Hodgson, who probably knows as much about Shefki as anyone, didn't see fit to keep him says quite a bit, but I'd like to thank him for his hard work. When I look back on this season I think one of the few highlights I'll remember fondly will be Shefki chasing every ball he could in that game against Reading, and smashing a towering header towards the ground for Dempsey to slot home.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Fulham 0 West Ham 1 - Heartbreak and frustration

Whilst a point was never really going to feel enough, it was heartbreaking to see even that snatched away from us in the last few minutes. Neither team was able to take control of a game that was lacking in quality but remained in the balance until that solitary late goal. As if losing wasn't punishment enough, we also saw Leon Andreasen sent off following a second yellow for arguing too vehemently with referee Howard Webb. Webb probably had as much influence over the course the match took as any single player. He was never prepared to let the game flow and after three Fulham players had been booked within the first half hour the concern was always there that we'd see someone off the pitch by the end. It's easy to blame refs for our own inadequacies though and whilst Fulham showed drive and some ability going forward we gave the ball away too easily and were too often clumsy in our attempts to win it back.

Fulham started brightly enough, Bullard was his usual ebullient self, constantly on the move and finding space. He linked up well with Dempsey a couple of times, and our best chance of the half came as Clint latched on to a Bullard pass only to see his shot blocked by Ferdinand. Konchesky followed up to fire in the rebound but Green collected comfortably in the Hammers goal. It was, however, West Ham that were able to craft the more clear cut chances. Carlton Cole had three decent efforts early on two of which were created by former favourite Luis Boa Morte. We struggled to get the ball to McBride and when we did weren't able to support him quickly enough. We also seemed to lack width, with Kamara in particular failing to find the right positions.

It was Kamara though who was involved in the first decent action of the second half. He played a good ball out wide to Salteri and made a good run to collect the return pass, but then took too long to get his shot off and was closed forcing him into a poor effort. Subsequent replays show that his shot came off the hand of Ferdinand and we had a 50/50 shout of a penalty, but Kamara was still at fault for not shooting earlier. West Ham were reduced to pot shots from distance and we seemed to be in the ascendancy. Kamara nodded on a through ball from McBride which found Dempsey in space but his attempted lob was never enough to test the Hammer's 'keeper. Dempsey, who worked as hard as ever but never found his rhythm, was replaced shortly afterwards by debutant Eddie Johnson (possibly due to a new FIFA edict that states you're only allowed one player with orange boots on the field). E.J. eventually swapped wings with Kamara and it was from the right hand flank that he almost made a spectacular impact. A deep cross from Konchesky was too high for McBride but fell to E.J. at the far post. His first time volley from a tight angle was well over but showed no lack of confidence in the young American.

Our best chance of the game came after an improving Kamara found a bit of space to run, played the ball through to McBride who knocked the ball on, Andreasen raced through to collect it and played a cute ball into Bullard's feet but Jimmy's stinging shot was well saved again by Green. Our disapointment at another missed opportunity was clear to see and I think we switched off at a point when we needed to be at our most alert. The West Ham goal was a scrappy affair, Noble found a bit of space and crossed into the box, Boa chested the ball past both centre backs to where Solano reacted quickest. Niemi got a boot in his face for his troubles and the ball deflected off Solano's elbow into the back of the net. Either incident could have been called but really we only had ourselves to blame. In the ensuing arguments Andreasen, who had worked so hard throughout the game and was my Man of the Match, got a second yellow. He'll miss the visit of Man Utd thanks to that and we'll struggle to replace him. In a last few minutes Fulham, to their credit, kept working hard. Hangeland was pushed up as an extra centre forward, but it was desperate stuff and we never really threatened.

McBride was isolated up front and didn't see enough of the ball. Whilst the five man midfield afforded some protection to our back four, Kamara and Dempsey both struggled to find the right position to play. Bullard was outstanding again, but despite his hard work was too often faced with a lack of options. Kamara was appalling for most of the game, never saw the opportunity to move into space and (in the first half especially) failed to use the width of the pitch. He did make more impact in the second half but this flattered to deceive. Andreasen worked tirelessly to win the ball back and as the game progressed made some good forward runs. Salteri was initially reluctant to come forward but slowly improved and made some good overlapping runs in the second half. Murphy faded horribly and it was disappointing to see Hodgson not make more use of his bench. All in all a pretty depressing afternoon, it's very hard to stay positive and we'll need to improve dramatically to get any sort of result against United next week.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Countdown to Survival - 1-0 Loss to West Ham

A massive body blow today. It's hard to put a brave face on things. We played well at times but never really threatened enough. Howard Webb had more than a little impact on the game, and the way the goal went in it was hard to not fell a little hard done by. That my man of the match, Leon Andreasen, was sent off as well only made the pain all the worse. A full report tomorrow (if I can face writing it).

Games to play 11

Points required 21

Need to win 7

Litmanen health concern

Spotted this slightly concerning news from the Guardian about Jari Litmanen on the BBC press gossip round up.

"Fulham's veteran striker Jari Litmanen, 37, is expected to return to training next week after recuperating at home in Finland after suffering heart palpitations"

Hope this isn't too serious, we've seen too many footballers lives cut short in the last few years. I wasn't expecting more than the odd cameo appearance from Jari, but I'd still love to see him in a Fulham shirt, however brief it might be.

Countdown to Survival

Games to play 12

Points required 21

Need to win 7

Friday, February 22, 2008

Fulham v West Ham United preview

When I say preview I could be over selling it. This is just a chance to talk about the forthcoming game which is my first live match for five weeks. It seems like ages. The last time I saw Fulham play was the dispiriting loss to Arsenal on the 19th Jan. Since then we have signed six or seven new players (none of whom I've seen play yet), have won our first match under Roy Hodgson and have started to look more like a team capable of avoiding the drop.

There's a very good preview from the West Ham view point on
Knees Up Mother Brown. KUMB don't mention it but I read somewhere (forgotten exactly or I'd have given you a link) that the Hammers may go with a 5 man midfield. They're a decent side who are more than capable of achieving a higher position than the one they currently occupy. That said I'm sure they'd settled for a point on Saturday and filling the midfield would make it more difficult for us to break them down. I'm a fan of playing 4-4-2 and I feel that if we're to get the win we desperately need we will need to play two up front. We could be taking a risk playing 4 against 5 in the middle but as Leon Andreasen stated on the Offal, we're going to have to work very hard to get the results we need. Fortune favours the brave!

Both Hughes and Bouazza are back in contention for us, and with Eddie Johnson completing 60 minutes for the reserves earlier in the week we've got plenty of options up front. I'm hoping for a team that will look something like this; Niemi; Salteri, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky; Dempsey, Bullard, Andreasen, Bouazza; McBride, Nevland. That said I don't think Roy's a man who gambles unless he knows he needs to so I wouldn't be surprised to see Murphy fill out the midfield with McBride or Nevland ploughing a lone role up front. Whatever the side I'm really looking forward to it. Hope we take the game to them and don't play too cagey.

Old news round up

Catching up on some of the news that's been touted about this week.

The Daniel Cousin move is not quite dead yet, but it does seem as though the player has resigned himself to staying in Glasgow until the summer. This was always a bit of an odd move as we managed to bring in Nevland, Litmanen and Johnson during January and also saw the return of McBride from injury. We've still got Kamara and Healy which means a total of six strikers already. I'm guessing that had the Cousin's deal gone through we'd have probably seen Healy move out on loan (in fact this may still happen) but even so I'm not sure exactly what he adds to our squad.

Coincidently Steven Davis has been doing well at Glasgow Rangers but is still wanted back at Fulham in the summer. I think this is good news as he is still a relatively young player and could well prove to be a good signing for us. I think he suffered from our lack of a more defensively minded partner to play alongside and was surprised when Roy offloaded him just as we signed just such a player (Leon Andreasen). I suspect his future at Fulham will be decided to some extent by what division we end in in next season, but at least he's got a chance to prove his worth away from the rough and tumble of a relegation scrap.

Young reserves star Robert Milsom seems to have impressed so far in his loan spell at Brentford. It looks like they are keen to extend his loan until the end of the season which can only be a good thing for his development.

Finally long standing injury victim Simon Elliott and new signing Eddie Johnson made appearances for the reserves in a 2-0 loss at West Ham on Wednesday night. EJ completed 60 minutes before a planned substitution (which may hint at a place in Saturday's squad) whilst Elliott lasted the full 90 minutes.

Billy the Badger - Badger Watch

This is on the Offal as well, but I'm loving the profile we're getting thanks to Super Billy.

Cookie Watch (slight return)

Bizarrely I found out that Chris Coleman was going to be made the new manager at Coventry City on a golf course in Bexhill. It's old news now of course but I just wanted to wish him all the best. Inevitably he's brought in Steve Keane and was also reported to be trying to get Dave Beasant on board as well (There was talk he'd try to pick up Ian Pearce on loan, but I've just discovered big Ian has joined another new manager, Nigel Pearson, at Southampton instead). It'll be interesting to see how they fair, Coventry have a new stadium and new owners keen to see them back in the top division. If things don't work out for us we could even be playing them next year. Ironically about a year ago a wrote a post about my concerns that Fulham under Coleman were becoming the new Coventry, now Cookie has a chance to manage them for real!

Another new Fulham Blog

I've not been checking my stats page as often as I used to recently so haven't always spotted new links to HEC. Thanks then to White Lines for picking up on another new FFC blog. Not As Plain As Black & White has been out there since early february and has some decent posts already including a preview of the West Ham game. It's got a funky live comments box on the side bar too (might have to look into one of those!). Welcome on board.

I should be back later with a veritable flurry of pre-Hammers posts ...

... possibly.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Weekend off

F.A. Cup fever did not come to Shepperton. The magic of the cup is all about Ronnie Radford and Stanley Matthews. Havant & Waterlooville beating York City and Swansea City before taking the lead twice at Anfield. Barnsley going one better and winning at Anfield. Most of all though, it's about your club and once you're no longer in the competition your interest is never quite the same. I watched a bit of Man Utd. v Arsenal, but with Fulham out I really wasn't that bothered who won. We could have been playing a home tie against Southampton, had things worked out a little bit differently (a game I'd always enjoy as my best friend is a Saints fan) but instead we were probably dribbling round cones or having a rest day. Meanwhile Paul Trollope's Rovers were making the most of the conditions down at the Mem by dispatching Saints 1-0 in another performance that belies their league position. Well done to Paul and his team who are now the lowest placed team still in the competition.

I'm gutted it's not us in the quarter-finals. I'd love us to reach another final, it's something that seemed more plausible since we returned to top-flight football, yet has remained just as unattainable (despite a close call in 2002). Maybe next year. For now we need to look ahead to the West Ham match. I don't think having a week off will have helped, but at least the Hammers are in the same situation. It's time for us to put in a big performance, we really need those three points and need to show those teams around us that we're not going down without a fight.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Football Fans Census - Fanzine Awards 07/08

About a month back you may remember me mentioning the Football Fanzine Awards. I'm not sure if it's really going to amount to much but I felt I ought to mention that the nominees have been decided and you can now place your votes. Fulham candidates feature in two categories. TOOFIF has been selected in the best Premier League Fanzine category whilst Craven Cottage Newsround, Following the Fulham, White Lines and The Hammy End Chronicle are up for the best Premier League Blog. Check it out if you feel so inclined or use the links below to go straight to the voting pages.

"Good night, good luck, win awards"

Click to vote for your favourite Premier League Blog.

Click to vote for your favourite Premier League Fanzine.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Where did the week go?

Yikes! It's almost a week since my last post. I suspect my days of posting daily are over. I seem to be busier at both work and home without actually getting much more achieved. I had planned to post some longer articles less often but the problem with that is by the time you get round to doing it everything has moved on and your post doesn't seem relevant anymore.

We lost to Middlesbrough, but they are in a good run of form at the moment. They're almost certainly better now than they were when we lost at home back in August. We need to pick up points on our travels but I think it's our home results that will decide whether we stay up or not. We've got no game this weekend thanks to our exit from the F.A. Cup. I tend to believe that a week off is not a good thing. I think we need to keep playing games to get into a groove. Nothing we can do about it. We have to hope Roy can ensure the team is ready for the challenge of West Ham, a game we really need to get some points from.

There's another good article on CCN today trying to work out the likely points totals of the teams at the lower end of the table. It's impossible to do this sort of thing objectively but I do think there are some simple targets we need to aim for. 40 points should be enough to stay up. We're currently on 19 so in the remaining 12 matches we need to pick up 21 points. That's 7 wins. These are our remaining fixtures;

Fulham v West Ham
Fulham v Man Utd
Blackburn v Fulham
Fulham v Everton
Newcastle v Fulham
Derby v Fulham
Fulham v Sunderland
Reading v Fulham
Fulham v Liverpool
Man City v Fulham
Fulham v Birmingham
Portsmouth v Fulham

I'm superstitious so I'm not going to make any predictions but I think there ARE seven games we can win. It won't go to plan of course, we'll probably beat Man Utd and lose to Derby, but there's hope in there. The countdown begins on Saturday week, it's gonna be a rollercoaster from here on in.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Two points for a win?

Written by Richard of Craven Cottage Newsround in his Times blog THIS article should be required reading for all fans of football. I'm convinced, have a read and make your own mind up.

Alive and well and living in Shepperton

Yes. I am still here. I've just been quite busy this week at home and at work. I've felt so much more positive about football following last weeks win over Villa but we've still such a long way to go. The Club have been working hard to get people to travel to the Riverside for the huge game against Middlesbrough. On paper you'd think we've got a good chance of getting something, but 'Boro are on a good run of form. Undefeated in six games thay have won three and drawn three in the league and cup since losing 0-2, home to Everton on 1st January. That said their home form is the second weakest in the Premier League with 13 points from a possible 36 (three wins, four draws). Only Derby have fared less well with six points from 12 games. Let's not dwell too long on our well documented trouble away from home, we owe 'Boro after losing to them at home earlier in the season in a game that probably set the tone for our season. I think our Premier League future will be more down to our results at home over the rest of the campaign, but it would be a huge boost to even claim at point tomorrow.

I've only caught the odd game here and there but the African Cup of Nations has been a breath of fresh air amid Premier League talk of chasing the big bucks and taking the game overseas. The four quater-finalists (Cameroon, Ghana, Ivory Coast & Egypt) have all shown how strong African football has become and I'm genuinely looking forward to the final. The ANC has also been an opportunity for the BBC to try out some fresh faces to football punditry and I have been particularly impressed with ex-Fulham cult hero Leroy Rosenior. Whilst I have to admit to getting a small laugh from his billing as ex-Sierra Leone manager (2007) I really like Leroy and have been impressed with the way he has spoken. Alongside Garth Crooks, who never fails to make himself look a complete idiot (right back to his days as a reporter on LBC radio), Leroy has come across as the consumate professional. He has clearly done his research on the players and actually talks knowledgeably about the games. I hope the BBC take note of this and don't feel obliged to continue using jokers like Crooks and Lawrensen just because they played for big clubs.

If you're travelling up to Teeside on "Roy's Express" have a great day, cheer on the boys and say hi to Billy for me! Come on you Fulham!!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Jimmy Bullard on how to catch big fish

Nicked straight off Who Ate All The Pies our very own Sir Jimmy Bullard showing Sky Sports Soccer A.M. viewers how to catch carp (Nice bit of Arcade Fire in the background as well). I'm sure you've heard about Jimmy's angling abilities before, he's a decent standard and won a few big competitions whilst he was recovering from the knee injury. I'm hoping he won't have as much time to fish for a very long while.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Billy the Badger - Super Mascot strikes again

Billy was back in the limelight on Sunday having to be removed from the pitch by referee Chris Foy before the second half could kick off. He even got a mention on MOTD2, though oddly guest pundit Chris Coleman claimed not to remember him being there when he was in charge. Clearly Billy must have been a more reserved badger back then!

Fulham 2 Aston Villa 1 - Happy Days!!! Come on!

How great does it feel to finally win a game of football! Brilliant, even though I didn't make it to the game I'm over the moon. Had agreed a while back not to go as I was out on both Thursday and Friday night, and late Sunday kick-offs are never good when you've got to get the kids to bed and everything ready for the following week. I don't mind missing a few more games if we win them. I was particularly impressed with the way we came back into it after conceding in such a bad way. I can't remember enjoying the Match of the Day highlights that much for ages and was actually jumping for joy when the Bullard free kick went in even though I already knew the score!

We've still got a huge task ahead of us but for now I think we're all entitled to revel in a glorious victory. Here's some links to the stories from the guys that were actually there (and a few that weren't but enjoyed it all the same).

Craven Cottage Newsround - Fulham 2 Aston Villa 1

Craven Cottage Newsround - 3 Massive Points

Following the Fulham - Viva La Jimmy

Following the Fulham - Fulham v Aston Villa - Player Rankings

White Lines - Fulham 2 Aston Villa 1

Jason's Cottage - Finally! Thank You Jimmy

Friday, February 01, 2008

A quick one before I go

Just a quicky to catch up on the deadline day shenanigans. We've added Paul Salteri to our collection of Right Backs. He's signed on loan for the rest of the season. We've also let three players go out on loan. Steven Davis joins Glasgow Rangers (who have an option to buy), Lee Cook will attempt to rehabilitate his knee by going to Charlton Athletic and Tony Warner joins Barnsley for a month. I'm off on a London pub walk this afternoon so, depending on how quick my recovery is, may not be posting again until Sunday. Have a good weekend y'all.