Monday, May 25, 2009

Last on Match of the Day - Fulham victorious

How typically Fulhamish. In our best ever season we manage to be last on Match of the Day more times than anyone else except Wigan. Mike Whalley's excellent site has been tracking this for the last two seasons. Last season we came joint 2nd behind the frankly massive 13 appearances Derby County mustered. This season it was a much closer affair with us and Wigan managing nine appearances each but Fulham claiming the title thanks to the Gubba difference.

Mike Whalley's - World of Sport "Last on MOTD"

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Fulham 0 Everton 2

The pre-match omens were almost too greatly in our favour; a fixture that has been won by the home side on the previous 15 occasions, an Everton side that would surely have one eye on the F.A. Cup final, a Fulham team that still needed a point to secure European football and were keen to end our best ever season on a high. In the end it was too good to be true and we found out just how big the difference is between the team that finishes 5th and the team that finishes 7th.

Everton were very good today. They seized on our weaknesses, gave us no time on the ball, cut out the threat of Murphy and took their chances when they came. Saha was excellent in the solo front man role, hit the crossbar early on and reminded us all of what we lost when he left. It was Steven Pienaar though, who proved to be the driving force. Surging forward time and again, and eventually capitalising on a mix up between Hangeland and Paintsil to find Leon Osman, who slotted home to give the Toffees a half time lead.

Fulham tried hard to find a way back in the second period. Dempsey, who had looked our best player in the first 45, had a number of efforts blocked. Paintsil pushed on more and more, one tantalising run ending with a shot that we all hoped might fly in but ended up veering wide of the post. Hangeland also started to try and force the game our way. A sliding tackle to prevent a breakaway left the opposition player on the floor, whilst Brede picked himself on and continued to charge forward. A neat pass to Dempsey (I think) led to a fee kick which we unfortunately wasted. If this does turn out to be Brede's last game for the club it at least gave us another glimpse of how important the Norwegian has become. I got the impression he really wanted another win today.

A series of subs saw Zamora replace the flagging Nevland. Given more time he might have made a difference, but he didn't do a lot for his reputation slicing one effort hopelessly wide and firing a decent effort straight at Tim Howard. Dacourt replaced the erratic Gera to make what may be his last professional appearance and Chris Smalling replaced Aaron Hughes. Hughes receiving a well deserved ovation as he left the pitch. The game was over when that man Osman neatly collected a cross from the right wing, danced his way through the centre of our defence, and then sent a curling left foot shot crashing past Schwarzer. A goal worthy of winning any game.

Despite the result the party atmosphere remained (helped slightly by the news filtering through from Anfield) and we had the chance to applaud a team that has achieved our highest finish in the top flight.

Fulham: Schwarzer, Pantsil, Hughes (Smalling 77), Hangeland, Konchesky, Dempsey, Murphy, Etuhu, Gera (Dacourt 73), Nevland (Zamora 68), Kamara
Subs not used: Zuberbuhler, Gray, Stoor, Baird

Everton: Howard, Hibbert, Yobo, Lescott, Baines, Neville (Gosling 79), Cahill, Rodwell, Pienaar (Vaughan 86), Osman, Saha (Castillo 79)
Subs not used: Nash, Jo, Jacobsen, Fellaini
Goals: Osman (45, 88)

Bookings: None

Attendance: 25,497

Referee: M A Riley (W. Yorkshire)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Newcastle 0 Fulham 1

Best Season Ever.

I listened to the last twenty minutes of yesterday's game via the intermittent reception of Radio 5 Live as I travelled back from seeing my Dad in Bexhill. The tension at the ground came through loud and clear. Newcastle throwing all they could muster at us and finding out exactly why we've got to the very fringe of European qualification.

By then Newcastle were down to ten men and we'd already taken the lead. Danny Murphy riding a wild challenge in centre midfield before threading another perfect pass for Eric Nevland to run on to. Nevland timed his run perfectly, Steven Taylor woefully misplaced failing to catch the Norwegian offside, and surged into the box. Eric's magic feet then drew Steve Harper out of his goal then left the 'keeper stranded and helpless as he played a gentle pass sideways to the waiting Kamara. Diomansey had time to polish his boots, adjust his position and smile for the camera before firing into the top of the net.

It could have been a very different story for Newcastle. Martins hit the post early on and Viduka had a goal harshly disallowed (though I'd say Kevin Nolan got his just reward for a lifetime of infringing goalkeepers) in the second half. Dickson Etuhu also made a remarkable goal line clearance. Then it was Schwarzer's turn to take the plaudits making two outstanding saves, first reacting quickly to a lunging effort from Nicky Butt, then saving smartly from a ferocious shot from Obafemi Martins.

Another clean sheet on the road and another composed team performance. We sit proudly 7th placed with only Spurs capable of catching us. Even if they do we won't finish lower than 8th and with a new record points tally of 53 we've already achieved our best ever finish. One more game to go and, whatever happens, it's going to be a party at the Cottage next week.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

F.A. Vase journey comes to a close

My mate Andy's trail in following the F.A. Vase from the opening rounds to it's conclusion at Wembley came to an end on Sunday as Whitley Bay beat Andy's home town team Glossop North End 2-0 in the final. Well worth a read if your interest in football isn't solely focused on the media bun fight that is the Premier League.

Chasing The Vase - Game 12 Glossop North End 0 Whitley Bay 2

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Eric Cantona

It seems the beautiful game is the new hot topic for the film industry. "The Damned United" has already taken it's share of plaudits and criticisms and here comes the new Ken Loach film "Looking for Eric". The film is being promoted by a Fulham supporter and features Eric Cantona - now there's a player I'd have liked to see in the white of Fulham.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

London Premier League - Final standings (corrected version)

OK. Let's try that again. I'm blaming Google Docs conversion from my original spreadsheet! Corrected table below, hopefully right this time. Quite funny to see how many Spurs fans took this really seriously.

London Premier League - Final standings

This had seemed a good idea early in the season. We were flying high with wins against Arsenal and Spurs and Chelsea were languishing at the bottom of the table. Typically these things even themselves out and the final table makes disappointing reading. Still, I figured I ought to finish what I started and publish it anyway.

NUTS! I cocked that up - will fix it and come back with the correct table later. Soz.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Fulham 3 Aston Villa 1

Following a poor game against Stoke and a disappointing result against Them I was starting to wonder if our season was going to peter out. This has been a truly great season though, and Fulham, as they have managed to do so often this campaign, returned with a performance full of skill and fight and perseverance to take all three points against a very dangerous Villa side.

A bright start saw both teams have chances, Agbonlahor collected a header from John Carew but screwed his shot wide and Nevland reacted quickly to a blocked Kamara shot but sent his header over the bar. We didn't have to wait long for a goal though. Dempsey did good work in a tight space and fed a ball towards Kamara who took a tumble when well placed to score thanks to a push in the back from James Milner. Murphy's record from the spot was maintained as he coolly slotted past Friedal who guessed correctly but couldn't prevent it going in. Villa were full of pace though and a typical counter attack saw a loose cross from the right flank evade several Fulham defenders before finding Ashley Young in space to fire home the equalizer.

The game seemed to be tightly balanced, both sides showing the ability to score more goals. Then, with the second half only 27 seconds old, and many of us still settling into our seats, Joe Kamara woke us all up with a smart shot from the edge of the box that found its laser guided way into the far corner. Fulham played some great football. Crisp passing, good movement, everyone knew their role and everyone played their part. It's a joy to watch. Villa are a very good side. Carew looked troublesome up front (though Hangeland was immense and Hughes, as ever, mopped up everything else) and Ashley Young caused Paintsil a few headaches in the 1st half (though oddly switch to the opposite wing in the 2nd half where he seemed less involved). Their main problem was they didn't see much of the ball. Fulham were really careful with possession and looked comfortable and assured on the ball.

The game was effectively ended on the hour mark. Hangeland won the aerial battle to head down ferociously and Kamara was perfectly placed to audaciously backheel the ball between Freidal's legs. Villa threw the dice by taking off both full-backs and replacing them with Emile Heskey and Nigel Reo-Coker. It didn't work. Fulham comfortably saw out the game and the home crowd had time to exult the virtues of Roy Hodgson. A cry of "There's only one Roy Hodgson" was extended as Hodgson kept a close eye on the action before acknowledging our cheers. This was followed by an emotional "Stand up for Roy Hodgson" that saw the whole ground rise as one to give our master manager a standing ovation. Marvellous moments. We saw out the last ten minutes with a series of subs that gave us a chance to applaud our hard working heroes. Nevland off for Zamora, Dempsey off for Julian Gray and Etuhu off for Dacourt. All three players had worked their socks off for the cause.

We've reached 50 points and are back up to seventh. Europe is a tantalising proposition, but either way it's been an incredible turn around in fortune from this time last year.

Fulham: Schwarzer, Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky, Gera, Murphy, Etuhu (Dacourt 89), Dempsey (Gray 85), Kamara, Nevland (Zamora 83).
Subs Not Used: Zuberbuhler, Stoor, Baird, Smalling.

Booked: Murphy.

Goals: Murphy 6 pen, Kamara 46, 60.

Aston Villa: Friedel, Luke Young (Heskey 64), Knight, Davies, Shorey (Reo-Coker 64), Milner, Petrov, Barry, Ashley Young, Carew, Agbonlahor.
Subs Not Used: Guzan, Sidwell, Delfouneso, Gardner, Clark.

Goals: Ashley Young 14.

Att: 25,660

Ref: Mark Halsey (Lancashire)

Friday, May 08, 2009

The Foundation History of Fulham Football Club

I thought I ought to move on from the gloating just to balance out my karma ahead of the Villa game. Only spoken to a couple of Chelsea fans since and they were both genuine fans and decent blokes so I've been feeling a little bit guilty (though, with Drogba and Ballack both doing pretty good impressions of spoilt 7 year olds, not for very long).

Anyway, over at Friends of Fulham LBNo11 has just started a series of posts that will make Henry Shrimpton's “Foundation History of Fulham Football Club” available for the first time online. This should be a fascinating read about the very early days of the club. I recently bought Morgan Phillips' "From St Andrew’s to Craven Cottage" which examines the clubs earliest days as a church cricket and football club and it's eventual rise to something much bigger. Phillips' book (still available here) refers to Shrimpton's work quite a bit so it's a great chance to read the original source.

I'll keep this page updated as each part appears.

Foundation History of Fulham Football Club part I

Foundation History of Fulham Football Club part II

Foundation History of Fulham Football Club part III

Foundation History of Fulham Football Club part IV

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Champions League? You're having a laugh!

I couldn't be happier. Barca! Barca! Barca!

Picture courtesy BBC Sport

The 50 Greatest Fulham Players

This has been out for a while now but I re-read it today and wanted to draw attention to it, if only for my Dad's benefit. Compiled by Richard from Craven Cottage Newsround who has done a fabulous job at attempting to resolve the relative merits of players from different decades and divisions. You might not agree with every player or with their position on the list but it's an interesting read all the same and will bring back your own memories about those you saw play.

Times Online - The 50 Greatest Fulham Players

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Nostalgia - Tony Macedo

Article written by Gordon Mills

The home game against Bristol City in December 1957 was rendered unforgettable by the explosive introduction onto the scene of goalkeeper Tony Macedo. In an unforgettable display of agility, anticipation and vibrant watchability, the young man from Gibraltar, who was still completing his national service at the time, transformed our expectations of Fulham goalkeepers for ever. He leapt for crosses, he plunged at the feet of onrushing attackers, he threw himself spectacularly across his goal to save long shots and he quickly distributed the ball with unerringly accurate throws to the feet of Fulham players still catching their breath from the last Bristol City attack.

That was the season that saw George Cohen establish himself in the team, Roy Bentley withdraw to a midfield role and Johnny Haynes lead the side to the top five in the old second division and to the semi-final of the cup. From the moment he stepped into the team, Macedo was integral to its success. He barely made an error and was absolutely outstanding in the unexpected 5th round victory at West Ham and in a number of league games that cemented the promotion push. In the famous semi-final against the Munich decimated Manchester United Macedo kept Fulham in the game with a series of blinding saves, one of which I can still see in my mind’s eye as he twisted to tip a Bobby Charlton thunderbolt over the bar. Fulham actually led this game with a few minutes to go to half-time but Charlton scored his second while Fulham were down to 10 men with Langley off and undergoing treatment.

The second-half saw a feast of goalkeeping from Macedo and Harry Gregg, who was not far behind the Fulham keeper in outstanding saves. But 2 – 2 it stayed and on we went to the replay at Highbury. Imagine our shock when our super hero proved fallible and human after all and was directly responsible for three of the United goals in the 5 – 3 defeat. He just didn’t seem capable of catching the ball on that cold, damp afternoon and United took full advantage, sending in long shot after long shot which Macedo struggled to keep out. To give him his due though, I doubt any other goalkeeper would have got anywhere near some of the crosses and shots he dropped but the defeat was doubly hard to take because we missed Wembley and our goalkeeper was found wanting in the most important game of his life. (We missed promotion too, thanks to a fixture pile-up at the end of the season.)

The next season he was back to his best much of the time but I always felt that something had happened to him at Highbury that afternoon because he was never quite the same again – some of the confidence and self-assuredness had gone. However, he was a vital part of our promotion to division one and he went onto play with spectacular flair and agility for a number of seasons in the top flight. In one memorable game, against Wolves I think, he hurt his shoulder and returned to play on the wing, his arm strapped to his side.

Unfortunately, he will be remembered for one or two terrible errors that he committed during the first division days, the most inexplicable being the gifting of the ball to Jimmy Greaves when he just rolled it to him on the edge of the area as if Greaves were a Fulham player – Greaves slid it home to tie the game - and another when he wasn’t really paying attention and a Mullery back pass almost directly from the kick off eluded him and set Fulham off to a 6 – 1 home defeat to Sheffield Wednesday.

But I choose to remember the courageous, other worldly dives and saves, the prodigious leaps to claim crosses and corners and the outstanding positional sense that meant so much to his colleagues and to us on the terraces.

There is a story that when England were on a summer tour to South America and going down to a bad defeat against Peru or Colombia, Eddie Hopkinson, the incumbent between the post let in a soft goal and Haynes, who had been back helping the defence, retrieved the ball from the back of the net and said to Hopkinson, “Tony Macedo would have saved that one easily.”
Unfortunately, the Under 23s was where Tony’s international career ended but he would not been out of place in England’s goalie’s yellow sweater.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Them 3 Fulham 1

A disappointing result and performance against a side we'd all hoped would be preoccupied with the Champions League and between two tough games against the best attacking side in Europe. To their credit they fielded a very strong starting eleven and brushed us aside a little too easily.

A goal down after 52 seconds we responded quickly when Eric Nevland evaded the offside trap and collected Murphy's sumptuous through ball before sending an accurate (though seemingly saveable) shot past Petr Cech. Unfortunately we conceded again and then lost Nevland following an industrial challenge from John Terry. They scored again early in the second half and the contest was effectively over.

With the teams around us all winning we slip to 9th but the race for the final European spot remains tight.

Chelsea: Cech, Bosingwa, Alex (Ivanovic 46), Terry, Ashley Cole, Lampard, Essien (Ballack 46), Mikel, Malouda, Anelka, Drogba (Di Santo 84).
Subs Not Used: Hilario, Kalou, Belletti, Mancienne.
Goals: Anelka 1, Malouda 10, Drogba 53.

Fulham: Schwarzer, Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky, Dempsey, Etuhu, Murphy, Gera, Zamora (Dacourt 76), Nevland (Kamara 35).
Subs Not Used: Zuberbuhler, Gray, Stoor, Baird, Smalling.
Booked: Murphy.
Goals: Nevland 4.

Att: 41,801.

Ref: Alan Wiley (Staffordshire)

Friday, May 01, 2009

The Good, The Bad and The Hilarious

I don't normally bother with posting about links I've seen. Dan & Nick at the are doing a fabulous job of picking up on most of the news stories of interest already but there were a couple of things that tickled my fancy this week.

First the news that long term club historian Dennis Turner has been made a non-executive director. I've never met Dennis in person but I've read a lot of his books and realise he's a Fulham man through and through. It's lovely to see the club recognise the benefit of having genuine fans involved in the decision making and a wonderful reward for all the efforts Dennis has made in keeping the clubs history alive and recorded.

Meanwhile it's the second SW6 derby of the season this weekend and the club have confirmed that Andy Johnson will be unavailable due to the injury he picked up against Stoke. This should give Eric the Great another chance to show us his stuff which is an opportunity he deserves. Zamora should be able to partner Nevland having recovered well from his "back" problem last week.

Finally Alex Ferguson threw a bit of a hissy fit over the size of our dressing rooms and had a bit of a rant about minimum requirements for Premier League clubs. We weren't the only club the red nosed one was upset with, apparently Everton's are too narrow. You can't help but chuckle. If I was in charge of the club I'd ensure we made the away side a little bit smaller next year, maybe add in a few additional storage cupboards to make it a tighter squeeze. I think United should be made to play a season in a Sunday League and see if they feel the need to complain after that.