Sunday, August 31, 2008

Jimmy Bullard in the England squad!

Just had a text out of the blue from a mate to tell me that Jimmy's in the England squad. I'm absolutely stunned. Really pleased for Jimmy who thoroughly deserves his chance. The full England squad makes pretty great reading;

Robinson (Blackburn), James (Portsmouth), Green (West Ham); Lescott (Everton), Bridge (Chelsea), A Cole (Chelsea), Terry (Chelsea), Brown (Manchester United), Ferdinand (Manchester United), Johnson (Portsmouth), Upson (West Ham); Barry (Aston Villa), J Cole (Chelsea), Lampard (Chelsea), Bullard (Fulham), Beckham (Los Angeles Galaxy), Downing (Middlesbrough), Bentley (Tottenham), Jenas (Tottenham); Walcott (Arsenal), Rooney (Manchester United), Defoe (Portsmouth), Heskey (Wigan)

Full story from the BBC HERE.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The value of the League Cup

I saw this article on Two Hundred Percent about what to do about the League Cup and felt obliged to reply. It raises some interesting suggestions but makes me wonder if anyone outside of the media actually care about the size of attendances at these early season games. My reply is below;

I’m a Fulham season ticket holder and can assure you I do care about the League cup. I didn’t go to our second round game with Leicester City though. Not many people did - in fact only 7,584. We closed one whole stand and from the pictures I’ve seen had another end almost empty. Does that really matter though. In today's credit crunch climate is it really that big a surprise that people cannot afford to go to EVERY game their team plays. I have a wife and two sons and whilst a Fulham season ticket is excellent value compared with most other Premier League sides find it hard to justify going to many additional games not covered by that initial investment. I’m elated that we got through to the next round, however lucky we were to do so, and maybe I will go to the next round (if it’s not too far and an affordable price). I won’t be too upset thought if it’s another low crowd. It wasn’t that long ago a crowd of over 7000 would have been a great turnout for Fulham and who really hurts if there’s not a packed stadium? The club maybe doesn’t make so much money and it’s possibly harder for the team to put in a top class performance but it’s really not the end of the world - is it? I’m happy that the League Cup continues just as it is, because winning it IS important and an attempt to remove the bigger clubs from it would devalue the competition much more than a few low attendances.

Friday snippets

Catching up with things that have happened since my last "news" post.

Fulham 3 Leicester City 2 - Good to see Roy playing a full strength side for this game. I know we've got almost three weeks until our next match but I believe he would have fielded a similar 11 anyway. It's easy for managers to claim they're going to take the cups seriously and still field weaker sides. I genuinely believe Roy sees the cups as important matches and we will see near enough full strength sides while we remain in contention. Reports suggest we got away with the result, in a see-saw game that was remarkably similar to the 4-3 victory in the 2006 FA Cup. Whatever the performance it's a great result, Leicester are still a decent side, and to get through at the first attempt is a bonus. Third round draw is on Saturday.

Players leaving - As the end of the transfer window draws near Roy has continued to "streamline" the squad. Can't really argue with these decisions as none of the players were likely to feature in the match day squad.



  • Steven Davis completed his £3million move to Rangers. He's a decent player who out of all the Sanchez signings would have appeared to fit the Hodgson requirements best, but was never going to be happy with just being a squad member.

  • David Healy has joined (and already scored) for Sunderland. He will now, inevitably, score the winning goal when Sunderland visit us at the Cottage. It seems a shame that we never really got to see what he could do, a victim of circumstance to some extent. Too much of an enigma to fit into Roy's style I suspect.

  • Eddie Johnson has gone to Cardiff for a season long loan. I'm not ready to give up on him quite yet, though he hardly endeared himself to the Welsh fans on his debut.

  • Moritz Volz also moves out on a season long loan to Ipswich Town. I think this could be a great move for Volzy and wish him the very best. As last season proved, a year is a very long time in football, so maybe we've not seen the last of him yet.


Finally another shockingly poor photo to add to my portfolio of crap pictures taken with my phone. My early arrival on Saturday was timed perfectly to capture injured new boy Andy Johnson walking into the ground. The camera on my phone really isn't that bad, it just doesn't have a cover over the lens and therefore takes a bit of a pounding in my pocket with the loose change and fluff. I've got a new camera now which will be much better and I'll take that along to a game soon. Ken Coton - watch out!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Johnny Haynes Statue

A quick post to highlight the campaign to raise funds for a statue in honour of Fulham's greatest player "The Maestro" Johnny Haynes. The JHS Action group have updated their website and now have details on how to donate by cheque.

http://www.johnnyhaynesstatue.com/statue/

Monday, August 25, 2008

Fulham 1 Arsenal 0 - For whom the bells toll

Football eh? It never fails to surprise you.

I left home with a sense of foreboding. Not the usual high hopes of my first game of the season, but a feeling that we would inevitably lose and the only unknown would be how well we'd perform. The loss at Hull and memories of last season's capitulation against the Gunners combined to make me unusually pessimistic. My mood had improved considerably by the time I entered a packed and buzzing Craven Cottage.

I'd got to the ground much earlier than normal to help the CCN crew sell copies of The Fulham Review. Arriving from the Putney mainline station I was able to make the walk through Bishop's Park, my favourite approach to the ground. The bells of All Saints Church were ringing and the sun high in the sky as I made my way down. These felt like good omens and my spirits began to rise. On the way past the ground heading towards The Crabtree I stopped to chat with a bus driver who was a Arsenal fan. Born in Putney, so a soft spot for The Whites, he thought they'd win 2-0. I said I thought they'd win 3-0. At the pub, during a typical failure of bar staff to actually know who was next, I made sure an Arsenal fan got served before me. It crossed my mind in doing so that I may have accumulated some positive karma points. Back at the ground we spent an hour or so selling Fulham Reviews. It went well and I enjoyed meeting a few people I'd only previously known online. Thanks to everyone who bought a copy (I don't think I'm ready to set up a market stall quite yet) and to those that said hello or that they'd got a copy and enjoyed it.

The game was a tight affair, Arsenal not at their best, Fulham passing well but adding hard work and endeavour to the display we'd seen at Hull. The goal came from a corner won after Zamora, turning neatly to find a bit of space in the box, saw his shot deflected behind. Bullard and Murphy combined to fire the ball towards the Arsenal near post. The cross probably should have arrived at head height but this didn't stop Hangeland, having shown great determination to force his way past Gallas, from connecting with his studs to stab home his first goal for the club. Shortly afterwards, in a move eerily familiar to last year’s fixture, Adebayour rose to head firmly against our post. Schwarzer was down quickly but we were spared an equaliser by inches. After that there were few scoring chances from open play. 1-0 up at the turn Fulham were the better side right up to the 70th minute. Arsenal did begin to force us onto the back foot in the final 20 minutes but struggled to find a way through our industrious midfield and weren’t on song with their dead ball opportunities.

Davies, Bullard, Murphy and Gera formed an effective and tight midfield unit. Bullard in particular worked extremely hard defensively suggesting he had taken on board some of Hodgson’s criticisms of his game. Jimmy put in his best performance for some time and was my Man of the Match. Tony Kallio made a surprise debut for the club at full back (Konchesky presumably injured) and was very solid. He didn’t offer much going forward, not surprising for someone primarily a centre back, but he looked comfortable on the ball and coped well defensively. He had just begun to look a little tired when Roy replaced him with Chris Baird. An even more unlikely appearance but, playing out of position Baird did very well. We’re short of options in defence so Chris could have a significant part to play this season. Nice for him to be involved in such a remarkable win. Finally a mention for John Paintsil who seems set for cult hero status already. Before kick off he stood arms aloft and head bowed like a boxer preparing for the greatest fight of his life. During the game he was all action, bombing forward at every opportunity but doing his share of defending as well. He reminds me a little of Gus Uhlenbeek, a player who could thrill you with his pacey runs down the wing before slicing his cross into row Z or falling over his own feet. I’ve a feeling Paintsil may have his moments of comedy error but I think we’ll enjoy watching him try. At the conclusion he did an Olympic style lap of honour round the pitch and deservedly received a standing ovation. Brilliant stuff, can’t wait to watch him again.

So having begun the day with low expectations I returned home full of joy and hope. We won’t play like this every week but knowing that we can helps a lot. I missed our last victory over Arsenal (at the tail end of 2006) and when relegation appeared a certainty last season wondered if I had forever lost the chance to see us claim a win against the Gunners. That makes this win all the sweeter and our next league game cannot come soon enough.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Statto!

I've not had the most productive week. Failed to do all sorts of things I really should have done. Somewhere in the midst of all this procrastination I found time to update my statistics pages. They're really for my own benefit but are also there for anyone who might find them useful.

Fulham Squad Details 2008/09 provides a list of our current playing squad and a record of those that have moved on in the current transfer window.

Fulham Team Sheet and stats 2008/09 is my attempt to keep track of match statistics and provide a record of player appearances similar to the back page of the programme.

I've also reinstated my New Signing Tracker with links to the Wikipedia page for each of our new recruits. There are links to all the new players so far over there, on the right, just below the Hammy End Features.

If you spot any mistakes let me know.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Midweek ruminations on losing to Hull and how to cope with failure

If there's one thing thirty three years as a Fulham supporter provides you with it's how to cope with failure. Maybe this is true of other teams as well (in fact it surely must be unless you support one of the Big Four). I'm sure I'm not in a minority when I say that I expect us to lose those games that to the neutral observer would appear to be our easiest. If we're set up for a prat fall then we'll take it head over heels.

As I alluded to last week we couldn't have faced Hull City at a more unfortunate time and I felt a certain inevitability that we'd come out of it badly. Thus it proved. Match of the Day must have suspected this as well, making us the first game of the new season. Those highlights are all I've seen but based on good reports from Jamie and Rich at CCN it sounds like we at least started brightly. In the end we were undone by an uncharacteristic mistake from Paul Konchesky. Maybe if he hadn't slipped we'd have held on for the point. A point would have been great. I think we'd all have settled for that, not the end of the world and something to build on. Now we go into Saturday's late kick off against Arsenal starting to worry where our first points might come from. The Man Utd game is postponed (not that we'd stand much chance up there) and with an International break just after it will be the 13th September before we play again.

The key area of concern is the lack of a ball winner in midfield. Yet this isn't anything new. Roy brought in Andreasen last season and he looked good in the few games he played, but following his sending off against West Ham he rarely featured for more than a few minutes from the bench. It's difficult to work out where Bullard stands in Hodgson's plans but it seems whilst he's with us, and with Murphy Club Captain, it's unlikely we'll see their partnership dissolved. Having spent big money on two new strikers as well I'm not convinced we're going to see a switch to a five man midfield either. For the time being I think we have to accept that we'll be sticking with a possibly lightweight midfield. That aside, I'm determined not to get caught up with panic about how well we're doing. Roy has earned my trust for a while to come and I am happy to leave things in his capable hands in the knowledge that he won't be panicking either.

Next fixture
Saturday sees the visit of Arsenal. This is normally one of my favourite fixtures though coming on the back of the opening defeat and with an annoyingly late kick off thanks to Setanta's miserable TV schedule it could have come at a better time. Before that several of our players will have to survive the midweek Internationals but that has to be a far greater hazard for the Gunners who are supposedly already missing some nine first teamers from their squad. We can only hope.

I may be out selling copies of The Fulham Review before kick-off. Should be fairly easy to spot (unless it's lashing it down) in my new home kit with Chopper and 40 on the back so pop over, say hi and pick up a copy of TFR.

News catch-up
Ipswich Town say they have had a bid accepted (alleged to be around £500K) for Moritz Volz.

Scottish giants Glasgow Rangers finally seem to have scrapped enough money together to fund a £3Million bid for Steven Davis. Or then again, maybe not.

There's also talk that we are considering a swap deal with Sunderland which would see David Healy heading up North and Dickson Etuhu coming South where he might add a bit of bulk to our defensive midfield options. While we're there we may also be taking a look at Dean Whitehead the Black Cat's incumbent skipper (the only link I could find to that story was on Tribal Football so I didn't bother, it seems to have originated from The Sun or The Daily Mail). There's still a few twists and turns to be made before this transfer window is out.

Finally Fulham Football Club have authorised the Johnny Haynes statue action group to begin raising funds towards raising the statue in honour of The Maestro. There will be volunteers with buckets at the game this weekend asking for cash donations. Please give what you can afford. If you want further information or can offer your help, contact them via this e-mail account or check the website at http://johnnyhaynesstatue.com/.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Review of the summer - Conclusions

Bringing my week long summer review to a close I wanted to see if I've learnt anything I didn't already know.

A quick recap of the numbers so far. 15 players have permanently left the club none of whom none have generated any money. 4 players have been loaned out (Junior to Norwich, Lee Cook to QPR, T.J. Moncur to Bradford & Hameur Bouazza to Charlton). 9 new players have signed and 2 players (Kallio & Murphy) have been rewarded with contract extensions. This leaves us with something like 35 senior players of which I think only 20-25 are likely to feature.

I believe our senior squad can be broken down into genuine first team players (those that Roy has signed or seems happy to play), fringe players (those that could still leave if the right bid comes in) and development players (those still young enough to be considered potential prospects but not yet ready for first team action).

I consider our genuine first team to be these 21 players ; Schwarzer, Stockdale, Zuberbuhler, Konchesky, Kallio, Stoor, Paintsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Dempsey, Ki-Hyeon, Davies, Andreasen, Bullard, Andranik, Gera, Murphy, Johnson A, Johnson E, Zamora & Nevland. Ideally we need to add a strong centre back and maybe another midfielder but I think this core group of players looks pretty good. Bullard could still be an issue and if he goes I'm not sure we've really got a replacement but we'll see what happens.

The fringe players are; Niemi, Volz, Baird, Zakuani, Smertin, Davis, Kamara, Healy & John. Steven Davis has been in the news a lot over the summer and though reading between the lines it appears the club are keen to sell him, Roy may be happy to use him if he stays. Davis could benefit from Hodgson's style of play but may not be happy to be seen as an understudy to Danny Murphy, which is where I think he would most likely sit. Either way it's nice to see Roy being so bullish about his player's value in the press. Kamara won't be able to get involved until January at the earliest. Potentially he could still figure in the first team as Roy seemed happy to use him at the end of last season but again I get the feeling Dio would jump at the opportunity for a new start somewhere else if an offer arises. Niemi, Baird, Zakuani, Smertin, Healy & John don't seem to figure in Roy's plans at all and I'd be surprised if we didn't see several of them picked up before the end of August (injuries to Niemi & John may keep them at the club at least until January). That just leaves Mortiz Volz. He's a player I think we all like a lot but it's very hard to see where an opportunity might arise for him to feature. I think he needs to move on and play first team football and I'm sure he realises that as well. He might need to drop a division to get himself back in the frame but I do think he's capable of doing a job for someone in the Premier League.

The development players span a wide range of ages but we have a few that have caught the eye and seem to be considered a part of the larger first team squad. These include Adrian Leijer, Adam Watts, Chris Smalling, Robert Milsom, and Wayne Brown. Smalling was a summer signing from Middlesbrough but is still only 18 so expectations should not be too high. The others are all in their early 20's which is an age when they need to be thinking about playing regular competitive football. Wayne Brown is the one I take most interest in. He's a neat player with some nice skills and I'd love to see him make the jump into the senior squad.

Only 24 hours to go then until the season kicks off in earnest. Our trip to Hull is a bit of a banana skin. The pundits are all expecting them to struggle yet what better chance do they have of a win than in their very first Premier League match at home to the worst (as far last season's table is concerned) remaining established Premier League team. We need to approach this match in the right frame of mind. There are no easy games in the Premier League and you have to earn the right to win every point. If we work hard and concentrate for the full ninety minutes we'll get what we deserve. If we think we can coast through it we'll get a rude awakening. If we lose it won't be the end of the world, Hull could surprise a few people this season, but a win would be a fantastic start and maintain our oddly marvellous away form a little bit longer.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Review of the summer - The Attack

Our most stunning piece of transfer business this summer (in fact for some time) has been the signing of Andy Johnson for a potential record beating thirteen million pounds. AJ's arrival, combined with the four to five million pound acquisition of Bobby Zamora, issues a serious statement of intent from the manager and board. Despite my initial reservations, particularly regarding Johnson, these are exciting additions to the team, raising expectations for the coming season. Finding a replacement for Brian McBride was always going to be one of the key targets of the summer and I'm pleased we've been bold in our choices. Beyond our two new stars the pecking order is less obvious. Rich did a nice chart here that highlighted the different facets of our striking options. They could all have a part to play and with the expansion of the bench to seven players may have greater opportunities if Roy is looking for tactical alternatives.



Rank Season 2007-08 Season 2008-07

1 Brian McBride Andy Johnson

2 Diomansy Kamara Bobby Zamora

3 Erik Nevland Erik Nevland

4 Eddie Johnson Eddie Johnson

5 Clint Dempsey David Healy

6 David Healy Diomansy Kamara

7 Collins John Collins John



Nevland impressed me in the limited pitch time he had last season. I'm sure he'll figure to some degree though more likely as a sub. Eddie Johnson seems to have a way to go before being a genuine option, his pace could be a real threat but, in the brief glimpses we've seen so far, he has a lot of work to do on positional play and decision making. As with the midfield a number of players find themselves in various states of limbo. Healy remains an enigma, he has been linked with several clubs over the close season, but if he stays will be keen to show he can cut it in the top division. Before getting injured in an international friendly, Kamara sounded very much like he was ready to move on. He's now likely to be out for several months so it seems unlikely he'll depart before January. Somehow Collins John is still on our books. I'm pretty sure his contract expired at the end of June, but he's young enough to still entitle us to a transfer fee if he moves on. He's not been involved at any level in the pre-season games so seems likely to be on his travels one way or another very soon. The seven subs allocation means that I think we have room for five or six strikers but we could get by with only four. Roy has discussed the flexibility he's looking for in our players and I think we have options to use attacking players from other parts of the squad (I'm particularly thinking of Dempsey and Gera here - possibly even Seol at a stretch ...).

When all is said and done Football is about goals so it is encouraging to see the club spend big money on new faces. I had my doubts about the move for Andy Johnson, but now he's an official part of the team I find myself getting more and more excited about the prospect of him and Zamora forming a potent partnership.

A small footnote to mention the three strikers that were released at the end of last season. Ishmael Ehui and Bjorn Runstrom were never able to make the break through from fringe players into the first team. Jari Litmanen's Fulham career may well have just been an urban myth. Very few people actually saw him in a Fulham shirt and his appearances were pretty much limited to a couple of reserve games and the occasional mention on the official website. It seems appropriate that a player who can claim to be little more than a footnote in the history of our club should be discussed one final time in this one.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Review of the summer - The Midfield

Midfield is the area that has so far seen least change. Fringe players Simon Elliott and Michael Timlin have been moved out permanently whilst both Lee Cook and Hameur Bouazza have been dispatched on season long loans. Two new players join, the versatile Zoltan Gera looking most likely to fill the left flank and Andranik Temouryian adding depth to the holding role. There's still a few question marks over which of these players will still be with us come the end of the transfer window. Steven Davis appeared very close to a move to Rangers but is currently back in the fold after the club stood firm on his valuation. This is good to hear and Roy has made some positive comments about Davis' ability to add to our squad. This could just be posturing but I'm sure if Steven remains come the end of August Roy will make use of him. Alexey Smertin seems more likely to move on as he's been pretty much invisible since he last played for the first team whilst the confusion over Jimmy Bullard's future continues to rumble. Danny Murphy, who may well be our new club captain, earns a much deserved contract extension after his season saving goal at Fratton park.


Position Season 2007-08 Season 2008-09


AM-01 R Simon Davies Simon Davies
AM-02 C Jimmy Bullard Jimmy Bullard
AM-03 C Clint Dempsey Clint Dempsey
AM-04 L Hammeur Bouazza Zoltan Gera
AM-05 C Steven Davis Steven Davis
AM-06 C Seol Ki-Hyeon Seol Ki-Hyeon
AM-07 L Lee Cook


DM-01 Danny Murphy Danny Murphy
DM-02 Leon Andreasen Leon Andreasen
DM-03 Alexey Smertin Andranik Teryouakin
DM-04 Simon Elliott Alexey Smertin


Text
I'm finding it quite hard to work out where we stand with this group of players. If we lost Bullard, Davis and Smertin before the end of August would we have enough to cope with a full season? If they are allowed to go have we got other targets lined up to replace them? There were rumours of interest in Torino's Vincenzo Grella which are quite exciting but nothing concrete. If Bullard really is completely out of favour have we actually got enough creative alternatives. I'm reasonably happy with the likely starting four but feel concerned about the depth of quality beyond that.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Zakuani and Omozusi discuss hopes for season

I wasn't supposed to be posting quite as often but a quick trawl through today's NewsNow headlines found a couple of articles that caught my interest.

Gabriel Zakuani had been on loan at Stoke for the past two seasons and was a part of the team that won promotion to the Premier League. There's not been any indication that Stoke were going to bid for him permanently though and this entry from his own Icons site HERE suggests his future is unclear.

"I am back at Fulham now. I'm in limbo a little and don't quite know what's happening. Last Thursday I played for 90 minutes in the friendly against Ipswich (a 0-0 draw held behind closed doors at Motspur Park). I thought I did well. There were quite a few people in the stands so I put my head down and concentrated on what I have to do at Fulham. I'll see if I'm involved when the season starts. If not it might be best to look elsewhere. I'll ask the Manager whether he's got plans for me and take it from there."


Meanwhile Elliott Omosuzi made his league debut for Norwich at Chris Coleman's Coventry where the Canaries lost 2-0. He spoke about being pleased with his performance and needing to adjust to the faster tempo of the Championship. The report also suggests that he will have to earn the right to play and faces competition for the right back spot from Jon Ostemobor, so it will be interesting to see how he does. The full report is on the Norwich website HERE.

Review of the summer - The Defence

One of the key areas for concern for some time has been our back four. This probably isn't surprising for a team generally operating in the lower reaches of the league table. It seemed that as soon as we had one position nicely sorted out we'd lose a key player somewhere else. Lawrie Sanchez arrived with the defence in need of some reorganisation and left with it in a shambles. Roy acted promptly bringing in the impressive Hangeland to add some presence to the centre and (it turns out only temporarily) borrowing Paul Stalteri to add experience and reliability at right back. However come the summer any depth to our defence has rapidly vanished as Hodgson took the opportunity to clear out players he felt weren't up to the job.


Position Season 2007-08 Season 2008-09

RB-01 Paul Stalteri Frederick Stoor
RB-02 Mortiz Volz John Paintsil
RB-03 Elliott Omozusi Elliott Omozusi
RB-04 Chris Baird Mortiz Volz

LB-01 Paul Konchesky Paul Konchesky
LB-02 Tony Kallio Tony Kallio

CB-01 Brede Hangeland Brede Hangeland
CB-02 Aaron Hughes Aaron Hughes
CB-03 Carlos Bocanegra Tony Kallio
CB-04 Dejan Stefanovic Chris Baird
CB-05 P. Christanval
CB-06 Ian Pearce


.
The full back slots are fairly well covered. At right back new boys Frederick Stoor and John Paintsil look likely to fight it out over who is going to be first choice. Konch will continue rampaging down the opposite flank with cover most likely to be provided by Tony Kallio who has seen his short term contract converted into a two year deal. Elliott Omozusi heads to Norwich on a season long loan which will hopefully see him gain some useful match experience. To my mind Junior is definitely capable of making the step up to first team football so I'm hopeful he will come back an improved defender and ready to make an impact with Fulham. Mortiz Volz, cult hero though he is, will surely serve himself better by finding a club where he can play regular football and there's been talk of interest from both Middlesbrough and Hull.

It's the centre back position that most concerns me. Hangeland and Hughes are a capable pairing but beyond them we're looking very thin on the ground. I'm desperate to see how Tony Kallio actually plays and to find out I plan on going to a reserves game soon to see him do his stuff. I can't imagine Chris Baird is in serious contention but from Roy's comments it looks like he has a better chance here than at right back. That said having seen him play there against Kingstonian a few weeks back I don't really fancy his chances.

We'd been linked with Croatian centre back Simunic during the European Championships, but news of any deal has gone quiet. If there's money still to spend then this is the key position we need to fill. There's a possibility that Roy has other tricks up his sleeve. He talked about the versatility of Paintsil when he signed so could he fill the role? Maybe there's someone else in the squad who could do the job in a pinch. At the very least we need a capable back up but if we are able to buy and can find an alternative of the same calibre as Simunic the squad would be looking very strong indeed.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Review of the summer - The Goalkeepers

A week to go until the action starts and so I thought I'd take a look at the changes Roy has made to the playing squad. At the end of last season, the playing staff consisted of some 44 players. Clearly there was a lot of dead wood but whilst it was easy to see who we could let go there was also a need to improve the quality of players. I'm planning to take a look at each area in turn to see where we are and what we might still need. Roy didn't waste much time sorting out the number one position so it makes sense to start with the Goalkeepers.


Rank Season 2007-08 Season 2008-09
1  Kasey Keller    Mark Schwarzer
2  Antti Niemi    David Stockdale
3  Tony Warner    Pascal Zuberb├╝hler
4  Ricardo Batista   Antti Niemi


Mark Schwarzer arrives from a successful career with Middlesbrough to claim the number one shirt. He's a proven Premiership 'keeper with a decent track record. It's been clear for a while that Antti Niemi is not having the best of times and whilst he stays on our books for the time being it's likely he'll be on his way fairly soon. Niemi has picked up another injury which might end up delaying his departure until January but I very much doubt we'll see him in a Fulham shirt again. Other new signing David Stockdale (22 year old signed from Darlington) seems to be considered good enough to be the second choice keeper, and we've brought in veteran Swiss stopper Zuberb├╝hler to provide a bit of experience if it turns out he isn't.

Ricardo Batista moved to Sporting Lisbon on a permanent deal which must be good news for him. I think I only saw him play once in a very entertaining Carling Cup game against Lincoln which we eventually won 5-4. He was clearly very nervous that night and had a complete nightmare. In fact I don't think I've ever seen a worse performance from a 'keeper. At the time I posted on TFi to say how poor he was and was taken to task by someone who correctly pointed out how young he was. Felt bad about that ever since so I wish him all the best for the future.

Tony Warner moves to Hull where he has a chance to put in his regular first game of the season blinder and embarrass us in our opening fixture. Tony definitely played his part in Fulham history. He had some bad days but some very good ones too.

Kasey Keller has apparently been released. His contract expired at the end of June but as far as I could tell the club never listed him as a player released. Poor manners from the club there, Keller made a significant contribution to our escape from relegation and deserved an official thank you at the very least. He wouldn't have been happy with being a 3rd choice keeper so no great surprise really. There's been talk that, like Brian McBride, he planned to return to his home town and play for Seattle in the MLS.

Almost a complete change in personnel then for this key position but some sound decisions from my point of view. I feel comfortable with Schwarzer being able to do a good job in the number one jersey and early reports suggest that Stockdale is decent as well.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sunday Morning

Well actually it's quite late on Saturday night. I really should be off to bed but I find myself still sitting at the computer tapping away having realised it's over a week since I posted. Having just spent the week with my Dad in not-quite-as-sunny-as-we-expected Bexhill we've spent the day catching up on household jobs in between trips to various swimming pools.

Since I was last here Andy Johnson finally signed having successfully navigated the Fulham medical ploy that previously caught out John Carew and Marlon King. Lee Cook, T.J. Moncur and Hameur Bouazza have all gone out on loan and Roy is rapidly closing in on his chosen squad.

Yesterday afternoon Fulham contrived to draw 2-2 with Torino in our final pre-season friendly. There's a really good report by Jamie R at CCN
HERE.

Rob's done one of his excellent previews with an opposition fan ahead of our opening fixture at Hull City. Read that and admire Rob's smart redesign at Following The Fulham
HERE.

Finally, my friend Andy has had his blog, a record of his travels following the road to the F.A. Cup final, turned into a book. A real, honest-to-goodness, proper, published book. Respect is most definitely due. Further details at
Wick to Wembley?.

By the time you read this it will indeed be Sunday morning, so this seems appropriate ...

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Kingstonian 0 Fulham XI 8 - Match Report and Photos

A Friday night trip to Kingsmeadow and the chance to see the team from the town of my birth play the team I support. This was billed as a Fulham Reserves side but featured a number of senior players either on the fringes of the squad or in search of pre-season fitness. The team lined-up GK: Neil Etheridge, RB: Moritz Volz (c), CB: TJ Moncur, CB: Chris Baird, LB: Joe Anderson, RM: Wayne Brown, CM: Robert Milsom, CM: Andranik, LM: Hameur Bouazza, ST: Clint Dempsey, ST: Erik Nevland, Subs - GK: Wesley Foderingham, CB: Chris Smalling, MF: Lewis Cumber, MF: Lewis Smith. Conspicuous by his absence (appropriately enough, as you could say that about his entire Fulham career) was Lee Cook who had been listed in the expected squad but completed a loan move back to Q.P.R. earlier in the day.

The attractions of the club bar and a bit of confusion on my part as to exactly when kick-off was meant I missed the beginning of the game and also Fulham's first goal (scored by Nevland). The action I did see saw the Whites not really getting out of second gear. Despite looking comfortable in possession we weren't creating many goal scoring opportunities and if anything it was Kingstonian that looked the most likely to score. Dean Lodge looked lively on the right wing and was the inspiration behind most of the K's attacking play. Phillipines number 1 'keeper (copyright Colin at CaB ) Neil Etheridge was forced into making a number of saves as our back four made hard work of the task at hand. Just before the break a defence splitting pass from (I think) Andranik allowed Hammeur Bouazza to race through and fire home a second goal.

The second half saw Fulham up the tempo and Wayne Brown scored very early on with "an exquisite curling strike just after the break". I managed to miss that goal as well (the evils of a comfortable bar - what can you do?) but reports suggest this was probably the goal of the game. Nevland doubled his tally, Andranik won a penalty which Clint was first in the queue to take and successfully fired home. Chris Smalling replaced T.J. Moncur in defence. I felt T.J. did as well as any of our defenders on the night. Chris Baird was poor and didn't do anything to suggest he was any better in a central position than he was at right back whilst Mortiz Volz improved as the game went on but also failed to shine. Joe Anderson who had worked hard at left back was replaced by Lewis Cumber (a move which saw Robert Milsom drop into the left back role) and Lewis Smith came on for Wayne Brown. Bouazza blasted a shot into the roof of the net to make it six, before Dempsey added his second and Lewis Smith completed the scoring.

New signing Andranik was the player that impressed me most. He always looked comfortable on the ball and pretty much dictated the flow of the game. Playing in that holding midfielder role he was able to help out the centre backs mopping up any loose balls and was usually the starting point for any forward play. Wayne Brown impressed again playing mainly on the right wing. good feet and a bundle of energy he's the one home grown player I've seen who might have enough to break into the first team. Lewis Smith also caught the eye. He had the benefit of coming on for the last 10 or 15 minutes by which time the K's had made several changes and were visibly running out of steam. Like Brown, Smith had some neat touches and took his goal very well.

A nice way to spend a Friday night then. It's always great to see your team win a game by 8 goals, even if you do only see 6 of them. There's also a short report from the Kingstonians site HERE.



Fulham free kick about to be sent harmlessly over the bar (just like the first team!)


Robert Milsom attempts to control the ball under pressure


Bouazza in the foreground looking for space, whilst Andranik directs operations