Blog Archive

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Cashkan Dejagah and On The Dribble

So it's actually been a month or so since my last chance to really sit down and write about Fulham, the selfish priorities of my soon to be wife have seen me distracted with wedding plans when what I should of been focusing on is the rapidly approaching start to the season that we don't quite seem ready for.

I did manage to draw myself away for long enough to get down to Crawley for the friendly outing but for the large part have been content with just sitting and watching as players seemingly come and go on a daily basis.

Up to a few days ago I must say that I had been rather impressed with the way in which Felix has overseen what was always going to be a difficult summer of transition. The vast majority of last seasons first team are already elsewhere and the few that remain are unlikely to be here for much longer. In my own mind I had already mentally prepared for the exodus and tried to seek solace in the few seasoned pro's who would definitely still be here forming the basis of a solid but unremarkable Championship outfit.

David Stockdale would certainly have been one of them and while I fully appreciate the difficult job both Magath and Alistair Mackintosh have in overhauling a whole squad, I can't help but feel that a little stability in one area could have gone a long way to providing a base for us to be ready for the first day of the season.

The fact that Maarten Stekelenburg has been given the Number 1 shirt suggests that there may yet be a future for him at the club although I suspect we are simply going to put him in the shop window for a few games in August and end up with A) Someone from the Bundesliga or B) Adam Bogdan.

It remains to be seen if this fabled move to River Plate will come about for Rodallega who is another I felt could do a job this season. Dejagah leaving was fairly inevitable with the only disappointing aspect being that I thought he would leave because he was too good for this level but instead he ended up taking early retirement in Qatar.

Based on the Crawley game and the reports throughout pre season it seems to me that despite all of the upheaval we are not to far away from having that solid base, albeit with far more new faces than I would have liked. Hutchinson looks a solid addition alongside Burn and in Stafylidis it seems for the first time since forever we actually have a left back. Voser and Hoogland both seem adequate at right back although who really cares when you still have Zverotic right?

The diamond midfield seems a decent idea based on the premise that Parker can stay fit and Chris David does what he has been doing consistently. Hyndman also look promising and the addition of Eisfeld could be inspired. It remains to be seen what the futures of Mitroglou and Ruiz hold but in McCormack, Woodrow and Taggart we still have options available. Despite the impressive hat-trick in the US I remain unconvinced that Dembele is quite ready for first team football week in week out.

I think as fans we need to set our expectations for what lye's ahead. Playing someone like Ipswich first game of the season, McCarthy will have them organised, relatively unchanged from last season and hard to beat. We are going to need at least 3/4 games to find our shape so expect a slow start. We have all been moaning for years about the retirement home we have been running under Martin Jol so now is the time to embrace the youth and show a degree of patience.

I'm not saying it is going to be a smooth ride but here's to the next step......... #COYW


As a side note I am sticking with my prediction of a late push for a play off place having sacked Felix in December despite being 11th and 6 points off the top 6. No idea who we will bring in before you ask but he will get results!

Friday, 27 June 2014

Fulham Pre-Season Verbal Diarrhoea

So its been a few weeks since I have written anything Fulham related and between you and me it's been a bit of a relief given the roller coaster that has been the last 12 months. I would like to extend a big thank you to the England national team for their efforts in topping off one of the worst footballing seasons of my life with an abject performance in Brazil. I had fully expected the World cup to be a welcome distraction for at least a few weeks but clearly 6 days was the best they could manage. The irony that it was a Bryan Ruiz goal which sealed our fate was probably not lost on those fellow Fulham fans watching on.

I can't help but feel in the case of Ruiz that some of the praise has been generated more with view to telling a story than being based on hard facts. Having Andy Townsend telling you that Ruiz had been “impressive” during his time at PSV seems a little far fetched especially having heard differing opinions on the same subject from PSV fans directly. The coverage I have seen of the Costa Rican seemed nothing different to the player of the last few seasons. Sprinklings of quality diluted by wayward passing and a tendency to be continually caught in possession in the middle of the park.

Naturally any player who is out in Brazil is likely to be attracting the attentions of scouts and it remains to be seen who if any will remain at the club for the season ahead. My heart tells me that Ruiz and Mitroglou will be off, if not for financial reasons then for the fact that we as a club need to make a clean start and build around those that want to play week in week out in the 2nd tier of English Football.

Dejagah on the other hand is an interesting one. I don't doubt that given the chance Ashkan would perform for us in the Championship but I would expect there to be interested parties at a higher level so it remains to be seen if we can hold on him.

There have already been a number of high profile exits and early reports show senior players at pre season training are few and far between.

The release of Karagounis, Diarra,Riise, Duff and co signals a dramatic shift in the make up of our squad. It is a process that would perhaps have been better implemented gradually over the last few years but at least now it is done. What actually happened with Brede Hangeland remains unclear although no one can deny he was a fantastic servant to the club and I wish him all the best for the future (Unless he ends up at QPR of course).

Felix has obviously been busy having already made 3 signings to bolster the squad. Hutchinson, Hoogland and Taggart are all fairly unknown quantities to me although it is refreshing to see players coming in who are at an age where they can still develop at the club. This season will be more about the squad than it has been for a while given the number of games and intensity of the Championship fixture list.

Yesterday we also saw Sacha Reither depart for Freiburg. The German didn't perhaps replicate his form of his first season with the club but was still in the bracket of players we could expect to leave the club upon relegation.

The most important thing for us as a club is to get to a stage fairly quickly where we can be confident the squad we have in hand is willing to stick it out for the season. Clearly Magath has been active and rumours of bids for the likes of Ross McCormack indicate that the German does have the backing of Shahid Khan to launch a quick return to the Premier League.

Of course it is hard to achieve any sort of “Feel good factor” during pre season but some sort of solidarity and team bonding will be needed for us to be ready for Portman road on the first day of the season. The appointment of Peter Grant as first team coach is an interesting one. As an individual he is certainly someone who knows his way around the Championship and at the very least will perhaps keep the dross from the press around Magath being out of his depth and lacking experience at this level to a minimum.

As supporters we are going to have to show a degree of patience with progress this summer and have faith in the younger players to make that step up. There is no doubt we can expect a number of re-enforcements and certainly some further exits in the coming weeks but hopefully the worst of it is over. We can focus on some positive thoughts and anticipate a league season where for the first time in a long long time we are expected to be towards the top of the table.

I apologise for the lack of any given structure to this particular posting as it has been more of a ramble around the past months activity. Can't say I am particularly enthused with the new home kit but I have promised to keep the negativity to a minimum.... for now.

At the end of the day who cares what colour we play in as long as we start winning again.... Of course I draw the line at wearing Blue, Or hoops for that matter.

Here is to another month of turmoil before the big kick off in August.


Saturday, 5 April 2014

21st century punditry for 21st century football

Soon after Alan Hansen announced his intentions to hang up his open collar shirts and step down as a lead pundit for MOTD, the BBC have adopted an open door policy to a seemingly endless queue of ex professionals eager to step in and offer their thoughts on the weekend’s events.

While Hanson is arguably synonymous with our weekly Premier League review, I couldn’t help but feel this was a perfect opportunity to address the outdated furniture and take a leaf out of Sky's books by bringing in individuals more in touch with the modern game.

Football has changed so much both on and off the pitch in the last 10 years that to offer credible analysis and true understanding you surely have to have first-hand experience instead of relying on timeless football clichés and basic observations as a form of punditry, yes I mean you Alan Shearer.

Gary Neville's was not a popular choice when it was announced he would join Sky in 2011 but it's testament to his insight and knowledge of the modern game that he is already widely regarded as one of the best around. Jamie Carragher joined him this season and again has been a breath of fresh air in his understanding and interpretation of proceedings.

Of course punditry shouldn't be limited to players alone and having managers does add a different viewpoint but I find it hard to value such an opinion when their own failings become the reason they are doing punditry in the first place. For example, Harry Redknapp on MOTD having been relegated with QPR a season earlier seems farcical. Roy Keane was undoubtedly a world class player but it’s hard to take on board his “constructive criticism” on Champions League ties having seen both Sunderland and Ipswich under his tenure.

It is time for our football punditry to actually reflect the game that we are watching. The insight offered needs to be from someone who has experienced top level football in its current state rather than drawing on past glories that in this day and age come across as out of touch. We are at the stage where some so called pundits offer no more value than having Russell Brand on every week.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Downsizing may be a good thing

The news that both Larnell Cole and Ryan Tunnicliffe had been shipped out on loan yesterday was greeted with relative scepticism amongst the Fulham faithful particularly in Tunnicliffe’s case as he had already shown signs of breaking in to the first team and providing some much needed younger legs to an aging side. There is no doubt that both can still have promising future’s with the club and it is important to remember that these are only loan deals and have no option of becoming permanent. Clearly Felix Magath just feels at this stage that neither is in his eyes going to start on a regular basis this season and it would be beneficial for all parties if they can get football elsewhere.

Felix has mentioned a number of times now that he feels the current squad is too big and we may well still see a few more departing on loan in the next week. The fact is our current squad is a hybrid of players brought in across a number of managerial spells so in turn is not only on the large side but also rather fractured.  Of course I have no concrete insight in to the daily goings on within our squad and my ramblings are purely speculative but it would’t surprise me in the slightest if our players have numerous  cliques and groups which in the situation we find ourselves in does little to encourage a team bond or spirit as a whole.

One factor that I felt was particularly overlooked when considering the the sacking of Rene Meulensteen was the significance of dropping 2 senior players in Hangeland and Parker for the Man Utd and Liverpool games. In fairness to Rene both Kvist and Burn performed amicably in their absence but I can’t help but feel if the club captain and Parker were disgruntled at all then they, if any player at the club, would have been able to communicate that to various stakeholders and only add to applying pressure on the Manager. I would of course like to believe that both are professional enough to get on with it without any complaints although we all know about well documented player power in recent years. At the end of the day it was results that were the major factor in bringing yet another change in management although I am sure there were other reasons which contributed.

In addition to the players that Jol brought including the likes of Stekelenburg, Riise, Karagounis, Richardson, Dejagah and Reither we now have a group of players within the squad from Rene’s time like Heitinga, Holtby, Mitroglou, Kvist, Cole and Tunnicliffe.  There are still a few Hodgson players kicking about like Hangeland, Duff and Stockdale as well as Sidwell and Kacaniklic from the Mark Hughes era. Each set of players was likely brought in to the club under the impression of a certain football philosophy, a promise of game time and an affiliation with the particular manager is it so hard to believe that certain divides may exist within our squad?

Much has been reported about the methods Magath is seemingly infamous for and what strikes me is that this ways of going about things is always going to be far more effective in a tight knit group than in a large one and by reducing the squad size the German is attempting to build some camaraderie and fuse together a group of individuals for the battle that lies ahead.  The one thing that we as a team need more than anything at the moment is some consistency both in terms of team selection and performance so Felix needs to identify the 18 or so players he sees as being involved in the run in and get them to bond.

Again just to reiterate , I have no solid evidence of these divides within the squad but was just a thought as to the reason why Felix is looking to reduce the squad now for the remainder of the season. Less players in a training session will hopefully mean a more hands on approach and allow us to improve in areas that have perhaps been neglected in recent seasons. I always got the impression that Rene ran the club with one hand tied behind his back in accommodating Wilkins and Curbishley but at the very least we need to let Felix Magath be held accountable for his own choices and just hope that another great escape is still on the cards.