The Misunderstanding of Jonathan Greening

December 9, 2009

Taking a moment to sidestep the Zamora debate, lets look at Jonathan Greening. Well not just him, but Fulham’s signings under Hodgson.

It is a Football fans duty to be impulsive, this is what creates atmosphere at grounds, makes people lose it when their team scores and makes football (and sport in general) so goddam interesting. However, acting on impulse is not something that should be done when it comes to transfers. In the words of Lloyd Grossman, ‘Lets look at the evidence’:

Jonathan Greening— He has come in for some stick lately from the Fulham faithful. For me this is a case of misunderstanding. I don’t think many Fulham fans would claim to have extensively followed the career of Greening. As Rich has shown over at CCN his role in the team passing wise,  is not that of  a Danny Murphy player, but like his role at West Brom, a recycler of the ball. However when he was pursued and then purchased by Roy, many (myself included) thought he was to be a cover for DM. He is cover, but not like for like cover. Despite Fulham having an excellent run of form with him in the team he is being dismissed as a waste of money. For me this is impulsive. He is settling into a team in the place of the captain- of course he is not going to have the same impact. What he has done is be solid and passed well (ie. not giving away the ball). The other reason he is misunderstood is because of the formation that Fulham play. Whilst watching the Sunderland game at the weekend the commentator kept banging on about how Duff and Dempsey cutting inside was confusing the Sunderland defence. This got me thinking. I think that at the moment, with Fulham’s major creator and influential captain out of the picture Roy is playing a fluid 4-4-2 formation that almost ends up 4-2-2-2. Duff and Dempsey are taking the creative strain both out wide and in the middle, changing Greening’s role and almost forcing him to sit deeper. This coupled with Roy’s instructions to maintain shape in the middle and not go running off like a Jimmy Bullard limits what Greening can do. Impulsively, on first glance, he looks sluggish and nervous. I believe he is fulfilling his role almost to perfection. He could add a few more forward passes down the middle into his repertoire but he is doing fine.

Dickson Etuhu— Again, many Fulham fans impulsively labelled him ‘rubbish’ early doors.  Rumours of his nickname at Sunderland ‘Two touch Etuhu’ spread and he came in for a lot of criticism. But after a bedding in period and some of Roy’s tried and trusted training, he became first choice to partner Murphy. His goal at Man City appeared to win over the rest of his critics and now people miss his presence in the midfield.

Chris Baird–Possibly the best example of impulsive criticism. When he arrived he had just been voted player of the year at Southampton. Within a few weeks he was being derided as Fulham’s worst ever signing. Impulsively we took one look at him, playing at right back, and thought we understood what he was all about. When Roy did not ship him out with the other dead wood, we should have cottoned on. Fast forward to this year and he has become central to recent success. His performances in the Europa league alongside Smalling have been excellent. His deputising in the centre of midfield crucial. Yes he cannot play right back, but a little more digging shows that he is a good utility player who is a perfect fit for Fulham; he will sit on the bench and not complain, but has the confidence to come in and stake a claim for a permanent place in the team.

Bobby Zamora— I didn’t want to mention him but oh well. Similar pattern to above, but he is still divisive. Impulsively we saw a striker who could not finish the most simple of chances. But with time we came to recognise his overall contribution to the team, why Roy stuck with him and his consistently high work rate. Personally, I love the guy. I have even started to warm to his mistakes and inability to be a consistent finisher. If his form keeps up I will happily jump on the ‘Bobby for England’ bandwagon.

Basically all I have said is that Football fans are by their nature impulsive and therefore are too quick to judge something that is a bit more nuanced than first believed. I have been liable to be impulsive as the next fan, especially in the case of Baird, but I am trying to take a more holistic and relaxed approach to my support of Fulham. As the transfer window pulls into view we should bear this impulsiveness in mind as new signings come and bed in to Fulham FC, especially if they are slow starters.

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