The Post-Juventus Comedown

March 28, 2010

There can be no doubt that Fulham’s amazing comeback against Juventus will go down as one of the best games in the history of Fulham FC. It was a truly magical night that I was proud to witness first hand. When the season draws to a close, people will look back and consider the Juventus game a truly great night in a pretty special season. Right now, however, it looks a little different.

Three games after Fulham inserted themselves into European folklore,  things are not looking so rosy. A defeat to Man City may have been expected, but this was followed with two results which are more difficult to simply laugh off. Being knocked out of the FA cup by Tottenham is not something to be ashamed of, yet it still stung, especially since Fulham had effectively played them off the park at their own stadium in the first half. The loss to Hull on saturday stung also, but in a different way. This time Fulham had lost to a team struggling to perform with one of Football’s worst managers in charge. To add more misery, one of the goals was scored by former Fulham fan favourite and all round ‘cheeky chappy’ Jimmy Bullard.

But to look at the results in the above way neglects the subtleties of the recent run of poor results. Fulham could have drawn against City if Okaka had scored when through one on one. Fulham were undone against Tottenham by a decent delivery and a slice of luck. And against Hull, many key first teamers were rested for the upcoming clash with Wolfsburg on thursday night. The myopia of some fans is truly amazing. Before I get harassed as someone who won’t criticise Hodgson I would just like to point out a few things. Before the Man City game, fans were screaming for a full 2nd team to be played in order for the heroes from the Juventus game to be rested for the midweek FA Cup clash with Spurs. When this didn’t happen and Fulham subsequently lost both games, the message boards were full of ‘I would have liked to see Riise, he has always looked fantastic when brought on’ or ‘why is Roy so hesitant with his subs’ or ‘why is Kelly still playing’. A week after the Man City loss and some fans have produced a Fox News-like turnaround in opinion. When I logged on to one fan message board I was greeted with ‘Dikgacoi, Riise, (insert player name here) not good enough’ etc etc etc.  For me, the Hull game was almost a Hodgson riposte to the naysayers. I know that he would never select a team to prove people wrong and that the changes were with the Wolfsburg game in mind, but to me they seemed to make a statement. Don’t like Kelly? Lets see how you like Shorey on the right. Riise the best thing since sliced bread? Lets see how you like him in the premier league.

It is a fans job to be highly critical ( and I am as unreasonable as most at games) but I think we need to take a deep breath and look forward. This week we have a European Quarter Final against the reigning Bundesliga champions. If all does not go to plan and we are knocked out we still have some winnable games to look forward too and the fact that our premier league status is all but assured. Add to this that we might sneak into the Europa next season under the fair play banner and it is all looking a bit better.  This summer should be very interesting. I do not think that massive investment is needed. Fulham are in a funny position for a club of its size. There is a good squad that is full of players who have been here a few seasons and there is the feeling of stability that has perhaps not been here since Fulham’s entry into the top flight. If we can add a few smart signings then the squad will improve as former first teamers who are perhaps getting on a bit move into the squad (such as Danny Murphy)  and younger players arrive to take their place and strengthen the first team. Success (read: the victory over juventus)does a funny things to people. I have been as disappointed about the last week as the next man, but we need to ask ourselves why we follow Fulham keep our feet on the ground and try to enjoy what has been one of the most enjoyable and successful periods in the clubs history.

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One Response to “The Post-Juventus Comedown”

  1. Nick W Says:

    Spot on. Especially the comment views on the fringe players. Roy is blamed for not playing them enough – when he does; they are accused of not being good enough.

    It is very difficult for a mid-level Premiership club like Fulham to have strength (and quality) in depth. Players want to play regularly, so often will happily move to teams like Burnley (for example) or even to the Championship to get first team football. Players are less happy to be on the bench, unless they are doing so at a “big” club where they have a chance of winning something. If they are bench players who are good enough to be in the first team, they are unlikely to stick around if they aren’t playing regularly.

    The criticism of Greening to me seems perplexing. Sure, he’s no Murphy. But he’s a model professional, a good player with Premiership experience, and one who will not complain if he’s on the bench. He hasn’t let us down so far – surely the main role of a player who is effectively cover?

    If Kelly was good enough to be a regular first team player in the Premiership, then he would be doing so at another club. In my view, he is adequate cover. Of course he’s not going to be as good as Panstil: that’s why Pantsil is 1st choice and not Kelly.

    I think the main negative from Hodgson’s tenure as manager is that expectations are now as high as they have ever been. Fulham now get criticised for not making it to Wembley, when they were playing their 50th game of the season, a replay away against fourth-placed Spurs (who haven’t had Europe to contend with). The players who came on alone cost as much as the entire Fulham team. But of course, once Fulham lose, people start spouting off, saying “Not Good Enough!”

    Of course it’s annoying when we lose to teams like Hull. But that’s football. We can’t expect us be beat better clubs without expecting worse clubs to beat us – that is simply the way football works. If you want to support a team where you expect to win every game, go down the round and follow Chelsea. Or join the hoardes of Londoners who support Manchester United!

    I agree about investment. A couple of players will do. I see no real for rationale for all these cries for “If we have ambition, we must spend millions and millions! We may come 6th if we do so!” It’s simply irresponsible. The rewards do not cover the costs, and the massive financial risk that will be put on the club. We don’t want to end up the way of Portsmouth, Leeds, even Chester City. I, for one, am quite happy as we are, thank you very much.


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