Archive for May, 2010

Transfer Speculation – The First Edition (of Many)

May 18, 2010

With Fulham’s season now officially in the books, it is time to start wild speculation over who might be coming to the cottage this summer courtesy of Mohammed Al-Fayed. Here is a run down of the positions that I think we need to look for and who the potential candidates are:

1) Striker – Whilst a certain Mr.Zamora has captured the hearts and minds of the Fulham faithful this season with a comeback comparable to Fulhams very own against Juventus, a partner for him up front would be ideal. This may be a little harsh on Fulham’s forgotten man Andrew Johnson, but with questions over not only his fitness but his impact on the way the team (and more importantly Zamora) plays mean that it looks like Roy will be looking for some striking reinforcements.  I would like to see Carlton Cole arrive, but his supposed £15m asking price and probable high wages would mean I cannot see him making the trip across London. More Likely is Frederic Piquionne, who would come as a backup for Zamora (meaning Elm would make way) and/or Nicky Maynard who looks like more of  work in progress but it would be exciting to have a promising English youngster on the books. Off the top of my head I am drawing a bit of a blank when it comes to strikers, but Fulham will undoubtebly be linked with anyone and everyone over the next few months.

2) Central Midfield – This is an area that requires some attention in the ‘playmaker’ capacity. Danny Murphy has had a good season but he is noticeably starting to tire and it looks like a new, younger, centre mid is a priority. Steven Sidwell would be available at bargain basement prices and has been touted as a replacement for Murphy. If anyone could get Sidwells career back on track it is Roy and I think this could potentially be a tidy piece of business for Fulham. My favoured signing would be Mark Noble who has run the Hammers midfield for many a season now and would be a like for like replacement for Murphy. He is also young (23!!) and English which are two big positives. If West Ham are serious about their clearout I would be disappointed if Fulham did not make a run for Noble, especially if a club like Stoke, Blackburn or Sunderland got him. On a side note, Jack Collison would be a superb purchase as well.

3) Defenders – A backup centre back seems to be the order of the day in the offseason. Fulham already have a Hughes replacement in Chris Baird, so cover for Hangeland is what is needed. Paul Scharner has been mooted as a potential pick up, but he wants to play in midfield so may be out of the question. The other question is over left back where Paul Konchesky has no cover. Bringing in Nicky Shorey would be a great move but I don’t think he would be happy swapping one bench for another.

More transfer speculation soon!

Expecting the Unexpected

May 16, 2010

In Michael Lewis’s excellent book ‘Moneyball: The art of winning an unfair game’ there is a section that describes the motives behind supporting a perennial underdog rather than a perennial winner. I scoured the book for the exact quote and couldn’t find it, but it goes something along the lines of ‘When you support a big team, the joy comes from expecting to win, when you support an underdog, the joy comes from the unexpected’. This is worth keeping in mind after Fulham’s amazing run to the Europa League final.

Part of the joy of the Hodgson era at Fulham has been the unexpected. The ‘Great Escape’ Season looked to be Fulham’s last in the premier league until Hodgson unexpectedly turned it around in the last few games.  Last season we were treated to the unexpected sight of a Fulham side not shipping goals and eventually reaching the heights of 7th spot and a place in the Europa League. This season has revolved around Fulham’s unexpected run in the Europa League mixed with some enjoyable, but unexpected, home wins (Man Utd and Liverpool to name but two). Ultimately it is the unexpected that has made supporting Fulham over the past 2 1/2 years so damn enjoyable.

The Europa League final in Hamburg may have ended in disappointment but ultimately I think the sense of pride and general enjoyment from the whole competition will overtake any lingering feelings of frustration and unhappiness. I was certainly pretty crushed when Diego Forlan snuck in Athletico Madrids AET winner with little/no time for a Fulham response. The thoughts of a missed chance and the idea that never again would Fulham have such a chance for a major piece of silverware clouded my mind on the oh-so long coach trip back home.

However, if we look at what this competition was all about for Fulham then we get some perspective. Pretty much all of the games up until the semi-final were an adventure where the only thing that mattered was the journey, new experiences and the moments. To me that is what Fulham is all about. If I had wanted to spend my life bathing in the glory of my team I would have chosen a Manchester United or Arsenal to follow not Fulham. Up until the semi-final the enjoyment of something new was driving the Fulham  faithful forward, but this all changed at the semi-final stage. Suddenly it looked as though Fulham might be able to go all of the way. The mood changed completely and I spent the majority of the Hamburg second leg feeling ill and incredibly nervous. Again for the Final the mood was more one of a tense nervousness rather than an enjoyment of the unexpected. We had moved from the motivation of the underdog closer to the motivation of the favourite, not completely by any means, but  certainly closer. This made the subsequent disappointment far more crushing than it ought to have been.

Now when I look back on this competition I am pretty amazed. Putting on a defensive masterclass when knocking out Shakhtar. Beating Juventus 4-1 when Fulham were on the verge of exiting the competition. Outplaying Wolfsburg over two legs. Beating Hamburg in a semi-final of a European competition with the crowd seemingly helping the team to an unforgettable win by creating an unforgettable atmosphere. And of course pushing Athletico Madrid all of the way in a European final. Pride is the only word that can describe Fulham’s achievements. I have never felt as attached to a group of players as the current Fulham squad. I felt more upset for them at the final whistle on Wednesday night than for myself, the club and the other fans combined. Unfortunately the completely unexpected didn’t happen this season, but it came very close to happening and that has been the thrill of supporting Fulham.

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A few comments from my trip to Hamburg. The whole trip was enjoyable despite the result. I feel very lucky to of had the opportunity to support my team in a European final. The atmosphere along the Reeperbahn was fantastic and the Athletico fans were friendly and loud. A personal highlight was the trip to the stadium. I somehow managed to get into the underground at exactly the right time to get an early train to the ground, surrounded by hundreds of others all in a jovial atmosphere. The sound of chanting echoing off of the enclosed spaces of the station and then the train will live long in the memory. Hopefully Fulham will have another chance to visit Hamburg in years to come.