Archive for August, 2010

Blackpool 2-2 Fulham

August 28, 2010

A crazy game that Blackpool were unlucky to draw, but a result that should please the Fulham faithful. After the highs of Wednesday night it was tough to see Fulham a goal down but pleasing to see that the resilience that was shown against Manchester United was still evident.  For me, this game really gave us some clues of how Mark Hughes wants his side to play and what we can expect to see in the future.

The game was played at a frantic pace, Blackpool pressurising Fulham all over the pitch and really playing up to the crowd, feeding off their energy. Blackpool had the majority of the ball and were passing about nicely, although not creating many clear cut chances. After having  goal correctly disallowed, Blackpool went behind. Dembele was put through on the right wing and beat his man with an excellent cross, nodded in by the mercurial Bobby Zamora.  Blackpool were not  disheartened and finished the half well, out passing Fulham, but again failing to look particularly dangerous up front.

The second half continued at the same frantic pace with Blackpool really pushing Fulham. When Zamora came off Fulham lost some of their tactical identity and it was not long before the breakthrough came.  Luke Varney caused problems up front, before getting a shot off that was smashed into the top corner by the hapless John Paintsil (who had the worst game I have seen from an RB at Fulham in a good few seasons).  With Fulham rocking, Blackpool capitalised with an excellent goal. A poor pass from John Paintsil was intercepted and Luke Varney was put through; he made no mistake with an assured finish. At this point it looked as though Blackpool would put Fulham to the sword but they sat back slightly and allowed Fulham back into the game.  It didn’t look like Fulham could create anything without Zamora but after Blackpool gave the ball away, Moussa Dembele (who was the best player on the pitch) hit a slide-rule through ball for Dickson Etuhu to latch on to. Etuhu finished with a deft chip over the keeper and looked comfortable doing so, which surprised me to say the least. Looks like we might have a player on our hands.

After that the game fizzled out as both sides settled for a draw. Fulham relieved not to have thrown away too many points but disappointed at not capitalising on their early lead, Blackpool happy for the point but disappointed not to have had all three.  Looks like we may have to wait a while for our first away win…

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Dembele, Halliche and Salcido

August 27, 2010

So Mark Hughes has wasted little time bringing in some new faces and start to mould the squad in his image.  Lets go through the signings:

Moussa Dembele (£5m, AZ Alkmaar) – Hughes’s first signing in the transfer window and one that has already got people excited. Dembele made his debut against Man Utd and looked completely comfortable, especially since he had played less than 90mins is pre season. We got a second look at him on his full debut against Port Vale and he looked excellent. Powerful runs were matched with excellent awareness and some great distribution. Dembele notched up his first goal too, a cracking drive for the edge of the area which snuck inside the left hand post. It is early days but Dembele is already looking like a bargain at £5m.

Rafik Halliche (£1.6m, Benfica) – A slightly left field signing but one that had been on the back-burner for a while with Halliche training with the Fulham squad. Halliche spent last season on loan at Portuguese side Nacional and finding his opportunities limited at Benfica decided to try his luck at Fulham. He had an excellent world cup and Hughes has seemed impressed with his performances in training. I am sure he is a backup for Hughes and Hangeland, but it is always good to have cover.

Carlos Salcido (£2m, PSV) – Signed today, Salcido is a left back by trade and comes in either as deputy to Paul Konchesky or as a replacement, depending on who you believe. Like Halliche, Salcido had an excellent world cup. He had fallen down the pecking order at PSV and had been looking to move on. Salcido appears to be a quality player and it will be good to have some cover at left back (finally!).

With the potential for new signings over the next few days, these really are exciting times for Fulham under Mark Hughes!

Forget it Jake, It’s Chinatown

August 4, 2010

The Mark Hughes press conference on Tuesday brought a degree of closure to the last few months for Fulham. Finally a new man was officially in place, ready to help everyone look forward to the next season. Of course, the press conference also helped to drag up what some would consider ‘unfinished business’. I am of course referring to the comments of Mohamed Al-Fayed on the subject of Roy Hodgson.

“This other guy let us down and just walked away. But we have a nice guy now. Don’t mention Roy Hodgson any more.

“He (Hughes) is the man in charge. He’s much better than the previous one. I am sure he’s going to do a great job. He knows what he’s doing. Fulham’s a wonderful club.

“There are no complications, no bureaucracy here. I am sure he will deliver. I’ve given him £50 to buy a new striker.

“This guy (Hodgson), after we put him where he is now, he took advantage. But I’m sure he’s (Hughes) going to win us the championship.

“We gave him all the support, we believed in him and he just let us down. It’s no problem because Mark is much better. He has a great team and we had some fantastic results, but this guy (Hodgson) after we put him where he is now, took advantage.”

Not the most flattering stuff from Al-Fayed there. Many fans were quick to jump to his defence, saying that he has done more for Fulham than Hodgson ever could of. Whilst this is undoubtedly true, I cannot back MAF with these comments. Hodgson was a faithful servant to Fulham. He should be considered as one of the most successful and popular managers who have had the delight of managing Fulham.

The sad thing for me is not the loss of Hodgson but the response to his departure by some fans. There  is a section of Fulham support who are acting like children saying that Roy has gone back on his word etc etc.  Hodgson left for a bigger club, a club in a position of relative distress. Another challenge for Hodgson, similar to the one he took on at Fulham. I can’t bring myself to blame him in any shape or form. He did not ‘string Fulham along’ nor stab us fans in the back/heart. He took a great job offer and a shot at footballing immortality at Liverpool. After his nomadic managerial career who would begrudge him that? I hope that he is a sucess at Liverpool (as long as we do the double over them) and gets the plaudits that he deserves.

As for the rest of us it is time to move on.  We should all take a step back like Jake Gittes in Chinatown and remember what we are dealing with here. This is the business of football. Loyalty is a nostalgic premise which simply no longer exists (if it ever really did, as people wish to believe it did). If Hughes is successful at Fulham over the next few years he will surely move on to a bigger club. When this happens, I will thank him for his success at Fulham and move on. Because after all, It’s Chinatown.