Sixer’s Fulham Soapbox: not so neutral as Hangeland out-Cattermoles Cattermole

Jake may be in Spain but he felt the full force of Sixer's roar from Fulham

Neutral? Not flaming likely. Pete Sixsmith and Monsieur Salut may have been in a part of Craven Cottage described as such but it is unlikely that many around us gained the impression we couldn’t really care less about the outcome …

“Thank goodness
for that”, was the collective thought (“goodness” possibly wasn’t the word – ed) as the many Sunderland fans trooped out of Craven Cottage into a chill autumn night. Three points and three goals meant the journey home was a relative pleasure, even if the train was dry and the hour of arrival late.

It rounded off a good day and nudged me as to why I go to away games. A train trip away is a comparative rarity nowadays and it was grand to sit back, read the papers and watch York, Doncaster, Newark etc glide by as the train took the strain, as a certain unmentionable Radio 1 DJ used to say.

We spent an enjoyable couple of hours in a rather disappointing White Horse at Parsons Green catching up with friends not seen for a while and drooling over the plates of pink beef being devoured by a large Spanish speaking family. This was followed by a brisk walk and taxi ride to Craven Cottage, where M Salut and I were in the Neutral Zone, where tickets were a fiver courtesy of a helpful Fulham season ticket holder (one of my daughter Nathalie’s football teammates, Carley, to whom thanks and commiserations – ed).

I find the concept of a neutral zone bizarre. I can’t imagine one at our ground or at Goodison or even at the Sports Direct, where the very words neutral are met with disdain.

As it was there was a mixture of Sunderland fans, Fulham irregulars and a variety of Japanese, American and Russian tourists who wanted to experience a Premier League game but who couldn’t or wouldn’t fork out to the touts at Spurs, Arsenal or Chelsea. We all gathered in the Putney End on temporary seats that have been there for longer than temporary.

The first half was worth approximately 10 per cent of the fiver.

We looked little better than we have all season until Hangeland decided to out-Cattermole Cattermole with a tackle that might have been legitimate back in the days of Dickie Rooks but is a sure red card in this more pampered and less brutal age.

As he trudged off the field (receiving a fraternal hand shake from our captain), we began to believe we could turn the corner, kick start the season and get the campaign back on the rails – all metaphorically speaking.

We had a couple of half chances as did Fulham, but a passing Pennsylvanian or a holidaying Honshuer would not have been particularly impressed by what he or she saw.

Jake seizes the moment

The second half was far better as MON’s instructions to squeeze and force them into errors were clearly followed as were his directions to run at them and take advantage of the ponderous Phillipe Senderos, a man so statuesque that he puts the iconic Michael Jackson memorial outside the ground to shame.

Adam Johnson, branded by me as potentially the biggest flop since Torre Andre Flo, is now beginning to make me eat my words – and I am delighted to be able to do so. It was his wonderful 60-yard pass to Fletcher that allowed the Scot to go on, control the ball with a lovely first touch and send it scudding into Schwarzer’s net.

The bleatings of a neutral behind who complained that we stood up as Fletcher moved into the box, meaning that he had not seen the goal, were met with snorts of derision from those of us who still believe that football is about passion and support – something that Craven Cottage, for all its charm and friendliness, clearly lacks.

To make for a more interesting afternoon for the Texan tourists and the Vladivostok visitors, we stood back and allowed Fulham to equalise, before Johnson’s excellent corner was met by a thumping header from Carlos Cuellar.

No dawdling this time and we brought the ball out of defence with pace and determination before Sess opened his account for the season with a spectacular strike, which the vacationing Virginians in the crowd would have loved – but not half as much as we did.

In the interests of entertaining those on jaunts from all points of the compass (and Horden), we gave Fulham opportunities to get back into the game and Mignolet made a pair of very good saves which must have finally eradicated the doubts that some still had about his abilities. He is a very good goalkeeper now and, if he continues to improve, will become an outstanding one.

It was not a particularly fluid performance, but our flair players built on their much improved showing of last week. Johnson was outstanding and looked comfortable in all that he did and although Sess is not quite as influential as he was, we all hope that the goal sparks him off again.

We have good players. Mignolet, Cattermole, Johnson, Sessegnon and Fletcher would be worth a place in any Premier League side. The central defenders are steady and Danny Rose, when he stops giving the ball away, has the makings of a decent full back.

A few pints in Mabels Tavern was followed by a voyage of discovery into the very impressive new Kings Cross, a vast improvement on the old one and its passable impersonation of a terminal in Belarus or Moldova. A large police presence was there to stop anyone smuggling a can or bottle aboard and we pulled out on time. Despite one Mr McDonald’s attempt to flood the table with coffee, it was an uneventful trip.

I have suffered for it today, having foolishly not booked a day off as had Messrs Dobson and Smart. But I was able to wear my traditional white shirt and SAFC tie for only the second time this season; I hope to be wearing it a lot more as the season progresses.

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17 thoughts on “Sixer’s Fulham Soapbox: not so neutral as Hangeland out-Cattermoles Cattermole”

  1. “Even the most optimistic are deluding themselves if they think we can win. A prediction of a draw is deranged enough but three goals in a single game Salut. Please refrain from the Absinthe before you post.”

    My sincere apologies to Salut for both ignorance, lack of faith and pessimism. Joan suggested on another thread that I might like to borrow a cup. On this occasion some other culinary utensils would be more useful. Plate and fork for the humble pie to scoff! 🙂

  2. I think we might do OK against West Brom. Although the beat Chelsea, away from home they don’t seem to do too well looking at their stats this season.
    It is of slight worry that, when we have won this season, it has only been because the other team were at ten men.

    I think Johnson does better on the right wing. But he’s good enough to play anywhere. Anyone else like to see the pace of Rose on the left wing and Colback fitting in at left back?

  3. A disgruntled Consett supporter? Shildon are at home to Parkgate from Rotherham in the next round. Alas, it’s he same day as the Chelsea home game.

  4. Met a bloke on the tube originally from Consett (a school teacher no less). I gleefully informed him of Consett’s demise in the FA Vase against Shildon. He was astounded at my in depth knowledge of non-league football. I didn’t tell him this information came from a fellow school teacher and was freely available on Sunderland’s premier website.

  5. Tom said “Catts and Colback (as well as Gardner and Vaughan) rarely try to go past a player. This makes our build up slow and predictable with many passes back and square.”

    Absolutely. Not only that, but our lack of movement off the ball in the final 3rd when in possession is shocking. Never was this more obvious on Saturday and underlined by a ball that Sess ended up playing behind Johnson, on one of the few occasions a “receiving” player actually made a run.

    For me the defence and our shape is far too rigid (particularly referencing your point Tom about the FBs failing to get forward). O’Neill wants the team to keep their shape but this just makes us even less potent as an attacking force as well as being predictable to the point of nonsense.

    This result does not to my mind paper over the obvious limitations of this team and also now, O’Neill’s management. I was encouraged when I saw that McClean had been left out but bewildered why Campbell was on the bench yet again. Plan B wasn’t working so he resorted to the failed Plan A by bringing McClean on. At least he spared us the agony of having to watch Campbell come on.

    As an aside. Question for the Sixer. Does he think that Campbell would look good in a Shildon v Consett game?

  6. Up till the sending off we looked the same cautious side we have been most of this season.Let’s hope that is the key moment that switches our season round.Second half was much better, though we never looked in complete control,but against 10 men(which is always difficult at this level)and away at a team in form, this has to a turning point we can build on.

    Mignolet puts in another MOM performance for me…..our best player this season so far.

    Trouble is I still worry about us vs 11 at home and like Tom above think we are very pedestrian when in possession

  7. On the Hangeland tackle, I agree with Jeremy and can’t understand comments to the contrary. A two-footed tackle was never accepted in my footballing days stretching from the 60s to the 90s, so let’s stop this nonsense about the tough old days.

    On the match, I thought we did all we needed to do to beat a 10 man team, and could see the players trying hard to keep possession for long periods. Cattermole was outstanding and even managed a dribble on the edge of their box that created a chance.

    I mention this incident because it highlights exactly what the current team, and squad for that matter, lacks i.e. a creative central midfield player capable of going past a player and committing defenders to leave their markers. Look carefully at how we play in central midfield and note that the current incumbents of Catts and Colback (as well as Gardner and Vaughan) rarely try to go past a player. This makes our build up slow and predictable with many passes back and square.

    The problem could be slightly eased if we were able to make more incisive progress on the wings, but our fullbacks currently are not providing enough support for this to happen. Again a more energetic movement from the central midfielders to form triangles with fullback and wingers would help to unlock defences. Our central midfielders tend to stay in defensive positions (even when we are in possession) or pass the ball back to central defenders when brought into the game by fullback/wing play.

    Sorry about the length of this comment, but I can not see us scoring enough goals to be competitive with the current squad and fervently hope that the central midfield area is addressed in January with the right player being brought in to support Cattermole.

    • A central midfielder is as necessary now as a centre forward was in the summer.

      Shame Huddlestone seems to have played his way back into Spurs’ (and England’s) plans.

  8. ‘Central defenders are steady.’ I’m assuming that’s a euphemism for slow and having a complete inability to read a turn inside from a one footed player, because as far as I could tell that’s what the contribution from O’Shea and Cuellar amounted to. Despite the frustration of poor passing, it was their complete lack of reading the game that caused most anxiety, and as for the naivety leading to Fulham’s goal… Hands up everyone while the winger plays on and crosses the ball. And these are experienced players? Thank the lord for Mignolet.

  9. As we we wandering through the park on the way to Putney Bridge there was a yelp of anguish and some guy in a Fulham shirt, having obviously tripped, went sliding face first through the mud for about 10 yards. There wasn’t a Sunderland shirt near him! The name on the back of the shirt?..Berbatov.

  10. I’ve been surprised at the reaction to Hangeland’s challenge. Many people are saying that it wasn’t a red card etc. It looked a bloody awful challenge to me and regardless of whether “Hangeland is not that sort of player” a comment made by summariser John Gregory, it most certainly WAS “that sort of challenge!” If it had been Cattermole on Hangeland then the reaction would have been very different I’m sure. Furthermore Sidwell would probably have had a straight red for a cynical lunge on Cattermole had Fulham not already gone a man short.

    A fiver Salut? Robbed blind you were.

  11. I smugly thought my 4 tickets at a fiver each (son’s girlfriend’s uncle) were a one off bargain of a lifetime. I’m slowly learning that every bugger had them.

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