Here we go again. Subject to finding a witty, warm or wise opposing supporter in each case, every Sunderland match will again be preceded here by the traditional “Who are You?” questionnaire.
As usual, prizes will be awarded at the end of the season for the responses judged by the Salut! Sunderland panel to have been the best.
Hands up those who can hardly wait for the season to open. The excitement is building, not least since few of us can have a firm idea of who will start for PDC after virtually a teamload of new signings in the close season. For a Fulham viewpoint, we asked Russ Goldman*, an American supporter who runs the Cottage Talk internet radio show, to get this season’s series off to a grand start …
Salut! Sunderland: So goodbye to Mohamed al Fayed, hello Shahid Khan. He wanted the club badly enough to pay a reported £150-200m for it and seems to have pots of money left over. Good for the club and the future?
I think this is very good for the club. I did some research on Mr Khan after hearing about his potential takeover of Fulham, and what I have learned is pretty positive. As the Jaguars owner he has upgraded the facilities there, and has a plan for the future. He is beloved in Jacksonville and I found that very interesting since he has only owned them for 18 months.
When I interviewed him on Cottage Talk, he told us that he wants Fulham to be sustainable over the long term and to be able to push forward. He also is not a micro-manager and will let his staff do their jobs and give them the financial backings to succeed. I also get the impression that if they do not succeed, he will hold them accountable. That is all I can ask as a supporter.
What, if not answered above, is your verdict on the Fayed years?
Mr Al Fayed did not save Fulham, but he helped the club tremendously in getting them to the EPL and also be able to stay there for many seasons. Without his financial backing, I don’t think Fulham are the club they have become. He deserves so much praise for what he did for Fulham Football Club.
Fulham is traditionally a small club surrounded in the capital by bigger fish. What can the new owner realistically hope to achieve?
Fulham play in Craven Cottage and with the re-development of the Riverside stand in the future eventually the capacity will be over 30,000 which is 5,000 more than they currently have. This will help a great deal, but against the bigger clubs, Fulham will still be at a disadvantage.
I think realistically he should hope to see Fulham be comfortable in the top ten on a consistent basis, and have the ability to compete for a Europa League spot. I think that is something that can be achieved.
Have eyebrows been raised among Fulham fans by reports linking you with players Paolo Di Canio doesn’t want, eg Phil Bardsley (now injured – ed) and Lee Cattermole?
Eyebrows have been raised and I think many like me want other potential players linked to Fulham. Keiran Richardson was a signing last year that I liked, but he was hurt a good amount of the season, and I hope he can be a solid contributor to Fulham this season at left back.
Has anything happened or appears about to happen during the close season, especially with regard to transfers to excite – or worry – you?
Fulham have been linked to strikers and central midfielders and those are two needs for the club. I would really like to see them sign former Sunderland player Darren Bent (and now that appears to have happened, on a loan, despite the rival bid from Palace – ed), because the possibilities of him playing with Berbatov excite me.
The one major worry is the need for a creative central midfielder which they have not filled since Mousa Dembele left. If they do not fill that, Fulham could stay where they were last season which was between 10th-12th.
What did you make of our two games last season, which many of us saw as a relatively comfortable away win followed by barely deserved draw at home?
The first match was the negative turning point for the Fulham season. The red card for Brede Hangeland changed the game, and really affected Fulham for a long time. As fans many of us looked back at the match, and thought what could have been. The strange thing about that match is Fulham even though down a man played well for awhile, but eventually your quality took over and Sunderland would get all three points.
The second match, it was disappointing to let Sunderland back in the match because Fulham were in control, but to their credit, they battled back and in the end got the point. The credit there goes to Sunderland.
Were you surprised at how close we were to going down?
I was very surprised as Sunderland are too big to go down. There is still too much talent there, and I am glad you stayed up. I have always had much respect for Sunderland as I see our clubs basically on the same level.
Your Twitter profile lists Fulham among many sporting interests – from the New England Patriots to Derby County – and suggest that you’re based in Boston, MA. How actively and avidly do you support FFC, and why?
Well, I think it is safe to say that I am extremely active Fulham supporter, and I really became a supporter when Clint Dempsey moved to the club. What really did it for me was the Great Escape. For Fulham to survive that and thrive afterwards is truly amazing. I first became the editor of Cottagers Confidential about four years ago but gave it up because honestly I was too active.
I then switched to doing Cottage Talk which is my internet radio show, and this September will start the third year of doing shows. This show has enabled me to stay closer to the club I love even though I live outside of Boston. I might live in the US but ask Fulham fans about my allegiance to the club. Something tells me they will tell you, I am really into it.
And is the feeling your side of the Pond that Jozy Altidore will do well on his return to the Premier?
I have my concerns about Altidore in general as I thought he would do well his first time in the EPL with Hull. However, he might have finally matured as a player and a person to be the player that I thought he would be. I will tell you that I am cautiously optimistic that he will do well.
He started scoring for the National team and that is the positive sign. I just want to see him do it consistently back in England. Sunderland have given him a second chance and I hope he succeeds.
What hat have been your own high and low points of following the club?
Well that is pretty easy.
The low would have to be right before the Great Escape when every expert thought they would go down. The high would have to be the run to get all the way to the Europa League Final. We might never have that opportunity again so that is what makes getting to the Final so special.
Johnny Haynes, George Cohen, Bobby Robson, Rodney Marsh and Alan Mullery are associated with the club’s past, How important is the history to you and, though your knowledge may be handed down, how does the present squad compare?
I have to tell you that learning about the past is very important. When I first became a fan, I started learning and had a friend really teach me about the past. I still want to hear stories about the past, because I think it is important to pass it on. Fulham do a great job now of showing old videos and sharing stories about the players of the past. These players need to be remembered and I can tell you that they are.
Give me your predictions for the Premier League top four in order, the three clubs going down and, if not already mentioned, the finishing positions of Sunderland and Fulham.
The winner of the Barclays Premier League I feel is going to be Chelsea, followed by Manchester United, Manchester City, and Tottenham Hotspur. The three going down will be Stoke City, Crystal Palace, and Hull City.
I am going to predict Sunderland for 10th and Fulham for 9th. I think we are both going to have improved seasons.
What single aspect of football most inspires you and what seriously annoys you?
You might laugh but when teams survive relegation like Sunderland and Aston Villa that inspires me. When the odds are coming up against you, and your club can find a way to survive, that inspires me.
A team that buys a title really annoys me. I have no respect for Manchester City as simply because of money, they are now in contention every year to win a title. I don’t think there is really any plan there but to buy as many of the best players as possible. That club utterly disgusts me.
Does it surprise you that many English supporters put club a long way above country?
No it doesn’t as I do the same for the US. Fulham are number one and the USMNT are a distance behind them. I want them to do well but Fulham come first so I understand the same for English supporters.
How will you follow the match and what will be the score?
I will watch it on one of the channels made available by NBC Sports as they are showing every single match. I am predicting 1-1 as this could be an ugly opening match of the season.
* Russ Goldman on himself:
I have been a supporter of Fulham since 2007 and Clint Dempsey is what brought me to Fulham. I was searching for a club for several years, and Dempsey was the one that brought me to Fulham Football Club.
Interview: Colin Randall
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