The Fulham Soapbox: no outing the Cottagers

Was even X Factor more entertaining that this, without costing £35 to watch? A bore draw with little to relieve the tedium beyond the magnificence of John Mensah. At least Pete Sixsmith enjoyed the pre-match real ale …

Last year at Craven Cottage, we succumbed to a Bobby Zamora goal, saw Anton Ferdinand limp off and began an awful run which left didn’t end until late February.

Twelve months on, we took a point in a dull 0-0 draw, Anton Ferdinand limped off and it is difficult to see a repeat of last year’s trials and tribulations. But is taking a point off Fulham enough?

The stats suggest not really. They have drawn 10 of their games this season and have won twice . They don’t score many goals but they don’t concede many. They are hovering above the relegation places and appear to have difficulty in recruiting top class players. It could be a nerve wracking season for them.

We took a point of them at their quaint relic of a ground. So did Birmingham City. And Manchester United. And Everton. Where does that put us? Up at the top with United? Firmly in the middle like the Blues? Or looking over our shoulders like Everton?

We are a bit of an enigma this season. We play very well against Chelsea and Manchester City, are utterly hopeless against Newcastle and West Brom and eke out wins against West Ham and Stoke.

We take good points away from Liverpool and Spurs and then show precious little guile or craft against a Fulham side who are having difficulties. Doctor, I am confused by this team. Where are we going? When will we get there? What will it be like?

Fulham is a good day out, with its friendly fans and its excellent watering holes nearby. The splendid White Horse at Parsons Green saw a good gathering of red and whites from Ealing, Bedford, Bristol, Hartlepool and Dunston, enjoying excellent, if rather pricey, beer and soaking up the convivial atmosphere.

A brisk walk to Putney and then, that delightful walk through the park, past the ruins of Fulham Palace (taken apart by the not-so-friendly Fulwell Skins c 1972) and then on to Stevenage Road and that magnificent façade of the Main Stand, where I was kissed on the cheek by a gloriously booted Melanie Hill. I refuse to wash for a week.

The temporary seating is now more of a permanent fixture and our seats were right in the corner so we could watch the rowers propelling their boats up and down the Thames. All it needed was Jimmy Hill to turn up so we could hurl abuse at him and it would have been a perfect setting.

The game wasn’t much to write home about. Mignolet replaced Gordon and Meyler was in for Gyan, leaving Wellbeck and Bent up front. After 10 minutes, Ferdinand fell awkwardly and went off, but no Da Silva as Elmohamady went to full back and Onuoha moved across.

For the Paraguyan World Cup player – nothing. I can partly understand Bruce’s reluctance to put him in against physical players like Doyle and Carroll, but I don’t consider Kamara or Dempsey to be particularly strong. He must be a disappointed man and he will not be with us come the next window.

Fortunately we have John Mensah who was simply magnificent. His reading of the game, his movement, the way that he shepherds the ball back to his keeper is as good as anything I have seen. He was never stretched by a Fulham forward line that is as weak as West Ham’s was last week, but without the nastiness we saw from Cole and Boa Morte.

Other than that we were ok. No shockers, no stand outs, just a rather dull and uninspiring Premier League game, which had Fulham fans booing at half time. They really ought to look back at where they were not that long ago and thank their lucky stars that they are no longer playing Stockport or Darlington.

The long journey home was spoiled by news from The Ashley Arena and by a long detour up the A19, which allowed me to ponder on one or two things.

Are we really almost on the edge of something special? If we want to move on, we must be more constructive in midfield. The four we selected on Saturday were efficient and effective but there was little spark about them.

Is Kieran Richardson as good as he thinks he is? The answer to that is no. Richardson has been with us four years and he has not progressed as a player. He does not open up a defence and rarely scores. Maybe N’Zogbia or Johnson will be his replacement.

The next batch of games is important. If we can go into the Mags game with another 9 or 10 points under our belt, we will be on target for a comfortable finish and we will be lined up for a Europa League place and maybe even a good FA Cup run. Notts County would be a good omen for that.

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3 thoughts on “The Fulham Soapbox: no outing the Cottagers”

  1. I tend to think that we are a long way from being on the edge of something special .It will take a long time, and a lot of money to be able to afford the type of players needed to seriously compete at that special level. I think that we will have to accept that our niche is going to be somewehere between 6th and 10th for the next few years, like Everton and Villa of previous seasons.But is that a bad thing? I think not. And perhaps it will give us the time to develop some good young players instead of not damaging them by putting them into the pressures of a relegation battle .

    With regard to PDS, sadly I do think his time is up which is a shame because he is a very good player but probably not suited to the physical nature of the EPL, a bit like Thomas Helmer. I am not so sure about Angeleri as Bruce does have a tendnacy to make sure that overseas players are ready for EPL action rather than rushing them in like some managers. Hope the same can be said for Riveros, and that we will see more of both of them in 2011
    Given our injury list I think it would be sensible to sign and other defender in the new year……or keep and use PDS…. but like most people I would like to see an attacking midfielder. Is there another Ian Porterfield,JimBaxter or Tony Towers anywhere?

  2. I was getting worried, approaching the end of this piece without seeing any criticism of Richardson, and then it appeared, Just in the nick of time. Richardson has turned out to be the exactly the player that we bought on our return to the top flight. He arrived with some promise which he has failed to deliver, yet NEVER gets taken off. He is no different to when he arrived. The only difference is that any misplaced optimism that he would improve has long since evaporated. He was hopeless on Saturday and if he’d been on the Gong Show rather than on the pitch at Craven Cottage there would have been a dull ringing in his ears before the break. He managed to get Bardsley booked with a ludicrous tap back that sold the pseudo Caledonian short and then bugger me if he didn’t do the same thing again after HT.

    I tend to think that the sun has set on Da Silva’s career at Sunderland and regardless of who he would be facing he just isn’t going to get a game. Dempsey is a very strong and physical player though Pete and he may have struggled against him more than say someone like Doyle in my view. All that said, the question remains as to why he keeps him on the bench. The same goes for Angeleri. He’s seems even less likely than PDS is to get a run out. It may take hell to freeze over first, but if the temperatures down there are anything like SW Ontario that may not be quite as long as you’d think.

  3. I hate to say this but I’m beginning to think we’ll always be “almost of the edge of something special” but never quite getting there. We’ll remain a decent, mid-table team enjoying the occasional high, suffering the occasional low but, more often than not, turning in the kind of respectable bread-and-butter performance that keeps us afloat but leaves us with a slightly disappointed taste in our mouths.
    Just like Newcastle, really.
    A sin and a shame about Da Silva. He — and we — deserves better.

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