Philip Mison likes to strike a controversial note in his ESPN blogging about Fulham. Mr Tony Pulis’s boys are dismissed as Stoke Rugby Club, Bramble and O’Shea are identified as Sunderland weak links Fulham can exploit and Martin O’Neill is seen as “looking less than secure in his job”.
First, though, some historical context: this is how he summed up Sunderland at the start of last season, when Steve Bruce was still the manager:
SUNDERLAND: Super stadium, slightly fickle fans, s**** manager. Another side like Stoke who served up a false dawn to their supporters to New Year, then ended up in relegation trouble. Awful when we breezed to victory up there in spring. Four points from them last year, same again this. Bruce has been spending big time, but is not the manager to take the Black Cats on. I always enjoy watching Gyan though. Have overpaid on Wickham and isn’t it often the case, away from Old Trafford ex-United players can sometimes appear, well … ordinary. Can Bruce get so many new faces to gel? No. See the Mackem turn sour – some of them up there are dreaming of top 5!
Sunderland as a play: Les Miserables
Here we go again, with both clubs more or less where we left them last November.
I said Sunderland would end up 14th – they picked up that bonus win at our place when everything went against the Whites – Hangeland’s contentious red card, the CB claiming a very soft 2nd with a preventable header when we had 10 on the park and Sessegnon pulling out a ‘worldie’ from the wing. Where’s that ridiculous expression come from Redknapp?
That fixture set FFC off on a precipitous run of awful form. I’ve given Jol plenty of flak on the blog, and he still has a way to go in my book to redeem his reputation from a largely disappointing season. A narrow 1-0 win over Stoke Rugby Club does not mean we have turned a corner.
But we are better than six weeks ago, so be warned. Away from home we remain a very timid outfit though some defensive discipline has returned.
With MoN having 3 genuine centre-forwards to pick from now in Fletch, Sess and DG you should be moving on up, but I always think we’re in with a shout when Bramble and O’Shea are in the back four.
Guess you see your season in similar vein, with Martin looking less than secure in his job too?
I thought the red harsh at the time it happened though Hangeland seemed from his susbequent demenaour to accept it as less contentious than you feel.
I had no doubt that we deserved to win but it is true that we had some luck. Johnson’s pass and Fletcher’s control for the first goal were of the highest quality, though it came when you had nine, not 10, on the field. And Sessegnon rarely finishes as well as he did for the third. If he could, of course, he’d not be playing for us.
As usual, I have nervous feelings about Saturday. We are in the midst of another poor run. The commentary I heard from Craven Cottage suggested almost one-way traffic in Fulham vs Stoke. But if Berbatov has to wear gloves in London, I can but hope he’ll be far too cold to be interested in the North East.
The Fulham supporter who has done the Who are You? interview this time thinks 1-1 is a possibility and I think he may be right. But no result would surprise me.
See also: the Fulham ‘Who are You?’: out with sausage rolls and pies, in with sushi and wine, says an Aussie Cottager (is it OK to say that? – ed)
My response to Philip produced a further exchange:
My mind is furring up with the cold snap – of course, after Petric popped in the leveller we were indeed down to nine at the time…
Now I was full of admiration for Sessegnon last season – what’s gone wrong this?
Are Sunderland supporters just kinda sullenly wishing the season over asap a bit like Fulham?
And don’t be lulled by the ‘strolling Bulgar’ – he’s scored half his goals away from home.
Enjoy the game, too far for me!
Sess shows glimpses of astonishing skill but disappoints with end product. I love flair players and am happy to see him start despite the incompleteness of his game. Fletcher is good but his score rate has slowed down considerably. We have little to offer in midfield and the central defence is slow and vulnerable.
After half a century, I’m fairly philosophical. But there is a bit of disenchantment about. I know lifelong home-and-away supporters who will not pay QPR’s scandalous prices for our next game after you (£45, all of £5 off for pensioners) and one or two who are so cheesed off with the dull football we’ve played most of the season that they may not renew their season tickets.
That said, they probably will anyway, and QPR will just laugh at the refuseniks knowing the allocation will probably still be taken.
I would settle for ending the season where we are now in the hope that O’Neill has a compelling plan for next season.
Unintentionally, I had given Philip his cue. This is how he ended his preview at ESPN:
There’s your team talk Martin (Jol). Blow it up and stick it on the dressing-room wall. This is definitely a game we can get something from. As with a lifetime of following the Whites though, it’s all about wishing and hoping.
So I’ll return the favour. Martin O’Neill may care to blow up the following words, taken from above without the surrounding context, and use it as his team talk:
Away from home we remain a very timid outfit …
* Philip Mison on himself: F/L writer, producer, broadcaster. Travel writer, playwright and Fulham FC blogger. Collaborators welcome for raft of film, documentary and music projects. My dad hailed from Parsons Green and took me to stand on the proverbial orange box when I was six. He passed away on the eve of the Juventus game in 2010 we won 4-1 … I had a ticket but couldn’t use it.