Fulham and Watford have both been linked with a late move for the FC Groningen striker Género Zeefuik in the summer transfer window.
The 24 year-old forward is widely tipped to leave Groningen before the window closes and has been the subject of interest from Turkey, with Samsunspor keen to table a bid, according to reports from Holland. Zeefuik has played all his football in Holland and has scored seven goals in 40 league appearances since joining Groningen from PSV Eindhoven in the summer of 2012.
Where Zeefuik would fit into Felix Magath’s plans is a matter for debate as Fulham have already spent big money on Ross McCormack as well as bringing in Australian international Adam Taggart over the summer. Magath also still has the likes of Hugo Rodallega, Cauley Woodrow, Moussa Dembele and Marcello Trotta to chose from in attack.
Kostas Stafylidis says he has settled in well at Fulham and is looking forward to add to the club’s ‘attacking style‘.
The 20 year-old full-back arrived at Craven Cottage on a season-long loan from Bayer Leverkusen and has made a strong start in his first two appearances under Felix Magath. Speaking to the matchday programme ahead of tonight’s game against Wolves, the Greek international told of how Fulham’s adventurous approach suits his own game.
It’s a very attacking style here at Fulham. We’re a team that keeps the ball well; possession is the key and it’s all about making the opposition work. We also press hard and break quickly if we can. The full-backs will play a big part in that system.
I’m really looking forward to seeing how the campaign unfolds, because we have high hopes in regards to what we can achieve. I like to think I’ve played well in the games I’ve been part of, but there’s a lot more to come from me.
First impressions are important; as a new player coming in, I want to do well and show what I can do. The club has put a lot a lot of faith in me, and although I’ve only come in on loan, I want to assure the fans that I’ll give everything I have to help get Fulham back to the Premier League.
Calling the third game of the season a ‘must win’ match seems fairly melodramatic but Fulham’s start to life back in the Championship has been so disorientating it lends itself to such an overstatement. Felix Magath has talked of a need to pick up three points against Wolves tonight after the disappointment of being beaten by both Ipswich and Millwall and, even if you don’t glance at a table seriously until ten games in, a victory would be a welcome boost to the confidence of a young side.
The German coach has shown considerable faith in the club’s much-vaunted Academy set-up as he assembles a line-up totally unrecognisable from the one that was relegated last season. The only survivor from Fulham’s meek surrender at the foot of the Premier League is captain Scott Parker, who spoke of the new-look side needing to become smarter as they seek to adjust to the physicality and unforgiving nature of the Championship. Parker’s experience is considerable but should the defeats keep piling up – they may be a question mark against Magath’s seemingly boundless confidence in a number of young starlets.
That would be a shame because few of the younger generation have let him so down so far. Moussa Dembele struggled at Ipswich but had little service, while Emerson Hyndman slotted in alongside Parker in central midfield as if he’d be playing at this level for decades rather than days. George Williams showed plenty of promise on his full debut to suggest that he can offer the width and penetration that Magath’s narrow diamond sorely lacks, whilst Patrick Roberts has terrified frightened full-backs in his two cameos from the bench.
The greatest concerns lie at either end of the pitch. Bar dropping a routine cross at Ipswich, Jesse Joronen hasn’t looked overawed by his promotion to the first team. Indeed, he made three superb saves to keep Fulham in a game they were otherwise dominating against Millwall on Saturday and, while his distribution still looks a little shaky, the worry remains chiefly with the defence in front of him. The onus is on both full-backs to provide the width in Magath’s favoured diamond formation and the absence of either Tim Hoogland or Kostas Stafylidis in defensive positions allowed Ricardo Fuller’s cross to reach Martyn Woolford for Millwall’s decisive goal at the weekend. The new-look defence will need to be a lot tighter tonight.
Fulham so far have little to show for their domination of possession and territory in both games. Only Hoogland’s deflected strike late on at Portman Road – which sparked a late rally as the home side dropped deeper and deeper – has beaten an opposition goalkeeper and, with sides set to apt the Millwall tactic of sitting back and playing on our frustration, Fulham will need to move the ball quicker and be more inventive to open them up. Central to that will be the form of Ross McCormack, who is expected to start tonight after enlivening Fulham’s performance from the bench at the weekend, but whether he will have a partner against Wolves – and who it could possibly be – remains to be seen.
Starting with just Hugo Rodallega up top was a mistake as the Colombian was left horribly isolated in the first half and struggled to impose himself on Millwall’s centre backs. Rodallega spurned a couple of presentable chances in the second period as Fulham pressed forward and he may pay with his place in the starting line-up this evening. Cauley Woodrow, an unused substitute against Millwall, was lively from the bench at Portman Road and his understanding with some of his old team-mates in the youth team (like the irrepressible Roberts) could prove crucial.
The Whites would crave an early goal against a Wolves side who endured a similarly frustrating Saturday at Rotherham. Kenny Jackett is in the market for a striker as he plans their return to English fotball’s second tier, but his team looked accomplished enough in downing one of the promotions favourites, Norwich, on the opening weekend of the season. Whether the Wolves manager will have both of his summer signings available remains to be seen. Midfielder Tommy Rowe came through forty-five minutes of Under-21 action on Monday but a late decision on whether his broken toe can be risked will be made tonight, whilst Fulham will need to be wary of Dutch midfielder Rajiv van La Parra and Bakary Sako, who was thought to be close to a move to Craven Cottage last season.
Jackett’s side are well-drilled, organised and with the experience of Kevin McDonald in midfield, will provide a real test of a young Fulham side’s resolve. Judging the season on the outcome of the first three games is risky. Reading had a dreadful start and won the division a few years ago, while last season saw Blackburn rise from the bottom three to the brink of the play-offs, but momentum is critical in what is a notoriously tight league. Magath will be hoping his side can convert their impressive play into three points tonight.
MY FULHAM XI (4-1-3-2): Jornonen; Hoogland, Stafylidis, Bodurov, Burgess; Parker; Hyndman, David, Eisfield; McCormack, Woodrow. Subs: Bettinelli, Hutchinson, Kavanagh, G. Williams, Roberts, Rodallega, Dembele.
Felix Magath says Fulham’s poor start to life in the Championship means they must win Wednesday’s match against Wolves if they are to retain hopes of winning promotion.
The Cottagers were amongst the pre-season favourites to return to the top flight at the first time of asking, but those ambitions have taken a jolt after their opening day defeat at Ipswich was followed by Millwall’s 1-0 win at Craven Cottage on Saturday. Whilst both performances have shown promise, the German coach knows that losing can become a habit and one that his recently relegated charges must swiftly shake off.
It’s always more pressure if you lose a game instead of winning. We need points – we have to make three points against Wolves now. We not only have to play well, we have to score and we have to win.
If we had played worse [against Ipswich and Millwall] I would be a little nervous but we played well and we have a new team, we have a new situation. There are a lot of new things.
One of the conundrums will be over who should start up front against Wolves. Big money signing Ross McCormack managed little more than an hour at Portman Road and, as a result, was introduced from the bench at half-time against Millwall. The Scottish international is likely to return to the starting line-up, but whether he will replace Hugo Rodallega or start alongside him remains to be seen. The Colombian was largely anonymous when deployed as a lone striker on Saturday and if Magath opts to play with a front two he could turn to Cauley Woodrow, who was impressive from the bench against Ipswich, or hand another chance to Moussa Dembele, who struggled on the opening day.
I have told the players I will give everybody the chance to play. I cannot let everybody play in the first game, so I will have changes in the next games.
It depends how we play and how the result goes. If we have a good game and good result, we will not change so much. If we have no result, like on Saturday, we have to change something.
Emerson Hyndman insists Fulham have put the disappointment of losing their first two Championship games behind them and are now targeting a first win of the season when newly-promoted Wolves visit Craven Cottage on Wednesday night.
Felix Magath’s side have played promising football at times but have no points to show for their endeavour after being beaten by both Ipswich and Millwall on their return to English football’s second tier, although the composed nature of the American midfielder’s displays since stepping into the first team for the first time at Portman Road has been a real positive. Hyndman believes that once Fulham’s forward line begins to function the Cottagers can quickly climb the table.
It was similar to the Ipswich match. We really controlled the first half against Millwall and then most of the second but we were unlucky with our finishing. Once we get that going, we’ll be in good shape.
We’re not panicking yet. We’re a strong group, we realise we’ve been unlucky but at the same time we need to work on things. We’ll do that all this week until Wednesday and hope for another good performance. We’ll put this one behind us now and concentrate on Wolves. Like we did at Ipswich, we worked very hard against Millwall but we’ve just got to work harder. We’ll go into training all this week, work our hardest and make sure we’re ready.
The seamless nature with which Hyndman has fitted into the Fulham midfielder has surprised many – including his own manager – but behind the scenes at Motspur Park they have talked in glowing terms about the Texan’s talent for a few years now.
The more I play, the more I feel comfortable. It’s still early days and we’re still getting used to each other as a new group.
I want the manager to trust me. I’m young but I try my hardest to be professional and I hope that’s what he sees. It’s great to be playing alongside these younger guys in the first team as I’ve been playing with them for the last two years. When you look at the way we’ve been playing, okay not the results, but it’s only good for the future
Hyndman knows that Wolves, who will be bringing around 2,000 supporters with them to London for tomorrow night’s fixture, will be keen to add to Fulham’s difficult start.
Wolves will be really up for it after returning to this division in the summer. We’re a big scalp in this league. For any club to take points at the Cottage is a big thing. Wolves have just come up so it will be a big event for them.
Liverpool are lining up a bid for Fulham teenager Patrick Roberts, according to what Goal.com claims as an exclusive this morning.
The Premier League club are keen to beat their Premier League rivals to the signature of the highly-rated England youth international and would be willing to loan Roberts back to his present employers. Brendon Rodgers is a known admirer of Roberts’ talented and has seen previous tentative approaches for the 17 year-old rebuffed.
Roberts, who helped the England Under 17s win the European Championship this summer with a string of superb performances, has sparkled in two substitute appearances in Fulham’s first two games in the Championship. He made his first team debut at Manchester City last season and was one of the stand-out performers as Fulham’s Under 18 side reached the FA Youth Cup final last season.
Liverpool’s interest follows heavily rumoured attention from the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal, which led Fulham to reportedly place a £15m price tag on Roberts in the spring. Felix Magath has spoken in glowing terms about the young winger’s potential but the very real prospect of approaches from a host of top English and European clubs highlights one of the pitfalls of the German coach’s promotion of a number of youth-team prospects this season. Even if Fulham are able to ward off the attentions of their suitors at first, failure to return to the top flight could see the best of the talent seek to test themselves at the highest level sooner rather than later.
Werder Bremen and Fulham are playing hardball over the price tag that will determine whether Bryan Ruiz makes a permanent move to Germany before the end of the summer transfer window, according to the German tabloid Bild.
The German newspaper reports that Werder have quickly concluded negotiations with Ruiz’s representatives over personal terms, which would see Ruiz earn around €2m a year, but have entered protracted discussions with Fulham chief executive Alistair Mackintosh over a suitable fee. Fulham are holding out for something close to the €6m (£4.79m) they have been offered for Ruiz by Besiktas, whilst Werder were willing to wait it out and pay around €4m (£3.2m) for the midfielder’s services closer to the close of the window.
Fulham’s negotiating position is weakened by the fact that Ruiz, who captained Costa Rica to the World Cup quarter finals in Brazil this summer, has less than a year left on his contract at Craven Cottage. The 29 year-old is not keen on a move to Turkey and is believed to prefer the prospect of the Bundesliga as opposed to remaining in the Championship with Fulham, for whom he has not featured since being sent to PSV Eindhoven on loan by Rene Meulensteen back in February.
Felix Magath is planning Fulham’s immediate future without the former FC Twente playmaker, who has scored eight goals in 75 appearances since signing for the club in August 2011, telling the press after the 1-0 home defeat by Millwall on Saturday:
After his tremendous World Cup performance, he wants to leave to play at the highest level. I don’t rely on players who will leave.
Ange-Freddy Plumain scored as Fulham’s Under 21s opened their U21 Premier League campaign with an entertaining draw at Southampton this afternoon.
The French winger’s clever finish looked as though it might be enough to ensure Kit Symons’ took all three points with them back to London but Southampton’s new signing Saphir Taider wasted little time in hitting straight back. Taider, who was making his first start in a Saints’ shirt since completing a loan move from Inter Milan, equalised just three minutes after Plumain’s strike punishing a poor clearance.
Southampton fielded a strong side, including several players who had featured regularly in the first team’s pre-season programme, and made the quicker start. Omar Rowe and Sam McQueen went close with early headers and Taider drove an effort narrowly wide from the edge of the box after a clever turn. At the other end, Italian striker Marcello Trotta will feel he should have done better than to lash over the bar when Ryan Tunnicliffe’s corner landed at his feet.
The second half followed a similar pattern with plenty of pretty football but little in the way of penetration. Southampton substitute Josh Sims saw a dangerous cross well blocked by Jack Grimmer and Rowe sent the rebound wide of goal. Jake Flannigan’s deflected shot drifted wide and a Sims effort was smartly saved by Marek Rodak in the Fulham goal. Trotta carried Fulham’s goal threat but Paolo Gazzaniga was equal to his instinctive attempt.
The Whites took the lead after Trotta pressurised the Southampton defence into relinquishing the ball and the striker’s through ball released Plumain who kept his cool to drive a low finish past Gazzaniga. But Taider’s response was swift as he jinked from side to side after receiving Jason McCarthy’s pass before powering his strike beyond Rodak.
Symons was in philosophical mood afterwards, telling the official website:
It was a good game between two good teams who really went at it. Possibly a draw was a fair result but I felt we probably shaded it on chances.
What I’m disappointed with is that we got our noses in front but couldn’t hang onto it. Overall, though, it was a good game of football, performance-wise, and I’m quite happy. There’s certainly plenty to work on there but we’re just looking forward now to the Everton game next week.
SOUTHAMPTON UNDER 21s: Gazzaniga; Mason (Wood 79), McCarthy, Stephens, Targett; Reed, Flannigan, Taider, Sinclair (Sims 40); McQueen, Rowe. Subs (not used): Cropper, Seager.
GOAL: Taider (81).
FULHAM UNDER 21s: Rodak; Passley, Baba (Mesca 55), Grimmer, Arthurworry; Sambou (Smile 68), Tunnicliffe, Della Verde (Evans 85); Plumain, Richards, Trotta. Subs (not used): Barnes, Donnelly.
GOAL: Plumain (78).
REFEREE: Declan Ford.
With all the talk about Fulham’s blossoming youth academy, this seems like a good time to draw the attention of our regular readers to the emergence of a new website all about the club’s youth teams.
For the past few seasons, one of the best places to keep up to date with the talent developed by Huw Jennings, Malcolm Elias, Steve Wigley and Kit Symons has been the Fulham Youth Twitter feed. Incredibly well-informed, regularly attending various games and with some sharp analysis about tactics, it remains one of the most interesting accounts to follow.
Calvin Hargreaves, the man behind all those tweets, has finally joined the blogosphere. The new Fulham Youth website is still a work in progress but there’s plenty to take a look at already. Even if the likes of Hyndman, Roberts, Woodrow and Dembele look like featuring regularly in Felix Magath’s plans this season, there are still plenty of talented youngsters across the age ranges down at Motspur Park – and the new Fulham Youth website will be the best to monitor their progress.
One thing we all do when talking about sport is look for narratives. Presently the narrative is:
“Fulham are playing with kids and it’s possibly not working”
Now I don’t know. That feels a bit too easy to me. I’ve seen some really ordinary grown ups over the years. It seems too obvious to say that we’ve played kids and lost as a result because “this is different”. I’m not saying it’s not different but in terms of absolute ability I don’t know that anyone we’ve had on the pitch is showing inexperience. I don’t really know what that means anyway, other than it’s largely intangible. Again, I’m not saying it’s not important, but I don’t really understand it.
The big thing for me is that we’ve conceded earlyish in both games. Here’s something: there have been 19 victories in the Championship this season – all 19 were earned by the team that scored first.
Simply put: if you go a goal down it’s really hard to come back. Yes we’ve had 60% of the ball and quite a few shots, but that’s what happens when you’re behind. I don’t think it’s evidence of a good performance particularly, nor do I think it’s necessarily encouraging.
As we’ve discussed a lot over time, football hinges on small moments, and at this point in the young season the two big moments were Ipswich’s Murphy burning Shaun Hutchinson and the collective lapse that led to Millwall scoring so early on Saturday. The other moments were the Dembele save at Ipswich and Rodallega’s chances on Saturday.
So far the big moments have gone against us. I don’t necessarily know that this is because we’re using kids, rather that this is just what happens in football.
A final thought on Patrick Roberts. It’s true that he can come on and run through tired legs. It’s also true that both times he’s come on we’ve been behind. If you play your best players from the start, are you more likely to swing the match and control of same in your favour? Then you don’t have to chase the game in the first place.
Filed under: General
Fulham will need to become nastier if they are to put their poor Championship start behind them, according to skipper Scott Parker.
Felix Magath’s side followed an opening day defeat at Ipswich with a home reverse to Millwall yesterday afternoon and an inexperienced team paid for a little bit of naivety. Parker, very much a veteran in a Fulham side that included nine players under the age of 21, knows his team-mates need to adapt quickly to life in the second tier if they are to retain hopes of promotion.
I think technically we are a very good side with some good players but that’s two games and two losses now, which is not what you need. A lot of these players have never played men’s football. Some of the boys have come from playing in the Under 18s last season to playing in the Championship. This is a massive step up and you have to give them time.
The boys will learn and realise what they need to do. They are very talented players and I’m sure they will get to grips with it and understand there’s another side to the game. We need to try and win ugly because I think we play nice football but we don’t seem to have that killer instinct.
The most important thing is winning games and we need to realise it’s going to be hard and at times a battle. We lacked a bit of that competitive side and they were the first to things. The quicker we get up and running the better. It’s still early days so we need to stay positive. I’m sure we will be alright.
The Whites’ first chance to bounce back comes against Wolves on Wednesday night at Craven Cottage.
I remember where I was when I first heard the name Emerson Hyndman. Down at Motspur Park, watching an otherwise unremarkable youth team fixture, my attention was drawn to a slight teenager taking in proceedings by a Fulham official. ‘That’s our new American midfielder,’ he said, and proceeded to tell me how pleased the club were to capture his signature after he’d had trials with a number of European clubs. It’s the sort of name who don’t forget – and Hyndman quickly turned heads with eye-catching performances in the Fulham youth system.
There’s football pedigree in Hyndman’s family. He’s the grandson of Schellas Hyndman, who used to coach FC Dallas, and it’s clear that he loves playing the game. A ferocious trainer, Hyndman’s professionalism impressed those behind the scenes at Fulham, who have seen plenty of promising youngsters fail to develop the attitude necessary to accompany their prodigious talent. At a time when the club have been searching for a creative, cultured midfielder, many have been awaiting Hyndman’s ascension to first-team football for a while – an intelligent footballer with a wide passing range – but Felix Magath’s reboot of his relegated charges meant it has come far quicker than anyone could have expected.
The Texan took his chance when Magath refreshed his squad with a few faces from the youth team squad for the summer tour to Scotland. He starred during the Under 18′s thrilling run to the FA Youth Cup Final and didn’t look out of place during pre-season, impressing on his return to his homeland when a shadow Whites side dismantled DC United. But it was still a surprise when his name was part of a youthful line-up for Fulham’s Championship opener at Ipswich, and Hyndman belied his tender years with accomplished display of real maturity.
It wasn’t the kind of debut that had the Sky pundits purring – there wasn’t a showy pass or a key tackle – but, for me, it was more impressive because of that. Thrown in against a fierce Ipswich midfield, Hyndman was comfortable and efficient, able to recycle the ball without too much fuss and keep Fulham going forward when the game seemed beyond them in the second half. He didn’t freeze or run out of legs but kept things simple and steady, completing 59 of his 66 passes. Magath mentioned that he was ‘surprised in a good way’ by the quality of Hyndman’s debut and, judging by the standard of his performance in another testing defeat by Millwall, the manager might just ink the eighteen year-old in as one of his regular starters.
Even in a side that showed signs of being shaken up by the concession of a sloppy early goal, Hyndman never hid. He was eager to receive the ball and made plenty of intelligent forward runs, often taking it upon himself to drift into advanced areas to support the horribly isolated Hugo Rodallega. There was plenty of efficient passing – Hyndman completed 66 of 73 passes as Fulham utterly dominated possession – and was always looking for a forward ball. His vision and passing make him the perfect foil for Scott Parker in the heart of the midfield, given the Fulham captain’s advancing age – and you get the sense that there’s much more to come from the American.
The lively running of Patrick Roberts might have quickened our pulses over the past couple of weeks, but Hyndman’s rapid rise is a compelling story. He certainly hasn’t looked overawed in taking on two physical sides in Ipswich and Millwall – and it can’t be beyond the realms of possibility that he could force his way into the American Olympic squad for Rio in a couple of years time. You might remember the name, but you won’t forget Emerson Hyndman’s talent in a hurry either.
Fulham are in talks with veteran goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand over a potential move to Craven Cottage, according to the Mail on Sunday.
The 35 year-old is currently a free agent having left Schalke earlier this summer after spending three years with the club after signing from Sporting Lisbon. He has won seven international caps for Germany and was part of the squad that finished third at the 2006 World Cup, before he was surprisingly overlooked by Joachim Low for Euro 2008. Hildebrand won the Bundesliga in the last year of his seven-year spell at Stuttgart and also won the Copa Del Rey whilst with Valencia.
Hildebrand, who once held the Bundesliga record for the longest run of consecutive minutes without conceding a goal, was handed his first-team debut at Stuttgart by Magath as part of an exciting trio of youngsters, which also included Andreas Hinkel and Kevin Kuryani, that helped the club finish second in the league and qualify for the Champions’ League. With Fulham currently short of experienced goalkeepers having sold David Stockdale to Brighton earlier this month, Hildebrand could provide the experience alongside Jesse Joronen, who has kept goal for the first two games of this season, and academy graduate Marcus Bettinelli.
Alex Kacaniklic is disappointed to have been left out of Felix Magath’s new-look Fulham side and is looking to leave Craven Cottage for the sake of his international career, according to his agent.
The Swedish winger has not been involved in either of Fulham’s two defeats so far and isn’t carrying an injury. The 23 year-old, signed from Liverpool in a part-exchange deal involving Paul Konchesky, knows that he needs regular football to remain in Swedish coach Erik Hamren’s plans and his agent Miralem Jaganjac has told the Swedish press that he is seeking a solution for Kacaniklic.
We are trying to find a solution. If we do not, Alex could remain there until January, so we will be looking at the market. What you should know is that Alex certainly has not said that he did not want to play for Fulham, it is Magath who has said that those who want to leave may not play.
We’re looking at other options. That’s what we’re trying to find – something that will give him the opportunity to play, maybe in England, but the goal is to find something outside of England.
Kacaniklic has scored five goals in 57 appearances for Fulham and has won seventeen caps for Sweden.
Fulham Football Club is now six months into the tenure of Felix Magath, the pragmatic German that took the reins of our cosy and warm football club following a short-lived stint by former Manchester United coach Rene Meulensteen. A lot has changed since Felix Magath was placed in charge by the Fulham management, a decision that came out of the blue on that February evening with Magath set the sole goal of staying within the Premier League; it was perhaps too late for Felix to save us completely, however, he did manage to garner somewhat of a fight out of a team that looked impossible to save; ultimately, Magath had failed and Fulham were relegated to the Championship.
However, relegation wasn’t the only change to Fulham since Magath’s appointment, even though it may have overshadowed most. This summer, the German has begun a monumental rebuild of the on-field personnel, so far letting go of 22 players for one reason or another, and bringing in 24 by either purchasing from another club, signing a free agent or promoting from within the academy that is beginning to pay dividends thanks to the hard work of Huw Jennings. The philosophy of our transfer window was revealed by Felix Magath in an open letter to the supporters:
“I felt that the squad was an ageing one that urgently needed to be freshened up with younger, hungrier and more ambitious players.”
With this amount of alteration in just one transfer window, it is inevitable that the new-look Fulham (no matter who the manager is) require a bedding in period. We have players that have come from other countries, other clubs and other age groups to create the heartbeat of our squad. To quote from Felix’s open letter again:
“I would like to stress, that our aim is to a develop a squad that can not only perform well and achieve our goal in the Championship, but can grow into a strong Premier League team with a future.”
A great sentiment, and looking at our recruitment process and how our squad is shaping up, I can see why he feels this way; we’ve seen the success of our best youg talent in the past few years, and now Felix Magath is giving them an opportunity to succeed at a higher level. Again, it’s inevitable that the volume of young players, mixed with the new faces, will need time to settle; not only to the system and style of play, but to step up of professional football too.
The quirky Felix is a man who, despite his controversy, has been a successful manager in Germany, winning three Bundesliga titles, two German cups and the Intertoto (he too won it one time). Would it not be a shame to waste a summer transfer window on Felix Magath if we were not going to give him the opportunity to succeed? With all the changes that have happened at Fulham, does he not deserve a chance to jumpstart our season once the squad is settled?
I take you back to 2011-12 when Reading under Brian McDermott had four points from their first six games – a sequence that included four successive defeats – as well as a loss in the League Cup. Those very same strugglers soared from 23rd, went on to win the Championship title, winning seventeen of their last 23 games in the process and their success goes to prove that a slow start in this division doesn’t necessarily equal failure. You cannot honestly say that we don’t have better players than Noel Hunt, Ian Harte and Kaspars Gorkss who all played over 40 games for the Royals that season?
As supporters, we need to show patience in our refreshed squad, and we need to support our young faces, as we know that dreams are possible. In our two games already, we’ve played some magnificent football using a squad of new signings, academy players and Scott Parker. If the performances continue, the results will surely follow. The football really has been impressive, and wouldn’t be nice as a football club to have a long term plan, and more importantly for the plan to pay off?
Felix Magath’s transfer window philosophy states quite clearly what our long term plan is, but for us to succeed, we will need stability. Over the past six months, Magath has rubbed a minority of supporters the wrong way, mostly from disagreement with his team selection, but wouldn’t it be nice if we had a manager in for the long haul? Remarkably you have to go back to the days of Bedford Jezzard to find a Fulham manager who was at the helm for more than four years. Jezzard was in charge at the club for six years, from 1958-64. The only Fulham managers to hit four years since that tenure were Alec Stock (1972-76), Bobby Campbell (1976-80), Malcolm MacDonald (1980-84), Ray Lewington (1986-90) and Chris Coleman (2003-07); the most successful managers in Fulham’s history, modern history anyway, Roy Hodgson and Jean Tigana only managed three years in charge.
Maybe we do have to suffer some more losses and a draw here and there in the next few months, but this patience and persistence could see us embark on greatness at Fulham, Felix Magath is the most decorated man to ever take charge of Fulham Football Club, and if he can have the time to gel this monster together, he surely can succeed. It will certainly be exciting to watch a new generation emerge at Craven Cottage.
I’d like to finish off this post with the final paragraph from Felix Magath’s open letter:
“This team requires from you, our supporters, patience, support and an understanding as to what we are trying to build here for the future of the Football Club. My work here as manager and that of my staff, is to bring to you a team which you can be proud of and get excited about. We are all in this together, please show us that you have trust and faith in us.”
The giant flag saying “Still Believe” still hangs from Craven Cottage, but with the air of an “EVERYTHING MUST GO” sign in the window of a shop that closed 18 months ago.
Still believe? In what? In the youngsters? Sure. In the manager? Well maybe. In the club overall? Well there’s nothing to not believe in really, is there, unless we’re talking about the club’s ability to win football matches, which is a different question and not so easily answered.
In any case, they’d be better taking it down.
Today Fulham lost to a spirited Millwall side that had the gumption to get ahead and then stay there. The opener looked soft, with Ricardo Fuller putting in a cross that floated across the box and was volleyed home at the back post. Scoring goals should be harder than that.
Going a goal down at home means that you’ll probably have most of the ball and most of the attack, which Fulham did. That’s how the game goes and we should be wary of getting too excited about what followed. 62% possession? Fine, but that’s normal under the circumstances. The trick is to hurt the opposition and again it didn’t necessarily feel that we were. Part of this is fitting a story to an outcome: if Eisfeld’s early drive had crept in early on then that’s a different game. Hugo Rodallega, willing and present amid most of our good moments, looked to have a clear chance in the second half, but shot straight at Forde in the Millwall net. He had a better chance soon after, but wanted a bit more time than seemed absolutely necessary and his eventual dig at goal was cleared off the line.
The chances were kind of there and I’d say we weren’t that far off, but goals decide games and we didn’t deliver on that front. My friend Lewis, a Millwall fan, mentioned that it was probably a good thing for them to get Fulham now rather than in a few weeks time, and I can see that. There still looks like half a useful team brewing here, but I think we all know that it’ll take time.
The question I have is whether Magath has the patience and know how to develop this young squad. It’s dangerous to read too much into these things but Shaun Hutchinson, warming up, had the air of a man with the wind taken out of his sails. I have a real issue with his being dropped after a single game. If you think that one game is sufficient to discard players then that says a couple of things: you misjudged them in picking them last week, or you think that pulling young players in and out of the team on one game’s evidence is the way to do things. I associate the latter with knee-jerk reactions among supporters, not with managers whom you’d hope might select a player then back them. By way of an analogy, it is generally accepted that the England cricket team is better off now that it gives its chosen players a run of games rather than switching them around after every match. I feel that the same applies here. That’s not to say that rotation isn’t a good thing either, but that’s more controlled, that’s more ‘horses for courses’.
Speaking of fans, and this really is low hanging fruit, some of this lot were pretty ordinary today. Stan and I were sitting right at the front and couldn’t see much at the other end, but the people behind us were effing and blinding about everything. They were particularly pulling people up on not shooting from distance when they could have. Never mind that you can’t see how far out players are from where we were sitting, it’s stupid to take hopeful pot-shots unless things really open up. Finally, Scott Parker punted one into row Z of the Putney End, rather making a point. It never ceases to amaze me how angry people can get about things that they either can’t see or don’t understand or both. It’s funny how the message boards talk about ‘johnny come latelys’ not ‘getting’ football, and Fulham’s place in same, but most of the bile comes from grizzled old gits who you’d assume have been going (and moaning) for years. Yeah, football is for letting off steam, if that’s your bag, but lots of people just seem to want to shout and swear for the sake of shouting and swearing. Now that’s fine, too, but it can add up to an atmosphere that isn’t as positive as it might be.
Anyway. I was too close to the pitch to have any sense of space and movement and could only judge what I saw on an incident by incident basis (Hoogland slides, wins tackle, yay Hoogland; Parker tackle, yay Parker; etc, etc) which makes judging a game basically impossible (but perhaps explains why everyone loved Steve Sidwell, who was pretty good in the incident by incident stuff but perhaps not in the bigger picture). So I have no idea who played well and who didn’t. Rodallega seems to have attracted criticism but I’d be more inclined to praise him for being in good positions and being involved with what appeared to be most of our opportunities. The two full-backs continue to impress me, but we’ll have to see the goal again on TV to see what happened on the goal. All three midfielders looked like they did alright to me. Maybe Williams on the wing struggled to get into the game but I might be miles off on that.
Let’s not go overboard. This one could easily have gone either way and I’m not sure that our start proves much beyond the fact that a team with mid-table inclinations can very easily lose two close games in a row. Three in a row, four in a row even. This season is 46 games long and we know it’ll take time. How can it not, when you’ve essentially built the team from scratch? So if we know it’ll take time we need to find it in ourselves to give the players and the manager time.
2 Hoogland Yellow Card 47′
6 Bodurov Yellow Card 63′
3 Stafylidis Yellow Card 77′
21 Christensen Subbed Off 45′
7 Eisfeld Subbed Off 61′
30 David Subbed On 77′
26 Abdou Subbed Off 78′
11 Woolford Goal 12′ Subbed Off 62′
19 Fuller Subbed Off 73′
8 Easter Subbed On 73′
10 Bailey Subbed On 62′
Weather 20o. Wind 10mph Westerly. Partly cloudy.
Filed under: General
On this evidence, the Championship could prove to be a very tough nut to crack for Felix Magath. Famously never relegated before he tried to right Fulham’s sinking ship last season, the German’s wholesale Craven Cottage clearout was meant to refresh a stale squad for an immediate return to English football’s top table. Magath might have blooded some of Fulham’s highly-rated youngsters, but the streetwise nature of Mick McCarthy and Ian Holloway – experts at winning points in this division – has made his introduction to the second tier a frustrating one so far.
Holloway had attempted to make this a paupers v princes contest in the build-up, highlighting how Fulham paid big money for Ross McCormack, The Scottish striker started on the bench, resting a calf that had tightened in the opening day defeat at Ipswich, and eight of the home side’s matchday squad had graduated from their much-talked about academy, but the real difference between the sides was in style. Millwall were regimented and organised, far from fussy in possession and dogged, whist, for far too long, Fulham – despite four changes from the defeat at Portman Road – were ponderous and predictable, creating pretty passing patterns rather than pressure on the Millwall goal.
It was pressure that was required after the visitors opened the scoring from their first attack after eleven minutes. Ricardo Fuller, who proved a handful all afternoon, drew Tim Hoogland and Cameron Burgess out to the right flank and his deep cross eventually fell for Martyn Wolford to steer into the empty net. Fulham’s early promise – which saw Thomas Eisfield draw an instinctive save from the impressive David Forde – petered out as Holloway’s side grew in confidence and the visitors wasted a couple of good opportunities to extend their lead before the break.
Woolford, an energetic presence down the Millwall right, created half an opening for Jimmy Abdou, but the midfielder’s ambitious effort from distance was an awkward one that flew over the bar. Scott Malone’s dipping volley looked as though it might surprise Jesse Joronen, but the Fulham goalkeeper reacted well to turn it aside for a corner. Fulham’s threat was rather more limited. Alan Dunne’s superb saving tackle denied Hugo Rodallega a sight of goal before Burgess extended Forde with a header from a corner and Scott Parker drove a speculative effort narrowly over.
Magath introduced McCormack at half-time and Fulham played at a far higher tempo after the break. The former Leeds striker almost immediately unlocked the Millwall defence, playing in Rodallega, but the Colombian’s shot was smartly saved by a scrambling Forde. At the other end, Scott McDonald’s superb slide-rule pass sent Malone through on goal, but the full-back was denied by a sprawling save from Joronen.
Fulham’s attacks carried greater potency when teenage winger Patrick Roberts replaced Eisfield after an hour and he almost created an equaliser for McCormack but Forde did brilliantly to palm aside the Scottish striker’s attempted finish. When the Republic of Ireland goalkeeper was beaten, as Rodallega turned and fired a close-range shot goalwards, Dunne was perfectly positioned to clear off the goal line. Roberts himself was denied by Forde from 20 yards but, for all Fulham’s pressure, the visitors had the clearest chance late on.
Substitute Magaye Gueye surged clear after collecting a misplaced pass from Parker but Joronen made himself break and smothered a weak effort. Holloway’s men hung on to record their second successive win and leave Magath hoping for better against Wolves on Wednesday night.
FULHAM (4-3-2-1): Joronen; Hoogland, Stafylidis, Burgess, Bodurov; Parker, Christensen (McCormack 45), Hyndman; Eisfeld (Roberts 61), G. Williams (David 77). Subs (not used): Bettinelli, Hutchinson, Kavanagh, Woodrow.
BOOKED: Hoogland, Stafylidis, Bodurov.
MILLWALL (4-4-1-1): Forde; C. Edwards, Malone, Dunne, Beevers; S. Williams, Abdou (Gueye 78), Martin, Woolford (Bailey 62); McDonald; Fuller (Easter 73). Subs (not used): Gerrar, Webster, Wright, Gregory.
GOAL: Woolford (11).
REFEREE: Lee Mason (Bolton).
Having a quick look at last season’s Championship table a few things stand out.
The top six teams were all among the division’s best defences: only Middlesbrough missed the “defend well and make the playoffs” bus.
Saying that, nobody had an absolute shocker defensively (the worst team in the league allowed 77 in 46 – contrast with Fulham’s 86 in 38 last season). The teams at the bottom defended worse than the teams above them, but not calamitously so. No, at the bottom of the league, the biggest problem seems to be an inability to put the ball in the net reliably.
Unlike the Premier League, where there’s less balance owing to well known financial issues, there’s no dominant team at both ends. The best we saw was Leicester, and that’s why they won the league. Derby and Burnley were the next two best teams, but Derby did it with attack and Burnley with defence.
One more thing: Millwall under Holloway (January onwards) weren’t half bad, and not the mad flying attacking team we remember him turning Blackpool into. He turned the team around defensively, sacrificing forward play somewhat in the process, but it kept the team up. I’m told they played really well in the season’s opening game so it’ll be another tricky game. Looking forward to it.
Filed under: General
Further to an excellent comment below, yes Scott Parker probably is being judged to higher standards than his teammates at the moment.
When we make up our minds about players we’re not just reacting to what we see on the pitch. So say Scott Parker gets 5/10. When we think about Scott Parker we all draw on our expectations of what Scott Parker is.
Suppose we meet a tiger in the street for the first time. Now, I don’t know about you, but I have no experience of tigers. But I’m able to draw an inference that this tiger might be dangerous, so I act accordingly. If the tiger then bares its teeth I’m going to be twitchy. Now, it turns out the tiger was just yawning, but it gave me an awful fright for a moment. After a while, as we get used to the tiger, we realised that it’s not going to bite us at all, and we recalibrate our expectations a bit. Now, if someone new to the area comes across the tiger they’re all “whoah!” but to those of us who have seen it around and got used to its habits, we realise that this tiger doesn’t bite. We relax. It’s just a big friendly tiger. That doesn’t mean we’re completely sure about our tiger. It might bite us. But we’re not super-charged in our fear here. Respectful is the word. It would have been stupid to decide the tiger wouldn’t bite after seeing it just once – although a lot of people would have done exactly this – but after we’ve seen it a few times we do recalibrate our expectations.
So it is with Parker. When we got Scott Parker he wasn’t far removed from being England’s player of the year. He’d played well enough for Spurs and felt like just what we needed. Now, some people might have made snap judgement, particularly those with access to fitness reports perhaps, but for the rest of us it was a question of waiting and seeing. This was Scott Parker! Saviour of West Ham. England hero. Good egg. Leader. We were lucky to have him. But as time moved along we realised that rather than being part of the solution, Parker was a big part of the problem. It wasn’t just him, but somehow all of Fulham’s combinations were wrong last year and because we’d expected so much of Parker it felt quite easy to point fingers at him. We had an expectation of what Parker might be and what we saw wasn’t it. We expected an 8/10 player and we got a 6/10 player. But to us – for the reasons outlined above – he felt like a 5/10 player.
Fast forward to the Championship. Alright! Scott’s going to dominate here, what with his knowhow.
But again, he didn’t deliver. He played okay, but it felt like there were too many occasions where he tried to do a bit more on the ball than his skillset might warrant. There are players in this team who do some things better than Parker, but he seemed to want to impose himself on various moves rather than just keeping things ticking along. As I noted at the time, there were occasions when an obvious recycling ball looked on, but Parker failed to take the option, ran into trouble, then played the same kind of ball anyway. Now, like Bryan getting dispossessed, this probably happened far fewer times than my mind thinks it did, but nevertheless, these are the things I take from watching Parker now. I’m biased, I have made up my mind: I look for the things he’s not doing well to back up my feeling that he’s no longer up to it. I don’t do this on purpose and if he plays out of his skin I’ll notice this, too, but generally speaking if he’s bumbling around having a middling game it’s the things that conform to my perception of Parker that I’ll remember.
By way of contrast, if one of the 18 year olds plays the same way they’ll get 6 or 7/10 from most of us. We have no preconceptions, they’re young and starting out, so we have lower expectations, we desperately want to see the best in them, so we’ll overlook the negatives and focus on the positives. The Ipswich first goal comes when a bouncing ball is badly headed by Hyndman (?), then Parker doesn’t take control and they score. Now, everyone focuses on Hutchinson getting burned here because that was very obvious, but in midfield we focus on Parker, not Hyndman. We want the kids to do well, desperately so. They get more rope. Parker doesn’t get that.
This of course is why Fulham have been very smart in going the way they have. Facing an absolute meltdown of a season the club have cleared the decks of the tainted many and brought in the kids. The fans will pretty much back the kids come what may. The board, the manager, and yes, Scott Parker, are likely to get some flak, but the kids will ensure that there’s some feelgood factor around the club this season. That’s clever.
Whether the tiger ends up biting anyone is beyond me, but by now I suspect not.
Filed under: General
Before the game we all agreed we had no idea what to expect, but really that went exactly as we’d have expected, had we had any expectations.
The home team and favourites looked pretty good. Someone said ‘functional’, which does Ipswich a disservice, but this was a fully realised team in a way that Fulham aren’t. Ipswich won’t have worried at all that Fulham had almost all the ball for much of the first half, Fulham’s play being too far from goal and lacking a bit of something. The front two of Dembele and McCormack looked nifty on occasion but was really too far away from a midfield that flickered in and out. For all the good possession there wasn’t much of a killer instinct.
There didn’t need to be, of course. As the away side, enjoying most of the ball, Fulham will have felt okay about the world until they went behind. I’ve spoken of Glenn Hoddle’s multiple mistake theory of goal concessions before, but here was a good example. Some untidiness around a bouncing ball in midfield, Scott Parker erred in waiting for the ball to settle of its own accord, which it didn’t, and suddenly Ipswich had turned on the jets and Fulham were in trouble. A quick pass to Murphy, who had it all to do, but then he burst forward past a bemused Hutchinson. The latter presumably felt he was about to slow Murphy down while help arrived, but Murphy had other ideas and charged in on goal. Joronen was probably down a bit early and Murphy finished well. Four mistakes of varying seriousness and Fulham were losing.
The whites’ best chance came when Chris David stung the hands of Gerken, the Ipswich ‘keeper. The ball popped loose and Dembele reacted quickly, but Gerken redeemed himself with a smart block.
David was withdrawn at half time. Eisfeld replaced him, like-for-like.
Fulham didn’t offer much in the second half until Patrick Roberts came on. At that point they were two down, Hutchinson capping a day he won’t want to remember by being shouldered off the ball near the corner flag. Town swept the ball infield and McGoldrick powered home the loose ball.
With 15 minutes left Fulham brought Roberts on and suddenly the game was transformed. Roberts was by some distance the best player on the pitch and managed to transcend the mediocrity around him. He slipped Eisfeld through with one good ball, and his play brought a directness and intelligence heretofore missing. It was he who slipped Hoogland through down the right for what would become the Fulham consolation, Hoogland overlapping, cutting in, then shooting home via a deflection. And it was he who had half an opening late on, the ball not quite going where it needed to go. He’ll do a lot of damage cutting in from the right. Sooner rather than later Fulham need to take off the cotton wool and let him play from the start.
So yeah, probably the right result. One team knew itself, the other finding its way. Understandable: this is a new team full of new combinations. It really will take time for this team to get going.
Setup, players, etc
Joronen got the start in goal and did okay. Not at fault for either goal and made a couple of nice saves. 6/10
Hoogland played as an energetic right-back and appeared capable of playing the role well. He was up and down and didn’t appear to be caught upfield at all. I didn’t really get a sense of his defensive prowess, nor of his crossing, but he scored and had a couple of other dangerous runs so gets 7/10 for now.
Bodurov had a good debut as best I could tell. One tackle in the second half impressed particularly. Bears watching but so far so good. 6/10.
Hutchinson will be better than this. He’ll hate how his debut went but made a couple of decent interventions and it wasn’t all bad by any means. A thrown-together team is probably hardest for the defence and they’ll need a while to get a sense of what’s happening and where. I hope Magath’s style isn’t to throw players in and out with every iffy performance. 4/10.
Stafylidis did what it says on the tin with some good bursts forward and some robust defending. Like everyone else, it seems, I like the look of him. 6/10.
[it must at this point be noted, somewhere, that both of our full-backs had ponytails and beards - a first?]
Parker – I don’t want to seem like I’m picking on him but as the squad’s senior man I expected more. It’s like he was trying to be “the man” a bit, but I got cross with him eschewing the obvious pass time and again, overlooking teammates who could have taken the ball, and twirling around before passing somewhere no better than option 1. The result was a general slowing of Fulham’s approach work to no obvious advantage. Scott Parker knows more about passing than I do, but he wouldn’t be the first 33 year old to completely lose the ability to play football and I’m more inclined to think that he’ll do a Danny Murphy in the championship than not. The Premiership exposed his lack of range and waning physicality and perhaps we simply saw a continuation of it today. Put another way, when Fulham needed an equaliser did you want Parker anywhere near the ball? 4/10
Burgess was used in a sort of Busquets role in which he dropped deep out of possession but moved up with it. Now it’s true that we’ve been desperate for that unselfish Etuhu role since Dickson last donned a Fulham shirt, but it didn’t really feel as if Burgess was the answer. I mean, he did what he did well enough, particularly as an 18 year old playing his first game in a tricky away match with a completely new team in a completely new position, but… no, there can’t really be a but can there? 5/10.
Hyndman looked terrific to me, absolutely terrific. Bold, busy, intelligent, technically able. Very impressed. Brendan Rodgers will buy him. 7.5/10.
David/Eisfeld played the central attacking role the team needs to knit together what might become quite a broken team when Roberts isn’t playing. They both showed glimpses of class and both seem perfectly able. Mad as it might seem, giving them half a game each for the rest of the season wouldn’t be the worst thing that’s ever happened, but on this evidence, if you were choosing one of them it might be Eisfeld, who looked more polished and intelligent in his 45 minutes. As with everyone, their play will improve as they get to know their teammates. 6/10.
Dembele – I’ll be honest, I have no idea what all the fuss is about. I’m conscious that he’s only young and that in time he could be a beast, but to me he just looks clumsy and out of his depth. Against that I guess he had the one big chance, which speaks of an ability to be where he’s meant to be, but letting the ball run under his boot as time ran down kind of summed him up for me. I’ll look ridiculous when he’s hitting 30 a season for AC Milan in 5 years but there we are. 4.5/10.
McCormack has apparently not been 100%, which is a big shame as you can see the class in his work and how he will score the goals. 6/10.
Subs: Woodrow does have that terrific energy, doesn’t he? It does presumably make him nice to play with as he’s always trying to show for the ball. I don’t doubt that in time Dembele will be the better player but I think Woodrow’s more useful to us now. (6/10).
Roberts I thought was terrific. A different game with him on the pitch. The hype will swirl around and he’ll go large sooner rather than later, but let’s maximise his time on the pitch while we have him. 7.5/10.
Wind: 10mph SW
Ipswich Town: Gerken, Chambers, Berra, Smith, Mings, Hewitt, Hyam (Bru 82), Skuse (Wordsworth 70), Tabb, Bajner (McGoldrick 44), Murphy.
Subs: Bialkowski, Henshall, Marriott, Nouble.
Goals: Murphy 32, McGoldrick 61.
Booked: Hyam, Mings, Berra.
Fulham: Joronen, Hoogland, Hutchinson (Roberts 74), Bodurov, Burgess, Stafylidis, David (Eisfeld 46), Parker, Hyndman, Dembele, McCormack (Woodrow 57).
Subs: Bettinelli, Rodallega, Fotheringham, Burn.
Goal: Hoogland 86.
Referee: Stephen Martin
Filed under: General