Opposition View- Fulham Part 2

In the second part of the Opposition view for Fulham, I catch up with Neil Springate from the Fulham Supporters Trust , as well as Keith from the Fulham site VivaElFulham.

Last weekend wasn’t the best for Fulham. Has it been a disappointing season all round?

K: It’s been an incredibly disappointing season from pretty much start to finish. We got lucky on the 1st day of the season against Sunderland when they pummelled us but we won 1-0, we then conceded late against WBA and Cardiff and looked totally disorganised. The worst result we had last season was the 4-1 against yourselves. You looked the better team up until the wonder goal from Kasami and then Sidwells fantastic strike. If we’d lost that, I think Jol would have gone which if he had and we’d replaced with Magath then, we’d have stayed up. Since that point, the turnover of managers and lack of direction has cost us dear.

NS: We’re disappointed at Fulham’s relegation, but not overly surprised. Its almost predictable manner has angered many of our members. There have been two seasons of inadequate to downright poor governance and direction at FFC, which have meant that we sleep-walked our way into Division Two. This started in 2012 with sales (and non-replacement) of Dembele and Dempsey to a club whose start of season’s ambitions are the same as ours, i.e., finish 17th. or higher. Our dismal form for the latter third of the 2012/13 season should have resulted in the dismissal of the manager, Jol. However, the Club has stated that the administration of its sale to the current owner precluded attending to this matter. This reasoning lacks rigour. Grossly sub-standard acquisitions (Parker, Bent and Taarabt), three managers, bizarre positional selections and the use of more than 40 players have all contributed to Fulham’s relegation.

Do you think that Magarth will be the man to propel Fulham back into the Premier League?

K: I think he’ll organise us well and we’ll be a team that can last the full 90 minutes which we hadn’t looked like under Jol. Some of the decision against Stoke though we’re baffling ie Burn at RB against one of the fastest players in the league and playing Bent from the start which knocked my confidence in him.

NS: Magath has an 18-month contract, so, in theory, he has time to effect Fulham’s return to the top division. Further, the received wisdom is that the current owner will play a greater part in Club affairs after the first season. This initial passivity may work in a franchise-based league where there is neither promotion or relegation, but cannot be said to have been a successful strategem in a pyramidal structure, at least where Fulham has been concerned. Much will depend on the resources made available to Magath and his willingness to clear out the dross and the crocks (Parker, Bent, Arne Riise, Richardson, Amorbieta, Mitroglou, etc.) and build a more youthful side that might avoid relegation to Division Three.

 

How have you viewed Palace’s season so far- have we done well?

K: I think you’ve done fantastically well. I think after 7 or 8 games, you looked certain for the drop but the defensive organisation Pulis bought you so quickly, started to breed confidence within the team. Since then, as well as being incredibly hard to score against, your wide men and strikers have started to score. An amazing turnaround by Pulis and the team and you thoroughly deserve to stay up.

NS: Palace’s players performed admirably as ‘on field’ extras when Pajtim Kasami smashed home the ‘Goal of the Millennium’ and their season has improved from thereon. This has confounded all the so-called ‘experts’, who had them relegated long before Fulham put in a determined challenge for 18th. place. It’s just a shame that The Glaziers’ recovery had to be under the loathsome Tony Pulis, who will never be welcome at Craven Cottage. Palace deserve full credit for derailing the bandwagon of fawning media grovellers, so desperate were they to award the title to Liverpool, and for reducing that racist and incorrigible cheat, Suarez, to a blubbing wreck. Putting a spoke in The Hitlerites’ wheel in March provided a great deal of cheer in these parts, although it did little to help us.

 

Who have been the stand out performers so far this season for Fulham?

K: None? Sidwell has done well and as ever, shows lots of energy and has scored 8. Apart from that? None really and the only positive has been the introduction to the 1st team for the likes of Roberts, Dembele and Woodrow. We’re finally bringing our talented young players through and I hope they play regularly in the Championship.

NS: It’s more a case of which have been the least atrocious! Steve Sidwell has laboured doggedly in a losing, and then lost, cause. The potential of Kasami has been misused, and to his evident frustration. After a fine initial performance (against Everton in the League Cup), the virtual non-use of the skilled (and adaptable) Elsad Zverotic was nonsensical, but symptomatic of the lack of ‘joined up’ thinking, both on and off the field, at the Club. Several of the reserves and the Academy players show plenty of promise, so there may be some light at the end of the tunnel.

 

Who do you think carries the greatest threat in the Palace side?

K: Obviously Puncheon was in fantastic form towards the end of the season but Bolasie has delivered on his ability too. Jerome is a better players than people give him credit for and his pace and strength can cause problems.

NS: Any eleven you care to field, I should think! Yannick Bolasie’s skill and trickery were noted during Palace’s promotion season and he could have a field day on Sunday if the likes of Arne Riise continue to usher opposition right-wingers into goal-scoring opportunities.

 

Finally, what’s your score prediction for the game?

K: 1-1 or 2-2 which will be eventful and entertaining.

NS: The team’s demoralisation after the ceding of a 2-0 lead against Hull City was evident in last week’s capitulation against Stoke City. It’s hard too see anything other than a comfortable away victory for The Glaziers.

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Opposition View- Fulham Part 1

Ahead of the final game of the season, I caught up with Andrew Beck from http://cottagersconfidential.sbnation.com.

Last weekend wasn’t the best for Fulham. Has it been a disappointing season all round?  It has been pretty disappointing. Although the low point was probably the Hull City game. Up two goals deep into the second half, a win there made safety fairly likely. But dropping points effectively ended the campaign. The problem this year was basically Martin Jol. Since his departure, the team has basically played like a mid table squad and just been slightly unlucky. But the hole was so deep, it couldn’t be recovered.

Do you think that Magarth will be the man to propel Fulham back into the Premier League?
I’m not entirely sure. The team is in a weird place. I think Magath could get the team back up. But his contract expires at the end of next season. I don’t really like the idea of having a lame duck coach all year. Though I also don’t like the idea of hiring someone like Ian Holloway who might get you back up, but who you need to replace upon promotion. I’d really like to settle on someone who is comfortable trying to bring the team back up, but will be able to stick around when they get there. If Magath is that guy, I’d like to see them give him and extra year or two on his contract. If he’s not, I’d like them to hire someone as soon as the season ends.
How have you viewed Palace’s season so far- have we done well?
I’m pretty shocked by Palace’s season to be frank. I pegged them to go down at the beginning of the year. But Tony Pulis is some sort of football genius. The play might not be pretty, but I don’t think you can ever argue with his results. The only question is how long the supporters and ownership will put up with his style. Although, to my eyes, he hasn’t seemed as dour at Palace as he did at Stoke.
Who have been the stand out performers so far this season for Fulham?
Ashkan Dejagah and Steve Sidwell. Steve has had an up and down year. He’s made some bad fouls that led to set piece goals. He’s had a few defensive blunders. But he’s scored timely goals, and quite a bit more than you would expect from him. Dejagah on the other hand is just a great player. In the 2012-2013 season, Fulham were doing quite well until his season ended with an injury. For some reason Martin Jol didn’t play when he came back. When he was finally put back into the squad, their performances turned around. It seems weird to point April 1st, 2013 as a turning point but to me it really was. When he left the team had 39 points through 30 games. They only managed 4 in their last eight. And those struggles continued into this season.
Who do you think carries the greatest threat in the Palace side?
The weird thing is on an individual basis, I’m not that scared of anyone. Can I say Tony Pulis? Palace is a team that is very much greater than the sum of their parts.
Finally, what’s your score prediction for the game?
All indications is that this is going to be a very different Fulham side. Fulham have had some impressive youth squads over the last few years, and you might quite a few of those players feature on Sunday. It’s always impossible to say what kind of performance a squad like that will put in. To make matters worse, I can’t imagine palace caring about much after that Liverpool result. That really should be the cherry on top of their season. A meaningless game against some kids at Craven Cottage might be hard to get up for. I’m guessing it will be a sloppy game with a few goals. If I had to guess I’d say 3-2 Fulham, but I have no idea.

Palace reveal new kits

For those of you lucky enough to have been at the awards night last night, you would have seen the unveiling of the new Crystal Palace kits for the forthcoming 2014/15 Premier league season. If you weren’t that doesn’t matter, as you can see exactly what they will look like below.

The home kit has gone back to the traditional red and blue stripes that have become synonymous with Palace over the years. It’s nice to see the stripes coming back, and once again Palace fans can now wear the kit with the logo of new manufacturers Macron actually visible, compared to this season’s design.

The Italian kit manufacturers have given the new away kit a continental feel, and it looks marvellous. The vivid yellow and blue design could have come from any one of the teams currently in the Serie A. As Palace look to stay in the Premier League for many years to come, it’s fantastic that there are now two beautiful kits that Palace fans can choose to wear when supporting the red and blue.

new kits

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Opposition View- Liverpool

This week the opposition view come from Paul Tomkins www.tomkinstimes.com and Conor Dowley from http://liverpooloffside.sbnation.com/.
1. Last weekend wasn’t the best for Liverpool. Do you still have what it takes to win the title?
PT: Yes, although I never expected us to be in the position a few months ago. We have what it takes, in that we are capable of winning the final two games, and that would be enough if City drop points. We don’t have the kind of squad usually required to win the title, but we’ll only play 43 games in all competitions, so it’s been less of an issue. Although we’ve had injuries and suspensions, I don’t think there’s ever been an injury crisis, and one of either Suarez or Sturridge has been available at any given time. Without both of those we’d be well off the pace, but then all teams worse without their best players. The problem Liverpool would have had is the lack of even a half-decent option after those two.
CD: Sunday was definitely frustrating, but all hope isn’t extinguished just yet. Yes, the title in in Manchester City’s hands, but as long as Liverpool win their next two matches, they force City to be at their best. As long as Liverpool do everything the can to keep the pressure on, they have what it takes and stand a fair chance of bringing a long-awaited title to Anfield
2. Liverpool are perhaps the surprise team in the title race- have you overachieved so far this season or do you deserve to be in your current position?
PT: Yes, we’ve very much overachieved. We also deserve to be in this position, but of course it helped that Ferguson had retired and handed his team over to a mediocre manager, City were spreading themselves too far across four competitions and picking up injuries in the process, and Mourinho messed up his striker situation by letting Lukaku go and buying midfielders and just an old striker in Eto’o.
My hope for the season was 70-72 points, so with 80 already, and the group stages of the Champions League secured, it’s been amazing. The great shame now is just how awful it will feel to fall short, having led the table in the final weeks of the season.
CD: Is it a little weird to say both? I thought going in to the season that this was a much better squad than it was being credit for and would be legitimate contenders for a Champions League place. Even with that in mind, though, Brendan Rodgers has had this side outplaying even my wildest hopes and expectations. Watching this team come together as strongly as it has this season has been a marvel.
3. How have you viewed Palace’s season so far- have we done well?
PT: Obviously it’s an incredible story, and Tony Pulis deserves all the plaudits he’s getting. You expect a new-boss bounce for 8-10 games, but Palace have got it for six months. If Liverpool win the league then Rodgers should be Manager of the Year, but if not, it’s hard to look past Pulis. I have no issue with his direct methods, as teams on low budgets have to find ways to win. It’s just a bit sad when clubs as rich as Chelsea do it.
CD: I said wayyyyyyyyyy back in August that Palace would be a favorite to go down, and during the dire early days under Ian Holloway that certainly looked true. Then Holloway was fired for, well, having Palace play terrible, terrible football, and Tony Pulus has had them playing much better since then. I’ve never been a Pulis fan and I never will be, but I certainly have to admit that he’s got his side playing much better football than I think I’ve ever seen a Pulis side play before. Palace’s league position is well deserved at this point, and it will be interesting to see what they do to take the next step over the summer.
4. Which player(s) should Palace be most wary of on Monday?
PT: Obviously Luis Suarez, but Daniel Sturridge should be fit again – he was clearly off the pace when coming on as a sub against Chelsea. The Reds’ front four have been sensational this season, and it’s a shame for us that Jordan Henderson misses this game through suspension. Also, after his second half against Chelsea, I’d expect Steven Gerrard to be taking more pot-shots at goal, although hopefully Brendan has had a word with him.
CD: Luis Suarez is the obvious answer, but I don’t like obvious answers. In my eyes, Raheem Sterling has actually been the more in-form player of late, and Joe Allen has also been playing very well for the last two months, though he hasn’t gotten much recognition for it as he’s not a terribly flashy player.
5. Who do you think carries the greatest threat in the Palace side?
PT: I’ve heard a lot of good things about Jedinak, but I haven’t seen too much of Palace this season. As a defensive midfielder he’s obviously not much of a threat going forward, but he might be a threat to stop us achieving our aim of scoring a few goals. On the highlights I’ve seen, Puncheon looks a surprisingly good buy. I expected Thomas Ince to do well, but he seems to have barely featured.
CD: Jason Puncheon is a player I’ve always liked, and have been glad to see him succeed this season. Marouane Chamakh is a guy I’ve long thought gets too much stick and deserved a better shot than he’s gotten, and he’s been a threat for Palace pretty much every time I’ve watched them this season, even if his hair is terrible.
6. Have you ever visited Selhurst Park before? If so, what were your thoughts?
PT: Many times. I spent three years in Croydon at the art college, from 1991-1994. I used to go and see Liverpool play both Palace and Wimbledon every season, the highlights of which were the 6-1 win in ’94, but also Ian Rush’s masterful performance a year earlier in a 1-1 draw. I was also there to see Michael Owen’s first two games, both against Wimbledon in 1997, but I think that’s the last time I was there. Last time I saw us play Palace was in 2001, in the League Cup semi at Anfield, which ended 5-0. I seem to remember Clinton Morrison getting laughed at by the Kop after missing an easy chance, after he’d said something cocky in the press in the build-up to the game.
7. Finally, what’s your score prediction for the game?
PT: I have to predict that we’ll win, given that we need to – and you don’t. I think you’ll have eased up by then, and be half on the beach. But I don’t predict score lines, as football’s too random!
CD:I imagine that Liverpool have a lot of frustration to vent for this match, and will take it out on Palace as much as they can. I’m not going to give a specific scoreline as I pretty much never get them right, but I think Liverpool win by at least two goals.

 

Stay or Go- Part 3

Tom Ince- Ince was another one of Tony Pulis’ summer signings, arriving on transfer deadline day. His debut went fantastically, with Ince netting a goal and also providing an assist in a 3-1 win over West Brom. Since then, he has found places in the first team hard to come by, which has disappointed some Palace fans. He clearly has the talent, but I’m not too sure whether he currently fits in with the Palace style of play.

Verdict: Out the door

Jerome Thomas: Thomas’ career with Palace has been hampered by injury problems, and Thomas now finds himself on the fringes of the Palace squad. On his day, he can be a quality crosser of the ball- yet with age he will pace will continue to dwindle. A dive in the away game at Swansea in March angered Palace fans. I don’t see that he will have a future at this club.

Verdict: Out the door

Barry Bannan: Bannan was a regular starter for Palace earlier in the season, but has since seen chances in the Palace side limited. It’s clear to see that Bannan has plenty of talent, but he lacks in height- something not favoured by Pulis. I would love to see Barry given a chance next season, but sadly I do not see that happening.

Verdict: Out the door

Mile Jedinak:  Jedinak has been fantastic at the heart of Palace’s defence so far this season. With the most interceptions in Europe’s top leagues, his break up play has helped the defence out countless times. If his passing was a it more up to scratch, then he could be a world class player. A true leader; he definitely should be staying at Selhurst next season.

Verdict: Staying Put

KG: KG has been Jedinak’s partner in the defensive midfield for the majority of the season so far. Like Jedinak, his break up play has been good, but he does lack a little bit of quality at the end of the day. He has improved as the season has gone on, and would definitely be a good backup choice for the midfield. A new short term contract would be the best way forward for KG.

Verdict: Staying Put

 

Manchester City Review

It’s so nice not to have to worry about whether or not results go Palace’s way now. These final few games of the season are a time to relax and enjoy the football, you would have thought. Well, up until a few minutes into the game yesterday, I was looking forward to an exciting match of football. It’s fair to say that I was left disappointed.

One word can be used to sum up the effort mustered up for us fans yesterday: boring. I should have known as soon as Chelsea had secured victory up in Anfield that there would be only one team up for winning yesterday. Manchester City came along and got what they wanted- a decent victory which now puts them in pole position for the title race. After the five previous win’s that Palace had picked up to secure safety, in which desire, dedication and sheer willpower had been shown by the players, yesterday put a dampener on my mood.

It seemed as if nobody was up for the fight. Everybody expected a City win, so why put in any effort to correct that? As a unit and on an individual level, the players did not work as hard as they had done previously. The banner from the wonderful Holmesdale fanatics stated before the game that Palace had soul. On yesterday’s account, it would be hard to find any of that throughout the 90 minutes.

Despite a disappointing performance, once again one man stood out for the red and blue. Marouane Chamakh was fantastic. His skill was sublime, his touch talented, and he was by far the best Palace player on the pitch. The defence once again put in a spirited performance, but City’s skills were no match for a Palace side who showed little desire. Players like Yaya Toure are a class above. Coming back from injury but still on the top of your game is the sign of a player will real class. Toure oozes class.

It’ll be a case of the players dusting themselves down and moving on to the game against Liverpool next Monday. If Palace show the same levels of effort and energy that they did a couple of games ago, then another scalp at Selhurst could be on the cards.

Up the Palace

Manchester City Preview

Manchester City travel own south tomorrow to play a Palace team full of confidence after recording their fifth win in a row and securing their Premier League status for next season. This game could have a major impact at the top of the table, with City still in the hunt for the Premier League title.

After the start to the campaign that Palace had, many fans wouldn’t have dreamed of securing top flight status with three games still in hand. It won’t be a time of relaxation for Pulis and his squad, however, as Palace can decide who wins the league and potentially who go down in their remaining games. I’m sure that I am not the only one who would love us to keep City or Liverpool looking over their shoulders and holding their breath until the final day.

A sixth win in a row for Palace would be fantastic tomorrow. It’ll be tough, yet over the past month the team has shown excellent resilience and desire to pull off some remarkable results. It will be extremely important for the defence to stay solid- a tough task considering the attacking arsenal which City possess. In a game where Palace will once again not see much of the ball, the two wingers will be vital in starting quick, meaningful and direct counter attacks. Both Bolasie and Puncheon have been in excellent form over the past few weeks, and once again they are likely to be the most important players in the Palace side as far as attacking is concerned. Pulis may think about giving some of the fringe players like Tom Ince a run-out tomorrow, as any experimentation will not affect Palace’s season. After all, we are safe!

I mentioned earlier that City have some excellent attacking (and defending) talents among their ranks. Luckily Yaya Toure, who has been the powerhouse in their central midfield this season, looks set to miss the game through injury. That doesn’t mean that the game will be any easier. The likes of Silva and Aguero are some of the best players in the world, so a lapse in concentration from the Palace defence could be extremely costly. Joe Hart was tested throughout the game at the Etihad earlier this season, and hopefully he’ll be worked just as hard tomorrow.

Safety feels wonderful for everybody involved with Palace at the moment. A top half finish could be on the cards, but that would rely on a couple more wins for the Eagles- starting tomorrow. Let’s all hope that Selhurst will once again be rocking come six o’clock tomorrow!

Up the Palace