Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Cut price Basel tickets

Despite charging £15 for the first 5,000 people to buy them and £20 for everyone hereafter, Seetickets has somehow got a load of tickets for Thursday night's Europa League extravaganza against Basel and is flogging them for £7 plus £1.60 each. The downside of that is that they are in P1&P2, but hey! £8.60 for Craven Cottage's first experience of proper European competition. It's bound to be electric.

I'll be amazed if the crowd breaks five figures. The fans have a go at Hodgson for not putting his first XI out in Europe, but it's not as if they are treating the competition with any more respect.

I do find the amount of empty seats at football stadia around the country disconcerting. A quick watch of BBC's Football League show (if you ignore the bunker set) tends to highlight more brightly coloured seats than fans. Can clubs not cut the prices and get more fans in? That's what dragged me to Fulham in the first place, after all.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Fulham 0 - 1 Arsenal

How annoying was that game? Fulham fought and fought, but it was one of those days where the team were not going to score. Arsenal's rookie keeper Mannone made a series of impressive, if a little showy, saves from the Fulham forward line while at the other end Robin van Persie was clinical in putting the ball past Mark Schwarzer.
The game still contained plenty of positives. Zoltan Gera really took hold of the chance to shine by, well, shining. He replaced Damien Duff early in the game and put himself about making lots of tackles, including a key one in defence, and generally looked busy - which is more than he usually does in a white shirt. He could well have played him into the starting 11, which paradoxically means he will probably be dropped for the Europa League game on Thursday.
One of the few Arsenal players I'd not seen before was Andrei Arshavin. He didn't have the best of games after a few tussle with Johnny Paintsil, but he looks so out of place on a football pitch with other adults. The guy isn't just small - he looks incredibly young. It's like the mascot has somehow stayed on the pitch and is getting involved in the game.
The only Fulham player who had an off day is Clint Dempsey and he was closest to scoring, although his shot came back off the keeper's face. Another indication that a game isn't going to go your way. If any of Fulham's front line were as clinical as RvP then all three points would have remained at the Cottage, but as it goes all we have to take from the game is a positive performance and plenty of plaudits in the papers. Quite percussive.
The referee had an odd match. He seemed to give Arsenal every foul they fell over for and his bookings of Danny Murphy and Paul Konchesky were very harsh indeed. It wasn't that dirty a game (although Johnny P was a little wild at times) yet four Fulham players got carded and no Arsenal players did. Very odd.
Fulham now sit just above the relegation zone, although they have played a game fewer than most other teams. Is this a fair reflection on how the team has played? Not really, but they have had games against Everton, Chelsea, Arsenal and Villa already and compared to last season they are two points lighter. Yet they already have an extra two points from Fratton Park compared to last year. The only thing letting the side down was the away game at Wolves, but Fulham didn't exactly shine away from home last season. It's way too early to panic, although a point at West Ham on Sunday would be nice.
Attendance: Me and Ish

Friday, 25 September 2009

Pre - view

I've not seen Fulham play for a while now - over a month actually - so I'm looking forward to tomorrow's game. I missed the Everton game because I was in Cyprus, although I did manage to watch the game on some kind of international ex-pat channel. What did surprise me was the appearance of Rob McCaffrey as the game's studio anchor - I though he'd been banished from our screens for being generally rubbish but here he was holding his own on Showtime Arabia asking Iain Dowie and Derek Whyte for their analyses on the game.
When I was working in a bar in Gran Canaria I came across this guy who reckon he ran a Sunday football league team in which McCaffrey played and that whenever there was any bother on the pitch McCaffrey would cower screaming 'Not the face - I'm in TV'. It always struck me as a slanted story told by a bitter man, yet it stayed with me and whenever I now watch McCaffrey on TV I imbue every false utterance with a sense of cowardice. It's amazing how slight suggests can pollute someone's perception in such a way.
Anyway I was very impressed with Fulham against Everton, especially in the second half. Coming from behind to win takes some character which I'm not sure that the team possesses in abundance. In fact it only happened once in the league last year - at Eastlands. Again. A bit more of that grit and determination will do the team well this year and it seems that there is competition for every single position except left back with Roy's bizarre experiment of having separate league and cup teams. He suggests that such an approach has come to an end, but I'll believe that when I see the line up for the home match against Basel on Thursday.
As it is I'll be dashing to tomorrow's game from Ascot where I'm the subject of considerable corporate hospitality by the good people at Extrabet. So if you are think of having a bet with anyone, I recommend those guys.
  • Oh and congratulations to our erstwhile season ticket companion Colin, who's about to become a father for the first time next year. I can see why he didn't renew now.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Barnet 2 - 2 Bradford City/Man United 4 - 3 Man City

An unusual weekend saw me attending back to back matches which couldn't have been more contrasting. A trip to Underhill was undertaken because of  a Bantams-supporting friend's annual bit of birthday blackmail. Normally I've managed to duck these as they've clashed with a Fulham home game, but not this season.
Underhill's a pleasant enough lower league ground, with large swathes of terracing and a quite pronounced sloping pitch. I particularly liked the tuck shop feel of kiosk at the back of the stand which sold cups of Bovrill.
The game itself didn't really amount to much, with whichever team was playing downhill in the ascendancy. The only goal of particular note being Bradford and Pakistan captain Zesh Rehman's volley. The officials, decked out in salmon pink didn't get a great deal wrong and the crowd of 2,282 was sporadically noisy but everyone seemed happy with a point.
It was fitting thet Mark Hughes scored Barnet's second equaliser as the day after I watched his namesake's side try to get one over on their more illustrious neighbours in Manchester. I've mentioned before I am at heart a United fan, so the opportunity to watch a derby for the first time in at least a decade was too good to pass up on.
Sat in the usually quite reserved South Stand, there was an electricity at this game from the start, aided by the pantomime booing of Carlos Tevez. Despite the early goal, United were jittery and second-best in the first half - typified by Ben Foster's brain freeze moment for City's equaliser - but in the second half I've rarely seen United so fluid, or Giggs so dynamic. In the first half Barry kept winning flick ons for Tevez and Bellamy to dash onto and cause a nuisance, but that didn't really happen in the second half. The ebb and flow of the game also helped the fans find their voices and the atmosphere buzzed. The two goals at the end of the game also provided unbelievable swings in emotions for everyone in there. I don't think I've ever cheered a Michael Owen goal quite like it.
The only other match I've attended that has come close to that atmosphere was the 1999 FA Cup semi-final replay between United and Arsenal (where Giggs scored THAT goal) but it was very reminiscent of Fulham's home 3-3 draw with Spurs a couple of seasons ago when Kamara improbably equalised in the last minute with an overhead kick. I was buzzing for a couple of days after that match and I'm still buzzing after the Manchester Derby.
I think City have a good chance of winning something this year, highly likely the League Cup, so I doubt Fulham will get a now customary win at Eastlands tomorrow night. But with his attitude to Europe, will Woy mind getting knocked out?

Monday, 7 September 2009

European tour

Not Fulham's though. Mine. I'm off to Cyprus for a wedding and then I've got to skeddadle to Copenhagen for work, so the next two weeks are a write off for me. It also means I miss the Everton match on Saturday and probably won't be back in time to watch Fulham in Bulgaria live on ITV4 a week on Thursday.
The derby with Arsenal will be my next match and, worringly again, tickets for that game have gone on open sale. The attendance at Chelsea this season was only negligibly lower than last year's in the end, but the fact that tickets were on general sale reflects the poor economy rather than the travails of the team in my opinion.
Anyway last week I went to Brentford. I didn't realise how close I lived to Griffin Park as well as all the other grounds. I've said before I live inside an unholy football triangle between Loftus Road, Stamford Bridge and (thankfully) Craven Cottage. But it seems during all this time I was actually living in an unholy rhombus.
There were three reasons for visiting the Bees. 1) They were playing Oldham Athletic, a team I occasionally watched at Boundary Park when I was wee. 2) Griffin Park still has terracing, at either side of the ground and I'm a sucker for terracing. 3) I got a free ticket.
Despite the terracing, I was underwhelmed by the lack of original songs from the fans. They were all identikit chants with Brentford or the names of Brentford players inserted at the appropriate moment. At least Fulham have some unique songs. However because of the size of the ground there was a lot more banter with the players and the officials, which was particularly amusing. The branding of Oldham's keeper Dean Brill as a giant Wotsit because of his horrid orange kit was perhaps the highlight. One linesman appeared to be continually barking at the players, although it later transpired that he was communicating with the ref via the little microphone thingy on his head. Anyway it wasn't long before the fans were telling him to get off his mobile.
The match itself was pretty dull, the first half in particular showing very little what you would call 'football'. Brentford won a penalty (although it was down the other end so we couldn't see what it was for) just before half time and duly converted it. This encouraged them to to out in the second half and actually start playing. They should have won had it not been for an audacious bit of skill by Blackman on Oldham's left wing. He brought down a long ball with one touch and put in a shot, at least I think it was a shot, that drifted into the far top corner. It was a piece of skill that had no place in this match and enough to earn Oldham a point.
What going to the match did highlight was the value for money we get at Craven Cottage. It would have cost £20 to go and watch the League 1 game and that was for standing on the terracing. If you wanted a seat then it would cost even more. A bit of investigation when I got home found that a season ticket for the Ealing Road terrace was £330 - the same price as my Fulham ticket. - albeit for 4 more matches.

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