Tuesday, 27 April 2010


I'm off to Madrid in the morning for work. I'm due to land back at Heathrow just before 6pm on Thursday. Hopefully that will give me plenty of time to get to the Cottage, especially as I'll have no luggage, so fingers crossed.
My girlfriend is always on about the words that could be made by the abbreviations of the team names in the top left hand corner of televised matches. Obviously for this EUROPEAN SEMI-FINAL there is a rather appropriate word that will be created. If this had been on Sky though it would not have worked as they have taken to using only two letters (probably to 'differentiate themselves from the other channels') and a game between FU - HA doesn't have quite the same poetry.
Surprisingly Hamburg have sacked their manager Bruno Labbadia this week, which is probably bad news for the whites as it seems pretty clear that the players hated him. Without Labbadia, the players might play with much more freedom at Craven Cottage. But Woy's amazed us in getting this far and despite being underdogs yet again, Fulham could easily progress to the final. All you need is a little bit of luck to go your way.
Anyway here are some stats from the UEFA website:
  • There were no goals last week when the sides met in Germany, with Fulham defending heroically. Tellingly, Hamburg had five shots on goal while their guests had none, and were also well on top in terms of corners (7-1) and offsides (3-1).
  • Hamburg have now played 13 games against English sides in European club competition, with the record W4 D3 L6: (W0 D1 L4 in England).
  • Hamburg have yet to win in five trips to England, avoiding defeat only once, with a 0-0 draw against Southampton FC at The Dell in a 1984/85 UEFA Cup first round opener.
  • Prior to last week's stalemate in Hamburg, Fulham had only once drawn the first leg of a European tie away from home, holding Bologna FC 2-2 in one of the 2002 UEFA Intertoto Cup finals, before winning the return fixture 3-1 in London.
  • Hamburg have drawn 0-0 at home in the opening leg of three previous European ties, going on to win the most recent two of them (one on away goals). They were undone in the 1983 UEFA Super Cup, however, losing 2-0 at Alex Ferguson's Aberdeen FC.
  • Fulham remain unbeaten in 15 European home games (11 wins, four draws) since making their continental debut in the 2002 UEFA Intertoto Cup. They have conceded more than one goal just once when holding European matches, drawing 2-2 with HNK Hajduk Split in the 2002/03 UEFA Cup first round, and have won their last four home fixtures in the UEFA Europa League.
  • Fulham have never been involved in a European penalty shoot-out. Hamburg lost their only European penalty shoot-out 4-3 on home turf against Dutch opponents Sparta Rotterdam following a 2-2 aggregate draw in the 1985/86 UEFA Cup first round.
  • Fulham have three players who will miss the final if they receive a yellow card: Paul Konchesky, Bobby Zamora and Zoltan Gera. Hamburg have six.
  • Turkish referee Cüneyt Çakır has officiated in four matches (including internationals) involving English teams with the English side triumphing on each occasion. He has only officiated in one match involving a team from Germany, which the German side lost. I've just noticed he is also two months younger than me, the bastard.
Good luck everyone.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Extract of the day - child entertainment

From a surprisingly old school piece in the Guardian by Harry Pearson:

It was not always like this. At one time children were enlisted to provide half-time entertainment. The penalty prize was a staple of most match days, still is in some places. It's a simple and elegant competition, one that affords the crowd an opportunity rarely granted to adults in our sensitive age – a chance to loudly and roundly taunt a group of little kids. Traditionally there's a class element to the abuse – the children from schools in working class districts are cheered and applauded, those from establishments in the affluent suburbs tormented as the offspring of wife-swappers and woodwork teachers.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Fleet Town 3 - 1 Tottenham Legends

First up - a public service announcement. We have renewed our vows and will be watching Fulham at Craven Cottage throughout the 2010/11 season as well - our fourth year in H7. We have retained our seats after brief flirtations with Johnny Haynes A Block (it's a family area) and P1 (no atmosphere), plus the seat next to Jarrod came free allowing Nicky to move down from Row EE and join us for the season. I hope she knows what she's let herself in for.
It seemed right doing this the night before a EUROPEAN SEMI-FINAL. Sorry it's in caps because its barely hard to believe. The first year we secured season tickets at the Cottage, Fulham stayed up by the skin of their teeth where every goal counted. Now they are in the last four of European competition within three years. Remarkable.
I'm toying with the possibility of going to the final if Fulham make it - away at Basle/Basel was good fun - but money isn't exactly freely available at the moment. I'm considering sticking some money on a Fulham/Madrid final at 11/2 in order to fund a trip should Fulham make it. I wouldn't want to go if Liverpool were the competition - you just know their fans will be all over the Fulham section and leave a sour taste in the mouth. Anyway - there's a long way before any of those kind of shenanigans can be properly taken into account.
Anyway - the headline match! This was held last Sunday and we were attending because a friend of Kat's is involved with Fleet Town. A strange trip down to the ground included passing a sign that read 'Heathrow Airport Closed' - which felt a bit ominous and that we were on part of a dystopian film set.
Anyway we arrived at Calthorpe Park for the fundraiser to be greeted by a pretty impressive sloping pitch, a small grandstand and two small 'stands' with corrugated iron roofs behind each goal. But the sun was out and the people of Fleet were out in force, supporting their local team and hoping for a glimpse at some football royalty.
The link with Spurs comes from Fleet Town's fairly successful manager - Andy Sinton, who seems to have played for most of Fulham's local rivals. The 'superstars' that turned out would have only impressed people with long memories with avid Spurs addictions but the big name Les Ferdinand played the whole 90 minutes with a smile on his face. Espen Baardsen played in goal for the visitors and made some astounding saves - he looked like he could still do a job in the Premier League if I'm honest. David Howells also played (pretty well actually) but you did wonder about the well being of some of the players from the 60s and 70s who turned out on such a hot day. Fortunately they all got through it. Pat Jennings even made an appearance in the stands. The number of small children running around getting autographs from players they had never heard of was rather amusing, but all the participants were happy to oblige. Good on them.
The most tense part of the event though was the post-match raffle which had several good prizes for such a small event, leading me to buy a bunch of tickets because the odds of winning appeared high. Unfortunately lady luck was not smiling that day, but the logic was sound - 3 of the 10 prizes were won by the same couple. I blame Sir Les - he was the one picking out the winners.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Fulham 0 - 0 Wolverhampton Wanderers

A number of firsts at this weekend's game. 1) I'd never seen Wolves play before. 2) I sacrificed the start of the game so I could watch all the Manchester derby (thank heavens). 3) Ish was well up for the game. 4) There were no planes flying over Craven Cottage!
When games are particularly boring, spectators can usually amuse themselves by playing the which airline game as planes slowly drift across Putney airspace towards Heathrow. Not this weekend though, which is a shame as there wasn't much happening on the pitch. Fortunately there was the tonic of bright sunshine instead.
Wolves had just three players that I was aware of Doyle, Hahnemann and Craddock, although I didn't recognise the defender at first because of his head bandage. However despite this lack of superstars (or perhaps because of it) Wolves were a surprisingly tidy team, but without much of a cutting edge. Pretty similar to Fulham at the moment, really.
Ahead of this Thursday's trek to Hamburg, it was a surprise to see such a strong Fulham side, with just Smalling replacing Hangeland in the starting XI. The young lad had a more promising game than he has in recent appearances, but the steady hand of Aaron Hughes once again stood out. The Irish defender has had an outstanding, unsung season and is a big reason for the team's success. Just remember the games where Smalling and Hangeland were the central pairing.
Fulham had two outstanding chances during the game. One where Duff was put through, but chose the wrong option and tried to unsuccessfully come inside the last defender, much to the crowd's disgust, which I thought was a bit harsh. The other chance was a glorious Zamora strike from nothing, 25 yards from goal, which bounced off the post.
And that was it. Neither team looked particularly dangerous, Fulham with one eye on Europe and Wolves with one eye on a valuable point for securing Premier League status. It was a shame that we didn't see some of the Fulham bench warmers - It would have been good to see Johnny P and Okaka - but Woy knows best.
At the end of the game Ish and I went exploring and clambered over to the Johnny Haynes Stand to check out the sightlines of where we might potentially be moving to next season. A year in the truly historic stand feels right for plastic tourists such as us, but it will be a hard wrench to leave the Hammy End. We'll be seeing what comes available.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Fulham 2 - 1 Wigan Athletic

Apparently there were nearly 23,000 at this game, which I find unlikely. P5-P7 was around half full and on my row in H7/H8 there were six of us, leaving 24 seats spare. The people who own season tickets around us are particularly flakey though. Maybe 22,730 was the amount of tickets sold, which should be a completely different figure to attendance. I'm not sure which one is more important though. Clearly football clubs feel its tickets sold as I believe Arsenal also follow that route.
Wigan fans have never been the greatest travellers, like Fulham their rapid ascendancy through the divisions somewhat curtailed organic growth of the supporter base, and also like Fulham they play second fiddle in the area to a bigger team - Wigan Warriors rugby league.
Unusually, Fulham attacked the Hammy End in the first - something which has not been done for a long time. Presumably Wigan won the toss and decided to switch, a decision that led many boos to cascade down from the stands. I don't ever remember a coin toss being booed before. However it did mean that all the subsequent action was way down at the Putney End and difficult to see clearly from our seats.
Fulham started off with Elm replacing Zamora upfront (wisely rested with a trip to Germany on the horizon) and I thought the big swede was busy enough in the first half and unlucky to be taken off at half time - I didn't realise that he went to hospital soon afterwards. Hopefully he'll be 100% again soon.
This was one of those rare games where Schwarzer wasn't totally on the ball, and it showed with Wigan's goal. As soon as I read that Jason Scotland hadn't scored a league goal all season, I had the feeling that would end at Craven Cottage. Fulham have been ever so generous in stopping other teams' and players' negative trends this season and this event typified events. Scotland caught a volley on the edge of the area, falling over as he did so, and Schwarzer contrived to let it squeeze in at the near post. Only moments earlier he had come out for a looping ball which ended up hitting his thigh. The ball fell for Scharner who lofted it goalwards over the keeper. Fortunately Hangeland had retreated to the goal line to head clear. Before the game I had pointed out Scharner as one of Wigan's better players, but the Austrian had a 'mare at the Cottage and was at fault for the equaliser just after half time. He was robbed of the ball by the again impressive Zoltan Gera on the byline, who crossed for substitute Okaka to kind of flick it up with the back of his foot over goalkeeper and defender at the near post. It was an instant impact from the on loan Italian, who did very little for the rest of the match.
10 minutes later, Hangeland powered through a wall of defenders to head home a Duff corner, although it bounced off the far post and into the net in slow motion. It didn't feel like a goal, but it counted.
And that was about it. This was as dull a game as you could possible expect to see, considering there were three goals. Neither keeper had much to do other than the goals. The most excited part of the match was the constant booing of the referee Mark Clattenberg who refused to give Gera a penalty and was thus booed off at half time. Still the win was very welcome given that March saw Fulham win just one of seven games (albeit that was the 4-1 v Juventus) and the three points put to bed any outside worries about the team getting involved in the relegation scrap. It's all about Europe now.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Fulham 2 -1 Wolfsburg

Somehow a 2-1 win against the German champions felt like a loss last night, thanks to Madlung(e)'s late away goal from a corner. Fulham switched off a little and a short corner routine gave them that useful away goal to take back to Germany. It was possibly no more than they deserved - the number of good positions the forwards wasted on an off night for Hangeland was high.
The unexpected appearance of Simon Davies at right back from the start of the game provided fans with an attacking mindset, but in truth Fulham's fourth (or fifth) choice right back didn't venture forward as much as perhaps Paintsil would - mindful of his new defensive duties no doubt. But he was tidy in the position and didn't really do much wrong.
It seemed Dixon Etuhu was having a 'mare though. Frequently ball watching, his passes were often astray and it looks like he lost his man for Wolfburg's pretty ordinary goal. Alongside him Murphy had an expressive second half after a mixed first 45 minutes, with plenty of incisive passing. Murphy's turnaround heralded a more fluid team performance in the second half and Zamora took a wonderful goal, which looks even better on TV. He used Duff's run as a decoy and calmly stroked the ball into the opposite corner of the goal from quite far out. You shouldn't be scoring those kind of goals from 30 yards. We were too busy celebrating to notice Zamora cupping his ear. I wonder why that has returned?
The Wolfsburg keeper didn't have a great deal to do in the game, but didn't make any outstanding saves. In fact the next thing he did was pick the ball out of the goal again after wonderful wing play from Konchesky and Gera (perhaps Dempsey) gave the ball to Bobby on the edge of the six yard box. Back to goal, he laid it on a platter for Duff to crack it low into the net. 2-0. Perfect score. Now only if they can keep that for next week.... no.
Around about 80 minutes Bobby received the ball on the halfway line and kind of stopped instead of powering forward. This changed mindset suddenly transferred to all the players and things became a bit panicked at the back - embodied by Hangelnad's ignoring of Schwarzer's call which nearly (and perhaps should have) gifted Wolfsburg a goal. Which they eventually got anyway. Still - Fulham beat Shaktar (still the most impressive team in the tournament) 2-1 at home and that was enough. Hopefully history will repeat itself in this tie too. All the other quarter finals are as equally well balanced as well.
Col and I were sat higher up than normal and in H5 and the view of the game there (massive pillar aside) is pretty good. There were at least three shots by Fulham in the second half that we could picture flying into the goal had it not been for a few defensive blocks and Bobby Z's arse. But that's why those season tickets are £500. The difference in these seats is also shown in the amount of time it tales to get out of the ground. Normally from our seats in H7 we can easily slip out and be walking along the Thames within a minute. Not so here. In fact walking back from the ground with so many people around us gave the experience a completely different feel - almost communal.

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