Thursday, 30 June 2011

The Pharaoh's team verses the Faroes team

Tonight I shall be watching the exciting Fulham v Runavik Europa League qualifier courtesy of Bet365, who are streaming the game live, despite the fact that at a fiver it would cost as much to attend the game. The reason? I became a father for the first time last week and our new domestic terrorist still has us in the palm of our hand. She's also the reason why I haven't renewed my season ticket for this year, but I still intend to keep an eye out for the whites!. 3-0 tonight.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

A politician's view

There's a couple of scenes in the Yes, Minister special 'Party Games' where Jim Hacker offers to support two separate candidates for the job of PM 'under the radar' - 5.55 in. I couldn't help be reminded of it this afternoon when I got an email back from my local MP Andy Slaughter - replying to my request of him to sign up to the Early Day Motion supporting Supporters Direct in its current funding issue. The link between the two is probably a bit harsh on the Hammersmith MP, but I thought I'd replicate the letter here to provide a politicians view on the kerfuffle:

Thank you for your email asking me to sign EDM 1909 regarding the funding arrangements for Supporters Direct. Unfortunately due to my position on the Labour Front Bench and strict Parliamentary protocol I am unable to sign EDMs save under narrow circumstances. However, as a season ticket holder at Fulham I don't need reminding how important football is to millions of people in this country and worldwide - so I certainly will make sure this issue is kept on the agenda.

I am broadly in favour of schemes that allow fans to have a say in how their clubs are run, and there is no reason at all why a consortium shouldn't be allowed to own and administer a club. This will require a considerable regulatory effort, but I see no reason that it can't be made to work if there is enough enthusiasm.

One thing I do feel strongly about is that a football club should represent its area and the people who live with and support their club. Treating a club like a business commodity that anyone can buy or sell betrays what the game is about - you need love as well as money to run a football club. There are examples of rich individuals taking over clubs and making it work, but they all have in common the fact that the club was a passion for them as well as a business opportunity.

I have found the following blogs on the BBC Sport website very interesting, both concern fan ownership of football clubs, and one is specific to supporters direct. You can find Dan Roan's blog here; 'Does the Supporters Direct Cash Crisis Matter?' and Matt Slater's here; 'Football's trusts must keep faith'.

If you have any further questions regarding this issue please feel free to write to me again.

Yours Sincerely,

Andy Slaughter

Labour MP for Hammersmith

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Supporters Direct needs direct support

The Premier League, through its Football Stadia Improvement Fund (FSIF), is withdrawing its £1.2m payment to Supporters Direct, the body that advises fans on how to set up supporter trusts among other things, and has saved around 50 clubs from extinction since its inception in 2000.
The FSIF's reasoning for withdrawing the guilt payment (because let's face it the organisation wouldn't be dishing out the cash if it didn't think it needed to get the government off its back) is because the Supporters Direct managing director at the time got a bit giddy at AFC Wimbledon's promotion and tweeted a couple of insults at those behind the creation of the monstrosity that is MK Dons. The tweets, missed at the time but highlighted by the Daily Mail in the same way that the paper saw off Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross, were quickly removed and the MD eventually resigned after the FSIF deemed an apology was not enough. However the SD funding is still being held back, threatening the existence of the organisation.
It is not a huge leap to suggest that the aims of Supporters Direct are mainly contrary to those of the money making product of the Premier League and that it has been looking for any excuse to remove the lifeline to an organisation that might prevent the PL from fleecing its customers (or football fans to me and you) if it continues to build momentum.
So it's time to show support fro Supporters Direct. There is an active Facebook group here where they are trying to get some political support to put pressure on the PL. Other articles are here, here and about halfway down here. It's important for fans to get behind this because otherwise the Premier League, for whom £1.2m is a drop in the ocean, and the Daily Mail win. And no-one wants that.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

End of Season Awards

I thought I'd better get this done and dusted before the start of next season in approximately eight minutes time. A new manager in the rather big shape of Martin Jol is welcome and a reflection of the team's stature at the moment, regardless of what Billy Big Boots Hughes thinks. But let's reflect on Sparky's one and only season in charge.

Most Valuable Person Award: Quite simply it is Clint Dempsey. He stepped up when Fulham needed someone to score goals and rightly won the player of the season vote.Without him, Fulham would have been down. Instead they are top half and looking at Europe.
Honourable mention: Brede Hangeland

Frank Spencer Award: Zoltan Gera for a spectacularly misfiring end of season cameo that almost cost Fulham re-entry into Europe? Carlos Salcido's hapless impression of a defender? Eddie Johnon's even worse impression of a professional footballer? Nope -  I'm afraid it's got to be Johnny Paintsil for his collection of own goals this season.
Honourable mention: Zoltan Gera

Surprise Package Award: I guess it has to go to Steve Sidwell. I didn't even know which position he played in before arriving at the Cottage and his willingness to drive forward even ahead of the strikers which had added more dynamism to the team.
Honourable mention: Jonathan Greening's late season cameos

I Was There! Award: It should have been the 4-0 demolition of Spurs in the Cup, but having watched two dispiriting and undeserved defeats by Tottenham already that season, I'd bailed out. It'll have to be the goal fest of Fulham 6 -2 Peterboro, where I saw my first Craven Cottage hat-trick.
Honourable mention: Fulham 3 - 0 Bolton

Goal of the Season: I'm restricting this to ones I've seen.Dempsey has come up with a couple of crackers, including the instinctive volley from Baird's cross against Bolton and the wonderful piece of skill he produced to set up Kamara in the league game against Spurs. But the best goal was the one scored by Zamora against Bolton which involved beautiful interplay down the right wing from Davies and Gudjohnsen and lovely control and a crashing finish from Bobby into the roof of the net. I don't care if it was ruled out for handball. I'm counting it.
Honourable mention: Paul Scholes' last career goal

Sign Him Up Award: By omitting players obviously out of Fulham's reach (such as Samir Nasri) the player that impressed me most this season was Everton's right winger Seamus Coleman. Nippy and tricky and can score the odd goal (one of which earned me £75 in the game at Goodison).
Honourable mention: Aston Villa's Barry Bannan

Ouch! Award: Far too many of these this season, but it would have to be the maiming of Dembele by Stoke City's Andy Wilkinson in added time of the Carling Cup match. Completely unnecessary. Zamora's leg break after tangling with Karl Henry was more of an unfortunate outcome from rough play rather than dirty.
Honourable mention: Karl Henry

Statistical anomaly of the year: I think Fulham haven't conceded from any penalties this season (although Stockdale did save a Nani penalty right at the top of the season). This would have been the perfect place for the 'no red cards' stat, if it wasn't for Gera's eagerness to leave his mark on the Arsenal game.
Honourable mention: Record number of draws for Fulham this season - 16

Prediction of the year: "Without the strain of Europe, if Hughes can continue where Roy left off then the upper echelons of the table are not unreachable. Turmoil at Villa could see an opportunity for other teams to press on. 8th or 9th." Just here.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Hughes: A silly boy?

Well Sparky's up and left and apparently with nowhere to go. I'm not quite sure what that says about the situation at Fulham, but it's not as if Hughes stamped his mark on this team in the limited time he was at Craven Cottage. Much like the current Chelsea team was forged by Mourinho, everything good that comes from the current Fulham team still has the Hodgson stamp on it. Dembele has been a good signing, but arguably the team plays better when he's not on the pitch, and Sidwell has been a positive influence, but Hughes originally stopped his transfer at the start of the season before returning to Villa in January.
The Fulham fans never really warned to Hughes as they thought he was using the team as a stop-gap and that now appears to have been true. To be honest I was slightly worried from the start with Al Fayed's bizarre press conference appearing quite demeaning to Hughes, who has a lot of pride.
But similarly there hasn't been any major managerial trees overturned in his time at the Cottage. He's never really done anything to make you think: that was a good idea - that's where the match turned. Strange. Having said that, he still managed to get the club into 8th in this funny old season.
So who's next up? Some wags are suggesting Ancelotti, but I thought he was a dead cert for the Roma job? Perhaps Claudio Ranieri fancies a return to London? As much as I dislike the man, Rafa Benitez is free and has a strong European pedigree. Steve McClaren and Martin O'Neill have also been linked - all solid managers who in the past might not have looked twice at this idyllic part of West London. Fulham attracted Hughes on the back of being Europa League finalists and need to appoint a manager of similar standing to retain that kudos - they don't need to be gambling on the relatively unproven Paul Lambert or perhaps even Danny Murphy just yet.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

If I Was...

Football365 has been running some thought pieces on what certain mangers should do with their squads (Roy Hodgson's for example is here) so I thought I'd do the same from Mark Hughes' perspective, assuming he is still in charge of Fulham for the new season. While the 'ditch' or 'keep' judgments seem quite strong, it's a good starting point for discussion. There would have been a lot more ditches without a European campaign.

Mark Schwarzer
Been a solid number one after a brief flirtation with Arsenal and been Fulham's saviour in more than one game this season - with the Liverpool game an aberration. But at 38, he hasn't got many years left on the clock. Might be worth cashing in if anyone comes in with a bid of £5m.
Verdict: Keep

David Stockdale
I've been incredibly impressed with this boy when he's had to come in this season. His distribution is far better than Schwarzer's and he's been called up to the England squad for a reason. Definitely Fulham's number 1 of the future - maybe giving him the European matches will stop him getting itchy feet.
Verdict: Keep

Stephen Kelly
Out of favour with Hughes and never really a fan favourite either. Has done a job in Europe before now, but Hughes is likely to overhaul the full back slots.
Verdict: Ditch

Carlos Salcido
Hughes' late signing from Mexico was initially promising, but has since regressed to the point where fans are wanting Konchesky back.
Verdict: Ditch

John Paintsil
Firm fan favourite has displeased Hughes by scoring three OGs this season which is a shame as he brings some dynamism to the right back slot. Out of contract.
Verdict: I would keep, Hughes won't.

Brede Hangeland
Towering centre half seems to really like Fulham and hasn't had his head turned despite being constantly linked to Arsenal. Can get a bit ropey without Hughes next to him, but generally solid. Becoming a more regular goal threat too.
Verdict: Keep

Aaron Hughes
A couple of dodgy games have started to sneak in, but still part of Fulham's best ever centre half pairing.
Verdict: Keep

Chris Baird
Another virtuouso season from Bairdinho. The best full back at the club who plays just as well in midfield and at CB. Future Fulham captain.
Verdict: Keep

Philippe Senderos
Only played a handful of games. Useful to have around, but not sure if worthy of a first team place.
Verdict: Keep

Rafik Halliche
Looked a bit dodgy in the couple if games he had, but alright for a back up centre half.
Verdict: Keep

Steve Sidwell
Promising stint since January. Brought some competition into the middle of the park and a handful of goals.
Verdict: Keep

Danny Murphy
Danny's legs have looked tired at points during this season, which hasn't been helped with Hughes constantly hauling him off. But still has class in the middle for another season and much of the best stuff still comes through him.
Verdict: Keep

Damien Duff
Odd season for Duffer, which saw him labour in the early part of the season before really turning it on for a few months. Tends to be more important defensively than attacking when he plays though.
Verdict: Keep

Dickson Etuhu
Fighting for a place now Sidwell has arrived. A good physical option to have.
Verdict: Keep

Jonathan Greening
Has impressed the couple of times he has played. Probably deserves more game time, and will probably get it with Europe. Won't recoup the £5m paid for him, so time to get the most out of him.
Verdict: Keep

Kagisho Dikgacoi
After an impressive World Cup, many were expecting the South African to push on, but it's not really happened. With hindsight writing was on the wall when he got sent off at West Ham on his debut.
Verdict: Ditch

Bjorn Helge Riise
Spent most of the campaign on loan at Sheffield United. Never really done it in the Premier League, albeit with limited appearances. Only worth keeping for Europe, if at all.
Verdict: Ditch

Simon Davies
Another odd season has seen Davies on the periphery of the squad and then suddenly become undroppable. A hard man to categorise, but good to have for an end of season run-in.
Verdict: Keep

Zoltan Gera
Another fan favourite that Hughes doesn't fancy and who is out of contract. If there was no European adventure I'd let him leave as his league form was inconsistent. But as a proven European force, definitely worth keeping.
Verdict: Keep

Clint Dempsey
Possibly Fulham's best player and definitely the one who reminds Hughes of himself.
Verdict: Keep

Andy Johnson
Tough one. Johnson's just not been fit enough during his time at Fulham or in the goals enough. But there is promise there. If a good enough bid comes in (£4m?) it's time to let him go and free up budget/space.
Verdict: Ditch

Bobby Zamora
So integral to Fulham as an attacking force. Need to keep him or completely reinvent the way the team plays.
Verdict: Keep

Moussa Dembele
Impressive signing for Hughes, but despite his awesome close control isn't as dangerous as he should be. Played semi-out of position up front because of Zamora's injury. Time to see what he can do out on the wing.
Verdict: Keep

Diomansy Kamara
Out of contract and out of chances. Scored some important goals for Fulham but generally has performed within himself.
Verdict: Ditch

Eddie Johnson
His only use at Fulham has been as a punchline. Very, very poor.
Verdict: Ditch

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