Filed: Friday, 30th April 2010
By: Preview Percy
Preview Percy's just stopped laughing at Liverpool's midweek result. Unfortunately that means that he had time to write the following. Only one more to go....
And so we arrive at the last away trip of the season as we visit Fulham in a 3.00pm kick-off in a match moved to Sunday due to the Cottagers' continued involvement in the Europa League.
It's been an interesting season for Fulham. Roy Hodgson has done a decent job of bringing together a crew best described as “motley”. Hodgson is an intelligent and, until recently anyway, underrated coach who has honed his skills “sur le continent” as they say. His continental tour started in Sweden where he took relegation favourites Halmstads to two titles in three years, an achievement he describes as his best in football, likening the job to “turning water into wine”. Of course he may well end up reviewing that particular list now that Fulham have made the Europa League final. Fulham's achievement was made all the more impressive when you consider that their first qualifying match for this year's tournament took place so long ago there was still an ice age going on. Or at least a rotten summer.
With their European successes still fresh in mind, it almost seems a bit churlish to take a look at their league form. So I will. They currently lie in 12th place with 43 points from 35 games. That's five places and 9 points ahead of ourselves, though we've played a game more. It has to be said that their recent league form is average at best. Indeed they've picked up only five points from their last six games (compared with our seven), their sole win in that period came at the beginning of April when they beat Wigan 2-1 at home. You have to go back to February for their previous win before that – another 2-1 home win, this time against Birmingham. Such form possibly reflects the inevitable post Euro hangovers that can affect teams after midweek trips. It's also fair to say that Hodgson, having achieved a safe level of points fairly early on in the season, has tended to give his key men the odd Sunday afternoon off between European matches.
They are well-endowed when it comes to ex-Hammers in the squad. Foremost amongst these at present is Bobby Zamora, who is enjoying a fine season after an uncertain start following his departure from the Boleyn. Zamora will be long-remembered in these parts for his play-off winning goal against Preston, and for the vital goals he contributed towards the “great escape”, none of which counted according to Lord Griffiths. I'd be very surprised if we were to see anything of Zamora this weekend though. He only started the Hamburg match the other night with the aid of pain-killing jabs and his discomfort as the jabs wore off was all too evident.
The other two Hammers in the squad are both full-backs. Paul Konchesky is being touted as possible World Cup cover for Ashley Cole on the grounds that a) he's a left back, b) he's English and c) his wife has never met John Terry. On the other side there is John Pantsil who became a cult hero at the Boleyn on the back of one storming 20 minute spell against Man Utd a couple of seasons ago. Last week Konchesky was rested in advance of the Hamburg match. He was replaced by one-time Hammers target Nicky Shorey who is on loan from Aston Villa with a view to a permanent deal.
Also likely to figure in defence is Chris Smalling. Smalling's had an interesting past already, considering he's only 20. He fell beneath the usual academy radar and, although he featured for the England schoolboy side, it was with Isthmian League Maidstone that his debut in grown-up football came. It wasn't long before Fulham came along and, having made his debut at the end of 2008/09, his first start came in September 2009 against CSKA Sofia. By January 2010 he was, nominally at least, Man Utd player, though the terms of the deal meant that he was to remain at the Cottage until the end of the season.
And so to us. Well, ludicrous results aside, we are now safe. The fact that we are safe can be attributed partly to the fact that, when the chips were down, there were three teams that were a lot worse than us in the league. The fact that, at time of writing, there were only three such teams, can be attributed, at least in part, to the fact that the chaos behind the scenes that has surrounded the club in the last couple of years. Whether or not a more experienced boss might have coped better with having to manage with both hands tied behind his back is arguable. Certainly it would be interesting to see the likes of Ferguson and Ancelotti forced to send out a side for half a season with only an 18 year-old striker up front.
Still at least it's all over (those ludicrous results aside of course – we're talking about West Ham here so we never count chickens) and we can indulge in a spot of relaxation. There are still a number of players on the sick list – so what else is new? Collison (knee), Hines (knee), Ilunga (calf), Tomkins (ankle/foot) and Dyer (Duckworth-Lewis Syndrome) will all be out for what's left of the season. There is a small possibility that Luis Boa Morte could make the bench after a couple of reserve runouts but otherwise the squad is likely to be “as you were” with Diamanti likely to be on the bench again amidst rumours that he's been told to find a new club for next season. After all the effort that Duxbury went to to get SBObet to cough up their sponsorship in advance so we could buy him as well.
The back four and midfield will probably pick themselves – though now the pressure is off there is certainly a case for giving Daprela a start ahead of Spector, who had an uncertain 90 minutes against Wigan. The midfield will be run by Scott Parker, whose election as Hammer Of The Year is such a foregone conclusion that, should the award go anywhere else, the Met will probably issue arrest warrants for Ant & Dec once they've investigated the vote.
There is room for shuffle up front where Carlton Cole who is definitely out of sorts at the mo. The lad is battling hard – but he's going through one of those spells where the harder he seems to try the less seems to go right for him. Having said that, it was his run that set up Ilan's equaliser last week. Given that the pressure is off (see previous comments re ludicrous results – we don't want to tempt fate do we?) Zola may decide that this is the time to give Benni McCarthy a start. Since his arrival from Blackburn, McCarthy's only achievement seems to have been to annoy Sam Allardyce over his departure. Now I'm all for annoying Allardyce. The infamous “Panorama” programme that got him so flustered was worth every penny of the licence fee as far as I'm concerned – funny how he never quite got round to suing the Beeb over it. However shelling out a couple of million for the privilege by purchasing a striker who then makes little or no contribution to your own effort is a bit much. Admittedly the lad has been injured for much of his time at the Boleyn, but since he was bought specifically to spearhead the fight against relegation, he's another player whose return on investment will be causing concern as Ms Brady examines her spreadsheets. I expect that Cole will be given the start but wouldn't be surprised if McCarthy were given the nod given the relative lack of importance of this match.
There's should be a bit of a party atmosphere for this one. Buoyed by the events of Thursday night the home crowd will be in celebratory mood whilst, if the forums are any guide, most of the away (and “neutral”) sections of the ground will have travelled in relaxed style by boat. I may be wrong, but I suspect that the bars may be open on these boats so if you happen to be down by the riverside on Sunday, keep your eyes peeled.
Prediction? Well I want to make it a second victory in a week over this lot. Earlier, our legal bods managed to win the latest round of tribunal stuff against Fayed's legal bods. Apparently Fulham will actually have to prove their case rather than rely on the insane ramblings of Lord Griffiths. That may prove a little difficult given that, even in the world of High Court Judges, there is unlikely to be another idiot quite as stupid as Griffiths. Also I reckon that the new legal team that the new owners have in place will have access to a few more counter arguments that probably ought to have been given airing last time round.
On the pitch I reckon that we'll have enough to win this one and double our tally of away wins for the season. With the pressure off and safety assured (insert “ludicrous results” caveat here) I think we'll have enough for whichever team they'll put out – be it the second XI that Hodgson is likely to field, or the first XI that will still be knackered from Thursday. So let's go for a 2-0 to us as we attempt to make the table look a bit more respectable before the end of the season.
Enjoy the game!
Last season: Won 2-1 Matthew Etherington shone as he and Carlton Cole scored to give us all three points.
Referee: Andre Marriner sent off Andrew Johnson for two yellow card offences in the corresponding fixture last season.
Danger Man: Clint Dempsey of the likely second string starting eleven he is the most likely to turn a match.
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
11:13PM 30th Apr 2010
''Well Perce, you're a bit hard on their league position. Obvious for months that they're in no danger of qualifying for Europe or being relegated, he's just done the same as Pardew when we got to the cup semi final, gambled on the big one, and didn't they both do well?
A massive round of applause from the Putney End is in order, I reckon, and not just for our old boys. Yes we're lucky as Hell to be struggling in a bad year, and it's a fair argument that 4 (5 or 6?) teams were worthy of going down; just as our top teams haven't been up to it at the top level this year, the standard at the bottom is equally poor.
But forget the rest of them, what's bothered me this last few months is our complete lack of organisation and quality. What's Clarke there for? Ok a few guys out, but we should still have some idea what to do with the ball when we've got it, and how to shape up against a team who's on top. We've been a shambles.
Now the new owners, charming chaps, have to take their share of blame. Sullivan opens his mouth, we get one good result and they think they're God's gift. Well we know where we stand with them, they're the traditional sh*tbag owner who every genuine fan loves to hate, but they're the genuine article as long as they'd just talk about the money and otherwise shut up. Who was it had a blank page in his biog titled "what the chairman knows about football"?
So, Daprela yes please, rest Cole that's 10 mil there, a big cheer for them before the start, a good thrashing (McCarthy, Ilan, Konchesky og and a late consolation from Dempsey) and maybe at the end another couple of laps from Paintsil. Oh, and some sun please.''
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