Filed: Tuesday, 31st December 2013
By: Preview Percy
Preview Percy would like to wish a happy new year to everyone he likes. Shouldn't take long then....
Fulham? Again? Already? Set your alarm-clocks and get the Alka Seltzer sorted for a 3pm kick-off at Craven Cottage. Tubes should be running ok it being just a midweek Bank Holiday but there have been major engineering works in the Earl's Court area so it might be worth checking before you leave.
Although we only played them a few weeks ago there have been changes afoot at the Cottage. Our 3-0 victory over them at the Boleyn a few weeks ago turned out to be the last game in charge for Martin Jol. Rene Meulensteen, who'd arrived at the club only a few weeks previously, ostensibly to work under Jol, took over the no.1 slot. The Fulham manager's job is actually his 5th job since July. The arrival of David Moyes saw Meulensteen depart Old Trafford where he had been assistant to the moaner in chief. Job no.2 saw him move to Russia to join basket case club Anzi Makhachkala as assistant to Gus Hiddink. Job no.3 came about only two games into the Russian season as Hiddink was sacked and Meulensteen took over as boss, a role in which he lasted a full 16 days (I did mention that they were a bit of a basket case.) Job 4 commenced in November as Fulham brought him in to help Jol out. This job turned out to be one of helping Jol out of the door and Meulensteen commenced in the hot seat at the Cottage on 1 December.
Meulenseen's brought in some help (or had help fosted upon him) in the form of one Alan Curbishley. If that name sounds familiar it's because his brother Bill manages the Who, who are, I am told a popular beat combo. Curbishley has come in as “technical director”, No, me neither.
Curbishley has been out of football for nearly four years. There are rumours that he may have been the mysterious “Mr C” who arrived at one of the rooms here at the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered. Whoever the mystery man was he kept himself to himself and never joined in with the whist drives or the periodic escapes to the Swan & Superinjunction. That room became mysteriously available on Christmas Eve. Coincidence? Probably. But if it was him I'd like a word about not getting a round in with that £2m cheque sitting in his bank account.
Another old face it is rumoured to become likely to become involved is Ray Wilkins. I am sure Fulham are hoping he is a much better coach than he is a tv pundit. Lets face it if he is any worse as a coach they're doomed.
They've enjoyed mixed fortunes since the new Dutchman's arrival though they have actually won a couple – 2-0 at home to Villa and more recently 2-1 at Norwich. The other four matches have all been defeats, going down 2-1 a home to Spurs, 4-1 at Everton, 4-2 at home to Man City and, at the weekend they were tonked 6-0 at Hull. All of which has left them in 18th spot, a point and a place above our good selves.
Getting all the backache up at the Sunshine Stadium last weekend was 'keeper David Stockdale. Stockdale has been in for the last couple of games in the absence of Dutch no.1 Maarten Stekelenburg who injured an ankle in training. Stockdale has made the England squad on occasion but has yet to play for the national side.
A notable name on the left hand side is John Arne Riise. There was a bit of a kerfuffle a few years back when one of his payslips got into the public domain to show he was, even after tax and NI, weighing into the Riise housekeeping coffers to the tune of over £80,000 a month. As I recall the tightwads at Anfield were charging him for his tickets and even for meals which, though amusing, was only the second most surprising fact about the payslip; the first being the astonishing realisation that someone on Merseyside was actually paying tax.
Scott Parker missed the trip to Hull, the rigours of the festive fixture list presumably being considered to be a bit much for his 33 year-old legs. Since he's not listed as injured on any of the usual lists I presume he'll be back to bolster their midfield. Unfortunately.
Also missing from the Hull debacle was Dimitar Berbatov who has a groin problem. He's listed as “doubtful” which means that someone else will have to do the standing around and pointing. He's been linked with a move to both Spurs and Arsenal in January. If that's the case he won't be too fussed about risking further damage, Thankfully, if he's fit, this match will be taking place on New Year's Day rather than New Year's Eve. In one of those pointless statistics that the spotty work experience kid comes up with instead of doing the proper research that I don't pay him for, Berbatov has scored 25% of his Premier League goals in the month of December.
Another option up front is Darren Bent who is precisely the sort of useless striker I dread seeing lining up against us since, despite a lack of any obvious talent, they always seem to manage to score against us.
And so to us. Odd game that one. I suppose we ought to be grateful for a point given that we ended up with four fullbacks on the pitch. It's the defence where we have the biggest injury worries. Tomkins joins Reid and Ginge in the centre-half wing of the physiotherapy unit which now covers three postcodes. I'm guessing that we'll start with the four fullback option for this one unless Diarra fancies a run at centre half – it's a position with which he is not unfamiliar but apparently it's not one he likes. Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu has been recalled from Luton, much to the relief of those of us who saw the “Ruddock Returns” headline on this very website.
There are also a number of rumours concerning temporary loan cover – Everton's Heitinga is one name that has been bandied about. However, I'm not sure whether any deal could be finalised in time for kick-off; the deadline used to be noon the day before kick-off and since the window doesn't open until midnight any new faces would seem to be a non-starter.
In midfield we're still going to be without Downing – has anyone sent the bill for his treatment to the Scousers yet?
Up front the suggestion is that Petric and possibly Cole C. are about to be released into the wild to free up cash for wages. Algerian Ishak Belfodil (destined to be named Daff in these parts should he sign) has been linked with a loan deal from Inter but again, I'd have thought deadlines would have precluded any involvement even if he does put pen to paper at the earliest possible opportunity. I suspect that this will all mean that Cole C will start with Maiga coming on or vice versa.
Prediction? Well the last time we faced a team off the back of a hiding (not counting the development squad win over Spurs) we faced Norwich, played them off the park for half the game then caved in when the ref had a mad moment. They'll be looking for a reaction but I still think we'll get something out of this, notwithstanding the defensive injury situation. So, for that reason, and the fact that Cole C loves scoring against them (the spotty work experience kid did come up with another stat there but I lost it) the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered's fund to buy Karren Brady a nice box to keep her CBE in (£2.50) on us to pick up a much needed three points courtesy of a 3-1 win
Enjoy the game!
When Last We Met At The Cottage – Lost 1-3 (January 2013) A clearly offside Berbatov put the Cottagers 1-0 up. A clever free-kick saw Nolan level but parity lasted less than a minute when Rodallega headed the ahead. Joey O'B diverted a Petric (yes, that one) shot into his own net to lend the final scoreline a slightly flattering look to the hosts.
Referee: Mark Clattenburg The subject of a baffling chant whenever another ref messes up, a result of Chelsea's false and subsequently withdrawn accusations of racism. All of which sort of hides the fact that he's, at best, unreliable. We haven't had him this season yet.
Danger Man: Scott Parker – It'd be just our luck to see him come back from a rest to stitch us up.
Daft fact of the week: The presence of the “Cottage” in the corner of the ground is supposedly due to an architectural cock-up. Noted football ground designer Archibald Leitch is alleged to have forgotten to include changing facilities in the main stand so a clubhouse was built in the corner to provide such facilities.
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.
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