Five of the most important goals in Fulham’s recent history

Zoltan-Gera-fulham-hamburg-europa-league+croppedWith the constant doom and gloom that seems to surround Fulham these days, it might be a nice idea to reflect on some of the better moments in the clubs long history – notably the most memorable goals that helped shape the team we all know and love. 

Rodney McAree v Carlisle United (1997)

Kicking us off is a goal from 1997, which arguably helped to get the ball rolling for Fulham (excuse the pun), in terms of their following successes.

With Fulham sitting in an uninspiring position within Division Three, the club needed a hero to step up to the plate and propel them up the league.

That man came in the form of Scottish front man Rodney McAree, whose last gasp goal away at Carlisle United all but secured Fulham’s promotion to Division Two.

A cult hero amongst the faithful, the song “Who put the ball in the Carlisle net?” is still sometimes sang at the Cottage.

Sean Davis v Blackburn (2001)

The second goal is one that came from the Division One promotion season of 2000/2001.

With Fulham battling it out with Blackburn Rovers for top-spot in the league, a late fixture was marked as the decider for the two teams.

Away at Blackburn the Whites went down to ten-men after Rufus Brevett was shown a second yellow.

With it all to do Fulham managed to keep the score at 1-1 until the final seconds of the game when Sean Davis popped up in the box to get on the end of a deflected Lee Clark shot.

Sending the ball into the top left corner he ran to Fulham fans, composed himself and had a little dance in celebration.

Fulham’s next game in the league was against Huddersfield Town where the boys in black-and-white acquired the three points necessary for promotion.

Danny Murphy v Portsmouth (2008)

Continuing in no particular order comes the most important goal in Fulham’s Premier League history, which was scored by Danny Murphy in 2008.

With the season drawing to a close and Fulham’s status as a Premier League outfit in ruins, Roy Hodgson’s team embarked upon ‘The Great Escape’ but needed three points in their last game away at Portsmouth to have any hope of survival.

Popping up in the box – in a position he later admitted he was told not to be in – Danny Murphy headed home a Jimmy Bullard freekick to give Fulham the all-important result.

Clint Dempsey v Juventus (2010)

In 2009 Fulham had finally become an established Premier League outfit, and having earned themselves a place in the Europa League, ambitiously took to pastures new.

Facing off against teams that would have only normally be doable on Fifa 09, Fulham meticulous worked their way through the coveted competition, dispatching European heavyweights in the process.

Meeting Juventus in the quarter-finals would prove to be Fulham’s hardest test-to-date, and with the team having fallen 3-1 behind in the first leg, fans took to the Cottage with arguably one intention – to congratulate the boys on their remarkable achievement.

But what the fans perhaps didn’t know was that the Whites weren’t quite done, despite David Trezeguet scoring early for the visitors to put them now 4-1 ahead on aggregate.

With Fabio Cannavaro sent off for a professional foul, Fulham began their fight back with Zamora and Gera (2) drawing the aggregate score level at 4-4.

As the game reached its conclusion, nervous anxiety stirred within the Cottage, and with the momentum very much with the side in black-and-white, Fulham continued to press until Clint Dempsey found himself with the ball on the edge of the area.

Causing time to stand still, a pin-drop could be heard in the Hammersmith End as his floated cross-cum-shot effortlessly nestled itself into the top-right corner of the net, beyond Chimenti – a moment like no other.

Zoltan Gera v Hamburg (2010)

Meeting the competition hosts Hamburg in the semi-final would prove to be another difficult fixture for Fulham and one that would again need to be settled over two legs.

Drawing 0-0 in Germany, Fulham’s Europa League destiny was to be decided at the Cottage, in a game that really did have every kind of emotion.

Shattering the initial optimism with a goal from a superb freekick, Mladen Petric put Hamburg ahead.

Some confidence was restored when Simon Davies scored one of the best goals ever to be seen at the Cottage to make the score 1-1, but the initiative was still with Hamburg who would go through on the away goal rule.

The job was left to Fulham’s man of the competition, one Zoltan Gera, who, popping up in the box managed to turn on the spot to send the ball into the net and Fulham into Europa League dreamland.

Were Fulham right to hit the panic button and sack Rene Meulensteen?

Fulham-v-Tottenham-Rene-Meulensteen-pa_3046360Fulham’s decision to sack manager Rene Meulensteen is an all-too-familiar action that epitomises today’s disposable Premier League.  

It was an action summed up perfectly by Meulensteen himself, who claimed the club hit the panic button too soon in an attempt to resurrect their depleting season.

But were they right to, what with Fulham’s status as a Premier League team reaching its expiry date? Perhaps.

It’s a difficult one that requires hindsight in order for it to be praised or criticised fairly.

On a human level the once humble club has in some ways shed a reputation for being, shall way say, old school and genuine, and that is something that will undoubtedly disappoint the fans.

That said, time is as they say very much of the essence, and with an unproven man at the helm, were Fulham destined to stay up?

While it is unfortunate, sometimes a ruthless, selfish approach is required to compete with the big boys of the league, and an experienced head like Felix Magath’s could be imperative for survival.

Looking beyond the disrespect show towards Meulensteen however, brings to light, in some ways more worrying, confusing and pressing issues.

A board of any club is meant to bring with it leadership and stability, but Fulham’s has seriously contradicted this by making big decisions at the wrong time.

Martin Jol was in charge for far too long – where his failure to make substantial transfers to bolster an ageing, sporadic team stripped of its talismans were not pick up on or considered.

On the contrary, Rene Meulensteen wasn’t given any time to show the world what he could do.

Drafted in without being named outright manager, Meulensteen’s job at Fulham required more than just keeping the team up, it involved filtering the deadwood and rebuilding from scratch.

Credit to the club they accomodated this, giving Meulensteen the funds that perhaps Jol wasn’t given so that he could bring in no less than seven players – with Konstantinos Mitroglou’s transfer being the clubs record spend.

The fact that he was then sacked within weeks of completing these deals defies all common sense, with the aforementioned striker settling into a team with a manager under no obligation to play him.

Fulham it would seem is indeed imploding and unless the characteristically frenetic Magath can restore some calm and media anonymity, the club is destined for further disaster.

Fulham Transfer News: Sergio Canales and Simon Zoller on Whites’ radar

170050333-sergio-canales-of-spain-in-action-during-the-uefaWith the mouth-watering prospect of Steven Defour in a Fulham shirt now a distant memory, the Whites have been linked with two new European talents from on the continent.

According to The Mirror, Rene Meulensteen is said to be enquiring about the availability of Valencia’s young attacking midfield player, Sergio Canales.

Aged just 22, Canales started his professional career with Racing Santander, before a high-profile move to Real Madrid in 2010.

Later signing for Valencia, while out on loan at the club, Canales is widely considered a hot prospect for the future, and one that Valencia will hope can benefit from a loan spell in the Premier League.

Not unlike Defour, Canales would be a good alternative to the Belgium who recently slipped from Fulham’s grasp, but again, will only be a temporary addition to a squad in desperate need of a permanent renovation.

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Reported in numerous German publications is the news that Fulham are also in the market to sign FC Kaiserslautern striker, Simon Zoller.

But unlike the positive nature of the Canales reports, German media are unanimous in their belief that Zoller will stay with Kaiserslautern, who are currently pushing for promotion in the Bundesliga 2.

Having scored 10 goals in 18 appearances, the front man has been some what of a revelation to the German side, who paid just €350,000 for him back in June of last year.

While this kind of speculation is positive for the Whites, they must act quickly in order to secure at least one signature by February, and with reports suggesting Everton are interested in Canales, the time to move is now.

Fulham set to miss out on Steven Defour

188018303-steven-defour-of-belgium-in-action-during-theOver the years perhaps only Arsenal have been more frustrating in a transfer window than Fulham, who dawdle, drag their heels and inevitably lose out on a great signing.

And it seems that even with a change in management Fulham are still incapable of securing a deal quickly and efficiently.

Expected to join the club on a loan deal, Steven Defour, who had held advanced talks with Fulham, has been told by his club Porto that he is to remain in Portugal after the outward transfer of Lucho Gonzalez.

Talking to The Independent, Defour’s agent Paul Stefani said: “Steven has to stay at Porto,

“They sold Lucho Gonzalez and decided that Steven can take his place.

“We had to wait some days because to find out what Porto wanted to do and he had a meeting on Saturday night where they informed him of the decision.

“He is happy to stay but he was also happy go to Fulham. He had some good talks with them and it was a fantastic option but he has two years left on his contract in Portugal.

“Fulham made a very good impression and maybe we will see what happens in the future.”

Somewhat reminiscent of a £3.5million offer tabled for Robert Lewandowski back in 2009, where a little bit of tenacity may well have provided Fulham with a momentous coup.

This one transfer is more than just a minor set back that Fulham can resurrect in a couple of days by signing another quality playmaker before the window slams shut, its one that shows a serious lack of intend.

Unlike fellow strugglers West Ham, who have recently brought in AC Milan’s Antonio Nocerino and AS Roma’s Marco Borriello in a bid to turn their season around, Fulham are in danger of failing to strengthen adequately in this vital transfer window – arguably the clubs final lifeline.

Sheffield United 1 – 1 Fulham: 10-man Blades force fourth-round replay

465178735-giorgos-karagounis-of-fulham-battles-with-stephenPremier League outfit Fulham were unable to beat 10-man Sheffield United in their fourth-round FA Cup tie at a sodden Bramall Lane.

Starting the brighter of the two sides, Fulham dominated the possession stats, but it was the League One side who took the initiative on the half-hour mark.

Latching on to the end of a driven Harry Maguire pass, Chris Porter tapped in from close range to put Fulham one behind for the 19th time in all competitions this season.

A controversial game at times, Fulham could have been awarded a penalty moments later after Hugo Rodallega went down in the box after making contact with Blades keeper George Long, but referee Andre Marriner waved away his appeals.

Further controversy followed on the 53rd minute as Michael Doyle was sent-off for United for his part in an off-the-ball scuffle with Whites youngster Chris David.

With the extra man and the introduction of attacking duo Adel Tarrabt and Darren Bent, Fulham should have overawed their League One counterparts, but it was the Blades who came forward, working Whites keeper David Stockdale, before having a penalty appeal of their own turned down.

Stepping up their intensity, Fulham made it level on the 75th minute mark, after Rodallega produced a rare moment of class to bury the ball past Long and into the corner of the net.

Finishing strongly, Fulham continued to press with Philippe Senderos seeing an attempt ricochet off the woodwork, but were all together wasteful in front of goal.

Doing their bit for the football blunder reels, Bent failed to score from two-yards with a chance that was surely harder to miss, while Rodallega kicked thin-air as he pivoted on the spot and fell to the floor. Hilarious yes, but all too typical of Fulham’s horror show season.

The fourth-round replay will take place on February 8, with the winner set to face either Preston North End or Nottingham Forrest at home.

Why Fulham’s season could depend on the signing of Steven Defour

steven-defour_483429It’s been clear for quite some time now that Fulham need to make big changes if they are to halt the decline that has seen them change from a distinguished mid-table side to relegation fodder.

Making big changes however is a risky business, as the obvious plans don’t always have the desired effect.

Take Queens Park Rangers last year for instance, who threw money at a capitulating squad to no avail and highlighted just how important it is to sign the right player.

While Shahid Khan doesn’t appear to be someone willing to overindulge his football team, Fulham could well be in danger of replicating the decline of their West London rivals, if there is any credence in their recent transfer conquests.

Ravel Morrison and Nani may well sound like a pair of coups for a team like Fulham, but they are in some ways too similar to players already in the squad – players who are currently failing to perform.

Not unlike Adel Tarrabt, Morrison is a talented footballer with a hunger for progression and an eye for goal. But he is also a loose canon that is as effective as he is disruptive.

Nani too is arguably like Bryan Ruiz, a luxury player that Fulham can neither afford nor accommodate – and one who would waltz into another Premier League side should Fulham face the drop.

Defour on the other hand is somewhat different.

Currently concerned about securing a place in Belgium’s World Cup squad, the 25-year-old has openly expressed a desire to play first-team football – something he hasn’t had in abundance at Porto of late.

A short-term place at Fulham would therefore be beneficial for Defour – who has previously expressed a desire to play in the Premiership – as it could be an opportunity for him to make an instant global impression.

While a short-term deal is not ideal for Fulham, an intelligent midfield player capable of pulling strings and bridging the gap between the workhorses and the finesse players could turn their season around.

Fulham have been without a heartbeat since the departure of Moussa Dembele, Clint Dempsey and Danny Murphy – something that Martin Jol overlooked, and which, subsequently, cost him his job.

While the return of Clint Dempsey has brought some good feeling amongst the Fulham faithful, his lack of immediate impact has brought to light the difference between the team he left and the team of today.

Dempsey needs the same level of support that he was receiving the season before his transfer – when he was in remarkable goal-scoring form – if Fulham are to reap the benefits of his short loan spell.

Defour may not be the final answer to Fulham’s pressing question, but if The Whites are to begin climbing the table then this sort of hardworking and creative midfielder is exactly what the team needs.

Fulham 3-0 Norwich: Rene’s men through to round 4 of FA Cup

Sidwell_2791209bThe FA Cup came as a welcomed break for a Fulham side currently struggling in the league.

Playing without the pressure of having to pick up points meant that manager Rene Meulensteen could experiment with the team and ultimately influence a level of calm among the players.

Showcasing new-look centre backs made up of youngster Dan Burn, who was recently recalled from his loan spell at Birmingham, and the returning Brede Hangeland, a player the Whites have missed through injury of late, Fulham started the more positive of the two.

And were ahead on the quarter hour mark, as Darren Bent found himself in the right place at the right time, getting on the end of an Ashkan Dejagah flick-on from a Steve Sidwell cross, to rifle his shot into the roof of the net.

Unfamiliarly for Fulham, who tend to go on the defensive after finding themselves in a positive position, they continued to take the game to Norwich and doubled their lead just before half time.

Capitalising on a mistake from Norwich keeper Mark Bunn, who literally threw away possession, Sascha Riether played through Alex Kacaniklic who cut it back for Dejagah to score a simple tap-in.

After the break Norwich started the stronger, with Ricky Van Wolfswinkel being brought on in place of Nathan Redmond.

But the Canaries failed to take their chances, and in 68 minutes Sidwell theoretically killed the game, powering a close-range header past the outstretched Bunn.

Going into round 4 Fulham will face Sheffield United at Bramall Lane on Sunday 26 at 1pm.

Fear and laziness has breached the Craven Cottage walls

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There was a time when Craven Cottage was known for being a fortress – a place that even top four teams would have to be at their best if they were to come away with a result.

Last Saturday’s game against Sunderland, above all else proved this is no longer the case, and it highlighted two major areas of concern.

Fear


Right from kick-off against Sunderland, Fulham’s tentative nature was apparent. Moving the ball from side-to-side The Whites seemed intent on creating attacking chances for the opposition, with David Stockdale and Philippe Senderos nervously passing the ball and responsibility to each other at every opportunity.

Adel Tarrabt, who perhaps should not have been substituted in the second half, was the only Fulham player with some attacking intent, but with no one else on the same page, his one-man-on-a-mission style of play was both ineffective and easy to defend against.

A problem that has continued to develop since the Tottenham game, where The Whites went one nil up before becoming reclusive, inviting pressure and handing over control, is the inability to command a game.

Evident against Manchester City, Norwich, West Ham and Sunderland, where The Whites had to goal at least one goal behind before starting to play is Fulham’s lack of mental ability – to assertively go out and win a football match.

Chasing a game is difficult, and while it seems to be the only thing that motivates the players at the moment, it leaves the team dangerously vulnerable to counter attacking football – as Fulham found out the hard way against Sunderland last Saturday.

The fear of commanding a game has also resulted in Fulham forgetting how to draw.

While this is something you’d over look if you were winning each week, it’s a hugely important part of the game for teams who aren’t.

Fulham appear to have only been able to win this year on momentum – getting back into a game after conceding to steal a late winner, before holding on for dear life.

The games they’ve lost have been down to not reacting quickly enough to going a goal behind, with the other team capitalising on Fulham’s lackadaisical nature.

Grinding out a draw against a good side, instead of capitulating and accepting defeat by leaking a ridiculous amount of goals, may well be the difference between staying up and going down.

Knees up

Another worrying trait that still floats about the ground on match days, like Berbatov’s shadow, is the overall lack of graft.

Some players like Scott Parker, Steve Sidwell, Pajtim Kasami and Giorgos Karagounis fight their corner well, but a lack of fluidity amongst the whole eleven is causing the team serious problems.

Right from the off on Saturday Sunderland were more motivated than Fulham. The Whites had better possession, but used it negatively, passing sideways and backwards at every opportunity.

While Sunderland didn’t close us down like the more tenacious West Ham side did the week before, they were extremely organised, and once they had introduced themselves to the game by attaining some level of possession, their unmatched work rate was the decisive factor.

More problems on the horizon?

One major cause for concern at the moment is Fulham’s goal difference – as let’s not forget that is what kept them up in the 2007/2008 ‘Great Escape’ season.

Even if they can manufacture a couple of wins in the up-and-coming months, this inability to keep anything close to a clean sheet will be the difference between staying up or going down.

Overall the whole set up at Craven Cottage appears to be a bit of a circus at the moment, with three men holding varying levels of control.

And with a tough row of fixtures coming their way, the next few weeks may look a whole lot worse if sufficient and vital transfers are not made quickly.

At this point Fulham’s future remains in their hands, but time is most definitely not on their side.

Why Rene Meulensteen can keep Fulham in the Premiership

Fulham-v-Tottenham-Rene-Meulensteen-pa_3046360

Since Martin Jol’s departure there have been dramatic improvements at Fulham.

Not only are we lining up more positively, with wingers in the form of Ashkan Dejagah and Alexander Kacaniklic wanting to get forward and take the play to the opposition, but in the positive attitude emanating from all areas of the pitch.

At home to Tottenham we extended our woeful tally of defeats, but there were unfamiliar positives from the performance; notably the way we made one of the most expensive teams in the league run down the clock in order to get three points against us – the team that spent the least over the summer.

The Aston Villa result was brilliant. Not only because we broke our straight run of losses, but because every player put in a great performance for 90+ minutes, and we kept a clean sheet.

Everton today was always going to be a difficult place to go to. Over the years we have struggled to make any sort of mark there, even with the likes of Clint Dempsey, Moussa Dembele and Danny Murphy in the team.

That said, our recent performances brought a sense of unusual positivity, and that was visible on the pitch in the way we fearlessly went about our business – something that we barely did even under Roy Hodgson away from home.

Yes Everton did put four past us, but not for the same reasons four would have been put past us under Jol. Instead of playing a ruthlessly high line while trying to defend against an onslaught of blue shirts, today we attempted to get a winner, and then an equaliser, despite being away at from home.

In Rene we trust

Initially I was dubious of the way Shahid Khan chose to go about his business in terms of hiring Meulensteen to fill an untitled role at the club alongside Jol, who he then chose to reluctantly sack.

I didn’t feel like anyone knew were they stood (even now Rene is without an obvious title) and that the players would become even more disillusioned with the lack of guidance and authority being shown at the club.

Now however, I would praise his decision as for me it shows he understands the club.

He could have played into the media’s hands and turned Fulham into a circus spectacle while he tried to secure the coup of the season.

Regardless of who would have got the job, they would have been under immense pressure from day one and there would be the overriding feeling that the owner was breathing down their neck.

In quietly bringing in a man, who I feel was destined to take the reigns at Fulham, before letting Jol go shows the modest, respectful and intelligent way in which the self-made Billionaire is prepared to go about his business.

Being granted a settling in period, before taking over as boss, Meulensteen isn’t being thrown in the deep end.

Additionally, while his unspecified title may by worrying in some ways, it attaches no unnecessary pressure to his already intense job.

A great example of where a manager under little pressure has over achieved, by mistake of course, was at Chelsea.

Swapping a mop and bucket for the keys to the training ground, Roberto Di Matteo, who was steadily bringing West Bromwich Albion down before being replaced by Roy Hodgson, won an average Chelsea team the Champions League.

Something that no other Chelsea manager was able to do, even with the job title and Roman Abramovich’s credit card.

While Jol may have been motivational for the players, Fulham were crying out for a tacticianer, and by all accounts we have one of the best in football right now.

Shahid Khan’s recent comments that Meulensteen is always on the phone to him, something Jol didn’t do, again speaks volumes.

Meulensteen has brought the heart back into the team, and despite the fact we are still going to struggle this season, there is a definite feeling that we can once again give a good account of ourselves against anyone in this division.

Berbatov and Ruiz or life in the Championship?

Ruiz-BerbaThe wave of hope and excitement brought about by the arrival of Rene Meulensteen was quashed all too quickly on Saturday, as Fulham lost their fifth consecutive game in all competitions.

Complementing the initial positive atmosphere were the visible changes influenced by Meulensteen’s appointment – Scott Parker taking the captains armband from Dimitar Berbatov and Aaron Hughes playing in place of the calamitous Philippe Senderos.

We started well. Attacking from the front we pressed and closed down the opposition when they had the ball. Our midfield looked more alive than it had in a long while. Forward passing seemed to be back on the agenda, and there was a sense of urgency when going forward – something picked up on and acknowledged by one of the louder crowds I have heard this year at the Cottage.

Then, as seems to always happen this season, the wheels came off. In some ways it was to be expected. Fulham only ever appear to be truly ‘up for it’ when they go a goal down, as frustrating as that it. Later we did show some grit – notably in the form of Derek Boateng and Scott Parker who both put in more than adequate shifts – but, fundamentally it was too little too late.

Fulham, if you hadn’t already noticed, are very much in the thick of this years dignity-stripping dogfight. While players like Scott Parker, Pajtim Kasami, Giorgos Karagouni and Damien Duff – who may or may not be consistently playing – exemplify hard work and passion, our squad features far too many luxury players.

Last week’s footage of Darren Bent and Adel Taarabt sharing a joke on the subs bench as Liverpool put four past Fulham highlights this entirely – but do their attitudes surprise you?

On well paid gap-years, the pair are still, more than likely, going to be in the Premier League next year, regardless of whether Fulham are or not. Martin Jol, through failing to eradicate the infectious, lazy atmosphere,  has unfortunately taken the club back to a time before Roy Hodgson existed in Cottage folklore.

If we are to improve, then the club must revert to an almost instinctive state of working hard to make everything count and taking nothing for granted. Despite what you were told, this year is not going to be particularly pretty, regardless of whether we stay up or not.

While Bryan Ruiz and Dimitar Berbatov are players that we could have perhaps facilitated at the height of our success, we can no longer. Ruiz’s inability to think on his feet or withstand any form of physical contact and Berbatov’s lackadaisical passages of play, wasteful flicks and continuous arm-throwing when things aren’t going his way disrupt both the progression of the play and the confidence of the team.

Little changes, as aforesaid, were made prior to Saturday’s game against Swansea, but big and bold ones must now follow. Fulham need to remaster the basics to find a balance of seamless stability in all areas of the pitch. Offloading those who aren’t for the cause in January is a great way to start, before rebuilding shrewdly, attracting the correct player for a tactical system – while targets are still interested that is.

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