Reeling Whites stumble into Old Trafford

Posted by Phil Mison

While surfing the net for background information ahead of the Whites' testing FA Cup encounter with Man United at Old Trafford Saturday, I noted that my ESPNFC colleague Mark Lomas had already posted his well-researched piece on the tie. You will find all the stats and background you need here.

As there has finally been action on the transfer front Friday from Fulham, let's make brief mention of it here. Emmanuel Frimpong, a robust midfield presence from Arsenal's reserve team, will stay on loan at Fulham until the end of the season. Wolves moved for the same player a year ago when they too were in dire straits, and look where it got them, though to be fair to Frimpong he did pick up a bad injury.

Let’s not damn the kid with faint praise before he’s kicked a ball for the Whites. I sincerely hope he flourishes and enjoys his time with us. Through no fault of his own, however, this is hardly a player of stature to compensate for those bigger names no longer under contract at Fulham. Nor does the youngster’s credentials to date come close to so many of the players Fulham have supposedly shown an interest in acquiring during Martin Jol’s tenure.

I’m assuming he’s there to fill Mahamadou Diarra’s boots, which brings us neatly onto Fulham’s failure to plan adequately since last September. The incontrovertible facts behind our slide into the basement is entirely transparent and predictable. The spine of the Fulham team has gone. Age has caught up with 40-year-old goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer while his excellent understudy David Stockdale has withered on the vine. The vital role played by Fulham’s longserving captain and playmaker never got addressed once Danny Murphy was shown the door. The club’s top scorer left with no adequate replacement lined up. By that I mean a genuine centre-forward target man to lead the line. Fulham simply don’t have one.

Compounding that last August were two more damaging body-blows. Diarra’s dodgy knee history, and the get-out clause in Mousa Dembele’s contract. Both should have been seen as huge flashing warning signs. In fact, the first note of alarm surfaced with fears Diarra might be out for six months and require an op. The doctors seemed to have skirted round that, and he returned after four weeks – but the knee is clearly not right.

Finally, Jol’s vision for flowing Dutch-style football called for pace and strength from the wings. It is well documented. But our hopes for achieving this rested on youngsters Alex Kacaniklic and Kerim Frei – both far from the finished article, a tad fragile, and with not half a season of games between them. Our alternatives in the wing department were Jol signing Ashkan Dejagah, still to show up, and veteran Damien Duff, now at the end of his time and prone to niggly little strains. Oh yes, £2 million was wasted on Kieran Richardson as the window slammed shut. He might be a short-term solution to our problems at left full-back, but to date when played in an advanced role he has been woeful! And now he's injured again, so our third-choice left-back goes up against the mighty Reds. Oh, and did I mention Frei's surgery this week in Germany on his pelvic bone?

It is a fact that in the transfer window agents circulate player status sheets to all clubs. These tip sheets give managers precise data on every player’s length of contract, expiry dates, and buy-out clauses. Once Dembele had shown up so strongly against Norwich and Man United in August it is utterly naïve of Fulham not to have anticipated clubs homing in on their Belgian star. It does not wash to hear such a hard-nosed and experienced manager as Jol bleating, “He told me he would be staying when I talked to him in the summer.”

I could go on about the supposed wonder wingers from Heerenveen who had ‘toured the Cottage’ and, along presumably with so many other fanciful names, were on the point of signing for Fulham.

It is indeed a sad commentary now on how low we are setting the bar. Anybody still realistically expecting to see Darren Bent in a Fulham shirt? As to my supposition from the last 24 hours that Brede Hangeland is being targeted by Harry Redknapp as the preferred successor to Ryan Nelsen, can the club not at least set the agenda here?

By now I would have demanded a clear statement of intent from the skipper. No point surely in floundering around on the 31st trying to spend his transfer proceeds on a replacement as the clock ticks down. Please spare us that.

Meanwhile friends, let us put these woes aside for 24 hours at least and try to play with some pride and passion at the Theatre of Dreams. With a world-wide TV audience looking on, let me have your views on the outcome here from Saturday evening.

COYW! Twitter@fulhamphil


ESPN Conversations