ESPN Soccernet - Correspondents - Fulham
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Posted by Phil Mison on 01/20/2012

From their lofty league position the Magpies are slight favourites for Saturday's game. Their past record at the Cottage however is poor.

Martin Jol admitted in Friday's press conference the abysmal surrender at Blackburn has left him looking over his shoulder. He didn't actually use those words to describe a numbing performance last week, as bad as anything seen in years. The massive opportunity passed up to ease away from the bottom six however did see Jol admit top of the agenda remains hitting the magic 40 point mark as soon as possible.

The arrival of an under-strength Newcastle can restore some momentum to the Whites season and settle everyone's nerves if we get back on track with a win. Another loss and we may well have a full blown crisis on our hands. Hey, we're talking Fulham here boys and girls, and we could as easily play like Brazil, or the Battersea 'Big Girls Blouse' XI (I made that bit up so don't go Googling for it).

To get us in the mood, from our debut season at the top, here's a reminder of the genius that was Louis Saha in his prime. A delicious curling effort from 25 yards out that opens the scoring from November 2001. The Putney End was still an all standing open terrace and I was right behind the arc of that shot as it bent beyond Given's dive into the top corner. It was some game.

© Getty Images

We won 3-1 with further goals from Legwinski and the tireless Barry Hayles - how many Prem grandees got caught out by Bazza's nuts and bolts honesty in those early days. He and Saha could be a real handful, while I'd be happy to see a midfield of Sean Davis, Malbranque, Legwinski and Collins turn out for us now.

Some memories from that match. Edwin saved a Shearer penalty, Bellamy and Aaron were in the Newcastle ranks, while the late Gary Speed notched the Toon goal. I'll always remember the travelling support making their first trip to the Cottage. Talk about respect. Lest we forget, Newcastle were still seen as a seriously big club with fanatical support back then. We remember were the league new boys, the Norwich of those days if you will. The Toon Army took over the entire enclosure for the day.

That was truly the best vantage point from the old days to watch any game from. A well of maybe 10 gently banked steps for standing spectators at the foot of the Johnny Haynes stand where you were guaranteed lashings of genuine wit and banter, a close up low level view of the action, and the chance to move along to whatever end the Whites were attacking. My position of preference was level with the line of the penalty area. You would be struck game after game at how many offsides got routinely - and wrongly - flagged. Cue the bursts of howling invective that would rain down on the poor lino's back from all of 3 yards range! I can remember more than a few opposing full-backs seriously losing it too over the course of a match they were getting roasted in. If they let you see we were getting to them the abuse really was cranked up...Happy times. Let's all pray Villa's plans to restore standing areas gains traction. Nothing would appeal more to genuine football fans. It's a visceral thing and I feel for people who've never experienced it.

I digress. For that first season back in England's top flight the club only had a safety certificate for around 20,000 and had yet to define quite how best to segregate large numbers of travelling fans. As a consequence for that Newcastle game the entire enclosure was exclusively Toon Army. They made a great sight, packed in tight, wearing the colours and full of noise from start to finish. A good many on that nippy November afternoon watched the game bare chested...I think most of them were men...but let's not go there. No doubt they turned up fully expecting us to roll over. When Big Al's pen was saved 12 minutes from time they knew the game was up. And being folk who also appreciate their football, they endured the last 10 minutes applauding Fulham and gave Lee Clark a huge ovation when he came off the bench.

Check your stats from all the preview traffic out there and you'll see fans making the long journey down from Tyneside have had precious little to cheer down the years at the Cottage, though the last few meetings between us have been very tight. We know the Magpies are without top scorer Demba Ba - on African Nations Cup duty - and I pray that makes the difference. The side doesn't look to have too many goals in it at present. Still, Blackburn were without Yakubu for 70 minutes last week and look where that got us.

To finish off it's back to Jol's presser. In the gaffer's own words, the club have had not one single enquiry for Bobby Zamora, nor any further enquiries for AJ following the early bids from Blackburn and QPR. He states the club do have money to spend, it's just a question of nailing down the right targets. And neither Dembele or Sa are fit at present, so a chance for Duff to hurt his old club again - he got the matchwinner this time last year in our 1-0 win. I'll take that this week again no question! It's been a tough 7 days. COYW! Twitter@fulhamphil

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Posted by jcrochester on 01/21/2012

Great post Phil. Much appreciated the vivid picture you painted from that match 11 years ago. Hadn't heard about Villa's efforts to bring back that standing area. Very interesting and worth a closer look. Doesn't the EPL have some sort of rule requiring seats though? Hoping for the best this weekend, prepared for the worst.

Posted by Rob on 01/22/2012

First off congrats to Clint on being the first American to have a hat trick in the EPL.

First half looked like a repeat of the Blackburn game. Hard to tell what sort of team will show up at any given time. Two things everyone can agree on except Martin Jol. Bryan Ruiz playing out of position is bad and Senderos is bad. He must have some compromising photos of Jol.

Posted by Drago on 01/24/2012

Well, Jol finally came to his senses and realized that playing Danny alone in front of the defense was a recipe for disaster. That said, I'm not sure if he brings on Baird and AJ without the Sidwell injury. However it happened, it was as dangerous as we've looked for awhile. (It may just be coincidence, but Baird and AJ both started in the 6-0 QPR win.)

I'm pretty curious to see where the team goes from here. Dembele, Frei and Ruiz on the bench would seem to reduce the attacking threat, certainly our speed and width, but none of them has shown a knack for scoring. Do we go back to the 4-1-4-1 of the last few weeks or stick with a 4-4-2?

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