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How I would love to be starting this blog after
the West Brom game...
In the aftermath of our limp elimination from the FA Cup I sensed a hardening of opinion regarding our manager's ability to get the best from the team. My appreciation to White Noise and his crew for raising the profile of the last piece 'Chinese Puzzle' on the Friends of Fulham website over the weekend. For the comments of praise directed at this humble scribe I give thanks. Any forum is of course that most imperfect of straw polls. Those with axes to grind will always rush to spray paint the walls, while who knows what the silent majority are thinking?
I'm not looking for converts to my point of view or to launching a crusade. These blogs are just my ramblings with nose pressed up to the frosted glass at Motspur Park. I love my football club but nothing on these blogs will ever change a thing. Let's start by being frank. Selling Zamora makes no sense to me on any level. Sacrificing Bobby to Jol's personal agenda puts our very status in the Premier League at risk and makes the run-in fraught with peril. We have put unncecessary pressure on the club to clamber away from the basement - because recent history clearly shows Fulham when BZ is missing come up short. Heaven help the guy, if Pogrebnyak turns out to fires blanks, we are in big trouble. See what I mean by added pressure? However, it's the circumstances of BZ's last minute transfer that depress me the most. Jol's proboscis this morning should be a mile long, because we supporters have been led a merry dance by our Dutch uncle.
Do you recall the summer headlines when the board got their man and Jol trumpteted, "I have unfinished business in the Premier League." Indeed Jol does, but Fulham Footbal Club, our very fabric and ethos, it seems to me are bit part players in Martin's slash and burn quest to remind Spurs fans - and the rest of football - of his own massive 'talent' as a top manager. The stark evidence to date, in results, team morale, organisation, transfer dealings and tactics suggest anything but. Driving Zamora from the fold, your one current England international and the focal point of your attack, is for me the last straw. This is the man who more than any other got the club to the final of the Europa League, the finest achievement in our entire history.
Don't take my word for it. Shortly after 11 Tuesday night I listened to Five Live's forum rounding up the day's dealings. One guy who talks a lot of common sense is Steve Claridge. He was full of praise for Zamora, felt the fee was a steal, and could not understand why we should want to sell to our nearest rivals. Steve described Fulham teams as being well-drilled, with good organisation and a reliable home record that kept them well clear of the relegation scrap. He intimated Jol had arrived with a desire to play more cavalier attacking football, and was being frustrated by the players inability to adapt. Hence, he saw the transfer as being purely done on personal terms - as close as he dare go to calling it a clash of egos, and that it only served to strengthen QPR while undermining Fulham. He ended by saying he genuinely feared for our chances of staying up if we go on a poor run. A view endorsed by the rest of the panel. People who criticise Zamora's goal return do not appreciate his role and value to any team. David Pleat was glowing in his praise on the same show. First rule of transfers - replace key players only with those of better quality. Have we done that? Seeing Zamora on the scoresheet in those blue and white hoops is going to be excrutiating to behold!
It is four short weeks since Zamo's stoppage time winner over Arsenal. Amidst the euphoria of that and the Newcastle win Martin has been very vocal in telling the world, "Bobby loves this club...we don't want to lose any of our strikers...Bobby makes things happen. "There's no rift between me and Bobby!" To my mind undermining and unsettling our England international goes right back to the start of the campaign, when he was inexplicably left out at Wolves (recall how awful we were that day, yes at the mighty Wolves, now staring relegation in the face). There's no evidence Bob ever requested a transfer, so the obvious conclusion has to be Jol shoved him out the door. And with no time to alert other clubs to drive up the price, Fulham concluded a hasty, ill-conceived piece of business that leaves a very nasty taste in the mouth.
More related to Zamora's departure perturbs me. Jol clearly wanted him gone, hence the place on the bench at Everton to wrap him in cotton wool. Again another example should you need it of Jol putting himself ahead of the greater good of the club (how do the 400 saps who spent hard cash to make the trip feel about that now?). But Jol has not been having much luck in the transfer market has he? We'll draw a veil over each of his summer signings, not one of whom is yet to make an impact. And what I wonder is really behind Kasami's sudden wish to jump ship and head back to Italy? We'll come back to that another time. As the days ticked down in January the need to replace BZ became critical. But first Maxi Lopez said no, then Barrios, until Stuttgart's benchwarmer (one solitary goal this season) became the Prodigal Son at the last minute. Very much a third choice option of little interest to any other top club it seems.
I do feel for the Russian. He's being pitched into a relegation battle with all the odds against him. Once again, lack of foresight and organisation will prove Jol's achilles heel. Gert Muller in his prime could lead the Whites attack at Man City this week and find the problems are all across the park behind him. Gert would be lucky to get a pass. Regular attendees at games this season see shortcomings in every area. Weak full backs, slow midfield, no width, no strikers...no passion. Fixated on his battle of wills with Bobby none of these issues have been addressed by our manager. Despite rumours linking us with plenty of names, nobody ready to step straight into the first team is signed. Rodallega may have happened had AJ been prepared to go up there. He wasn't, and with Wigan going down, who can blame him?
There are serious questions too to be asked of the board in sanctioning Jol's action. Having pushed forward with the new Riverside plans, they must have assumed demotion to the Championship was not an issue. A win over WBA (five trips in the Prem to Craven Cottage and five defeats) would leave us with 29 points. Even were we to go on the slide, just three more wins after tonight would get us over the line. That's why I began this piece by saying another 24 hours may put a whole new slant on things. It's a home matchday at the Cottage against Roy's boys - a side we normally stuff. I feel as relaxed about tonight's trip to the Cottage as I would with a summons to Torquemada's chamber...
Keep the faith twitter@fulhamphil