ESPN Soccernet - Correspondents - Fulham
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Posted by Phil Mison on 03/10/2012

A personal look back on a week that offered up no shortage of material to underline football's global capacity to keep us all talking. The game remains the world's great soap opera - and it's for real.

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Enforced but temporary dislocation from the game I came to love from the moment I first mastered dribbling a plastic ball the length of our garden path had me in reflective mood this week. Initially my addiction to Fulham could not be fuelled by February's blank weekend, before I took myself off to the Swiss slopes on the Monday ahead of the QPR game. Ten days ago I returned to a hard drive crash and then a sustained attack from despicable spammers targeting both myself and our in house server here at HQ.

Equilibrium has been restored and we are back on course for the season run in. Just in time to bathe in the rosy glow now emanating from Craven Cottage. And my jumping off point for this piece is how much I'm going to relish watching this season's relegation dog fight unfold in the Prem. Eleven games to go and it's a mini league between the five sides at the foot of the table. They'll all be taking points off each other. The stakes for surviving so high, the repercussions from relegation so shattering, I reckon the drama, the managerial quotes and the controversies to come will make for X-rated stuff. Fulham followers know only too well the emotional hell to be gone through. The final weeks of the 2007 and 2008 seasons left scars that have but recently healed. The 'ten million pound goal' from Clint v Liverpool...Danny's improbable header at Pompey...I still get sick to my stomach at the memories.

Whoever you are rooting for this year to slip the noose, the Lancastrian trio, Wolves or QPR, spice is added to the scrap no question by the involvement of our neighbours from W12, with the attendant fate awaiting those two controversial characters so recently held dear to our own bosom Hughes and Zamora.

Last weekend TV offered us a remarkable behind the scenes view of what happens when the wrong kind of investors get involved with a football club. Quite how the Formula One moguls who walked up to Loftus Road amassed their fortunes defies belief. Briatore came across as a man who might struggle to mount a burger stand along South Africa Road, roundly insulting any punter who demanded 'onions but no sauce.' As for hatchetman Paladini...the General Manager was a basket case throughout ever on the verge of a coronary. You had to sympathise with the fans chanting, "Give us back our Rangers," as one manager after another spun out the revolving door and the promotion dream soured again. Yes, the journey had its happy ending with Warnock finally delivering the Holy Grail. But where is Neil now, and the BBC's prog came hard on the heels of clips showing new majority shareholder Tony Fernandes screaming at the ref while sitting 'with the fans' behind the goal for the Everton game. New money maybe, but no class. By gum sir, but boy does it put into perspective the way our own chairman has behaved in his stewardship of Fulham since 1997! And that is why Fulham will always be a far bigger club than QPR in the foreseeable future.

A tape of this documentary must be waved under the noses of the FA mandarins. Not for my own glee, but on behalf of those honest, passionate supporters who follow Portsmouth up and down the country. It's an old hobby horse of mine, but when you see clubs of the stature of Portsmouth (and Rangers in Scotland) threatened with extinction questions must be asked of those responsible for having handed out so many 'fit and proper' person affidavits to the shysters, crooks and conmen. The lack of acumen by those supposed to be running the game should see them called to account as not fit for purpose. The evidence is incontrovertible. Meanwhile good luck to every club battling administration and winding up orders. Football's a working class game with deep roots, not an adman's fantasy to fill boxes with corporate clients and middle class families. Rushden and Diamonds, Newport County, Scarborough, Halifax Town...ghosts from the past, yet once cornerstones of their communities.

There's more trouble brewing. UEFA's bright idea of sharing the Euro 2012 tournament across Poland and Ukraine doesn't look quite so polished now. Both countries are a far cry from the antiseptic and manicured streets of Nyon my train rolled past last week as I skirted Lake Geneva. I met a Fulham fan in Poland during our Wisla away leg who described the tortuous route taken (via Istanbul) in following the Whites to our Shakhtar game of February 2010. There's plenty of tickets available for England's opener at the Dombass Stadium, trouble is the severe lack of decent accomodation. What hotels there are have racked up prices to absurd levels. Prepare for swathes of empty seats at this summer's showpiece.

The week rolled on with two standout performances that showed football, when everything comes together, can still be a fabulous product. Every superlative in the lexicon has been brought out to describe Lionel Messi's performance against Leverkusen in the Champions League. His talent defies belief. This surely is genius on a level never seen before, superior to Pele, Maradona, Henry and the rest. Five goals in one game, the boy makes Pogrebnyak look positively pedestrian! And what about the way Athletic Bilbao turned up at Old Trafford, played without fear, and dismantled the English champions? A lesson there for Jol ahead of our upcoming away game, revenge for the 0-5 thrashing hopefully.

To end on a Fulham note, well it's meant to be an FFC blog after all, our boy Clint has also been gathering his fair share of headlines. And it was his birthday Friday. So Fulham are hoping to tie him down to an extended contract that will keep him in the white shirt until he is 32? That's going to scupper any thoughts the Texan might have of playing Champions League football. But the ship must be a happy one, even if we don't match the salaries being paid elsewhere. Will Clint be content raising his family in one of the nicer parts of London and being a big fish in a small pond? His legendary status at the Cottage is now assured. Undoubtedly one of the most underrrated midfielders in the Prem, newspaper talk often sees Deuce linked to other clubs. Who knows what's in his mind. With all the talk of Liverpool though, I note how Charlie Adam has not had the stand out season he did last year at Blackpool - subsumed perhaps by the poor tactics and lack of genuine coaching credentials from 'King' Kenny?

The 'hands off our Clint' campaign starts here, sign up today! Actually, and I know Fulham are too small a club for this ever to happen, but having started every league game for us, and with his very impressive goal return, could you come up with a more fitting candidate for 'PFA Players Player of the Season?'

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Posted by Mike on 03/11/2012

as a US and LFC fan, I get conflicted because I know Clint could get a transfer to a champions league club, but I'd be nervous about him actually breaking through, because his first few years/managers never started the seasons w/ him in the starting lineup (maybe some "americans don't know futbol" bias), and had to fight tooth and nail to eventually he became a mainstay for all of them. And he's so good at Fulham, who now have very very cool stylish forward players.

I'd hate to see him "Charlie Adam" it, like you said. Although I think there's a difference, as Adam has no graft or work ethic, he seems like "cool, I made it to Liverpool, mission accomplished, now I'm just gonna reeeeelaxxxx", but Clint has had to prove himself to more people far more often. I'd have him any day instead of the wasted roster/starting spots Adam, Henderson, Carroll occupy (they are so awful), and Dalglish is a bit of a homer as no one else would be starting those players at this point...

Posted by Nate on 03/12/2012

Gutted by Villa loss. At the same time, there's the old Fulham we know and love. I don't know why I expected anything different. Ugh.

Posted by Rob on 03/12/2012

Another heart breaker in the final minutes. Same old Fulham away form. That was Fulhams best chance at an away point for the rest of the season. There are going to be some real drubbings ahead at ManU, Liverpool, Everton, and Spurs.

Back on their heels defending for 90 minutes. It almost seems as if they are playing down one. 1 pathetic shot on goal. Might as well have played Diarra instead of AJ if Jol really wanted the the 0-0 draw.

Posted by 5815dan on 03/13/2012

In truth, Villa deserved to score in the first half. You can't feel so bad about a loss when the strategy going in was "play for a point."

With absolutely no concerns about relegation at this point, why not play bombs away and flood forward all day long? Sit back all day and you might get burned...

Posted by Drago on 03/13/2012

Villa was further proof that the big wins against championship-caliber QPR and Wolves were fools gold. Jol has yet to get the team to play well for 90 minutes against decent competition. Bringing on Ruiz instead of Davies was a mistake; the situation called for grit, not finesse. And can someone explain putting AJ on the left? Jol's supporters can point to some nice home wins, but the theme of the season so far is too many dropped points in the last 10 minutes.

Posted by Jessica on 03/13/2012

ESPN showed a bit of that documentary here in the states before the start of the BWFC/QPR match. Nice to know crazy owners/general managers aren't exclusive to America.

I remember sitting in front of my computer on the floor, "refreshing" every minute or so, until the beautiful site of "0-1" showed up from Murphy's goal at Pompey. I think I will take your advice and enjoy every minute of this fight from afar.

I agree with Dan: with dropping not a serious possibility, why not try and play attractive football, get Clint up to 30 for the year and see what Pog can do against the big boys?

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