It should be one of our stand out fixtures in the list. Yet my mailbox has hardly been humming this week after our annual loss at Old Trafford. Activity has been subdued across all the usual forums, so I'm not getting a complex about it. Given our dreadful away form under Jol we'd all written the game off in advance, and the record books will show yet another in our long line of away failures on this ground, but really Mr Oliver - take a good hard look at yourself!
I'd asked for solid preparation, no silly mistakes, self-belief and a resolute display. We got all that and more from our boys, only to be denied by the one element I forgot to flag up - a crass error from the man with the whistle. It happens way too often at Old Trafford, whatever mealy mouthed tosh SAF comes out with. Refs there for years have been intimidated by both United players and the massive crowd into not giving decisions to the little clubs. Mike Riley was virtually a 12th man up there over many seasons, Carrick's clattering of Danny Monday night was one of the easiest decisions to give, and the ref was right up with play.
So we should have been travelling back with a point off the Champs. We didn't, and that's now three losses in a row without putting the ball in the net. While I'm both aggrieved at Oliver's error, and relieved we didn't take a pasting, did we actually deserve any better? Just eight goals all season away is a damning indictment of the manager surely? Once again we had no cutting edge in the final third and JAR didn't cut a great figure for their scrappy goal, not for the first time this season. However, thank goodness Jol was brave enough to include Frei, Briggs and Trotta in the squad and to reinstate the Hughes-Hangeland pairing at the back. It's clear Martin is still determined to be his own man. Let's hope that brings more positives than negatives in the long term.
The gossip this week reinforces my thinking that the long overdue overhaul of the squad this summer will be far-reaching. With the marketing team working full throttle to push new season ticket subscriptions at present, you wouldn't normally expect the club manager to come out and suggest some big names might not be at the Cottage for August's opener. If Dempsey, Dembele and a few others are on their way, so be it. Nobody can fault the Texan's commitment to FFC since 2007, at 29 it really is now or never should he want to have a run at the very top. Last month the club thought about bringing out a Clint DVD special, but Deuce himself knocked it back. I wonder if that might be significant?
As for Moussa, he seems to have a lot of admirers elsewhere. For my money he's always flattered to deceive, so I wouldn't miss him if he went for big money. For a number of other high earners no longer capable of influencing matters on the pitch in a major way - fill your own names in here - we'll just have to take what we can get. While Duff still plays with an internal fire and intensity, he's no longer a player who terrorises a back line. AJ for ages has accepted each recurring scuff, stumble and misplaced shot with a rueful smile, before steering his Bentley from the training ground. We need to revamp midfield, add defenders at full-back, see an end to inverted wingers, and a new strike force if Jol is ever to remake Fulham into a genuine top seven side.
Are we asking for the moon here? Well, we are being linked with plenty of big name talent, certainly among forwards. While at the same time nurturing our youngsters and continually finding success with Kit's academy graduates. History though shows how very hard it is to bring kids through the ranks to the top level - Chelsea haven't managed it in a decade - Harry's had no real finds at WHL, nor Liverpool, where Dalglish has been forced to splash £110 million on a team that now gets beaten at home by Wigan.
The summer trading at Fulham will be fraught with peril as Maf is asked to lay out more bundles of cash in a tricky market. The £15 million burnt last year on Bryan, Kasami and JAR have had zero impact on the side's ability to improve this season. We are in fact odds on now to post a worse finish than under the much maligned Mark.
Which brings us neatly onto Norwich this Saturday. If only for the long suffering fans sake, we need a good win. It would also help settle the nerves to bag three more points and make us safe from any relegation doubts. With the relegation mini-league now three from four (I reckon Blackburn are going to fight their way out of it) I'd be suprised if any of the three heading down get to 36 points. And while we've spent five paras weighing up Fulham's options to progress under Jol next season, let's remind ourselves (regularly!) that Rangers are preparing for life in the Championship with a mass of useless signings on mega wages...
Yes, things could be worse. So let the sun shine on the Cottage this week, give the Pog something to feed off again, and back to winning ways please against enterprising Norwich. We let them off the hook at Carrow Road but they don't have a great record here, plus striker Holt is suspended. This is a side we can play our game against, and while there's no room for complacency, I fancy us to bounce back with style.
Just proving that football never fails to dumbfound me, recent headlines saw MOTD 'pundit' Shearer both suggesting Glenn Hoddle for the England job (no coaching role in the UK since Wolves in 2005) and that 'Dalglish is the right man for Liverpool.' This despite countless newspaper columns to the contrary after their recent appalling run (back to back defeats to QPR and Wigan for heaven's sake).
I also enjoyed the spectacle Dave Richards made of himself in Qatar. When you travel to the Middle East you conduct yourself accordingly. You must surely appreciate the subject of alcohol is a touchy one with your hosts. But Dave, only the Chairman of the Premier League by the way, showed his cultural intolerance by reminding the Qatari hosts of the 2022 World Cup that 'we do like a pint' with our football, before going on to tell the world's media we the English invented and ran football until FIFA and UEFA stole it away! Ask Sheffield Wednesday fans what they think of his time as chairman up there.
His appointment to the Premier League staggered many, that he then was vice-chairman of England's bid for the World Cup, to oversee 'international relations' no less, tells you everything about our failure and the sense of antipathy by world football to us arrogant Brits, inventors of the game. Oh yes, and FFC have history with Dave over our failed bid for Crouch remember.
Enjoy the weekend! COYW! Twitter@fulhamphil