Refurbishment of the famous old ground down by the river gives an indication of club priorities as we prepare for another campaign that holds more prospects of FFC finishing nearer the top of the league than the bottom. While the decision for major construction of a completely new Riverside stand has taken a tad longer to greenlight than expected, few doubted the eventual granting of planning permission. In the near future the club will be accomodating 30,000 plus for home games, confident of selling out on all but a very few of their 19 league fixtures. In contrast, there's little the club can do with our listed Edwardian structure along Stevenage Road, but aesthetically, and historically, a fresh lick of paint to the famous gable end is welcome and appropriate.
Unseen for most of us, a well-planned campaign to recruit and groom the stars of tomorrow has been on-going at Motspur Park for two years. The results from our academy and youth squads are already bearing fruit. Martin Jol will always be judged on results. Lose the first six and his head will be on the block. He also has to subscribe to the club's larger agenda of prudent spending and self-sufficency. That can be a tough call for an inexperienced manager on the rise (see how long Brendan's honeymoon period lasts at Liverpool), as Sanchez found out. It can also be a great test of a manager's character - arise Sir Roy of England.
Martin still has to earn his corn. I suspect in Maf's eyes, along with more than a few fans, we are still awaiting a return on our outlay for Bryan Ruiz. I sense the Costa Rican's form in the next few weeks may determine another possibly spectacular foray into the transfer market. Which brings us onto the Clint Dempsey saga. One reason for refusing to blog too early in the summer is that newspapers and web sites have to be filled with acres of the most absurd garbage. I got utterly bored with the whole Dempsey speculation surrounding Liverpool, a swop for Carroll, various clubs offering the CL route, various managers admiration for the Texan. Start replying or opinionating on this rubbish and the hound is off the leash. If you have nothing interesting to say, keep quiet! I might well post to the world that I am 'desperate to fill the boots of Robert Plant in a re-formed Led Zeppelin,' and that while our sixty-plus blond leviathan is only too happy to croon his way round the bluegrass circuit, Phil Mison cannot wait to wrap his vocal chords around 'Black Dog' for the benefit of world music. Except it aint gonna happen...and I shall keep my vocals for the car CD.
Dempsey's options are limited if he wants to find a club offering CL football. Does he risk uprooting the domestic bliss of life in leafy Wimbledon and exposing his young family to foreign cultures and a new language for the sake of what? Perhaps a place on the bench at PSG or elimination from the group stages by Christmas? Beneficial from Fulham's perspective is how Clint's unstinting progress in the EPL has flown under the radar, even to the extent that his goalscoring return of the past two seasons is seen almost a a 'fluke.' For other watchers, managers here and abroad, they have to persuade club chairman to shell out big money for a player many perceived may just have 'peaked.'
And do I see Clint as a pay rebel who will hold the club to ransom? No. He's been offered the best contract Fulham have ever put on the table. Banking £250,00 a month may sound sweet to the rest of us. Deduct supertax bracket rates from that, agent's commission and the large payments going into his pension fund, then factor in the 50 odd years of living when the tap turns off at a stroke with retirement...Clint will still be giving 100% Saturday come Norwich. Should he become a factor in any transfer swap involving Charlie Adam, Carroll or heaven knows who, Fulham will easily survive his departure. Everyone has their price. Of course, I hope he plays on in Fulham white, but not for a second would I begrudge him a move to pastures new.
Which kinda leads me into Hugo Rodallega to conclude. I can't believe some people doubting his talent. He kept Wigan afloat in the Prem, but in the first-half of last season was made the fall guy for the Latics poor form. He'd made it plain to Martinez he wanted away after giving good service, and that he would run his contract down. As a consequence Martinez found a way to earn Wigan points without Hugo, who got benched. A free transfer coup to Fulham has saved us £4-5 million on our transfer budget. Great business!
Digest that boys and girls and let's hear where you think the team still needs to strengthen. It's very clear there's a financial reality check in play in the market, it's even getting under Fergie's skin (lucky he's got so many biased ref decisions to look forward to) and, to be honest, I don't think there's too big a talent pool out there right now.
Last few days of sun and sea for your correspondent before I point my Mini Cooper back towards ol' London town later this week. Time to start the build up in anticipation and remember...aint it just so much better following this club than anyone else?