Category Archives: Fulham

Have Fulham learnt from their disastrous £100m spending spree?

After the celebrations of the return of Fulham back to the Premiership at the first time of asking, it is time to take a step back and access their chances of surviving in the Premiership next season.

It is a well know fact in football that sides who get promoted through the play-off route in the Championship, normally struggle.

In recent times the likes of Aston Villa, Huddersfield, Hull City, Norwich City and QPR all finished in the bottom six places in the division.

Two points that may make it possible for Fulham to survive in next seasons campaign would be the Manager and the experience of being in the top flight of English football before.

In Scott Parker they have an astute man in charge of the Cottagers. In the play-off final against Brentford his master tactics came out on top. By spotting the gap at Brentford’s near post and Joe Bryan’s technical ability to find that gap was a pure master stroke from the former West Ham player.

Since Parker has been put in charge, he has turned around the club’s fortunes. Just two years ago on transfer deadline day in the summer of 2018, five players were signed as the clock ticked down to zero.

Fulham spent an astonishing £100 million on no less than twelve players, only to look considerably worse for signing these players.  In season 2018-19 Fulham sacked Slavisa Jokanovic and Claudio Ranieri but a second play-off victory in three seasons gives them a chance to heal some scars.

For the club to survive next season in the top flight of football they will have to learn by their mistakes of 2018. Pointless splashing out that amount of money to try and survive in the Premiership. In truth, it rarely works out.

Parker needs to keep the spine of this current side to have a chance of surviving. The key player to hold on to has to be Aleksandar Mitrovic. The goal machine will learn by his poor return when Fulham were last back in the top flight. If he does so and can get back to a return of around twenty goals in a season, then the London club have a good chance of staying up.

They also need to keep the likes of Tom Cairney, Aboubakar Kamara, Denis Odoi and Tim Ream. If they can hold on to this talented group, then they could realistically keep out of trouble.

Parker will know that the hard work starts now. It will be an interesting few weeks before next seasons campaign as to what he will do in the transfer market. Key to their chances of survival will also be who they bring in.

In terms of the other two promoted sides Leeds United and West Brom. For the Yorkshire club with the flamboyant Marcelo Bielsa managing at the main table this will b e a massive challenge for him. His toughest assignment to date and hardest task for the upcoming season will be to survive.

Under normal circumstances with Leeds outstanding fan base and home fans would be worth a lot of points for the club but the likelihood of having no full capacities for the foreseeable future, this could well go against the Whites.

West Brom under Slaven Bilic look like a side that could well survive next season. Having the advantage of previously being in the Premiership for eight seasons, the Baggies know exactly what is required not to face a relegation battle.

One thing is for sure, having three shrewd and intelligent managers in the form of Parker, Bielsa and Bilic managing in the biggest league in the world and pitting their wits against other more experienced managers is going to be a sight worth seeing.

 

Brentford meet Fulham in 170 million pound encounter

Following 48 Championship matches, for West London rivals Brentford and Fulham it comes down to one 90-minute game to determine the success or failure of their season. 

For Fulham and Scott Parker it is a chance to bounce straight back up, while for Brentford it is an opportunity for the Bees to play in the top-flight for the first time in 70 years.

Brentford’s season

This season was always going to be an emotional one for the Bees as it was going to be the final one at Griffin Park, which has been their home for 116 years.

Indeed, this campaign has certainly proved to be an eventful one for Tom Frank’s side. The first half of the season started off slowly but they did manage to secure an impressive 7-0 win over Luton Town at the end of November and they did also beat their play-off final opponents at Griffin Park back in December 1-0 thanks to a Bryan Mbeumo goal.

It was the Bee’s Championship restart form that ultimately proved the catalyst for their promotion charge.  They once again managed to beat Fulham, this time 2-0 thanks to their Algerian superstar, Said Benrahma. They followed that result up with an impressive 1-0 win over Slavin Bilic’s West Brom, thanks to a goal from their striker, Ollie Watkins, who has managed 26 goals in all competitions this campaign and will be much sort after by Premier League clubs if Brentford do not go up this time around.

A further five victories in a row over Reading, Wigan, Charlton, Derby and Preston followed, which sparked talk not just a play-off spot but of automatic promotion.  Tom Frank’s side, however, would suffer defeat in their final two matches against Stoke City and Barnsley, which ultimately ensured that they had to make do with a third place finish and a spot in the Play-Offs.

The Play-Offs for the Bee’s fans certainly strike both excitement and trepidation into their hearts.

One hard luck story in particular comes to mind for the West-London club took place seven years ago when they missed a late penalty against Doncaster Rovers in the 90thminute before Rovers would then break upfield to score and go up as League One Champions.  Further heartbreak in the League One Play-off final at Wembley was to follow as Brentford lost 2-1 against Yeovil Town.

It has been, however, a case of so far so good for Tom Frank’s side as they managed to overcome Steve Cooper’s Swansea City team.  Having lost the first leg 1-0 thanks to an Andre Ayew goal, the second leg and last game at Griffin Park saw a dramatic turnaround inspired by Ollie Watkins, who levelled the tie in the 11thminute of the match.

A header from Emiliano Marcondes followed which gave the London side the lead on the night and on aggregate before a volley from Mbeumo gave the hosts a two-goal cushion.  On loan Rhian Brewster managed to pull a goal back for the Welsh side 12 minutes from time to produce a grand stand finish but the visitors ultimately were unable to find that all important goal to take the game to extra time.

Fulham’s Season

For manager Scott Parker’s first season in charge of Fulham the task was simple, bounce straight back up.  Easier said that done, the Cottagers, however, set about this in impressive fashion.  Although they started off with an opening day 1-0 loss to Barnsley, they managed to produce strong league performances particularly in November when they won four and lost just once.

The lockdown, however, did not come at a good time for the London club as they had just come off two straight wins against promotion rivals Swansea City and Preston and secured a 1-1 draw at Bristol City.

Indeed, the restart subsequently witnessed the Cottagers loose against Brentford and Leeds United before recapturing some of their form from November by winning against the likes of Nottingham Forest and Cardiff City and they also emerged on the right end of a 5-3 score line against Sheffield Wednesday thanks to two goals each from Neekaens Kebano and top scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic.

That result ensured that they would feature in the play-offs and following a 1-1 draw with Wigan they knew they would be up against Welsh side Cardiff City in the Semi-finals.

The Cottagers secured a crucial 2-0 victory in the first leg thanks to a superb individual effort from midfielder Josh Onomah and just before the end Kebano curled in a wonderful free kick.

The second-leg at Craven Cottage saw Fulham ultimately progress to the final at Wembley despite a 2-1 loss and additionally they had to do it without their main man, Mitrovic.  The Welsh side got off to the dream start and they were able to demonstrate their impressive ability from set pieces. A powerful header from Curtis Nelson made it 1-0 before just 30 seconds later Kebano was able to convert an Anthony Knockaert cross.

Cardiff’s Lee Tomlin restored his side’s advantage on the night just after half time and ensured a tense 40 minutes for The Whites. Parker’s team, however, were able to hold out to ensure that they made it to Wembley for the second time in three years.

Indeed, the Whites certainly have fond recent memories when it comes to the Championship play-offs having beat Aston Villa in the 2018 play-off final 1-0 thanks to a goal from their captain, Tom Cairney.

Team news

Brentford have no fresh injury concerns ahead of the Play-Off Final.

Fulham’s top scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic has managed to overcome a hamstring strain, which kept him out of the semi-final victory over Cardiff. While Harry Arter and Ivan Cavaleiro will also be available meaning that Parker will have a fully fit squad to choose from.

How to watch

The match will be shown live on Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Football and is scheduled for a 7:45pm kick-off on Tuesday 4th August. Coverage begins from 7pm.  The match will take place behind closed doors at Wembley Stadium.

Prediction

Only four and half miles separate the sides and only goal difference divided them in the regular season. Tom Frank’s Bees, however, have held the edge over Fulham in their two league encounters this campaign and fancy them to get the job done at Wembley.

 Score Prediction: Brentford 2-1 Fulham

 

Night of drama in Championship as Bees loose out to Baggies to go up

The best league in the world served up more drama on the final round of matches in the Championship on Wednesday evening.

Before kick off there was plenty of issues still to be decided.  Who would be joining Leeds United in the Premiership?  Who could possibly squeeze into the play-offs? Finally which three sides would be playing in League One next season?

West Brom Manager Slaven Bilic had to suffer 96 minutes of unbearable tension before the Baggies were guaranteed Premiership football next season.

After a two-year absence, they are back in the big time but they were pushed all the way by a resilient QPR side. It was the Londoners who took the lead through Ryan Manning, but West Brom hit back to lead 2-1 before Eberechi Eze levelled for Rangers just over the hour mark to leave the Baggies facing an anxious end to their league campaign.

When the final whistle went, West Brom players waited on the pitch to hear what was happening at Griffin Park. When news came through that Brentford had lost, wild scenes erupted around the Hawthorns as West Brom were confirmed as runners up.

You have to feel sorry for Brentford, who up until the last two results had looked the side likely to join Leeds in the top flight of English Football next season.

However, their surprising defeat to Stoke City at the weekend and last night’s shock 2-1 loss to Barnsley has cost them dearly. It will be play-offs for Thomas Frank’s vibrant side. For Barnsley, thanks to Clarke Oduor’s stoppage time winner, it meant that they had left the bottom three, thanks to Wigan Athletic’s 12-point deduction.

Fulham will have to go through the tough grind of the play-offs after a 1-1 draw against Wigan at the DW Stadium.

The draw meant that the Cottagers finished in fourth place in the table, two points outside second place West Brom.

Before last night’s action there would have been very few people who would have bet on both Welsh sides getting to the play-offs. Following an incredible night of action, however, saw both Cardiff and Swansea book their play-off dates with Nottingham Forest agonisingly missing out.

Cardiff relegated Hull City at the Cardiff City Stadium by securing a 3-0 win, while down the M4 Swansea were doing their best to gate crash the play-off mix by heavily beating Reading 4-1.

At the start of the evening, The Swans had to overcome a five-goal swing with Forest. The Welsh side did their bit, so it was down to what Forest could do against Stoke City at the City Ground.

Forest, in the top six for most of the season, capitulated 4-1 against Stoke and missed out on the play-offs. Swansea pipping the East Midland side on goal difference by a mere one goal.

Leeds celebrated being crowned champions  by hammering Charlton Athletic 4-0 at Elland Road. A result that sent Lee Bowyer’s side down to League One.

Luton Town survived a nervy night and escaped relegation after beating Blackburn Rovers 3-2 at Kenilworth Road.

In other matches, Middlesbrough’s impressive form under Neil Warnock continued with a 2-1 win over Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough, while Millwall ended their campaign on a high with a 4-1 victory against Huddersfield, with Derby County winning at Birmingham 3-1.

Championship play-offs

Swansea City vs Brentford first leg Sunday 26th July second leg Wednesday 29th July.

Cardiff City vs Fulham first leg Monday 27th July second leg Thursday 30th July

Final Tuesday 4th August

Plenty to play for in the Championship on midweek Wednesday

For the first time ever the final round of fixtures in the Championship will be completed midweek on a Wednesday evening.

Although Leeds United have been confirmed as champions, there is still a scrap for the one other automatic promotion spot.

West Brom, Brentford and their London rivals Fulham are the three sides in contention for the one place available.

The Baggies go into the final game only a point clear of Brentford and Fulham a further point behind.

On paper it looks likely that all three sides could win their final match, but as we know on the final day of the regular season there is always many surprises.

Brentford and Fulham will be praying that fellow London side QPR will be able to do them a favour by winning at The Hawthornes. West Brom’s form has slipped of late after not winning for three games. Despite a 4-3 victory against Millwall, Rangers form after lockdown has been poor with the club winning just twice in their last eight games.

Brentford, heading in to their final game looked the likely side who would go up with Leeds after a scintillating run of form which has seen the Bees win eight games in a row before suffering a setback with a 1-0 defeat against Stoke at the weekend.

The visitors to Griffin park are Barnsley who start the day one of the bottom of the table and two points from safety. The Tykes travel to London on the back of a fine victory at the weekend over Nottingham Forest. They know on Saturday they must win and hope other results go their way for them to be playing Championship football again next season.

Fulham make the long trip to Wigan on Wednesday and will be facing a resurgent Wigan side who are unbeaten in their last four matches. The Latics received  news this week that the EFL have confirmed that Wigan will have their twelve point deduction handed out after Wednesday nights final round of matches- provided the Latics appeal against the decision, due to be heard before 27th July, isn’t upheld.

In terms of the play-off picture it is much clearer with Forest  already guaranteed a play-off spot ,baring a 5 goal swing with Swansea,  either Cardiff or Swansea will join them .

Cardiff entertain Hull City at the Cardiff City Stadium with Swansea facing the trip to the Madjeski Stadium to face Reading.

As it stands The Swans will have to beat Reading and hope struggling Hull can beat Cardiff. A tough ask for the Tigers who are bottom of the table. However, if they could pull of a shock it would put pressure of the other sides facing the drop along with Barnsley.  Both Luton and Charlton are the two sides in most trouble, with Middlesbrough and Birmingham virtually safe.

The Hatters are at home to Blackburn Rovers, whilst Charlton travel to Leeds. Luton have hit good form of late with the Hatters unbeaten in their last four including a massive victory over Hull City on Saturday.

Charlton travel up to Yorkshire without a win in their last six games and won’t enjoy playing the newly crowned champions.

So, plenty for most teams to play for in the most competitive league in the world. Come around 9.30 on Wednesday evening we will have a clearer picture, with plenty of nails being chewed by nervous fans around the country.

Former Chelsea forward announces his retirement from the game

Andre Schurrle has announced his shock decision to retire from football at the age of 29.

The German forward had a year left on his contract with Borussia Dortmund but the two parties agreed to cancel it.

He told German newspaper Der Speigel: 

“The depths became deeper and the highlights less and less. Only performance on the field counts, in which vulnerability and weakness must never exist.”

That very much sounds like a player who is constantly expected to perform and has come to the conclusion that the pressure of football has caught up with him.

Schurrle played for Chelsea for two seasons and won a Premier League winners medal in 2015 despite leaving the club part way through the season for German side Wolfsburg.

He also represented the German nation side for seven years between 2010 to 2017. Schurrle was a member of the German side that won the World Cup in 2014. During extra time in the 2014 final he provided the assist for Mario Gotze’s winning goal against Argentina.

The forward started his career at Mainz in 2009 where he made 66 appearances and scored 20 goals in his two seasons at the club.

Bayern Leverkuson were aware of his talent and signed him for £6.5 million in 2011, where he went on to make 65 appearances and hit the net 18 times.

In 2013 he fancied a chance to showcase his talents in the English Premiership when Chelsea secured his services after paying £18 million. He featured 44 times for the London club and scored 11 goals before joining German side Wolfsburg in 2015.

Schurrle had just a single season with Wolfsburg after signing for them for a reported fee of £22 million in 2015, winning the DFL Supercup.

Dortmund signed him in 2016, where his four-year stint was rewarded by 33 appearances.

In between his time at Dortmund, he was sent out on loan to Fulham for one season and also Russian side Spartak Moscow.

Earlier on this month his loan expired and was not extended as he had not made any appearances for Spartak this season due to an injury.

Undoubtedly his finest moment in a fine career came in the 2014 World Cup after helping Germany win the World Cup with three goals in Brazil, including a brace in their famous 7-1 thrashing of Brazil in the semi-final.