Fulham soldier on -- for now

Posted by Phil Mison

Martin Jol touchline v Manchester UnitedPA PhotosMartin Jol needs to get Fulham firing again.

I think it's fair to say there has been a great deal of navel gazing since Saturday for Fulham followers around the world. Your blogger is no exception.

Since the Whites' latest surrender at the feet of David Moyes' United, supporters' collective grief spills over. While nobody out there ever expects to see Fulham barrelling their way into the top six of one of the toughest leagues in the world, amidst the anger and frustration we now have a sense of moral outrage. Outrage at the harm being dealt London's oldest club by one pig-headed Dutchman who cannot accept that the problems begin and end with him. It really is a case of Nero fiddling while the Cottage burns.

Just about every theme, nuance and theory for the club's remorseless decline has been advanced debated and scrutinised. Among many fine articles Fulham Fan Zoner Andy Lye's piece for Teamtalk stood out. It caught the mood precisely and offered a painfully accurate depiction of our predicament.

Over at 'Friends of Fulham' a hardy few fundamentalists have been performing somersaults trying somehow to justify sticking by Martin Jol, while maintaining Bryan Ruiz only has to find "his natural position" on the field to flourish. Bryan's best position on current form is with his feet up on the couch come match day. Trust me.

For the first time since 2010 I have had to drive myself towards the laptop and grapple with another blog feature. Approaching match day I usually monitor what the other side are thinking. If Fanzone Andy's piece hit the spot, the guys at 'This is Anfield' this week all but pushed me over the edge.

In one of the most devastating and brilliantly constructed articles I have ever seen, their freeze frame imagery of recent goals against showed the depths to which Fulham's ineptitude has sunk. When put alongside the pitiful statistical analysis available on what individuals are offering the side, you have to say we are odds on for the drop -- as indeed predicted by the Liverpool blogger of the above in preseason.

One of my American posters summed things up midweek, saying how hard it must be to keep feeding this blog when there appears no light at the end of the tunnel and the board seem -- for now -- to have faith in the gaffer to deliver. So true.

I really have nothing new to add -- as an unremitting diet of gloom satisfies nobody and I know antagonises a fair few -- but I have deliberately pointed out the above features rather than add any fresh criticism of my own.

Even away from the pitch it's been a bad week for the club. Sascha Riether cops a three match ban for stamping -- damned by the video evidence and his own admission of guilt. Then we hear striker Hugo Rodallega will be out for six weeks, having found the net three times from limited starts this season. Rumours continue to surface that work on the promised new Riverside stand may be delayed. And a number of supporters at the Putney End have their match day experience sullied by yobbo elements from the United ranks, while our stewards stand by and watch. Nothing sadly new from that scenario. Little wonder people are turning away from football.

As for this weekend, Fulham are 14/1 to win at Anfield. Those are some odds in a two horse race. We haven't got a prayer.

Liverpool are close to being at full strength. Jol I suspect will risk neither Brede Hangeland nor Bryan Ruiz (both still with back pain) as he will be quietly writing this one off, just praying for a respectable scoreline. With Riether beginning a three-match ban we yet again see changes to the back four. Aaron Hughes is the conservative choice; Elsad Zverotic a more forward thinking one. So it will be Hughes doing his best to contain Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge. Anyone need reminding of the two fixtures with Liverpool last season? No, didn't think so.

I was reading up an interview with Eric Nevland from a TOOFIF back issue, where he said how Roy's tenure in 2008 that got us out of relegation was all built on ruthless organisation and team spirit. How every player rotated in and out of the side that went on to compete in the Europa League knew precisely the shape of the team and what their role was.

Fulham are a million miles away from that now.

To conclude, one telling observation from Andy's piece to ponder. For once I'm not talking tactics and formations. Just basic man management. Andy points out how Jol revealed to the press that he's had to put his arm round Bryan and console him. While telling us fans in no uncertain terms to 'lay off Ruiz' Jol reminds us this boy is a national hero in Costa Rica. He's also told Bryan he is 'probably Fulham's best player.'

Now while the other old sweats in the side, yes all with a mountain of international caps between them, are scurrying to try and win back the ball, just how do you think they react to reading a statement like that? Turning up for work right now must be grim down at Motspur.

Welcome to the Martin Jol school of man management, where everything is 'fine' and there's no "pressure". Not even with a trip to Anfield. Yes, Martin's very words before heading north.




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