Having seen Nick’s post earlier today, I really want to respond to Chopper’s excellent farewell to Liam Rosenior over at The Hammy End Chronicle but I haven’t quite got my thoughts organised yet. Hopefully, my thoughts will follow over the weekend or early next week. If there’s some enthusiasm, I might add some words on the totality of Fulham’s transfer window dealings.
As Nick mentioned, this is international weekend. It is the first time in a while that I haven’t woken up on a Friday morning in a cold sweat anticipating our weekend game and my enthusiasm for England is waning. Regular readers of my offerings both here and elsewhere will know that I was one of Sven-Goran Eriksson’s few supporters on these shores and Steve McClaren seems to be intent on proving what a tough job managing the inflated egos of England can be.
International weekend didn’t used to mean anything special for Fulham fans. It might have made a trip to Mansfield or some other footballing backwater seem less appealing, but there was little chance of our games being called off due to international call-ups under Messrs. Keegan, Wilkins and Al Fayed came along. I remember the pang of excitement that came over me when our outstanding young full-back Duncan Jupp was called up to the Scotland under-21s. The very idea that Fulham might have an international player had me bouncing into the playground the next day with added verve.
Now, of course, you can’t move for internationals at Motspur Park. As I type, Ricardo Batista is keeping goal for Portugal in their U21 European Championship qualifier against Ireland in Cork. For your information, the Portuguese are currently 2-0 in front. I’ve only seen Batista keep goal twice (once in a pre-season friendly and the second time in the League Cup) but he has always looked a little shaky. Hopefully, he’ll have picked up some nuggets of advice from the likes of Antti Niemi and could mature into a class goalkeeper. Wycombe fans were quite impressed with him during his loan spell there last season and if he can somehow find some regular first-team football then perhaps his education can continue.
Fulham also supply four of the Northern Ireland squad that are in Riga for their qualifier against Latvia in what is arguably the most intriguing qualifier of the weekend. The Irish, who are now under the stewardship of Nigel Worthington, have now gone six games without defeat and the last time they did that the likes of Gerry Armstrong, Billy Hamilton and Pat Jennings were sunning themselves in Spain at a World Cup. We know plenty about David Healy, the top scorer in Euro 2008 so far with two hat-tricks to his name, whilst Steven Davis has quietly made himself at home in the Fulham midfield. Chris Baird has his share of detractors for his performances at right-back so far during this campaign, while we have seen very little of Aaron Hughes, who has just ruled himself out of the Latvia game and looks set to miss Wednesday’s meeting with Switzerland.
Adrian Leijer, a central defender very much regarded as one for the future, will be with his Australian team-mates in North Korea as part of the qualifying process for the Beijing Olympics. Leijer won the A-League with Melbourne Victory last year and I would hope that after the departure of Zat Knight we will see something of the Australian in the first team this year. One of the major faults of the Coleman regime was the failure to blood promising youngsters – something which has contributed to the loss of promising Kiwi midfielder Chris James, who was released from his contract this summer.
In African Nations Cup year, Diomansy Kamara could well be missing in the New Year. That depends on whether Senegal can qualify for the tournament itself – but the absence of the semi-finalists from last time around would be a big surprise. ‘Joe’ has certainly already made a name for himself at the Cottage and will forever be remembered fondly after that wonderful overhead kick with his weaker foot against Spurs at the weekend. Senegal are up against Burkino Faso this weekend and the sheer number of air miles the former West Brom striker racks up this week could against him when Lawrie Sanchez selects his side for Wigan next Friday.
Wales are also in international action this weekend with the game against Germany at the Millenium Stadium as close to a do-or-die fixture as they can get. John Toshack has privately already admitted that his planning has started for the next qualifying campaign, but Simon Davies will be hoping to embarass the Germans on Saturday. A youthful Welsh side were certainly impressive in beating a strong Bulgaria team in Sofia last month, but the Germans were equally strong in their come-from-behind victory at Wembley over England.
Fulham have also sent two first-team players to join up with the American party to take on Brazil in a friendly on Sunday. Club captain Carlos Bocanegra had a disappointing game against Spurs on Saturday but few Fulham fans will be able to fault his efforts since he joined a free transfer from Chicago Fire in 2003. We have seen less of Clint Dempsey, but the rapping forward has certainly made an impression at the Cottage. With his crucial goal against Liverpool, Dempsey felt he had ‘arrived’ in the Premier League and Saturday’s man-of-the-match display against Spurs certainly confirmed that he has the quality to prosper in England’s top flight.
I’ll try and put together a round-up of our boys involvement in the international schedule early next week. Enjoy the football feast tomorrow (and hopefully we’ll hear about how Sweden got on against Denmark through a first hand report from Nick).