I’m away at my university graduation tomorrow so this preview has had to go up ahead of time. I’m really looking forward to our game at West Ham on Sunday. The pundits have been talking up our televised context in the last few days. Even the BBC’s Lawro has conceded that both of these sides are in the middle of a great vein of form. High praise indeed.
We don’t have even a mediocre record at the Boleyn Ground so we’ll have to draw confidence from our best ever unbeaten run in the top flight. One of the reasons for our upsurge in form is our new-found resilience on the road – we’ve not conceded in our last four away games. Much of that is down to Roy’s excellent tactics and our sturdy defence. Schwarzer in goal has been an inspired signing and the long-term replacement for Antti Niemi, whilst Hangeland and Hughes have matured into a very underrated partnership by Premier League standards.
I saw some quotes from John Panstil that he was happy to be rescued from West Ham by Fulham. I’m sure he’ll get a great reception at Upton Park and it’s nice to see that he’s such a wonderful ambassador for the game off the field as well. From Craig Murray’s new book:
In December 2008 I found myself sitting next to Baroness Amos on an airport bus heading for the plane to Accra. Once on board she moved to Business class while due to overbooking I was downgraded to Economy Plus.I shared this fate with John Paintsil, the Fulham and Ghana wing-back. We sat together and I must say he is delightful. He was flying back for two days mid-season to take his sick father to hospital. He was extremely polite and unassuming, helped other passengers with their luggage, put up with my conversation about football, and was evidently devoted to his wife and children. At the end of the flight I saw him search through the cabin to find one of the British Airways Unicef envelopes to make a donation, while not drawing anyone else’s attention to his gift. We hear a great deal about the terrible behaviour of Premier League footballers. But I am sure there are other John Paintsils.
Much of the attention of late has focussed on West Ham’s financial problems and the expected firesale at Upton Park. Obviosuly, the club’s immediate success rather depends on the club being able to cling onto their stars – both Craig Bellamy and Scott Parker have been the subject of attention from Manchester City and Matthew Upson has been linked with a £12m return to Arsenal – but Gianfranco Zola is building an impressive little side quietly down in East London. They are playing the game the West Ham way and getting results, even if Zola would have been disappointed to concede a late goal at Newcastle last weekend.
Kieron Dyer, such an impressive talent before his career was derailed by so many persistent injuries, might make his return against us. The Irons are pretty confident going into this one. I wouldn’t be as sure as that guy that they are going to turn us over 3-0: I’m not sure Roy will want to make the game that open. Plus, despite scoring a blinder over Christmas against Stoke, there are still plenty of West Ham who are yet to convinced about the merits of playing Carlton Cole up front.
I can’t see there being too many changes to our side. The only one that looks like is including Jimmy at the expense of Dickson Etuhu, who has made a few of the keyboard warriors eat their words with some combative displays in midfield since he returned to match fitness, but that is dependent on Bullard shaking off his groin injury. I’d expect Roy, who seems loathe to change a successful formula, to continue with Zamora and Johnson up front. Bobby is a West Ham boy and disappointed to leave the club in the summer. He’s sure to get a good reception after scoring the winner for the Hammers in the play-off final a few years back and wouldn’t it be wonderfully Fulhamish if he was to pop up and score a late winner.
Well, we can dream, can’t we?
MY FULHAM XI (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Pantsil, Konchesky, Hangeland, Hughes; Bullard, Murphy, Dempsey, Davies; A. Johnson, Zamora. Subs: Zuberbuhler, Stoor, Baird, Etuhu, Andreasen, Gray, Nevland.