Having praised Zoltan Gera for his contribution yesterday, it would be very harsh to ignore the very real impact that Erik Nevland had on the game. If he replaces Bobby Zamora, it leaves Fulham lacking a hold-up exponent up front but, together with the big man, Nevland showed his true class yesterday.
We’ve discussed Hodgson’s reticence to use Nevland from the start before. He seems ideally suited to coming on against tired defenders in the latter stages of the game – and he lacks the stamina to deliver the kind of hard-working, hassling job that Roy demands from his centre forward for a complete 90 minutes. That’s not to deny the Norwegian’s very obvious qualities.
Nevland’s probably the best finisher at the club. He’s ice cool under the pressure and has already scored some massively important goals for the Whites. Without that second goal at Reading, we might not have ended our away day hodoo and could be in the Championship by now. He added real momentum to our ‘Great Escape’ with the clincher against Birmingham in our final home game of the season and scored crucial goals against Portsmouth and Stoke as Fulham soared to the heights of seventh place last year.
Nevland’s not just a goal poacher – even if his goal yesterday was not only a thing of beauty but a remarkable piece of quick thinking. He’d already set up Clint Dempsey for a goal that probably revived the American’s Fulham career at Fratton Park last year with a wonderful cross. His vision and clever faint to fool the Liverpool defence and find Dempsey with a lovely return ball put the game beyond the visitors and provided further evidence of his worth.
In an era of money-grabbing, ‘play me or i go’ mercenaries, Nevland’s dutiful acceptance of his role as Fulham’s impact player is refreshing. He could return to any number of his former clubs on the continent at the drop of the hat and turned down Viking late last season. Perhaps he’s got his eye on becoming our very own version of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. He might have only scored seven goals for Fulham but Erik the Great’s already written himself into Craven Cottage folklore.