When I started writing for SvenskaFans, Nick was telling me that, given the size of Fulham’s budget, there were plenty of good value players in Scandinavia. For a while, it was an untapped market for the club. Chris Coleman wheeled and dealed on meagre resources, striking a gem in Brian McBride, but it was Hodgson who used his vast array of continental experience and knowledge to bring in a number of players from the region.
Not all of his transfers have been a success. Leon Andreasen might have flourished had he seen more of the pitch but he didn’t seem to want to hang on around. Fredrik Stoor was thought to be the new first choice right back but lost on to John Pantsil and hasn’t displayed the sort of form in his few outings to stake a serious challenge to the Ghanaian. But it was interesting to note that we finished with a Swede and three Norwegians on the pitch.
David Elm’s got his doubters, which seems absurd considered he’s barely been here five minutes and hasn’t played a full half of first team football. That’s the way with the internet. Not many of our fans will have watched this guy for Kalmar and the ones who have are split on whether he’ll make in the Premier League. It’s difficult to judge him on the basis of a game against Accrington Stanley, but he looked bright, found space and kept the ball moving. Big men with good feet are handy.
Bjorn Helge Riise’s the one I’m excited about. He’s got to be getting close to staking a serious claim for that right-sided midfield spot in the absence of Clint Dempsey. He’s got real energy to bang up and down the wing, which is something Hodgson demands of his players, and his delivery into the box is first class. The cross for Gera’s goal can be added to the same combination against CSKA Sofia, the two Zamora strikes in Basel and his corner for the Hangeland header against Roma.
We’d all love Erik Nevland to be five years younger. He’s got an uncanny ability to come up with a crucial goal and he’ll put a shift in for the team. He scored a simple one today, but the intelligent flick that made the space for Damien Duff to dance away from defenders was beautiful. A similar little trick grabbed a crucial goal against Liverpool. Nevland’s not one for the future but his contribution to the club has already been immense. I can’t even calculate how important that those goals at Reading and home to Birmingham were to Fulham.
Then there’s Brede Hangeland. The big, strong centre back we were crying out for. Hodgson’s first signing. He didn’t cover himself in glory today and has found the going tough after coming back from injury but Hangeland’s been superb value for Fulham. Not just for his defensive attributes, either. His coolness under pressure and organisational ability have helped him form such a strong partnership with Aaron Hughes that was vital to shoring up the leaky Sanchez defence. Hangeland’s composure on the ball compares favourably to Zat Knight’s aimless punts downfield too.
I wonder if Roy will go back to Scandinavia again. And I wonder what the impact of these players does for our fanbase out there.