Many happy returns to Fulham’s flying Irish winger.

I remember Lydia was very excited when Duff’s arrival at Craven Cottage was confirmed – and she wasn’t the only one. He’s one of those players who has the ability to change a game in an instant and is an old-fashioned wide player who isn’t frightened to take players on. Some fans have said that Roy doesn’t tolerate too many creative players in his side due to his reliance on the system. I’d suggest that with Duff, Davies, Murphy and Dempsey all featuring on a regular basis this season that’s a rather redundant argument.

Plenty of pundits believed Duff had plenty to prove on his return to the Premier League: the general consensus being that his last few seasons were rather wasted at Newcastle. He hasn’t half proved them wrong. The Irishman’s impact has been impressive – indeed Timmy has already been talking in terms of making him Fulham’s MVP. The argument is pretty compelling.

He’s scored plenty of crucial goals this season for Fulham but more than that, he’s shown that any suggestion that he may be over or approaching the hill is well wide of the mark. Though he may have lost a little of the pace that he had in his early days at Blackburn – and perhaps at Chelsea too – Duff’s not mislaid any of his footballing brain. He’s able to work some space in almost any situation, which his probably why he scores so many goals from outside the box. A quick shimmy and he’s pulling the trigger with the goalkeeper unsighted.

Duff’s clearly enjoying his football under Roy Hodgson, the manager who handed him his breakthrough all those years ago at Blackburn. Hodgson’s also hit on the perfect way of using the Irish international: playing him on the ‘wrong side’. Plenty of eyebrows were raised when Duff started to line up on the right rather than the left, but the number of goals he has scored or created by cutting in onto his left foot and letting fly proves that it has been a tactical masterstroke. His influence (in two games that Fulham won – the first against Everton with Duff very much to the fore in an improved second half performance) is clear here:

by Guardian Chalkboards

So happy birthday, Duffer, and keep up the fine form!