Earlier in the season when Fulham fans were compiling the lists of who Sparky might ship out in the summer, Jonathan Greening might have featured in a few selections. You could see why – as the one-time shaggy haired midfielder – hadn’t seen much game time over the course of Mark Hughes’ tenure, but I always thought that an early departure would have been harsh on Greening.
As cover, he’s certainly worth a place in the Fulham squad. Tenacious in the tackle, Greening’s a willing runner and can certainly spot a pass or two. His brilliant end to the season also showed that he’s more than handy out wide, as he proved at West Brom. He gave Stephen Carr a torrid time at Birmingham and produced a first-class cross for Bobby Zamora’s header against Arsenal last weekend. But what’s more impressive than Greening’s performances on the field, is his attitude. Far from being happy at being a mere squad player, he’s keen for more game time. No histrionics, however, just a quiet word with the gaffer:
I’ve got one more year on my contract, but I’ve had a word with the gaffer and he understands that I’m 32 now and want to play more than I have done this year. I played in the last two games, but I didn’t play for six months. My last game was in October, or something like that, and I’ve only made five or six starts.
When you’re used to playing 50-odd games a year, it’s quite hard, but I still feel I’m good enough to play in the Premier League. I love the club, but when you’re getting to my age, the clock’s ticking.
I’m happy to stay if he plays me more often, but we’ll have to see what happens in the summer. I’ve said if you’re not going to play me, it would be in everyone’s best interests to let me go.
He was fine with that. He’s a real nice guy and understands. But really, the ball’s in his court now. If he wants me around and wants to involve me in games, then that’s fine. There aren’t many better places to be than this place.
What shines through from those quotes is a genuine affection for the football club, which is somewhat surprising since he’s not been with us long. His offal interview also contains a terrific line about our European hopes:
A club like ours will relish the challenge. We know we’re probably a few years off the Champions League, so we should take this chance with open arms. I was involved in most of the games two years ago and have great memories – especially the Juventus game.
Optimism, eh? It’s a wonderful thing.
In all seriousness, the prospect of a long-running European campaign (even if we don’t make the group stages) might have Hughes reassessing his squad. The dual positives of making the Europa League are that it makes the club more attractive for potential signings (just remember how Moussa Dembele said our European run had been a big factor in joining Fulham) and offers those who Hughes might want to keep – say Gera or Greening – another reason to stay.