The offal has an interview with Stephen Kelly this morning reflecting on Monday night’s dramatic win over Arsenal and looking ahead to Saturday’s visit of Charlton Athletic in the FA Cup. It’s a fairly lengthy piece, looking back on what – for the most part – was a successful festive period and full of optimism that Fulham can build on an impressive run at the back end of 2011 and take this form into the new year.
Kelly’s been one of those players who has divided opinion during his Fulham career. Plenty of people felt he wasn’t good enough when he first came in from Birmingham, but his strong performances on the ‘wrong side’ of the Fulham defence during our run to the Europa League final in 2010. It looked as if he’d been usurped by Chris Baird in the right back position, but the Republic of Ireland international has been superb since he came in for the former Southampton man after the humbling by Manchester United.
He seems to have worked hard on the offensive side of his game, with so much onus on the full backs to get forward given the narrowness of Jol’s favoured 4-3-1-2 formation. Kelly’s crosses have been a source frustration at times but he was a reliable outlet down the right side against Arsenal the other night, sending over the cross that led to Bobby Zamora’s brilliant winner. Indeed, there’s a case for nominating Kelly as the squad’s most improved player over the course of this season.
The former Tottenham right-back rejected Arsenal’s complaints that the dismissal of Johan Djorou changed the course of the game:
I think even before they had a man sent off, that we were on top and in the ascendency. We absolutely dominated the second-half and were on top for the majority of it. For me, we were the most likely of the two sides to add to the scoring – and we did.
Steve levelled with five minutes remaining and that sparked an incredible end to the game, it was one of those memorable Cottage performances for us. When Bobby scored in injury time the ground erupted – it was an amazing result and one that I thought we deserved.
Kelly felt a half-time improvement was desperately needed after a disappointing first half showing.
We know that we could have done better in the first-half and Arsenal will argue that they should have taken more. We had to hold firm at times, and there were some crucial tackles and blocks made. Of course, Stocko made a couple of terrific saves as well and we showed a lot of resilience to turn it around.
I think we showed a great resolve and team spirit to come back like we did – and that was so important. At 1-0 our heads could have dropped, but we made sure that didn’t happen and kept on right until the end to underline just what we are capable of with what was a magnificent win.
The Irish international was delighted to be on the right end of a late goal after Jol’s side had suffered too many injury-time setbacks themselves recently.
Too many times it has been us on the receiving end of a late defeat or a late goal. So it made a nice change. We have been very unlucky at times and results certainly haven’t gone our way – but against Arsenal it did and hopefully that is a sign that our luck has changed.
It was an amazing end to what was a really exciting game of football, and I think everyone could tell what it meant to the players. The fans were great too, and the noise that they made created an incredible atmosphere. That support filters down to the pitch so they certainly played their part.
There’s certainly a feeling that Fulham can kick on after playing some impressive football over the Christmas period.
We had a tough run of games over the Christmas period and started the New Year with a difficult game too, but seven points from the games against Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal is very pleasing. Throw in the defeat of Bolton and we have done really well, although we do feel that we should have taken more from the defeat at Swansea and the draw at Norwich. Of course, the big blip came against Manchester United and that was a disappointing loss for all of us.
The game against United was our last at the Cottage prior to the win against Arsenal – we were determined to bounce back and fortunately we did. We ended the year feeling confident and we have now made an excellent start to 2012, so let’s keep that run going.
Kelly hopes to continue his own fine personal form into 2012 too.
I’m enjoying my football and I am pleased with how things are going. It’s good to have a regular run in the team and I like to think I am showing what I am capable of. It goes without saying that I hope I can continue to do that.
We have Charlton up next at Craven Cottage in the FA Cup and that’s a game that hopefully I am part of too. It’s a competition that every player wants to be part of and having gone out of the Europa League we want to do as well as possible.
I know that the manager wants to go far and the players feel the same. When I look at some of the teams that have made the final over the years, with the squad that we have, I can see no reason why we can’t do the same.
Charlton are a good side though and we will be well aware of what they are capable of too. It should be a good game, and we know that if we play as well as we know we can that we could get the result that we need. After beating Arsenal, we want to keep that run going for as long as possible.