Many of us went into January expecting Bobby Zamora and Andrew Johnson to leave; the former clearly didn’t have a good relationship with Martin Jol, whilst the latter was refusing to sign a contract of the length we were offering him. Indeed, neither had featured in the Boxing Day draw at Chelsea, or the New Year’s Eve draw at Norwich.
I wasn’t alone in assuming that they’d played their last game at Craven Cottage, and that we’d say goodbye to two players who had become part of our old guard. Indeed, Bobby Zamora had arguably become the backbone of our team, destroying defences that he had no right to destroy. He effectively finished Fabio Cannavaro’s career in 20 minutes. He had become an England player at the Cottage, and he was arguably performing the role at Fulham that Andy Carroll should have been performing at Liverpool. This was all after a first season at the club, where he only scored 2 league goals. Zamora however, was not just about goals, he was about bringing players into play, and creating opportunities for others around him to get an opportunity at goal.
Andy Johnson’s Fulham career has been much more indifferent career at Fulham. He was bought to score goals, but has only scored 13 league goals in 80 games. Whilst he has offered pace, he definitely hasn’t brought the goalscoring prowess that many had hoped when he became Fulham’s second most expensive signing either upon his arrival from Everton.
Before the transfer window, we were linked with a number of strikers: Carlton Cole, Andre-Pierre Gignac, Nicky Maynard and Guillaume Hoarau to name but a few. Gignac had been top scorer in France in the 2008-09 season, whilst Hoarau had a scoring record of 1 goal in just less than 3 games for PSG. Nicky Maynard’s Championship record was impressive, whilst Carlton Cole had Premier League experience. The constant link with strikers made it look like Johnson and Zamora were off, and their replacements had already been sorted out.
Then, on the 3rd of January, we played Arsenal, with Bobby Zamora scoring the winner in injury-time. He went off at the end, hugging Martin Jol. It looked like they’d put their differences aside, and that Zamora might stay at Craven Cottage, and carry on at the club where he’d had the best form of his career. Indeed, he was playing very well, he set up all three of Clint Dempsey’s hat-trick goals against Newcastle, and he even looked vaguely happy, I wouldn’t go as far to say he was smiling, but that was a rarity. Andrew Johnson too, was playing, and playing well – he made the difference against Newcastle.
The transfer window looked like passing quietly as the end of the window came ever nearer. Indeed, we had only brought in players for the future in Jack Grimmer and Lisse Vigen Christensen. We added to this on deadline day, signing youngster Ryan Williams. Departure wise was the same, we had only left Alex Kacaniklic leave on loan to get some first time experience at Watford. Marcello Trotta came back from an impressive loan spell at Wycombe, but he had said that he was looking to test himself at Championship level.
As the transfer window began to close, it looked like we would end the transfer window with the players that we started it with, against all odds. Then we began to be linked with strikers again: Lucas Barrios, Pavel Pogrebnyak, Peter Odemwingie and Hugo Rodallega. Barrios would have been a fantastic signing for Fulham, the goalscorer we arguably need. This link with a number of strikers gave the impression that we were preparing to get rid of Johnson or Zamora. Indeed, the press agreed, linking Zamora to Sunderland and Johnson to Blackburn.
It looked like we were edging towards a deal with Barrios, with some sources claiming the deal was 90% complete. But as quickly as I got excited, Barrios announced he was staying in Germany on his Twitter page. The Odemwingie link was also shut down by his manager, the ex-Fulham manager, Roy Hodgson. We apparently tried to exchange Hugo Rodallega for Andy Johnson, but both players reportedly want to let their contracts run out in the summer.
It became obvious that we were going to bring in Pavel Pogrebnyak, with the Russian striker declaring that he had had the most vigorous medical of his life, with the Fulham team examining every bone in his body. It became more obvious, however, that Bobby Zamora was leaving the Cottage. Sky Sports caught him turning up at the one club that we shouldn’t sell to, QPR, managed by arch-enemy number one, Mark Hughes.
If the £4 million fee is to be believed, it is unbelievable. We should have been asking for at least double that. We paid about £5 million for him from West Ham, and Bobby Zamora’s stock has undoubtedly risen whilst at Craven Cottage. He’s gone from being seen by many as a joke, to being one of the best link-up men in the Premier League, in with a shout for the England 2012 squad. There is no way he is worth less than what he was signed for. Moreover, the relationship between Hughes and Al Fayed is so bad that surely Hughes should’ve had to pay over the top for any Fulham player, no matter how bad the relationship reportedly was between Zamora and Jol. His departure arguably weakens us, and strengthens our biggest rivals.
Replacing Zamora will not be an easy task for Pogrebnyak. He has a decent goalscoring record in Russia, but has only scored once this season in Germany. If he can replicate his form from Russia at Craven Cottage, he will be a success, but recent history tells us Russians don’t have the greatest of times in the Premier League – see Diniyar Biliyaletdinov, Yuri Zhirkov, Andrei Arshavin and Roman Pavlyuchenko. We have to give him a chance though.