Moritz Volz, Paul Stalteri, John Pantsil and Stephen Kelly have all played right back on the banks of the Thames in recent Fulham history, but none have quite hit the quality of former White Steve Finnan – that is, until now. In the summer of 2012, Fulham signed a relatively unknown German from relegated side FC Koln on loan. A German that had previous pedigree as a onetime Bundesliga winner with Wolfsburg has now become a solid and reliable part of the Thames Barrier, leading fans to wish for the permanent change swiftly into his spell with the club.
The composed full back has built a connection with the Fulham supporters in his first year and has turned into a favourite on the terraces. He told fulhamfc.com “I think I was appreciated by the fans at my previous clubs but they never used to chant my name. But I guess it shows that the fans like me here and they like how I play.” In an up and down season, Sascha Riether has played with the same high quality consistency showing skill both defensively and an effective ability offensively, as he’s chipped in with 4 assists making him 3rd in Fulham’s assist charts. His high energy style is refreshing to see and his superb form this season has earned him Players’ Player of the Year, as well as being nominated as Fans Player of the Year finishing a debatable third.
The family atmosphere at Fulham FC seemed to rub off on Riether as when interviewed on Fulhamfc.com “In my mind, I’ve never thought of myself as being here ‘on loan.’ I give my best as if I’m here for a long time. I’ve never felt I was coming here for a short time, for a holiday. I always give everything in each game I play and see myself as a Fulham player, not a Cologne player.” It’s quite a feeling when we are capable as a set of supporters and as club in general that we can give players this feeling.
I firmly believe that the shock of how good Sascha Riether was helped in extending the support from fans. By this, I mean that the people that had heard of him, thought he was an upgrade on Stephen Kelly but nothing special, but then his performances put that view to bed as Stephen Kelly became a thing of the pass and Sascha Riether quickly made the right back slot his own. As far as bargains go, our German has got to be up there after a settled first season, we clinched a permanent deal for Riether at a rumoured £1.3m, an absolute steal for a player of his ability.
Sascha Riether was also later partnered with former Wolfsburg team mate Ashkan Dejagah and showed an incredible understand which was a joy to watch at times down the right hand side. They seemed to have a telepathic understanding that I’ve not seen down the right hand side since Gary Neville and David Beckham. Unfortunately, injury to Dejagah put the partnership to bed for the season, but I, as well as many others, look forward to the pair having a season together with their superb interlinking play.
We’ve come accustomed to Riether’s solid and reliable performances, and I’m sure most of us were over the moon for him when he scored away to Sunderland, as he deserved a goal in Fulham shirt. We hope it continues over the next few years, although next season, it seems likely that he’ll have a new central defensive partner next to him. Last week, Fulham announced the signing of Athletic Bilbao’s Venezuelan defender Fernando Amorebieta, and one suspects that he will take the place of Philippe Senderos; whether that means that the left footed Amorebieta will move to the left side of defence obviously is yet to be seen, but these two signings could be the start of a new Fulham defence along with a new Fulham team. Fulham look set to be busy, but I couldn’t be happier that we nailed Sascha Riether down as our first bit of business.
In my opinion, Sascha Riether was our player of the season, and was robbed of the title, by an impressive, but not as consistent Dimitar Berbatov. To echo the words from above, I’m delighted, and I’m sure the club and many of you reading this, are also delighted with the permanent signing of Sascha Riether who in the coming years could challenge the shadow of Steve Finnan left on the right hand side. Thank you Sascha for the past year; and here’s to many more.