The Inside Scoop – Ivan Cavaleiro

The news of Ivan Cavaleiro’s arrival from Wolves was welcomed with both excitement and relief. We know only too well how difficult the Championship is as a league, so we needed to improve our squad before the season starts. With Ryan Sessegnon rumoured to be leaving and with question marks over players like Jean Michael Seri and Frank Zambo Anguissa we have a number of holes to fill. Cavaleiro is exactly the sort of player we need and should fit in nicely beside Mitrovic in the front line.

But instead of listening to me harp on about him, why don’t you read what a Wolves fan has to say. My friend and colleague Sylvie Devaney is a Wolves season ticket holder, so I decided to send a couple of question her way to help us get a picture of what we can expect from our new man.

What sort of player is Cavaleiro?

Cav mainly plays as a winger and works best linking up in a strong front three. He’s also capable of playing on either flank. Sadly, he didn’t get as much playing time for us in the Premier League as he did in the Championship (likely because Jota and Jimenez linked up so well and changes in formation), but he is a really strong attacking player and one of his greatest qualities is his pressing ability. Whether that’s always pressing for a goal or pressing the opposition to win the ball back, he works so hard.

What will you miss most about him?

A lot of things! It’s been kind of an odd two weeks for the club as Cav and Costa (both integral in our journey back to the Prem) joined Wolves around the same time and they’re both leaving around the same time too! If I had to pick just one thing, I’d say I’ll definitely miss his ability to have such a big impact off the bench, he was a great super sub for us last season and always a good option to have in the team. He has the ability to completely change games.

What’s your favourite Cav moment from his time at Wolves?

His first Premier League goal! It was at home against Southampton and Cav came on off the bench to make his league debut. He received the ball for his first ever touch in the Premier League and smashed it into the net! I think it was something like 90 seconds after he came on and it was such an amazing moment. It’s moments like that that show exactly what he’s capable of!

#COYW

The Case Against Aboubakar Kamara

With the news that Aboubakar Kamara looks like he may be returning to Motspur Park I’ll set out my arguments as to why the club should be exercising caution. My colleague Max Cohen has already given you the reasons why he thinks that he should be welcomed back with open arms but, as with anything, we need to look at both sides of the argument.

  • Basic Skills – Kamara was an unknown quantity when he signed for Fulham two summers ago but it didn’t take very long for us, and the players around him, to realise that this is a player who has a lot of improving to do regarding basic football skills. His first touch at times was shockingly bad and his decision making at key moments leaves a lot to be desired. Some say that he has a raw talent that needs to be nurtured, others say that he is still young so could still come good. But can we really rely on this? I’d like to think that a player with raw talent would show some improvement in two years rather than being in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. His actual footballing ability for me is low and while his pace and strength are good attributes, he needs to be able to do the basics. Too often when Kamara gets the ball he sends it 5 metres to the left of where he meant to with his first touch, and I’m not sure if I can cope with another season of that.
  • Discipline – Kamara’s discipline is possibly the weakest part of his game. He fouls a lot, dives a lot and generally forces himself to walk the tightrope every game that he plays. I don’t know about you, but I’m genuinely nervous when he plays for us. The dive in the play-off semi final at the Cottage is a prime example of this. To be going in for a challenge and actively deciding that you are going to dive is blatant cheating and I don’t want it at Fulham. There is a difference between going down expecting contact and just trying to con the referee. He did it again against Bournemouth last season and it was clear as day for everyone to see. He also picks up yellow cards reasonably frequently and can be easily wound up by opponents. He is an accident waiting to happen, and we don’t need that going into a campaign were we are aiming for promotion.
  • Yoga/penalty/common assault – Aboubakar Kamara is more trouble than he is worth – both on and off the pitch. I’ve already touched on the diving but we don’t need to look much further for on-field indiscipline than the infamous penalty incident at home to Huddersfield. When your side is in the middle of a relegation battle, you don’t put your own goals target over the needs of the team. What he did that day was embarrassing and very nearly cost us points in our battle to stay up. Then we have a wealth of incidences off the pitch, from going to other games instead of supporting the team in a relegation battle, to the apparent fight with Mitrovic at a team yoga session. And when ordered to stay away, Kamara was arrested at Motspur Park for suspicion of ABH and criminal damage when he tried to get in. Do we seriously want a character like this in the dressing room as we seek to return to the Premier League?

All in all, I think that we could do much better. Want pace, power and a team player? Albert Adomah could be picked up on a free after being released by Villa. For me Kamara is too much trouble and I don’t think we need him disrupting the dressing room.

Fixtures Preview

I always consider the day that the fixtures are released is the first day of the new season. Getting to see who we face first, where we will be on boxing day, when we face our local rivals and getting to start planning those all important away days is all part of being a football fan. Looking at the fixtures for the first time is when the excitement starts to build for me.

The season kicks off with a single game on Friday, 2nd August, with the rest of the fixtures spread over the Saturday, Sunday and Monday of that weekend. The last time we played in the opening fixture of a league was when we stunned Newcastle United at Craven Cottage thanks to Matt Smith’s header and THAT piece of skill from Denis Odoi. Scenes.

After the way we limped our way to relegation last season, Fulham need a strong start to the new campaign so I’m hoping to avoid any of the new promoted sides, as they’ll be massively pumped up, or any of the sides who failed to make it through the play-offs last season. I don’t have a preference over being at home or away on day one, but hopefully we will be at home for the final game.

So what do we have to look forward to next season? What grounds that we haven’t been to in a while will we be returning to?

Kenilworth Road is the home of Luton Town

Luton – This is the one that a lot of Championship fans have on their list of away days. Fulham haven’t faced Luton in the league since 1999 when we beat them 4-0 in the old Division Two. Luton’s 10,356 Kenilworth Road will host Championship football for the first time in 12 years and Fulham fans will have to travel just the 46miles or so outside London to reach it.

Stoke City – Many of Fulham fans have bad memories of Stoke, given that it was a defeat there that sealed our relegation in back in 2014. With them getting relegated in our recent promotion year, it has been five seasons since we have faced them in the league. We haven’t beaten Stoke away from home since Chris Baird’s spectacular double back in 2010, so hopefully we can right that wrong next season when we visit the Bet365 Stadium.

 Charlton Athletic – We will be facing Charlton for the first time since the 2015/16 season. It will see the return of the Fulham-Charlton boat trip when we visit them at The Valley, a stadium where we haven’t lost since 2004 when we faced them in the Premier League. The Addicts have already had a been of a turbulent summer with Lee Bowyer’s dramatic U-turn on his contract extension seeing him stay as boss just one day after the club announced that he would be leaving.

King Johansen scores to against QPR at Lotus Road

London Derbies – We will be visiting four other London teams next season, including the already mentioned Charlton Athletic. We will be back at QPR and Brentford for some big West London derbies, while we face a return to the Den to face Millwall. In our last Championship campaign we didn’t lose a game to any of those three, although we could only draw to both QPR and Brentford at home in a couple of very feisty games. It will be good to have those games back for a season at least.

Furthest Away day – Is it really a football season if you don’t face a trip the whole way to the North East. This time it’s a visit to the Riverside to face Middlesbrough. We normally don’t do very well up their but last time was that crazy game when Olly Norwood scored a last minute penalty to win after we had been battered all game! Good memories.

There is a lot more to look forward to, but hopefully this short preview will be enough to wet the appetite for now. The fixtures will be released on Thursday morning at 9am on the Fulham website.

#COYW

A Checklist for Scott

SScott Parker is about to start what could be his biggest footballing challenge to date; making Fulham look like a football team again. There is a huge difference between being a caretaker manager, when the pressure is arguably off you, and being appointed the boss for the long haul. When he took over after Claudio Ranieri’s sacking, Fulham were so far away from safety that most of us had already accepted relegation. Parker was never going to go through the same scrutiny that Jokanovic or Ranieri got because he was taking over an already sinking ship. His job was essentially to make us sink slightly slower!

But things are completely different now. Being giving the job on a full-time basis will bring with it all the criticisms and condemnations that come with full time management and very decision made will go under the microscope by fans and journalists alike. I’m sure Parker is relishing the challenge and, being a very studious person, I reckon he naturally ticks many of the boxes needed to be a good manager. But like most jobs, you often need more than what you have on paper to be fully successful.

So what does Parker need to be successful in the Championship, one of the world toughest leagues? Here is a small list. Scott, feel free to take notes.

Know your team- I don’t think any of us want to be reminded of the ill-fated Felix Magath era of Fulham Football Club, but when we want to know how to be successful, you often have to look at what was unsuccessful and learn from it. There’s no point beating around the bush, Magath was a disaster at Fulham. One of his biggest downfalls was the fact that he clearly didn’t know his players and what their abilities were. Playing Dan Burn at right-back is a prime example, but then even after he had a full preseason with his team ahead of our first Championship season after being relegated, he played the most bizarre line-ups game after game. It was like he was drawing his teams out of a hat in the dressing room before kick-off. The players clearly had no idea what he expected from them and it resulted in us not tasting victory that season in the league until eight games in.

Felix Bingo v Forest- Six defenders and two defensive midfielders and 5 goals conceded
We lost the game previously 3-0 to Reading with a very different line up

More recently we have seen Slavisa Jokanovic making the mistake of not knowing his team and his constant chopping and changing our defence last season resulted in chaos at the back. It’s so important that Parker doesn’t make the same mistakes as some of his predecessors. Constantly making changes to his line-up and formation is a recipe for disaster. This isn’t to say that changes can’t be made but it’s crucial that Parker knows his team inside out. Knowledge is key.

Make decisions with conviction- No matter what you do in life, it’s really important that any decision made is done with conviction. Even if you’re not completely sure it’s the right move, do whatever it is with confidence. With Jokanovic you could nearly tell at the start of last season that he wasn’t really sure about the decisions he was making at the back. This approach will have been easily picked up by the players, so I can understand why there was so much confusion in the side. Players need their manager to be a leader, and to be a leader you need to have the self-belief to make any team decisions with confidence.

Yes, Slavisa, we aren’t sure what’s going on either…

Mistakes will be made. Learn from them – No campaign is flawless. While no one likes losing, it’s important that when things go wrong Parker doesn’t let the head drop and start making rash decisions out of desperation. We have to learn from our mistakes in order to be successful. Whether it’s taking a player off who you realise you shouldn’t have started a match with, or making a more radical change over time, it’s crucial that Parker can identify mistakes and can correct them. I’ll be honest and say that some of Parker’s tactical decisions, or in some cases the lack of them, has worried me. The game we lost up at Watford that saw our relegation confirmed was a prime example. We started well that night and where still in the game at the break, but Javi Garcia out-managed and out-thought him in the second half. Parker didn’t seem to have answers for the changes that Garcia made and in the end we limped across the relegation line. Parker will need to have more than just Plan A for every game so that he isn’t caught out like that.

Relegation was confirmed against Watford

I wrote in a previous article that I believe that Parker has the  heart for the job, but that we will have to wait and see if he has the head for it. I believe that he has already done a heck of a lot of the ground work already by getting the players onside and giving them confidence again. He is putting together a solid foundation and hopefully can build a strong team upon it. It’s now less than two months to go before the season kicks off again, so eight weeks of preparation.

Bring it on.

New Era for Fulham FC

The time between the end of the season and the start of preseason has always been the worst for football fans. The players are off on holiday, the transfer window hasn’t opened and the clubs we support have limited information coming out of them.

And don’t get me started about Saturdays. Despite this season being a complete disaster, I never know what to do on a Saturday without regular football. Thankfully this weekend we have the play-offs and some cup finals to keep us entertained, but I’ll be happier when the boys are back at Motspur Park preparing for next season.

Finally the club announced the start of the Riverside Stand development project this week. This summer the lead contractor, Buckingham Group Contracting Ltd, will start the development, increasing our capacity and bringing a load of exciting features for both fans and local resident to enjoy. It will be strange playing without use of the Riverside Stand for two seasons, but I have no doubt that this development is going to massively improve the Fulham experience for us all. The walk to the Cottage is undoubtedly the most beautiful walk in football and it’s going to get even better with that side of the river walk being opened up to us and public. While it will be a strange sight for two years, we can be excited for this new era in our club.

When Shahid Khan took over the club in 2013, there was a little fear in the back on many of our minds that either it would a short stint, or that there would be a move away from the Cottage in the future. We can be satisfied that Khan is here for the improvement of the club both on and off the pitch.

Of the new stand, Khan said, “Craven Cottage is a unique and inspiring venue to not only play football, but to visit. As I noted upon becoming Chairman in 2013, it has always been my intention to follow through with the development of the Riverside Stand, and today’s news brings that intention to reality.

“Make no mistake, the Riverside development will be a location like no other, a real game-changer for Fulham Football Club, our neighbourhood, and all of London. Our aim is to create a world-class destination for fans and guests to experience and enjoy, whilst retaining the charm that Craven Cottage exudes within our very own section of the River Thames. In doing so, we will also safeguard the Club’s future at Craven Cottage, forever the rightful home for Fulham.”

While mistakes have been made, particularly this season, we have an owner who are committed to this club. I Have no doubt that he will put everything into getting the club back into the Premier League in the coming years and will work hard to keep us there and with a shiny new as well.

COYW