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Diarra in fitness fight

Mahmadou Diarra is in a race against time to prove his fitness ahead of Fulham’s trip to Arsenal tomorrow.

The Malian midfielder has picked up another knee injury and Fulham boss Martin Jol rates his chances of making the London derby as no more than 50-50. Diarra is set to have a fitness test in the morning but Jol will definitely be without Welsh winger Simon Davies, who is still recovering from an operation on his hip.

Berbatov and Diarra back for Villa

Martin Jol is expected to recall Dimitar Berbatov and Mahamadou Diarra to his Fulham side to face Aston Villa tomorrow.

Berbatov has recovered from his troublesome injury and could be paired with Mladen Petric up front at Craven Cottage after the Croatian international overcame a calf problem. Diarra’s earlier than expected return from a knee injury could see him go straight back into central midfield, but Simon Davies is definitely out and Bryan Ruiz will face a late fitness test on his groin strain.

Davies targets top ten

Simon Davies has challenged his Fulham team-mates to replicate last season’s fine finish and push on into the top half of the Premier League table.

The Welsh midfielder admits that the Whites have failed to find their best form during this campaign, which has been disrupted by injuries and an early start to the campaign caused by their participation in the Europa League. Confidence was dented by Fulham’s early exit from that competition but Davies, now restored to full fitness after his own injury problems, believes Martin Jol’s side can power their way up the table as Fulham’s next few fixtures are winnable.

The 32 year-old revealed that Jol has told his players to target victories in a forthcoming run of games against QPR, Wolves, Aston Villa and Swansea.

The manager did point it out to us that going into these games on the back of a win [over Stoke last weekend] would give us that little bit of extra confidence. We want to really push on and get into the top half of the table with another couple of good results.

We all obviously know it’ll be very hard still because they’re all fighting for survival down the bottom there but they’re games that we have got to be looking to go and take the initiative in. We’re obviously above them [QPR, Wolves and Aston Villa] in the table on merit so we’ve got to go and impose ourselves in those games.

Davies is taking the positive view of Fulham’s week-long break – caused by their FA Cup exit at the hands of his old club, Everton.

I think it’s always good to get a break. Not just for me but the lads coming off the back of the European games as well – they’ve had such a tough six months. We’ve trained well this week but we’ll have a couple of days off now and hopefully recharge the batteries and finish the season strongly on the back of it.

He is happy to be back involved in first time action after an injury-ravaged past eighteen months saw him written off by many. Davies has clocked up 210 minutes in Fulham’s last three games and is certainly feeling sharper as a result.

Playing games is all part of the building process. You get stronger and stronger the fitter you stay. Those minutes on the pitch will definitely help me and I felt stronger again this week so I’m just trying to get as fit as possible so that if I’m called upon I can do the best I can.

A Salute to Simon Davies

I decided (genuinely) I was going to write this article about Simon Davies on my walk into Uni this morning before Chris’ superb article on Dempsey’s five years at Fulham; it seems even more appropriate now. Davies and Dempsey share many things in common; both joined in January 2007, their surnames share the same first letter and their combination of work rate, determination and no lack of skill which has made them both fans favourites.

Aside from that though their Fulham careers have been quite different. Davies was able to play in the team and play quite consistently for the first eight or nine months whereas Dempsey was about the side but not quite a regular. Perhaps this was expected, Davies had been a top flight player for some time, having been touted as a very very good player in the making when he joined Spurs from Peterborough along with his opposite wing man Etherington, now at Stoke (and it is interesting the pattern of their careers is very similar too). The run up to the arrival of Roy brought about some spectacular and fairly forgotten goals from Davies, including a 20 lob over a crowded penalty area against Arsenal in May, a 30 yard free kick against Sunderland and the sweetest volley you’ll ever likely to see, struck against Reading. He was a vital player in that ‘Great Escape’ season where he made 37 appearances, with a number of great performances, consistent displays despite the turmoil around him and a few goals capped off with a remark just before the Portsmouth game which about sums him up and made him very much worthy of our player of the season:

I’d stay [if Fulham were relegated]. I think if you go down with a club, you owe it really to try, as a group of players, to get back up.

The next season he was again a very valid contributer, with both him and Dempsey (after an awkward first few games on he bench) taking our flanks; Davies offering the width down the right with Dempsey positioned in left midfield. The duo were key cogs of a machine that took us to our highest ever league finish and, perhaps more importantly, Europe, a competition in which these double Ds would secure their place at the top of the ‘Fulham’s greatest moments’ list.

The Premier League took a backseat during the 2009/10 season so it’s no suprise that no one really remembers how much Davies struggled in it, making just 17 league appearances. More importantly though, he made 11 in our European campaign and what an impact he had. After Dempsey’s moment (I won’t use any adjectives because it is and always will be indescribable) against Juve it is almost impossible to imagine another one coming close to it, but Davies did his best when, with 1-0 to Hamburg on the scoreboard and 70 minutes gone on the clock, he collected a Danny Murphy clipped pass behind with his hell, flicked it 180 degrees to turn the defender more than an F1 car’s steering wheel before finishing into the net. The scene was set, and 20 minutes later we were in a European final. But Davies wasn’t finished there. Once again we found ourselves 1-0 down before Davies volleyed at goal from close range, beating the teenage protégé David De Gea in goal. Alas, the script wasn’t followed and the failure to add any more to our tally meant that Forlan’s extra time goal was enough to beat us. But still, Simon Davies gave us that magical moment in Hamburg which will be almost impossible to forget for all the Fulham fans who saw it.

It’s there really where Davies’ and Dempsey’s Fulham careers started to diverge, but this time in opposite directions to their convergence. Davies still played his part, infact played his part 30 times, in the league including a goal against United but his performances weren’t like Dempsey’s, who finally added consistency and a matureness to his audacity and finished with 12 goals and the player of the season award. Davies scored just 4. And after that it’s been very much truncated, with injury limiting him to just 3 appearances this season, in stark comparison to Dempsey who already has 2 hattricks, 15 goals and a 15m pound price tag to his name. Aged 32, competition from Dembele, Ruiz, Dempsey, Frei, Kasami and Duff on the wings, and with injury troubles to boot, things aren’t looking too bright for his future in the team.

So when we look back in 10 years over this golden era of supporting Fulham Football club, it will probably be Dempsey, not Davies, who will have made the biggest impact and biggest impression. But to forget the contributions of this Welsh wizard would be a great shame, so please, everyone raise your glasses to Simon Davies, a great player and a perfect gentleman. He couldn’t be a better fit for this club.


Davies Makes It Five

Simon Davies has today made it 5 years since he joined from Everton for what now seems  like a paltry 3m odd. It’s probably a better question to ask what hasn’t happened in those 5 years rather than what has; two great escapes, two top 10 finishes, a European final complete with a goal and a couple of FA Cup quarter finals plus a turnaround (or two) in the squad which means that just Davies and Dempsey remain from 2007’s January transfer window.

There’s a nice photo gallery here, and a video interview here.