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Always thought you could pick a better team than Martin Jol? Forever telling your mates that you can spot talent a mile off? Then why don’t you put those famed managerial wits to test against your fellow Fulham fans in the HammyEnd.com Fantasy Football League?

It’s free and fun. Joining couldn’t be simpler. Register with the Fantasy Premier League website and once you’ve picked the players on whom you’ll spend your £50m budget enter the league code 692421-228797 and you’re in.

We hope to see you there.

Gatesys Weekend Roundup

We may have not played this last weekend, and contrary to what some Fulham fans may tell you, the footballing world did continue. As well as a couple of tin pot cup games happening somewhere down the road in norf London there was the important matter of the Premier League at hand.

Our next opponents, Wigan Athletic, were loving a bit of Monday Night Football action against Arsenal. The Latics were out of the traps like a rare gas with two goals inside the opening 8 minutes. An well organised showing and some wasteful shooting from the reds was enough to see them head up the Motorway 6 with all the points, after a Vermaelen consolation. The defeat for the Gunners means that their record against teams in the bottom half of the table (35 points from a possible 51) is the worst of any of the top six sides.

While Man Yoo notched up a clear four goal victory over quickly sinking Villa, all the talk was of former Villain Young and not how poor the midland side are fast becoming. An ‘interesting’ dive helped the reds stay at the top of the tree and above local rivals Citeh who themselves chalked up an impressive six – one victory against the Canaries at Carrow Road. Tevez marked his return good and proper with a hat trick that keeps them in with a hope of overtaking their neighbours yet.

But let us not gloss over how poor Aston Villa are these days. This time last season when he successfully relegated the Blue team from the second city, McLeish was a full three point sbetter off than he is currently. Yes, the teams down the bottom are a lot worse this year, but Villa still have a local derby, a match up against a relegation rival (Bolton) and a top four challenger (Spuds) to come, which shan’t be easy.

In contrast Paul Scholes appears to be getting better and better since his return. Averaging a 92% pass completion rate all season he upped his game and put in a 94% game on Saturday. Head and shoulders above other fellow English midfielders, if only ‘Arry could talk him into slipping into an Engerland shirt this summer…

Down toward the bottom of the table Swansea took all the pints from their meeting with Blackburn. The Welshmen came away 3-0 victors and the crowd are once again turning of our old mate Keano. After a brief pick up in form the status quo has returned and Rovers have now lost five straight league games for the first time since Paul Ince was shown the door in late 2008. Uncle |Roy did us a favour and didn’t  let QPR return to their hovel of a ground with a single point. A twenty second minute goal from Dorrans was enough to see the Baggies right. With trips to Man City and Chelsea on the hoizon for Rangers, times running out and home games against Stoke and Spuds are now must win games.

Up norf Sunderland and Wolves played out a bore draw and that’s about all to be said about it.

Next up for us is Wigan at the Cottage this coming Saturday. IF all the results went the right way for us and we scored a shed load of goals, we could lift ourselves up above Liverpool and we’d all have a good old laug at how they’re an improving side and what a wise investment of a squillions pounds Andy Carrol is.

*ahem*

Tor’s travels – Bolton

I like Bolton. There. I said it. Call me a big softie but I like the fact that we were promoted along with Bolton and Blackburn and we’ve all stayed up since. I hope that continues, despite a slightly rocky season for them both (and us earlier on). Also, Sean Davis is at Bolton now and I don’t think my love for him will ever fade so wherever he makes his home will have a little place in my heart… *sighs*

I also really like visiting the Reebok. I like driving up the motorway and seeing the floodlights on your right as you approach. It’s quite a unique structure compared to other grounds, it’s certainly easily identifiable even without the branding. The away fans area is enormous, especially when the last away trip was Villa which… ermmm… isn’t, there are good facilities (I’m talking toilets, it’s important) and the people are friendly. I’m starting to get fussy about which grounds I visit now but the Reebok is definitely high on the list for repeat visits.

Obviously yesterday’s trip was boosted by the team’s performance and the convincing manner in which we won. Bolton fans will have to blame one of the stewards for Dempsey’s second because as we were singing “we’re gonna score in a minute” he looked at me and said, smiling, “No you won’t”. Ahem. But I think we deserved to be 2-0 up going into the break.

Half time entertainment time. Zorbing. I’d love to do zorbing, it looks like excellent fun. I didn’t manage it but Billy was picked to represent the travelling fans and did quite well and got a medal for his troubles. Jealous.

More greatness in the second half. I was actually quite relaxed which is quite something when we’re winning away as usually I’m hiding behind my hands. There was too much going on though: Kacaklinic’s first start, in which he did himself proud; Trotta’s league debut; Diarra’s first goal for the Whites (first of many, I hope)…

BUT. There’s always a but when things start off this well and that’s the two things that marred yesterday. The home fans booed Bryan Ruiz as he was being treated and subsequently substituted off, and later there were reports of Bolton fans attacking the Fulham fans’ coach with a brick. Frustration and anger can manifest themselves in unpleasant ways but the actions of a small number of Bolton fans then reflect badly on the rest and that’s a shame because, by and large, they’re a good bunch.

I still hope I get the chance to go back next season though, and for many more after that. Next time I may even be able to find the McDonald’s nearby…

Tor’s Travels – Aston Villa

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I wasn’t going to go. I had made other plans. About 9am yesterday morning I had a wave of optimism, cancelled my plans and decided to go. Hmmmmm. In fairness, we were on the verge of seeing history in the making – Fulham haven’t won four Premier League matches on the bounce (largely, I’d imagine because our away form is so poor) but we were seemingly flying and Villa…. er…. less so.

Thing is, I’m not keen on the Midlands clubs. The fans are…. odd. And in the case of some, more than a little abusive. So I’d kinda said to myself that I wouldn’t bother going to any of those grounds again. But as I drove along the M6 and caught a glimpse of Villa Park I did start getting excited. And not just because QPR had just had a perfectly legitimate goal disallowed. Villa Park is an impressive ground. Not necessarily in size or snazziness but how beautiful is the Holte End? If you’ve never seen it, go. The picture above simply doesn’t do it justice.

Anyway, architecture aside, it’s not the most away-fan-friendly ground. There are loads of stairs up to a narrow rabbit run barely large enough to take the 1,000+ fans that made the trip. But they do have tellies which everyone was glued to, willing Bolton to score again. At times I thought people were more interested in the result of that game than of ours. Bolton scored, cue lots of singing about Mark Hughes and then the rush to the seats.

The atmosphere wasn’t great but pockets of the travelling fans were in fine voice, baiting the home fans and making me chuckle. Something needed to.

You know what happened next. I don’t need to dwell on it. Lork will probably do his player ratings later and, for once, I won’t be begging him to give Stephen Kelly 1,000,000 out of 10 because, frankly, he doesn’t deserve it. Unfortunately, neither do any of the other players. It seemed as though none of them were at their best. A team can normally cover one player having an off-day but what happens when they all are? We were lucky to only lose 1-0 to be perfectly honest, it just feels so much worse because it was conceded in the dying seconds. I’d have walked away happy with a point. That late goal was a kick in the stomach.

*sighs* Onwards and upwards. It wasn’t a must-win game. We’re still in the top half of the table. There will be lessons that we can learn and we’ll come back from this. It’s the Fulham way, innit.

Gatesy’s Weekend Roundup

What could be better than a weekend where you complete the double over your neighbours? Perhaps a weekend where Spuds also get a tonking by theirs and Gatesy finds a tenner in a pocket of his jeans he’d forgotten he put there.

Well that’s EXACTLY what occurred the weekend just gone…

It turns out the short trip down thePalace Roadwas well worth it. After periods of time earlier in the season where it looked as if Jol was selecting the team and their positions via a random number generator, the starting XI are beginning to look more of a solid unit, especially with Aaron making a welcome return at the back. Perhaps it was just down to them needing a bit of time to become accustomed to the new formation and tactics, or perhaps it was a troublesome influence on the training pitch that we’ve managed to ship off down the road? Who knows. And the biggest improver of recent times seems to be Dembele. With a nice little back heel to set up the goal, the Belgian also had an impressive 95% pass completion rate too.

The Ruskie continues to look a good bit of business from the Dutchman and I’ll be a much happier bunny as soon as he’s tied down to a deal keeping him with us past the summer. If he keeps scoring goals as he already has done and pops off to play football in the glamorous climes of Ukraine and Poland over the summer break I worry we may not be the only ones after him, after his current record of two games played, two shots on target and two goals scored.

            The boys started to look a little worried and nervous towards the end of the game. It’s understandable really considering our awful away record and the fact that 39 of the gaols we’ve conceded this season have all been done so in the final 15 minutes of matches and this would turn out to be our first clean sheet in nine games. If we could sort this out, a top half finish would be looking pretty solid.

            While it was an exciting debut for Rangers’ Samba Diakte, possibly in the shortlist for the worst Premier League Debut ever? After several quiet words from the ref and a yellow card, he couldn’t help himself but get himself sent off in the 32nd minute. Not bad work really.

            Way back ago when I worked in Sainsbury’s I knew an unusual gentleman who couldn’t get enough of shaking your hand. He’d literally do it all day if you let him. It spears his polar opposite is Sparky, the only man in the world worse at handshakes than Luis Suarez. Now not only is he a ‘strange gentleman’ it appears he seems to have completely forgotten about the lift in form a new manager is supposed to bring to a side. In his sex games in charge he’s lost four of them and only picked up 4 points. Winning one game in their last 13 fixtures – now that’s relegation form right there.

After an awful seven days the week prior, Arsenal’s world is starting to look a little bit rosier now. After announcing record profits for the club, news talks with RVP over a new contract are in their early stages and a nice win over their rivals.           After falling two nil behind, and somebody I used to work with being shown jumping about celebrating a goal like a demented old circus monkey, the comeback was on. Rosicky had a rare brilliant showing in the middle and with Theo deciding to show everybody what he should be doing week in week out, they turned the game around. The five goals notched up here mean that the Gunners have now scored as many in their last three Premier League games as they had in the 11 before that. While Spuds won’t be as cheery as their norfLondonneighbours. Has all the talk of taking over at Engerland got to ‘Arry and he’s bottled it? After drawing away atStevenagein the cup and throwing away a good lead in a derby game won’t be drawing the admiring glances from the FA that he may have hoped for. And now having collected only three points out of the 15 available from matches against teams in the top four, they find themselves looking over their shoulders at theChelseashaped object closing in on them. Next up for them in Man Yoo, who they’ll be facing without the suspended Scotty Parker.

Man Yoo grabbed an undeserved win away against Norwich, where Ryan Giggs scored the winner on his 900th outing for the club. It was ever thus. After scoring against the Champions Canaries forward Holt achieved the impressive feat of having reached double figures for goals in the last four seasons, all in different divisions. After facing Spuds this weekend the Red have a decent run of games for them, facing seven teams in the bottom half before the possible title decider against Man City. For whom, it was a stroll in the park against Blackburn. The visitors didn’t manage to have a shot on goal until the 92nd minute and chalked up just 22% of possession in the match, meaning it’s again looking bleak for them. Tevez is due to turn out for the Blues reserves tonight in a behind closed doors game, and will be looking to try and force himself back into the first team before too long. Vincent Kompany again proved just what an important part of the City line up he is, as the side have now only conceded twice in the last eight games he’s featured in.

Chelsea kept the pressure on the top four with a win over Bolton. Fat Frank scored his 125th goal in a blue shirt as they ran out three nil winners. Meanwhile, the visitors’ goalless afternoon means that no striker has scored for the Trotters in over 9 hours of football now.

Stoke picked up all three points against Swansea, though football was not the big winner. Only a few days after bottling it in Europe and keeping half his team at home because they were already losing against a bigger team, Tony Pulis declared that he couldn’t get his Potters side playing nice football, as opponents Swansea have done this season, because the home fans wouldn’t warm to it.

Of course, why would you want to change a style of football that’s produced a whopping total of 18 shots on target in the last ten games you’ve played, racked up a massive 26 goals from open play all season and where they achieved the lofty heights of 26% possession againstSwansea? I cannot think of a single reason. You keep up the good work, Potters.

Elsewhere West Brom continued their new lust for scoring by beating Sunderland 4-0 at the Hawthorns andWiganand Villa played out a goalless draw. While Newcastle also shared the points with the travelling Wolves.

Next up for us is the Super Sunday fixture against Wolves. And. It’s. Live! On Sky Sports. If we win that fixture we could possibly leap up the table to Eighth place. But until then we occupy 11th spot, handily placed for an assault on the top half of the table. Before we welcome Wolves to the Cottage though some of our lads are off representing their home nations in all manner of low wattage friendly fixtures. Let us hope they all return without any injuries raring to continue our good run of results.