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Is Greening leaving so soon?

Not even 2 months after signing a 2 year contract following a reasonably successful loan spell at the Cottage, the Mirror are reporting that Jonathan Greening is off out on a season-long loan. Apparently Greening is surplus to Mark Hughes’ requirements and he may be off ooop north to Blackburn.

Checking against the squad profiles on the Offal this would leave 9 midfielders, one of whom is Robert Milsom; a player with no squad number and no league appearances to date. So, with no offence to Rob, that pretty much leaves 8. Is that enough? Chris Baird is listed as a defender but can perform well in midfield however we have only have 8 defenders, 7 if you move Bairdy forward. I’m no footy manager but I’m worried that’s not enough. Okay so we have a 26 man squad (27 if you include Milsom) so someone’s going to get “dropped” but must it be from a position where we’re lacking a bit of cover? And although Greening wasn’t a prolific goal-scorer he did seem to do a good job as a playmaker. I can certainly think of less effective members of the squad… (for another day maybe)

This may all of course suggest that Hughes has his eye on some potential new midfielders that have somehow escaped the media radar. I’m determined to be optimistic this season so that’s my theory and I’m sticking with it. They’d best get a wriggle on though.

Hoesen’s Finnish adventure

A bit more on Danny Hoesen’s switch to HJK Helsinki from the Finnish press.

The article notes that Hoesen joined Fulham with a promising reputation from Fortuna Sittard and, although he has yet to make an appearance for the first team, has been featured regularly in the youth and reserve team sides. The loan will apparently last until the start of August, when he will return to England in preparation for the beginning of our league season.

When I’ve watched the young Dutchman I’ve been impressed. When I first saw him he came off the bench to deliver a promising cameo against Chelsea reserves last January. He’s a tall-ish striker but wouldn’t be limited to just a mere target man as he’s got the pace to worry defences in behind. He’s gradually adjusted well to English football, making more and more of an impact at reserve team level.

Having started off in the youth team, where he scored plenty of important goals (including one in a comfortable win over their Chelsea counterparts), Hoesen quickly won himself a role in the reserve side. He made a goal for Chris Smalling at Pompey and became a more regular fixture at the tail end of last season as Billy McKinlay rotated his line-up with an eye on those who would be able to make the step up from youth level.

Hoesen had an impressive pre-season and looked promising enough when I saw a youthful Fulham side take on AFC Wimbledon in July. Some observers at that game thought he might have the capability to make it, but that was an exceedingly harsh judgement based on a physical pre-season friendly, with many reserve-team regulars missing due to the imminent start of our Europa League campaign. Danny also showed his versatility in the summer by switching to a midfield role in another friendly at Walton Casuals.

Hoesen had to wait for his chance to impress in the reserves, with his contributions largely restricted to substitute appearances. When he did get a start – at Wolves in November – he made Fulham’s opening goal in a 2-0 win with a clever run and shot that gave Eddie Johnson a simple finish to set Fulham on their way to victory. He notched another in an impressive win over Stoke with a deadly finish from close range and scored the first in a 3-0 victory over Birmingham the other week.

Hoesen grabbed the first goal against Chelsea on Tuesday and there’s little doubt that his development will be assisted by some regular first-team football. Experience of a different type of game would also be a bonus and, since he will be travelling to Finland at a younger age than either Rob Milsom or Wayne Brown, it will be interesting to see how he adapts to the challenge. Since he’s very much one for the future, we hope for good reports on Danny’s progress.

Milsom off to TPS on loan

Looks like Rob Milsom is going to follow in Wayne Brown’s footsteps. The highly-rated midfielder, who recently made an impressive return to the reserve side after a long spell out with a broken leg, will join TPS Turku on a fourth-month loan in April.

It sounds like Milsom followed Brown’s loan spell with a good deal of interest and this is another indication of the growing link between the two sides.

I’m really happy to be joining TPS on loan and I’m looking forward to playing as many games as possible. I’ve heard positive things from Wayne Brown about his experience and spoke to him regularly whilst he was playing in Finland last season. He did really well and I hope I can too.

Hodgson was moved to comment on Milsom’s injury as a real blow in a pre-match interview last season and clearly thinks he has a bright future ahead of him. This could end up being another interesting move.

Fulham Reserves see off Birmingham

Just got in from Motspur Park, where the Fulham Reserves comfortably beat their Birmingham counterparts 3-0.

Fulham lined up in what was more  a 4-2-2-2 formation than the more familiar 4-4-2 that the first team play. Neil Etheridge was given a chance in goal, protected by the strong-looking defensive units of Cheick Toure and Matthew Briggs, flanked by Fredrik Stoor and Keanu Marsh-Brown on an unfamiliar left-hand side. Kagisho Dikagcoi and Robert Milsom sat quite deep in midfield, hounding and hassling the Birmingham midfielders when not in possession; and recycling the ball intelligently when they did. Wayne Brown and Chris Buchtmann playing in advanced positions on the flanks; Stefano Okaka and Danny Hoesen were given a go up front, where they made intelligent runs and dropped deep with effect.

Birmingham gave starts to Kevin Phillips, Teemu Tainio and ex-Fulham defender Franck Queudrue, but other than these three, this was an inexperienced line-up.

Fulham opened the scoring in the early stages of the game:  Dikagcoi played a long pass over the Birmingham defence; Hoesen timed his run brilliantly to beat the offside trap, and slotted the ball calmly past Colin Doyle in the Birmingham goal.

Minutes later, Fulham doubled their lead. Milsom, Buchtmann and Okaka linked up well in position, before Wayne Brown received the ball on the right hand side. Brown cut inside and shot – crucially, it took a big deflection, taking it past the helpless Doyle.

And before the quarter of an hour mark had passed, Fulham found themselves three goals up. Buchtmann’s deep corner from the right-hand side was nodded back across the face of goal by Briggs, leaving Okaka with the simple task of poking the ball home.

What was rather strange about this game is that other than this burst of three goals, it could be claimed that Birmingham were in fact the better side. They certainly had more of the ball, with the impressive Michel Madera demonstrating his broad range of passing. Phillips too looked dangerous, dropping deep and linking play well. However, on the one occasion he found himself through on goal, he also found Etheridge making a very impressive stop to deny the ex-England striker.

The second half was much of the same. Birmingham had most of the ball, especially once Dikgacoi departed and Buchtmann moved into the centre, but were unable to break through a stubborn and hard-working Fulham side. How often we have seen this with the senior side, allowing the opposition to keep the ball and do nothing with it; pressing them and not letting them create anything like a decent chance; before Fulham break away, attacking with intent and incision. Indeed, it says much of the game that whilst Birmingham had plenty of the ball, Etheridge wasn’t overly troubled. The best chance of the half went to Fulham, Okaka teeing up Brown on the left-hand side, forcing Doyle to make a super save.

All in all, a convincing and comfortable win, with impressive performances all over the pitch. Whilst Birmingham had a lot of the ball, it was Fulham who looked the more dangerous side. And much of that was down to the excellent work by Dikagcoi and Milsom in the centre of midfield.

FULHAM RESERVES (4-2-2-2): Etheridge; Stoor, Marsh-Brown, Briggs, Toure; Dikgacoi (Smith 65), Milsom, Brown, Buchtmann; Okaka, Hoesen (Payne 71). Subs (not used): Bettinelli, Pierre, Harris.

GOALS: Hoesen (9), Brown (14), Briggs (18).

BIRMINGHAM CITY RESERVES (4-4-2): Doyle; Ozturk (Dunphy 69), Rowe, Kerr, Queudrue; Michel (Sammons 75), Tainio, O’Shea, Shroot; Phillips (Redmond 75), Jervis. Subs (not used): Butland, Asante.

Murphy on Fulham’s mental toughness

When Danny Murphy spoke up on television after the Vetra second leg saying we needed a few more additions, I was a little surprised. Would he have been doing it without Roy’s approval? I was pleased that he talked about the need to kept our best players in his round of post-Pompey interviews and it struck of a strong captain reminding journalists that Fulham gave Brede Hangeland his chance in Premier League football (both Newcastle and Everton – and maybe others – turned him down after a trial).

I wasn’t sure Murphy was the right choice as skipper at the start of last season once McBride departed. Like many people, I assumed the armband would go to Hangeland. But his experience and football brain are exactly what we’ve needed. In his latest interview with the official website, he’s full of common sense. Listen to what he says about the mental toughness of our squad:

We have a squad of lads who are mentally tough; I have been at certain clubs before where certain players wouldn’t play unless they were 100 per cent fit.

I’m safe in saying that our players have turned down the chance of nursing knocks or even more than knocks to play on a Saturday, they were desperate to play and desperate to be part of a successful team. I’m not saying there isn’t luck involved but a strong mentality and good work ethic also helps you get through problems.

I’ve thought about this before too. There’s no doubt that Simon Davies, our most consistent performer in the Great Escape season, had been carrying a serious foot injury for quite some time before he eventually had surgery towards the end of last season. I’d imagine that Clint Dempsey’s playing through the pain of a continuous year of football right now. It shows desire and determination – and deserves to be lauded. It also indications that our key players are hungry to be part of a successful side. They know that, should they miss a few games, someone might come in and impress (as Dempsey did earlier last season in fact), and they could find themselves sitting on the bench for a long time.

Without changing tack after that Vetra interview, Murphy also raises an interesting point about squad size.

You can have the best manager in the world but you can’t keep everyone happy. How do the young lads get their chance if you are forever building squads of 25-30 senior players? It’s good if you have a decent small squad of some quality and young lads chomping at the bit to get in as well.

The young lads chomping at the bit, as Murphy puts it, are the ones that really interest me this season. Over on TIFF, I had a discussion last night about some of our promising prospects from the Academy  and we wondered whether the likes of Marsh-Brown, Moscatiello, Hoesen and Trotta would have a shot of breaking into the first team squad in the near future. You’d reckon that Chris Smalling, his talent already recognised by Stuart Pearce, would be in and around it already and Matthew Briggs appears to be devloping nicely. Factor in Robert Milsom, now recovered from that broken leg and ready to go, and Wayne Brown, back from an impressive loan spell in Finland, and you’ve got hungry youngsters fighting for some playing time.

Murphy’s absolutely right that those boys would face no chance if we had another 10-15 professionals on the books. That’s why we had to release so many youngsters in the Coleman and Sanchez eras because they our first-team squad was so vast they never really had a hope of breaking through. While it would be nice to sign a few more quality players, there’s nothing better than seeing a Fulham youth product run out with the first team. The skipper’s spot on.