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(Un)obstructed View

One of the best things about football is that it leads to discussion, and divides opinion. Just like the finest art, football is at it’s best when not simply serving to entertain, but to provoke and make the observer think.

A few different discussions on man-of-the-match, and player performance levels, over the past few weeks has brought this concept to the forefront of my mind. Why is it that, in the match against Wigan, votes for MoTM can vary almost across One to Eleven? Why is it that opinion on our full backs, centre midfielders and strike force can vary so much?

There are obviously many reasons. Different people look for different qualities in players, have differing levels of benchmark performance or simply have a different outlook on life. However, something that strikes me as fairly significant is your viewing platform for the game. It gives you a different perspective.

By perspective, I’m not talking glass half full or half empty (although that will definitely matter), but how you actually view the match. For most of us, there are three main views from which to watch Fulham on a regular basis; behind the goal (in either the Hammersmith or Putney Ends), side on (in either the Johnny Haynes or Riverside Stands) or on television/online. There is a fourth viewing point, but frankly, I’d be impressed if anyone with access to the corner view from The Cottage balcony reads this.

View from The Cottage Balcony

Each one of the three main views has its own merits as you can see different things. Sitting behind the goal allows you to see the whole field so to speak; formations and tactics and player movement can all be seen building up before they happen. Side on; closer detail, and action at both ends. TV, while making it impossible to watch anything off the ball, you can usually see exactly what happens, and then see it again on replays just to make sure.

As someone who has a season ticket along the side of the pitch, my opinions and musings will come from a different perspective than those of you who watch our games primarily from behind the goal or on a TV. We all get the chance to watch on TV, or (at least if you’re like me), you search out every highlight of the game you’ve just got home from watching live and in person.

The players whom I feel I know more intimately than others (due to my seating position) are the right back and right midfielder when they’re attacking, and the left back and left midfielder when they’re defending. This might explain why I am such a harsh critic of Damian Duff and Stephen Kelly at times. Not due to any bias or ill will against them, but that they fall in my closest gaze more often than anyone else. It also partially explains my fondness for Chris Baird (to the extent that I own a Green and Gold third shirt with ‘Bairdinho 6’ on the back.

Stephen Kelly has been an unfortunate victim of my perspective. Where I sit is perfect position to see the right back overlap and attack. This is not Kelly’s strongest attribute, despite some marked improvements in recent weeks, and has, as such, fallen focus of my attention. Kelly’s, at times, sterling defending is not usually right in front of my eyes, so perhaps it falls, to an extent, out of sight, out of mind.

My perspective on John Pantsil was perhaps the opposite; he often attacked with verve and could sometimes cross the ball quite well. Defensively, he was (at times) a flight of fancy, and sometimes dangerously casual with the ball, especially in front of Mark Schwarzer’s goal. He was the North to Stephen Kelly’s South.

I will discuss who, in my opinion, is our player of the season once the season has actually ended, but perhaps it is perspective that led George Cohen to proclaim Moussa Dembele his choice, ahead of Clint Dempsey in a recent matchday programme column. Like me, Cohen attends every match at the Cottage with a viewpoint from the side of the pitch, and towards the middle of the park. The exact area in which Moussa has excelled since his Boxing Day position switch to central midfield.

The added dimension of a change of angle makes every away trip just that bit more interesting for me. Whether it’s the corner at White Hart Lane, behind the goal in the Shed at Chelsea or the matchbox upper tier at Loftus Road, every new view lets you see something else.


Pantsil looking forward to Cottage return

John Pantsil is looking forward to returning to Craven Cottage with Ghana as his national side prepare to take on Brazil in Monday night’s friendly.

The Ghana full-back, who played 91 games for Fulham between 2008 and 2011, joined Leicester City on a free transfer but is excited about playing at the Cottage, where he was a real fans favourite, again. He told Fulham’s official website:

It’s nice to be here and it’s always good to be back among friends. I am looking forward to this game and enjoying the Craven Cottage atmosphere.

I had a great time here with my teammates and the fans. Three years is a long time, but in the modern game, it is rare to play for just one team or remain with a club for a very long period. I still have strong emotions for Fulham and always want them to succeed.

I have had plenty of emails and text messages from many friends at Fulham who cannot wait for the game and to see me playing here once again. I am so excited and cannot wait for kick-off as Ghana is going to have many honorary fans at the game to cheer us on against Brazil.

Pantsil has made just three appearances for the Foxes in the Championship so far but is expected to start against the Brazilians at right back on Monday.

Pantsil joins Leicester

Former Fulham full back John Pantsil has signed for Leicester City on a three-year contract.

The Ghana international was released by Fulham at the end of this season, having slipped down the pecking order during a disastrous last season at Craven Cottage. The 30 year-old scored three own goals and lost his place to Chris Baird and not even the departure of Mark Hughes could save his Fulham career.

His arrival at the Walkers Stadium will see him reunited with Paul Konchesky, recently signed from Liverpool. It looks like the two full-backs who did so much to inspire Fulham’s revival under Roy Hodgson could play a key role in Sven Goran Eriksson’s attempts to return Leicester to the top flight.

We wish John Pantsil all the best.

Pantsil steps into the dark

John Pantsil doesn’t know where he’ll be playing next season.

I am a free agent, I have some contacts and will see what I will do in the future. I know I will be playing my football next season at a good club. I am 29 years old so let’s see.

Despite the disappointment of recent months, he’s lost none of that infectious enthusiasm. Pantsil’s Fulham career was a straight one. Bought as back up for Fredrik Stoor, he quickly usurped the Swede and established himself as our first choice right-back. It wasn’t all plain sailing. He took plenty of brickbats for his early performances (mostly notably at Hull) but we took the bewildering combination of confidence, trickery and eccentricity in our stride.

People look back now and say that Pantsil’s post-match laps of appreciation blinded the fans to his faults. Similar arguments were made against Sylvain Legwinski in the twilight of the Frenchman’s Fulham career. It’s a little harsh, though, both on Pantsil and our supporters. Nobody would pick him as the peerless defender. He read the game well but took outrageous risks on occasions as well: nipping in to nick the ball, trying to dribble past opponents and playing too much football in our own third. Positionally, he could certainly be suspect too, but often relied on his athleticism to quickly right a wrong.

He was a far better option than Stoor, who always seemed a little lethargic to me, and might even now be considered to offer more than Chris Baird going forward. But there was no doubt that Pantsil benefited greatly from Roy Hodgson’s system. The wide midfielders – on the right it was often Simon Davies – were asked to track back and cover for the full-backs, affording Pantsil the kind of cover against tricky wingers that masked his defensive fallibilities. Once the shackles were thrown off under Mark Hughes, Pantsil was faced with much more ground to cover and a lot more defending to do. We all know the result.

A good friend of mine once described Pantsil as ‘so mad, he’s not off his rocker, he’s launched into the teams’. Fulham have always had personalities rather than players. He was colourful and charismatic, but you felt a heart-in-your-mouth moment wasn’t far away. But let’s finish by remembering the integral part he played in Fulham’s seventh place finish under Hodgson. For that, he’ll always be in our hearts. Let’s hope he flourishes somewhere else.

Don’t panic!

Well, bums. That’s pretty much all I can say in response to the news that Bobby Zamora faces a 5 month absence following the surgery on his broken leg and ligament damage. Much has already been said about how Mousa Dembele is keen to step up to fill the void (not that he’d have much choice about it anyway), and how Andy Johnson should be back and fighting fit next month and is also keen to prove himself.

The thing that worries me is that talk of Bobby’s injury has seemingly been accompanied by a tone of deep foreboding, like this is signalling the end of our season. In September. Don’t get me wrong, I think Zamora’s a brilliant player and was an integral part of the team, but it’s a bit harsh on the rest of the squad to say that, essentially, it doesn’t matter what they do, we’re doomed to fail. Charming.

We’ve got Dembele, Dempsey, Davies and Gera who are all more than capable of scoring goals. We’ve an experienced and effective midfield. We’ll have a solid defence when Pantsil gets his mojo back (where did he get the collywobbles from? Answers on a postcard please). We’ve a squad jam-packed with bloody good players and the whole point of football is that it’s a team game. Bobby’s absence, whilst being a big blow, is not going to mean relegation or even, necessarily, a bottom half finish.

Just you wait and see.