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Trust In Jol

Before I start my article, I would like to dedicate this to Finn Christensen. Finn was a regular poster on the Friends of Fulham forum, and he died last Saturday from a heart attack. His passion for Fulham was remarkable, and his views were always interesting and engaging to read.  I did not agree with him on some topics, but I always found him a fantastic man to argue with- he would never see it on a personal level, he would never be patronising. Above all, he was a man I respected, and a man who’s views where ones that were full of reason and sense. A man taken too soon- this article is for you Finn. RIP.

In the recent days Fulham’s entire strike force has simply disappeared. Andrew Johnson has previously gone against his comments on loyalty, money and stating that he was impressed that Fulham stood by him by signing for QPR (and to make this clear, I don’t blame him. If I was crooked and a club that would give me some game time offered me 40k a week, I would take it). Pavel Pogrebnyak has reportedly rejected Fulham’s contract offer and signed for Reading, again on a large, in this case 65k large, contract. Again, another player who I don’t blame. Let’s be honest, footballers are mercenaries. True loyalty, shown by the likes of Johnny Haynes and Paul Scholes, is rarely shown today. Think of Samir Nasri, Eden Hazard- they go where the money is best. So, firstly, I would like to thank both players for their contribution- AJ for his tireless running and goals during the season that started the evolution of Fulham into a stable, top 10 club and Pogrebnyak for his electric six months, during which he not only completed the double over QPR (and for which I will forever hold him in high esteem) but for gaining us a number of points during that time, and giving us a sense of belief when the first half of the season hadn’t go so well. Thanks.

What this article is actually addressing is the belief in Jol. As soon as both the AJ (less so) and the Pogrebnyak news was announced I saw a number of people asking to know why not only Jol had not tried harder, but what he was planning to do about it.

What I want to ask you is, would you pay AJ 40k or the Pog 65k? Ask yourself that honestly. Would you pay it? Because I know I certainly wouldn’t. What both Jol and Fulham have shown in these transfers is a reassuring sense of sensibility- a sense that we will not overpay for our player. We will go for the player that the manager wants, but we won’t overpay for him.  We know that they were both offered contracts, AJ with presumably reduced terms and mostly based on appearances and Pogrebnyak on not as much money as Reading, with Russian owners keen for a Russian marquee signing, could offer.  We were not stupid and we wouldn’t be pushed by agent or player demands. We also knew when we were beaten and we wouldn’t offer stupid money. That, for me, is fantastic news. We know our boundaries and Jol does too. A stable foundation is built through sensibility in player contracts and the transfer market, and these transfers have demonstrated that. So on these transfers, trust Jol that he let them go.

 

A Man With A Plan

We have known for a long time now, since perhaps Saha left, that we need a young, goal scoring striker. Johnson provided glimpses that perhaps he was the one in his goal scoring season, but even then 8 goals is not what we need. Zamora provided a season of being a complete forward;,the one that we needed, until a Karl Henry slice ended any chance of him being a long term forward.  Let’s be honest- Zamora never regained any of the class or guile that he had before the injury and he was rightfully sold in January after a season of lacklustre performances and manager complaining. Pogrebnyak offered goals, but not the all round play that we needed. One comment I read compared his first touch to “playing a one-two off a wonky brick wall”.  So, we’ve needed a forward for a season and a bit now, perhaps two, relying on the brilliance of Dempsey to see us through. That is another reason why I trust Jol-he made the right call on selling Zamora, and the right call on bringing Pogrebnyak in. Nobody thought that he would make the impact that he did. We have the money to spend (110k of wages have been freed up by the departures of Zamora, AJ and the Pog) and I trust Jol to spend it on the right players.

So please, let the club and the manager do what they’re paid to do. We know Jol’s track record, and it is extremely good. This man took Tottenham to within one lasagne of Champions League football, and produced some very good players within his time. He sold a few too, some that at the time were slated as bad moves but turned out to be good ones. The transfer window has not even opened yet. He will bring in those players that we need, and he will bring in the right players, without overpaying for them.

I trust in Martin Jol.

 

I’m Will and if you want to hear more Fulham facts, stories and the latest transfer rumours you can follow me on twitter ( @willpaul25). 

The Hammy’s

As the 2011/2012 season has drawn to a close for our beloved Fulham Football Club, here are the inaugural Hammyend End of Season Awards, known simply as The “Hammy’s”.

Signing of the season

There are several nominees for signing of the season; both Pavel Pogrebnyak and Mahammadou Diarra have excelled at times since their January (and February) arrivals. Pogrebnyak seamlessly replacing former England striker Bobby Zamora, and Diarra, who’s vast experience and quality has begun to really shine in central midfield alongside Danny Murphy and Moussa Dembele. For me though, the signing of the season is John Arne Riise, who joined from AS Roma last summer. Despite not scoring, the Norwegian has cemented the left back role as his own, whilst his marauding touchline runs have freed Clint Dempsey to have the run of the park without excessive concern for his flank.

Goal of the season

The first nominee is Pavel Pogrebnyak’s delightful rounding of Paddy Kenny against QPR from Moussa Dembele’s showboat backheeled through ball. Bryan Ruiz only scored two goals in his first season for Fulham, but they were both absolute peaches. The chip against Everton was good enough to have come out of Rory McIlroy’s golf bag, while the “scoop” goal against Bolton was technically sublime. Not being able to pick between the two Ruiz goals, my goal of the season is Clint Dempsey’s team goal, which crowned the 5-0 thrashing of Wolves. Capping a mesmeric twenty something pass move that any team would have been proud of, Clint smashed in a neat 16 yard finish following a one two with Mahammadou Diarra.

Bryan celebrates his goal against Everton

Match of the season

Was it winning in Liverpool for the first time ever? How about the 1-0 win away at Mark Hughes’ QPR? The 2-1 last minute win over Arsenal? No, the game of the season was undoubtedly the 6-0 demolition of Queens Park Rangers back in September. Welcome to the Premier League.

The Abdeslam Ouaddou Award for the Most Unpronounceable Name

Despite facing teams from the Faroe Islands, Ukraine, Croatia and Poland in our Europa League run, a few of the new faces at Craven Cottage have proved tricky for Diddy Hamilton and a fair few others to pronounce. From Pajtim (Pie-Tim) Kasami and Marcel Gecov (Getz-of) to Alex Kacaniklic (Catch-a-nik-lich) and Pavel Pogrebnyak (Pog-reb-knee-ak), it appears Martin Jol is intent on making commentators lives difficult. Pogrebnyak wins, purely for his ability to be mispronounced in the national spotlight.

The HammyEnd.com Award for best Fulham Fan Media

The past season has seen an upsurge in the number of intelligent, interesting and dedicated Fulham fan-based media. The increasing popularity of twitter has undoubtedly fueled this growth and enabled those that pre-existed to gain a wider reach. There is no specific winner here, but I’d like personally thank Dan Crawford, devoted editor of HammyEnd for encouraging contributions from an ever burgeoning range of writers. Other sites, like the excellent Craven Cottage Newsround and Fulham’s Finest have continued their stellar work. While finally, (and I may be biased here) Russ Goldman’s wonderful CottageTalk, a weekly online radio show / podcast, brings Fulham discussion to a wider audience, along with interviews with the likes of Aaron Hughes and Journalists such as the Press Association’s Simon Peach. If, like me, you have an insatiable desire for all things Fulham, now is very much a golden age.

The @Hammyend Award for Our Favourite Fulham Tweeter

The last season has seen an explosion in the popularity of Twitter as social media of choice for Fulham Football Club. We’ve had the immensely popular #fridayfulhamchallenge courtesy of the club itself including the naming of the @fulhamchickens. By my latest count, there are twelve first teamers currently active on twitter along with several wives. My nominees for Tweeter of the year are @sarahbrookes1, the ever informative and Rafa Nadal obsessed Fulham press officer, @Clint_Dempsey – #thatswhatsup, the irrepressible @WhiteNoise1879 and @joannataylormum, the popular other half to our beloved captain, Danny Murphy. Her constant willingness to interact positively with us fans, makes Joanna Murphy, my Fulham Tweeter of the Season.

Best Opposing Fans at Craven Cottage

Manchester United and Liverpool always bring loud, original and surprisingly polite away fans to Craven Cottage and this season was no different. Wigan deserve vast amounts of credit for staying loud all game, in particular the 15 minutes they sung “I’m a believer”, but for me, the loudest fans I have heard in some time, were those from Wisla Krakow. It felt as though every Polish person in London had descended on Fulham. I actually arrived at the game twenty minutes late and came through the Putney End turnstiles at the precise moment Andy Johnson opened the scoring, but such was the fervency of the Krakow support, I couldn’t tell who’d scored.

Best Opposing Player

This is a tough one to answer, and you’d think the drubbings at the hands of Manchester United and Swansea would give me the result. Antonio Valencia and Wayne Rooney among others picked us apart when the reigning champions came to town, while the midfield three of Gylfi Sigurdsson, Joe Allen and Leon Brittan played us off the park when we lost the Welsh outfit. However, it was Sergio Aguero, in the 2-2 draw with Manchester City who stood out for me. New to the English game, Aguero played sumblimely, just as he did that fateful evening in Hamburg two years ago.

The Gervasio Nunez Award For Unsportsmanlike Conduct

Refereeing decisions have come under the spotlight this past season, and we’ve suffered our fair share of misdemeanors. Nothing stands out for me, like the outrageous cheating displayed by Argentinean street urchin Gervasio Nunez, when, in Krakow, he got Moussa Dembele sent off for gently pushing his shoulder by diving around as if an anti aircraft gun had zeroed in on his nose. What’s more, in the reverse fixture he continued his antics. One particularly robust Dickson Etuhu challenge later and everyone was better off.

Kerim Frei tormenting Chelsea

Rookie of the Year

What a year for young talent at Craven Cottage. The investment in the Motspur Park academy is beginning to bear its fruits, and in Martin Jol, we finally have a manager who’s willing to give the youngsters a prolonged chance. All under 21, Neil Etheridge, Marcello Trotta, Pajtim Kasami, Matthew Briggs, Tom Donegan, Lauri Dalle Valle and Alex Kacaniklic have all seen first team action this season, with all but Briggs making their debuts. Rookie of the year honours have to go to Kerim Frei. The pintsized Swiss winger is as exciting a prospect as there is in the entire Premier League. From his debut against NSI Runavik, to his three Man of the Match appearances against Chelsea, Kerim has been a beacon of positive football whilst running at defenders along the left wing. He’s won two penalties, at Swansea and Chelsea, scored against Odense and enduced Johan Djourou into getting himself sent off. It may be a busy summer ahead for Kerim, who is tipped to make the 18-man Switzerland Olympic Squad.

Achievement of the Season

Congratulations to the Fulham Under-18s, who last Saturday became the Premier Academy League Champions. The final, played at Craven Cottage, saw the youngsters deservedly beat Blackburn Rovers 2-0. Manager Kit Symons has done a tremendous job, as has academy director Huw Jennings and all the backroom staff. We have now got to the final two years in a row, and can now call ourselves champions. A truly outstanding achievement that everyone involved with the club can be proud of.

Most Improved Player

Stephen Kelly, where have you been all my life? Originally fourth choice right back at the start of the season, injury to Zdenek Grygera, Chris Barid’s absence and Aaron Hughes’ preference for centre half eventually allowed Kelly the opportunity to grow into a very solid performer. Still not an attacking force, Kelly has matured into a remarkably consistent performer defensively, whilst improving offensively. He made himself first choice at right back and has been offered a new contract, albeit with the possibility of a new right back arriving and the return to fitness of Grygera.

Quote of the season

Something might be said for the translation when you hear your new centre forward proclaiming he can be “powerful and agile, like a beast”. However, this is exactly what our Ivan Drago lookalike, Pavel Porgebnyak, said to Russian Sports News Agency SovSport whilst awaiting his UK visa in Paris. A series of swashbuckling performances, including five goals from his first five shots on target, led us to soon forget about the sulky striker sent to Loftus Road on Transfer Deadline Day.

Who needs Zamora? When we've got The Pog.

Chant of the season

There was a defining moment of our season. January 31st saw Bobby Zamora, he of moody temper tantrums throughout the autumn, leave Fulham for pastures new, and Russian International, Pavel Pogrebnyak, join the Whites from VFB Stuttgart. Perfect then that on The Pog’s third appearance, he scored the winner in a 1-0 win over relegation candidates QPR at Loftus Road. Quite right that chant of the season is “Who needs Zamora, When We’ve Got The Pog”.

Ironman Award

Norway Captain, defensive rock, Viking, ironman…all apt and factual descriptions of Brede Hangeland. Not only did our behemoth of a centre back play every minute of every league game, he played in every other game bar one for the entire 54 match season. What’s more, his performances rarely wavered, despite several changes to his centre back partner.

Player of the season

There are really only two genuine candidates for player of the season, Moussa Dembele and Clint Dempsey. Especially since his move to central midfield on Boxing Day, Dembele has been especially superb. Albeit without goals (only two for the season), Moussa has been the creative spark behind our upturn in form over the second half of the season. His wonderful assist for Pavel Pogrebnyak’s goal at QPR is perhaps the standout moment, but his constant dribbling, successful passing and completed tackles have led Dembele to being well on his way to becoming an elite Premier League midfielder.

Clint Dempsey - Player of The Season

Player of the season though, should be awarded for play over the whole season. While Dembele was good throughout the first half, there is one man who has been truly outstanding across the entire term. Clint Dempsey this year passed Brian McBride to become Fulham’s all time leading Premier League goalscorer, and in doing so, passed 50 goals for Fulham and later 50 goals in the Premier League, all for FFC. Ending the year with 23 goals, 17 in the league, Clint finished in a remarkable fourth place in the Football Writers Player of the Year, and to be honest, was unlucky not to finish third ahead of Paul Scholes. It’s not just his goals that have cemented this award, but his play in general. Fearless and spirited, Clint can rarely be accused of lethargy, which for a man who’s barely had a summer off since his move to Craven Cottage five and a half years ago, is somewhat remarkable. He’s our longest serving player, and regardless of his employment tenure next season, Clint Dempsey is the rightful Fulham Player of the Season.

COYWs

Pogrebnyak makes Russia’s preliminary Euro 2012 squad

Fulham striker Pavel Pogrebnyak has been named in Russia’s preliminary 26-man squad for the European Championships.

Russian coach Dick Advocaat included the 28 year-old forward who has scored six goals in eleven games since joining the Whites on a short-term deal from VfB Stuttgart at the end of January. Fulham are hoping that a deal to keep Pogrebnyak, who recently tipped his club manager Martin Jol as a potential successor for the unpredictable Advocaat, at Craven Cottage can be concluded by tomorrow. He will be keen to do make up for lost time in Poland and Ukraine, having missed the Euro 2008 finals – where Russia reached the last four – through injury.

Advocaat has sprung some surprises in this announcement – dropping former Everton midfielder Diniyar Bilyaletdinov and Zenit St Petersburg winger Vladimir Bystrov, who excelled under Guus Hiddink at Euro 2008. Advoocat, who will leave the national team post to take over at PSV Eindhoven after the tournament, included uncapped pair Magomed Ozdoyev and Vladimir Granat in his squad, which must be trimmed to 23 players by the end of May. The Russians start their championships against the Czech Republic in Warsaw on June 8, before playing Poland and Greece in Warsaw.

Advocaat’s squad will come together for a pre-Euro 2012 training camp next Sunderland and play three friendlies against Uruguay in Moscow on 25 May in Moscow, Lithuania in Nyon four days later and Italy in Zurich on June 1st.

RUSSIAN PRELIMINARY SQUAD FOR EURO 2012

Goalkeepers: Igor Akinfeev (PFC CSKA Moskva), Vyacheslav Malafeev (FC Zenit St Petersburg), Anton Shunin (FC Dinamo Moskva).

Defenders: Aleksandr Anyukov (FC Zenit St Petersburg), Aleksei Berezutski (PFC CSKA Moskva), Vasili Berezutski (PFC CSKA Moskva), Sergei Ignashevich (PFC CSKA Moskva), Vladimir Granat (FC Dinamo Moskva), Yuri Zhirkov (FC Anzhi Makhachkala), Dmitri Kombarov (FC Spartak Moskva), Roman Sharonov (FC Rubin Kazan), Roman Shishkin (FC Lokomotiv Moskva).

Midfielders: Igor Denisov (FC Zenit St Petersburg), Konstantin Zyryanov (FC Zenit St Petersburg), Roman Shirokov (FC Zenit St Petersburg), Denis Glushakov (FC Lokomotiv Moskva), Magomed Ozdoev (FC Lokomotiv Moskva), Igor Semshov (FC Dinamo Moskva), Marat Izmailov (Sporting Clube de Portugal), Alan Dzagoev (PFC CSKA Moskva).

Forwards: Andrey Arshavin (FC Zenit St Petersburg), Aleksandr Kerzhakov (FC Zenit St Petersburg), Artem Dzyuba (FC Spartak Moskva), Aleksandr Kokorin (FC Dinamo Moskva), Roman Pavlyuchenko (FC Lokomotiv Moskva), Pavel Pogrebnyak (Fulham FC).

Who’d be a referee?

The past few weeks have seen one ‘hot-button’ issue dominate football debates up and down the land: the standard of refereeing. One by one, decision after decision, refereeing controversies are racking up faster than you can spell Mark Clattenberg.

I wrote the majority of this article before our game against Wigan at the weekend. Lee Mason did his best impression of someone who didn’t know the rules in a shambolic performance whereby decisions were seemingly made at random intervals in order to fill some kind of quota. However, the main talking points were two non-decisions. The non-penalty we arguably should have had in the first minute when a Gary Caldwell somewhat robustly hacked down Clint Dempsey in full stride, and Pavel Progrebnyak’s non-goal when it appeared on replay that his shot from 3 yards cannoned back off the underside of the crossbar over the line. Hard decisions, yes. Wrong decisions, also yes. Something doesn’t add up.

The lack of goal line technology denies the Pog another goal??

I must caveat the rest of this I am not having a go at referees (well, not entirely). It is undoubtedly the hardest job on a football field, short of tackling Moussa Dembele. The top of the English game is played at such pace and with such strength and passion that I defy any man to get 100 percent of the decisions right 100 percent of the time.

There are also more forces at work here, beyond that of human errors of judgement that you, can come to expect and, unfortunately, learn to live with. The most egregious of these, is the long quested foe that is simulation. Diving. It is a part of our game, it shouldn’t be. When Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville suggested that it was just a part of the modern game, he opened a cauldron of fire and divided the opinions of players and fans.

The debate on diving, and referees, took on a new level a few weeks ago, when QPR’s Shaun Derry was sent off at Old Trafford, despite the man he supposedly fouled, Ashley Young of Manchester Utd, being proven to be both offside and to having have dived. Unfortunately, of course, the linesman missed the blatant offside and the referee missed the dived.

It is important to remember that football is a contact sport. Contact alone does not necessarily merit a foul. Yes, it’s not rugby and I’m not suggesting carte blanche on physicality, but some commentators, players and members of the media would have you believe we are in the business of watching rhythmic gymnastics.

This particular furore was reprised two weekends ago when, once again, that man Young, took the slightest contact from an Aston Villa defender, and followed it with a swan dive so grand that you wouldn’t be surprised to see him at the Aquatics Centre come London 2012.

At the complete other end of the spectrum, when Reading took on Leeds in a televised Championship match over the Easter weekend, the referee failed to control the match from becoming an advert for mixed martial arts. It was a lack of consistency on that occasion that was the main frustration. Leeds had one player sent off for a poor two-footed lunge in the early stages. It was, to all intents and purposes a red card offence.

What irked many supporters of the Berkshire club was that, later in the game, Leeds players on certainly one, if not two, further occasions committed fouls worse than the earlier red card offence. One of these abhorrent challenges left pivotal midfield energiser bunny Jem Karacan with a broken ankle.

The final two decisions I’d like to consider both involve Chelsea. The Solomon Kalou penalty against us at the Cottage and Juan Mata’s “ghost goal” in the FA Cup Semi-Final against Tottenham.

The first was such a close decision that there was no unanimous opinion anywhere as to whether it was, or wasn’t, a penalty offence. When referee, Mark Clattenberg, told Danny Murphy that it was a foul by Stephen Kelly, and not the skipper, a controversial decision became a wrong one in my mind. Once again, contact doesn’t mean foul, especially if it is the attacker who initiates contact, as happened here.

The incident in the semi-final was, however, less debatable. The awarding of Mata’s “goal” by Martin Atkinson, despite the ball barely entering the demilitarized zone, let alone crossing the border, was simply appalling. Goal line technology I hear the masses cry. Well, yes, frankly. FIFA has said that, come July this year, there could be an agreement in place for it’s introduction. Not a moment too soon, but what’s the chance that FIFA find a way to obstruct this much-clamoured progress?

Other sports the world over have introduced the option to call upon video evidence, even without the need for Hawkeye or some chip and pin device being planted in the ball. Would cricket fans say the use of Hawkeye has improved their sport? Would rugby fans argue that try decisions being made accurately has improved their sport? Of course they would.

There’s little or no retroactive action that can be taken to compensate teams for wrongly awarded penalties or goals. Should Man Utd have their win against us rescinded after the almost unanimous feelings that the 91st minute penalty against Danny Murphy was, wrongly, not awarded? No because a penalty is not a goal until it hits the back of the net.

Murphy sent tumbling by Carrick went unpunished

On the other hand, the lack of retrospective action on violent conduct and simulation is something that I find particularly hard to tolerate. If we want people to stop diving, then start handing out three match bans. Ashley Young might stop his flagrant cheating if he couldn’t play until August.

Finally, as it stands, a player can’t have retrospective action taken against him, unless the referee admits to not having seen an incident. This means the likes of Mario Balotelli, who planted his studs into Alex Song’s groin, in full view of Martin Atkinson without sanction in the recent Arsenal v Man City game (not Atkinson’s best few weeks) go unpunished despite the ex post evidence being crystal clear for all to see.

There is a changing wind blowing through the annals of footballing power at the moment, and not a moment too soon. We all love our sport, and when played at it’s best, is when the referee is invisible. It is a thankless job for sure, but it probably says that on the job application, along with “must give penalties to Man Utd at Old Trafford”.

There are several simple changes that would make the game we all love better for all involved. The introduction of goal line technology is the first; heck, even goal line cameras and a willingness to get the decision correct would work. I am also a firm believer in post match citing of violent conduct and diving even if missed by the matchday officials. The FA should stop protecting referees as if they are infallible, like all of us, they make mistakes (perhaps a few too many at the moment), but let’s get decisions right, it’d make the game that little bit better.

Clever Kacaniklic strikes the right note

It says a lot about how highly Martin Jol rates Alex Kacaniklic that the Fulham manager was prepared to introduce him as well as the 36th minute as a replacement for the injured Pavel Pogrebnyak. The young Swedish younger, who has been talked off in hushed – and yet excitable tones since he first caught the eye as a talented teenager at Liverpool, is oozing confidence at the moment. Discussed as a real prospect once Huw Jennings and Malcolm Elias had prized him away from Melwood, Kacaniklic came out of his shell and recognised that this was his opportunity.

The loan move to Watford in late January was the making of Kacaniklic. The 20 year-old, who has a habit of sending full-backs scurrying towards their own goal, came almost immediately as a substitute at a game when he came off the bench in a 2-0 win at Millwall. That was the ex-Helsingborg junior’s first taste of senior football and soon Sean Dyche, who is building a side that should be ready to challenge for promotion next year that by the end of Kacanklic’s loan spell at Vicarage Road, found it very difficult to leave him out of the starting line-up.

Opting to assign him a spot on the substitutes became unthinkable when Kacanklic’s intervention from the sidelines turned the game against Burnley in Watford’s favour. The Swede scored his first senior goal and made another one as the hosts transformed a two-goal deficit into a 3-2 win. Kacanklic now found himself as a regular in the Watford side until Jol opted to exercise his 24-hour recall clause last week. A few of the journalists were surprised by the Fulham manager’s heavy hints that Kacaniklic would be involved against Norwich City, but Jol was as good as his word.

It was difficult not to get excited by Kacaniklic’s confident little cameo, either. Jol caused a few sensational headlines last week when he suggested that a few senior faces might make way for youngsters come the end of the season but, with this sort of quality rolling off the Motspur Park conveyer belt, you can see why the Dutchman is happy to give the next generation a go. Kacaniklic, genuinely two-footed, offers the attacking ability of Kerim Frei and he already looks a little more polished than the Swiss youngster, with a hunger to attack his full-back and a willingness to work back that suggests he’s learnt from Damien Duff’s work ethic.

There could be few finer wingers to learn from than Duff, who showed all his poise and professionalism in an all-action performance yesterday. Kacaniklic, on the other flank, went inside and outside his full-back, and was happy to head towards the byline to send over a dangerous cross. He had the confidence to have a crack from range, too, twice shooting wide from outside box but that audacious chip came crashing back off the crossbar via John Ruddy’s fingertips at the start of the second half. It was a performance of real maturity that had you wondering about how Fulham’s midfield might look in a couple of years time were Jol able to hold onto Moussa Dembele and if young Frei could kick on.

Jol’s already been happy enough to let the likes of Matthew Briggs, Frei, Marcello Trotta and now Kacaniklic off the leash. All four have plenty to learn – but the early signs are promising. After the caution of Coleman and Hodgson about giving young players their head, Jol’s attitude seems to be: if you’re good enough, you’re old enough. The Fulham manager saluted Kacaniklic’s sense of adventure in his remarks afterwards and it certainly gave the Craven Cottage faithful plenty to purr about the way home.