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Frustrated Jol relieved with Fulham win

Martin Jol admitted to being frustrated that Fulham failed to kill Norwich off in a candid assessment of his side’s performance after what turned out to be a jittery last quarter of an hour at Craven Cottage earlier this afternoon.

The Dutch coach honestly conceded that he had ‘mixed feelings’ after a game that Fulham dominated for long spells almost slipped away from them once Aaron Wilbraham’s deflected strike gave the Canaries a late lifeline. Jol felt Fulham failed to translate their fine approach play into goals and that his side failed to respond to Paul Lambert’s tweaking of Norwich’s system at half-time.

I have to say I had mixed feelings after the game. The first half we were well prepared for them and started off well. They changed their system all the time and they do that with a purpose. That was not easy to cope with but I thought we used the right tactics in the first half.

In the second half they changed their formation and forced us to double-up on the flanks, go back and we couldn’t get out of it. Pavel was not there, Andy Johnson was of course injured so we needed a bit of penetration.

That was probably the reason we could not get out of it but I have to say if you have to defend, you have to defend. I could not change that in this game so I was fairly pleased in the end, although we didn’t play in my style in the second half.

Pavel Pogrebnyak, who was forced off in the first half after a heavy tackle from Elliott Bennett, has suffered an ankle injury and will be assessed by Fulham’s medical staff over the next couple of days.

Pavel went off with something to do with his former injury. He twisted his ankle again so for us it is vital for us that he is back in the next couple of games. I think in the next one or two days we will find out more.

Pogrebnyak talks progressing

Martin Jol says his initial discussions with Pavel Pogrebnyak about securing the Russian striker’s future with Fulham beyond this summer have been ‘constructive’.

Pogrebnyak has scored five goals in six games since signing on a short-term deal from Stuttgart which expires at the end of the season. Media reports have suggested that other English sides would be keen to snap up Pogrebnyak, although the striker’s own intention seems to be to stay with Fulham.

Jol has confirmed that his conversations with the forward, who he has been a long-standing admirer of, suggest that he would like to remain at Craven Cottage.

I think he Pogrebnyak said in the press that he would like to stay so talks are going on with him and he will make his mind up in the next couple of weeks. I think the talks have been constructive because he’s said that he would like to stay.

I’ve had a word with him a couple of times and he’s happy here, he knows that his situation could change because he’s experienced that in his career and here I think the grass is green for him so hopefully he appreciates that.

Pogrebnyak desperate for permanent Fulham deal

Pavel Pogrebnyak is desperate to continue his English adventure with Fulham according to the Daily Star, with tomorrow’s edition of the tabloid quoting him as eager to reach agreement with the club over a permanent deal.

The Russian striker, who began his Fulham career in such explosive fashion with a debut goal against Stoke, the winner in the derby at QPR and a hat-trick that sunk Wolves, has initially joined up with Fulham on a short-term deal. With his Stuttgart contract set to expire at the end of the season, some sections of the press have envisaged a real scramble for Pogrebnyak’s signature but the 28 year-old wants to stay at Craven Cottage.

Pogrebnyak admits he has enjoyed working with Martin Jol, who has already stressed that turning the former Zenit St. Petersburg man’s move into a permanent arrangement is one of his major priorities.

That is very nice. I need a coach like Jol. I would love to stay in England and continue to work with him.

A conversation with the club’s leadership will be held in the near future.

Pogrebnyak taking each games as it comes

Fulham have released excerpts of Pavel Pogrebnyak’s Fultime interview to the press. Whilst most take the angle that he’s in no rush to sign a permanent deal, it’s something of a non-story as the piece would have put together before he continued his outstanding run of form at the weekend and Martin Jol has already confirmed that the club have begun discussions with the Russian striker about signing a pre-contract agreement.

What strikes me about Pogrebnyak’s quotes is his modesty. He’s respectful of English football and shows few signs of getting carried away with his whirlwind start. The reaction to his performances back home appears to be one of surprise but our new forward seems to have precisely the right attitude.

I’m here for six months initially and after that the club and I will see what can happen. My target is adapt to English football and to learn the way of the team – these are the most important things.

Right now I am only thinking about the present and the next game that comes. [It was an easy decision to come to Fulham as] there had been interest in me in the past so I was aware of Fulham as a club and had followed their progress for a while.

It has long been a dream of mine to come and play in the Premier League, so when the circumstances came about to enable the move to happen in January I was naturally very happy.

Pogrebnyak says he spoke to some of Russia’s English exports – Andrei Arshavin and Roman Pavlyuchenko – about their Premier League experiences.

I did speak to them about England before making the move. But ultimately the decision was mine because it has been a long-term dream of mine to play in England. Now that dream has come true.

Like a lot of foreign players, Pogrebnyak seems to be enjoying life in London off the field – something that could be crucial in extending his stay at Craven Cottage.

I like London very much, and England in general. I was born in Moscow and I also lived in St Petersburg, so I am used to the big city and I like it noisy. In London I feel very comfortable in football and in my private life too.

I like the double-decker buses and the architecture of London, and the red brick buildings. I think London has a very strong identity. When you are in London, you know you are in London, nowhere else.

Confidence Trick

Unbelievably, sitting down yesterday to write this article I was struggling to know what to write. Sunday’s performance against Wolves was superb. It was our third straight Premier League victory and we scored five or more goals in a home league game for the third time this season.

Column inches, whether on superb websites like HammyEnd.com or in papers like The Times, are easier to fill when there are problems to be solved or drama to be reported. A smattering of headlines from The Game (Times football supplement) on Monday morning were “Old Ghosts Return to Haunt Tottenham”, “Villas-Boas architect of own downfall” and “Connor is shown size of the task by Russian”.

In a positive world perhaps these could have read, “United’s typical class fells Tottenham”, “Unlucky Villas-Boas sees tenure end” and “Superb Fulham down Wolves”. Now which set of headlines sounds better? Probably the former.

So time for me to help buck the trend. It’s not too often that we as fans can be genuinely proud and boastful of our team. Right now is one of those times.

Over the last three games we’ve scored eight goals and conceded one. We’re up to eighth in the league with a run of favourable games coming up (if we ignore the trip to Old Trafford). Liverpool are now only three points ahead of us in a Europa League spot while QPR and the relegation zone are now 14 points behind us.

As a team, as a club and as fans, we can all be rightly confident at the moment. Therein lies the magic word, confidence. Whether a Vegas casino, a first date or a Premier League match, confidence can be the difference. Sunday’s game was a perfect example of how confidence can make the difference.

For 35 minutes we had knocked on the door, shot after shot, chance after chance, it was only a matter of time before we scored. But for those 35 minutes, Wolves still had some belief. They had a couple of counter-attack chances and were not out of the game.

Then, when Moussa’s shot took the faintest of touches off Richard Stearman to earn Fulham a corner that Wolves were adamant was a goal kick, the game changed. Both in their team and their fans you could see the disbelief. Not another decision. Sure enough Pavel Pogrebnyak then gave us the lead after Stearman himself missed a chance to head clear.

The smile on The Pog’s face said it all; we are a team enjoying a rich vein of form and luck. The look on Wolves caretaker manager Terry Connor’s face similarly so, Wolves were a team bereft of form and confidence.

Pogrebnyak and Johnson - Bringing the swagger back

I stayed up late to watch the QPR documentary “The Four Year Plan” on Sunday evening (fascinating viewing for all football fans regardless of your feelings towards our neighbours) and the one thing that was startlingly evident was a football club’s need for stable and solid leadership both on and off the pitch. Here at Fulham we are lucky enough to have the quartet of Mohammed Al-Fayed, Alastair Mackintosh, Martin Jol and Danny Murphy. Three of those four have been here for a number of years, and it looks like all four are to stay together for a little while yet (provided Danny gets his overdue contract extension).

If you change more than one of the chairman, chief executive, manager, captain quartet in one season you are asking for trouble. That is exactly what has happened at Wolves, and the results were there for all to see on Saturday. Despite the stable pairing of Steve Morgan and Jez Moxey in the boardroom, the sacking of Mick McCarthy two weeks ago followed an unnecessary change of captaincy at the start of the season when Roger Johnson replaced Karl Henry.

On the pitch, Wolves lack of leadership was there for all to see. Stephen Ward, Premier League footballer by virtue of his versatility is no more a captain than he is a Premier League quality left back. A case of you’ve been here longest so you take the armband. Karl Henry, now not even vice-captain despite being famously Wolverhampton born and bred now looked a shadow of the former biting midfielder who’s recklessness cost us a certain striker for most of last season.

If Terry Connor was the Marechal Petain, Martin Jol is becoming our Churchill. The Dutchman is starting to rub off on our players. We are evolving into a free flowing attacking unit with the self-confidence and belief that comes with winning a few games.

Our front players are beginning to play with swagger. This is exemplified by the confidence exuding from the likes of Clint, Moussa, AJ and Pogrebnyak. There seems not a soul in the team who doesn’t believe that we can and will win games.

Aside from those mentioned above, Danny revelled in the space Wolves afforded him, the pass for Clint’s first goal was back to his visionary best. Duffer looked sharp while John Arne Riise’s marauding up the left flank will have given Ronald Zubar more nightmares than a trip to see the Woman in Black. The Norwegian’s first goal is surely just around the corner.

With excellent leadership from top to bottom and a side marvelling some long due self-confidence and belief, it may be time to start looking up and not down. I’ll be making the trip up to Birmingham at the weekend to watch us play Villa and I hope many of you do as well, the noise at Loftus Road a fortnight ago was undoubtedly a contributing factor to our famous victory. Here’s to another one.

COYW