Martin Jol’s team selection at Eastlands tonight will be very interesting indeed. Will Dickson Etuhu – badly missed in the past couple of weeks – be restored to the starting line-up? In the absence of Pavel Pogrebnyak or Andy Johnson, will Clint Dempsey continue to plough a lone farrow up front? But the one question that will tell us whether Jol’s a pragmatist or has a true desire to bring down the age of his first team is who the Fulham manager picks in goal.
David Stockdale’s done pretty well since being rushed back from his loan spell at Ipswich. He preserved parity at Stamford Bridge in the derby and made a few important saves against Arsenal and Newcastle. If you were going to be critical, he should have saved Mortem Gamst Pedersen’s free-kick at Blackburn and might have stopped Formica’s crucial third. Equally, perhaps Stockdale could have done better with either of the headers that knocked us out of the FA Cup at Everton. Young goalkeepers – and, 26, Stockdale is young for a keeper – make mistakes and Stockdale is Fulham’s future. He also needs first-team football to cement his position as Fabio Capello’s number three goalkeeper, as Jol himself conceded:
If Mark plays then I will have to sit down with David. He told me at the start of the season he needed to play and I think he was right.
Mark Schwarzer’s quality isn’t in doubt either. He’s had an outstanding career in England with Bradford, Middlesbrough – and latterly with Fulham. The Australian commands his box with authority, which is the area where Stockdale might improve, and has been a key part of the club’s success over the last few years. Yet, there are signs that his powers are waning. His decision to come for a cross at Wolves was a rash one and he let a speculative shot from Leon Best beat him a little easily up at Newcastle.
The reports suggest that Schwarzer’s ready to challenge for a starting spot against Manchester City today. He’s the safer option I suppose and, having just signed a two-year contract, looks like the number one. But there is always the danger that Stockdale might become tired of being passed over. Jol made it clear he would be looking to reinvigorate an ageing squad on his arrival but so far, with the exception of introducing Kerim Frei, has been largely conservative in his choices. Sticking with Stockdale would prove he means business.
Despite his fine form since returning to the Fulham team, it still seems as though David Stockdale will have to play second fiddle to Mark Schwarzer when the Australian returns to full fitness following his spinal injury.
Martin Jol told reporters after Saturday’s FA Cup win over Charlton that the 39 year-old Schwarzer remains his number one choice and that he rates the former Middlesbrough custodian as one of the best goalkeepers in England. Stockdale, who hopes to go to Euro 2012 as part of Fabio Capello’s England squad, pulled off three terrific saves against League One Charlton at Craven Cottage on Saturday but looks set to have to watch from the sidelines, even though he has been in inspired form since Schwarzer sustained his injury at Swansea last month.
With Mark Schwarzer, there was never any doubt in my mind, and in anybody’s mind, that he’s one of the best keepers in England, maybe in Europe. I’ve had a lot of good goalkeepers and he stands out.
It’s 100 per cent certain that Stockdale is probably second to none, and it’s good to know that I’ve got another goalkeeper who’s got more and more experience. That is why we put him on loan at Ipswich. He did well there, so it’s only good for his experience that he came in and did well, like last year, but Mark Schwarzer is Mark Schwarzer.
Now we play with David, but Mark Schwarzer will come back in the next three or four weeks. I can certainly tell you Stockdale makes saves that are unbelievable, but I can remember the Liverpool game when we were 1-0 up and there was a certain goal that Mark Schwarzer saved, so we’ve got two very good good goalkeepers.
Jol is delighted with the options he has at his disposal and he praised Philippines goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, who made his debut in the Europa League draw with Odense back in December.
I’ve got somebody else as well in Neil Etheridge, who is one of the biggest talents around
David Stockdale was pleased with Fulham’s professionalism after they saw off a spirited challenge from Charlton to reach the FA Cup fourth round yesterday afternoon.
The final 4-0 scoreline certainly flattered the Premier League side, with Stockdale called on to make three outstanding saves as the League One leaders pushed for an equaliser early in the second half. The 26 year-old was relieved that Fulham weren’t left with egg on their faces after a tricky third round tie.
There’s always a bit of FA Cup fever when lower league clubs come to higher division grounds and try to cause an upset, so we were happy that wasn’t the case today. That’s what you need to do. At home as a Premier League club you need to set out your stall and prove why you’re a Premier League club. You need to set out your intentions and go at them early, and that’s what we did.
Yeah, they threatened a couple of times. They are a good side and it was easy to forget that they are in League One. But they’re top of their league and they’ve only lost a couple of times in 20 odd games so they weren’t to be taken lightly.
In the first-half we didn’t have our normal tempo. We were finding we had more space than usual to pass so that’s what we were doing, maybe without penetrating enough.
But we want to be in the final come May. I’m not saying we’ll get there, but that’s definitely our aim and this was a good start. It’s another momentum builder on top of what was already a good start to the year.
Even if we’d lost today, which we didn’t, I think we could still be confident going to Blackburn next week because of the type of team we are and the manager we have.
A revealing interview with Joe Hart in tomorrow’s Sunday Telegraph carries these words about his England colleague David Stockdale, sparked by the Fulham goalkeeper’s outstanding display against Arsenal last week:
I was really proud of David, really happy for him. I texted him. I was buzzing for him. He did fantastically. When he wasn’t playing for Fulham, he went to Ipswich, and it was great for him. There was a risk of him not getting in the England squad but he kept in the England squad.
The Daily Mail reports that Fulham goalkeeper David Stockdale has pledged his support to a fundraising effort by his former team-mates at Darlington.
The Blue Square Premier club’s players have not been paid in two months and the club went into administration again on Tuesday. Stockdale has committed to donating £200 and a Twitter-led fund for the players and the club, who could go out of existence, has reached around £3,000.