Picture: Fulham’s U19’s were led to victory in the prestigious Dallas Cup by centre half and captain Jack Grimmer
Before a few weeks ago, I had never heard of the Dallas Cup and now, I feel as though I’ve heavily missed out. A prestigious and physically gruelling youth tournament that has helped to chisel and develop some of the greatest players to grace the game, a list that includes, Raul, David Beckham, Michael Owen and Clint Dempsey to name just a few. Previous English winners of the Dallas Cup include Liverpool in 2008, Nottingham Forest in 2002 and West Ham in 1992. They have now been joined by English under 18 Premier League winners Fulham who would go on to triumph in the Dallas Cup in emphatic style, proving why we are all excited about where our academy is going.
The captain of the impressive under 19 Fulham side that would go all of the way in the tournament told me about his and the squad’s experiences in Dallas. Jack Grimmer has earned plaudits for his performances for Fulham’s under 21 side and had a very successful week out in America personally. A centre back that when growing up modelled himself on old fashioned centre halves and fellow Scots Alex McLeish and Willie Miller admitted the majority of the squad did not know what to expect, with him also praising the tournament, “It was honestly the best tournament I’ve played in as a player so far. We didn’t know what to expect but had only heard good things, so we went out with an open mind and thankfully done well in the matches. It was also obviously an honour for me to be captain! As well as the tournament, the week in general was brilliant. We got time to go to the outlets for some shopping to get some down time.”
Picture: A victorious Jack Grimmer (right) holds the Dallas Cup trophy with teammate Ryan Williams (left)
The excitement grew within the Fulham fan base as the tournament continued, and it didn’t go unnoticed, Grimmer added “[The support was] overwhelming to say the least! I’ve had a lot of tweets giving the whole squad support which is brilliant. It shows how much the fans care for the club regardless of the ages playing. We really appreciated all of the support we got from everybody back home.” One of the interesting things about seeing our highly acclaimed side in the Dallas Cup was seeing how well they dealt with different styles of play from around the world. The Scot would add “It was different compared to playing against EPL teams for the u21s, but I was slightly more used to it because I have played International games with Scotland for a few years now. All the players adapted well and listened to what our coaches told us throughout the competition.”
With the Dallas Cup being an under 19 tournament, a few of our squad players had already been integrated into the under 21 side which gave as an advantage in experience. The enthusiastic captain agreed; “Well obviously as a player playing with and against better players’ week in and week out helps you improve, so yes I think this helped. The squad had a real good mix of older and younger players. One of the best parts about the squad was the togetherness.” He also was full of praise of Steve Wigley and appreciated each Fulham coach has provided in his development: “I was coached by Ray Lewington when I first arrived and as you’d expect each coach has their own style and way of doing things. I’m thankful to each of them in my own way for each thing they’ve taught me. Both Steve and Kit are top classes coaches hence why they are both on the international scene too. I hadn’t been coached much by Steve until the trip so it was nice to finally get some time under him. He definitely knows how to get the best out of his players.”
After answering questions about the squad’s time in the Dallas Cup, Jack Grimmer was kind enough to answer more questions about his personal career. The natural leader showed clear goals and a mature head when asking what his aims for the rest of the season and the year ahead, “Personally my ambitions are to knuckle down and keep working hard and of course to break into the first team!” 19 year old Grimmer was in fact a joy to talk to and spoke very intelligently about his idols and the experienced provided by the first team, “Players always offer advice and pointers. Experience is priceless! I’ve looked up to good old fashioned centre halves like Alex McLeish and Willie Miller from my time at Aberdeen. Now I base my game around the centre halves at Fulham. They also show a great example of how it should be done! It’s brilliant Brede recently signed on.” Upon finishing the interview I asked Jack whether he had a message for Fulham fans and he replied with “I just really hope I can do them proud and fill the shirt that so many great players have played in.”
I and the others at HammyEnd.com cannot thank Jack Grimmer enough for this interview and must say he was first class during it admitting he was glad to help us. I hope we see him and the rest of the squad parade the trophy during the next home game which is interestingly against Chelsea. We should be very proud of our squad and hope that this is the first of a double with the under 18s on the journey for back to back Academy League titles.
For those unable to make the game, or fancy a little discussion, I will be running the HammyEnd twitter feed during the QPR match tonight. Follow us @HammyEnd or by clicking here.
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I remember feeling genuine shock when Bobby Zamora’s transfer from Fulham to QPR was announced. In fact I was so disappointed I treated the situation at the time with complete apathy. It really was a demoralising blow to lose a striker who had been so key to our success over the last few seasons and won who earnt a lot of adulation, if not love, for his stunning 19 goal season during that incredible Europa League run – to our most vicious rivals, no less! But hindsight is a wonderful thing; we’ve gone from strength to strength since he left, and his immediate replacement, Pavel Pogrebnyak, coincided with a fantastic run of form, demonstrating that actually Zamora was maybe more of a hindrance to the team than a help by the time of his departure. Monday marks the first time Zamora will line up in QPR colours since his switch, and as such it’s a good opportunity to have a look at a player who I appreciate, but can probably never really respect again.
The supporter-player dynamic between the fans on the Cottage terraces and Zamora himself was fascinating however. There was a genuine love-hate relationship, with fans wanting him to score goals for the good of the team and demonstrate limited appreciation without ever really warming to a player who visibly disliked them.
After a catastrophic goal return over his first few months at Fulham – after a goal on his debut in August he didn’t score again until we beat non-league Kettering in the FA cup – a number of fans were on his back. The supporters were split into two camps: those with him (responsible for the “his hold up play” cliché which became a running joke) and those against him. It was a huge shame though that there was even an “against him” camp for a player who did genuinely contribute significantly on the pitch to our highest ever league finish despite his lack of goals, and who showed little negative contribution really (you could never question his work rate and he didn’t say anything out of turn). The abuse was vicious and unnecessary and I do have some genuine sympathy for him.
However, there were two paths Zamora could have gone down after this. He could have risen above it and taken the one Chris Baird has since travelled; the Irishman has certainly undergone a remarkably transformation from boo-boy to cult hero. Instead, Zamora took the other and responded in kind. After Kettering he scored twice more in the 2008-09 season, both in front of his home crowd and both celebrated with a hand cupped to his ear as if to say “So what’re you saying now?” before hurling a few choice comments of his own at the stand.
This was the start of a frosty acquaintanceship, whereby Zamora would generally celebrate as if he just discovered his wife was being unloyal before cupping his ear to the crowd. There were a couple of extreme episodes between the striker and the infamous Babygrow Man, a fan at the front of the Hammy End who did not like Zamora nor think much of his ability and let it be known too, so when Zamora scored against Sunderland at home at the Putney End he turned, pointed, mimed himself eating a burger (presumably in reference to Babygrow man’s large belly) before quite clearly yelling “f*** off” in Babygrow’s direction. A surreal moment but a very real demonstration of how Zamora felt.
Then there were his inexcusable actions while he was managed by Martin Jol. The two clearly didn’t get on and Jol implied as much in his press conferences, once saying “He does’t like crosses, he doesn’t like defending, he doesn’t like the fans.”, but in that situation both parties must remain professional. Zamora instead leaked information to the press about players discontent in what really amounts to slander. Zamora’s exit was inevitable and clearly motivated, even if he tried to cover it up with a false impress of QPR’s ambition.
As I said, it was a real shame that this is how Zamora chose to behave. While I do not, and would never, condone malice from the stands – and would even go as far to say as if you give some then you should expect some back – I believe Zamora could have been a genuine legend in the same ilk as McBride had he chosen to behave differently. Strong, hard-working and possessing genuine guile and quality following a rocky career carved in the lower leagues, when on song Zamora was undeniably supreme (just ask Cannavaro!) and just the sort of player we love to support. Instead, we are left unfortunately disliking someone who fired us to a European final and unable to celebrate a forward’s 19 goal season.
So when Zamora returns on Monday, expect a chorus of boos and a player utterly determined to bite back. A crying shame indeed.
This week’s Cottage Talk podcast has just finished broadcasting, and as per usual it was a ninety minutes packed full of Fulham content. I joined Will Paul, journalist Dean Jones and host Russ Goldman to discuss the news of our success in the Dallas Cup and Hangeland’s new contract as well as the return of Bobby Zamora, before Russ presented an exclusive interview with player of the season-elect Sascha Riether and an in depth preview of the QPR game on Monday. Listen by checking below.
Listen To Cottage Talk: 29th March 2013
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The empty article was not a red herring: Brede Hangeland has signed a new deal! After months of protracted negotiation, Fulham have announced Hangeland has extended his stay with Fulham to 2015 with the option of another year. This is a huge relief as our captain, who has lead a defence that has kept three clean sheets in four games, could have left for free in the Summer – and it would have cost a fair bit to replace a player of his quality. We have had nothing but good times since his arrival and hopefully that continues over the next couple of years.