Fulham v Bolton Preview
Wednesday evening provides Fulham with a little bit of respite from the Premier League when they entertain Bolton Wanderers in a Carling Cup tie.
Whilst it is hardly the most glamorous tie of the round it is undoubtedly an important fixture. The Carling Cup provides a route into Europe, would it be churlish to hope that our club could possibly go all the way?
If that seems a little pretentious on the surface, perhaps we should remember that several of the bigger clubs have scant regard for this competition, several regard it as nothing more than a nuisance and a chance to give a few fledgling youngsters or squad members the opportunity of a ninety minute run out.
Hopefully, that is not an attitude that Lawrie Sanchez will adopt. If Fulham can get past the challenge of a Bolton Wanderers team that is struggling for form in the Premier League, the competition and the subsequent road to Wembley becomes more of a reality.
What wouldn`t I give to see Fulham back at Wembley! It`s been a long wait.
With Lawrie Sanchez having made a multitude of signings in the close season, the boss has the chance to slightly shuffle his pack without actually affecting the strength of his team. For this reason, we expect to see Danny Murphy making the starting eleven.
The ex-Tottenham player came off the bench, on Saturday, to score a stunning equaliser and has spoken profusely about his new lease of life remarking,
"Things didn`t work out for me at Tottenham."
"Martin Jol didn`t pick me too often. Now I`ve come here to revive my career."
"We have a squad that is building together, we have got a really good blend of youth and experience and we`re confident of doing well"
"With the ability we`ve got there`s no reason why we shouldn`t be looking at being in the top half of the table, and if we reach that then why not push on from there."
"Why not aim for a place in Europe?"
Whilst we`re not sure that the upper reaches of the Premier League will prove to be our promised land and herald a European opportunity, we`d like to re-emphasise that the Carling Cup could indeed provide us with that opportunity. How about it Danny?
Bolton, under the leadership of Sammy Lee, have struggled since losing Sam Allardyce to Newcastle. Victories have proven hard to obtain and rumours persist that Sammy`s position could be under threat this early in the season.
On Saturday, Lee relented and recalled Ivan Campo to the squad. The Spaniard repaid his boss by scoring the equaliser against Spurs. Perhaps a corner has been turned or that result may have been a one-off. However, there`s no doubting that Bolton have some class operators in their ranks. Anelka is a proven goal scorer whilst Nolan and Speed are able to, on most occasions, more than hold their own in midfield.
In defence, the stability that Tal Ben Haim gave them has been missing this season. Could his transfer to Chelsea be one of the paramount reasons the Lancashire side have struggled?
In previous years, Sam Allardyce didn`t rate the Carling Cup and tended to play weakened teams whether Sammy Lee chooses to do the same remains to be seen.
In fact, with Premier League survival high on both clubs agenda, the outcome of the tie could well hinge on which manager is prepared to play his strongest side.
Unfortunately, despite the tie being a clash between two Premier League sides, the disdain with which the Carling Cup is treated by the supporters could see a far from full Craven Cottage. If so, it`ll be a crying shame considering the entertainment served up in our two previous fixtures.
Therefore, if you fancy a good night out, away from the usual dirge of soaps on the box, get down to Craven Cottage and cheer on your team, you never know this might well be one more step along the road that leads to Wembley!