Writer: Andrew Joyce
Date:Friday February 22 2008
It`s squeaky bum time! We`ve twelve games left to save our Premier League skins starting with a home fixture against London rivals, West Ham United. If we are to stay up, it is a fixture we must win considering we have some rather daunting looking ones on the horizon. So come folks, raise the noise levels this Saturday and give our boys a helping hand.
With so much at stake, we desperately need someone to step forward and offer a rallying call. Our shaven headed defender, Paul Konchesky, has stoked the first fires by remarking,
"We need to win a bit more than they need to."
"I think the players know that and are up for a fight, whereas West Ham know they`re not going to get relegated."
"There`s no doubt we can get a result on Saturday."
That`s what we like to see a positive attitude.
Also, we can probably learn a lot form the words of the current West Ham United manager who, last season, was in a similar position to that which Roy Hodgson finds himself in this season. This is what Curbishley had to offer in the way of advice,
"Last year we were in a similar position with 12 games to go so we know what Fulham are going through and what they are up against. You have to get on a run to push yourselves out of it."
"You can get out of it one weekend and then the following weekend can drop you back into it again. It is very difficult."
Well how about doing your West London cousins a favour and rolling over.
Roy Hodgson has a relatively full squad to choose from. Much of the side will inevitably pick itself with Niemi likely to play in goal, we`d suggest a back four of Konchesky, Bredeland, Hughes and Stalteri. The midfield areas could be more contentious. Simon Davies is serving a one match suspension so we could lack a little width. However, we expect Bullard and Andreasen to start with possibly Murphy alongside them. Sadly this is where it gets more difficult. Hodgson could opt for an attacking three with a little with of he could go for two up front. Either way, there is a lot of anticipation with regard to a debut for our transfer window signing, Eddie Johnson. Will Roy go for broke and play him alongside either McBride or Nevland? It remains to be seen.
There is also a good chance that we`ll witness the home debut of Paul Stalteri who is currently on loan from Spurs.
Looking into our crystal ball here at Vital Fulham, we`ll go for a starting eleven of - Niemi, Konchesky, Hughes, Bredeland, Stalteri, Bullard, Andreasen, Murphy, Dempsey, Nevland, Bouazza
But there again, as has happened in the past, we could be well wide of the mark!
Our full back should be fired up for this. With Alan Curbishley still bringing up the manner in which Paul left West Ham and the derisory comments made, you get the feeling Paul could be more than up for this clash. Let`s hope he maintains his cool and lets his football do the talking.
West Ham enter the fixture reeling from the news that their Welsh international, Craig Bellamy, will not play again this season. Also sidelined is the influential midfield player Scott Parker. Up front, Dean Ashton is struggling to recapture the form he showed before his bad ankle injury. Up front, West Ham are likely to rely on the ex-Chelsea youngster, Carlton Cole and the drive in midfield will come from Mark Noble and Lee Bowyer. In defence, Fulham will be up against Matthew Upson who has rejuvenated his career since moving to East London and has edged his way back into international contention. Hopefully, we`ll get to see ex-Fulham favourite, Luis Boa Morte in action, let`s hope he doesn`t have too good a game.
Yet another off the famous West Ham Academy production line. Noble has come on leaps and bounds in the last twelve months and I snow a regular feature in the Hammers midfield. Let`s hope we can shackle him otherwise we could live to regret it.
Looking through the history books doesn`t make pleasant reading. We`ve never beaten West Ham in the Premier League in a home fixture. The best we`ve managed is a 0-0 draw when we played them last season. Incidentally, in that fixture a certain Paul Konchesky received a red card playing for West Ham.
If you fancy getting all sentimental and want to recall past encounters then perhaps the data below will act as the catalyst.
League (inc Premier League) Fulham 16 wins, West Ham 11 Wins, Draws 8
Premier League Only - Fulham 0 wins, West Ham 3 wins, Draws 1
Howard Webb of Yorkshire will be the man in the middle.
Our neighbours down the Fulham Road may be preparing to participate in the first domestic cup final of the season but our match, in its own way, is the first of twelve cup finals we face. Every game between now and the end of the season could have far reaching consequences as far as our Premier League status goes. The visit of West Ham United, a team that blow hot and cold on their travels, needs to see a performance that will provide the catalyst for us to kick on and claw our way to survival. Seeing as there is so much at stake, I`d hope our boys can deliver, therefore I`m going to stick my head above the parapet and suggest come 17:00 on Saturday evening we`ll have smiles on our faces after a 2-1 win!
If I`m not mistaken, things get slightly easier next week when we entertain some no-marks from Manchester who go by the name of United!
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Date:Friday February 22 2008
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