Questions From Fulham Fans

Credit: Fulham FC

Recently, we took to Twitter to ask fans for questions that the Fulham Focus team could answer. Four of the team – Dave, Jon, Matt and Michael were given the list of questions to answer separately. We hope at least one of them gives you the answers that you were looking for and that you enjoy reading the contrasting views of four fans supporting the same club.

Dave – Sess is most effective as a left-sided / roving attacking midfielder. He can cause havoc to opposition defences with both his pace and skill. With Soares, it depends on how he performs both in training and in matches. I’m aware the club thinks highly of him and assuming this is justified then that frees up the left-back slot allowing Ryan to move further forward. He is stronger in that forward position than the other options we currently have.

Matt – I firmly believe Ryan has to be a winger and that’s where he’ll end up. There’s an attacking benefit to playing him in defence, which is the timing of his runs from deep, but ultimately his pace and ability to find space make him a winger for me. He’s still young, sure, but I’ve seen him found out by right-wingers far too many times this season and as such, his ability to attack doesn’t outweigh his defensive frailty when played at left-back.

I really hope Soares being fit will now see Ryan in front of him on the wing, much like Sessegnon and Scott Malone last year. As Ryan’s come through as a left-back it does mean he helps out in defence really well, but he’s neither strong nor positionally aware enough to play there long term.

Michael – I think Ryan works well in a wide midfield role where he can take advantage of space created in front of him. He can defend but not as the last man as he loses the runner too frequently. I think Sess should have a few games coming on from the bench to ease the building pressure on him.

I’m still undecided about Soares, he looked unfit, slow and did not rush to get back after he came on at Wolves and didn’t look that much improved against Bristol, hope its just acclimatising to the championship. Personally, at the moment I’d like to see Odoi in the mix just for his heading and jumping ability.

Jon – I feel Ryan is much better suited on the wing. I don’t personally think he is the greatest defender but actually, it’s more of what we miss from him playing up the field that bothers me. For someone his age, he makes such smart and well-timed runs. That movement could be the difference this season. We have been far too static and made it look easy to defend against. Soares came highly regarded and should be up to full fitness by now. I find it strange the protection Sess was given last season, but this he is playing every game regardless of performance level. With Odoi and Soares in the squad, it is a big change in managing a young player. As we are lacking goals I would move Sess up the pitch to give arguably our best finisher more freedom and more time in and around their box.

Dave – All the sides that missed out in the playoffs last year have struggled comparatively this season. Last season was not a fluke but it was always going to be difficult to repeat the form of the second half. It is easy to forget there were a number of poor early season performances. There were a couple of positions where we clearly needed strengthening and have not necessarily done so (central defence and attacking “target man”). Also, we were generally lucky with injuries last season – this one has been the opposite.

The best derby game – easy – 2015-16 and the 4-0 home win over QPR. Goals by Dembélé, Pringle & McCormack 2 in front of the Sky cameras

Matt – I can’t fully decide. Up until the last month, I’d have said they were definitely just underperforming but there’s such a consistent lack of passing cohesion and so many hideous defensive errors that I’m questioning whether the players were running on pure adrenaline in the last few months of last season.

For sheer drama, the best derby game has to be last season’s home game with QPR. I wouldn’t normally pick a defeat… but it really did have everything. I don’t think we’ve dominated a game as much without winning since – Martin missed an open goal and that effing Alex Smithies saved a Cairney spot-kick. It was absolutely gut-wrenching when Aluko hit the post with his penalty, but since it didn’t stop us getting to the playoffs in the end I can look back on it as a sheer epic.

Michael – We have just looked lacklustre all season. I was one of the people who thought we got a good deal selling Aluko, but after each game, I wonder just how much we miss his ability to beat a man, to break through, to create space and chances. Our constant passing is ineffectual because we have 11 players lined up in front of us most of the time and no one to beat the first man.

Undoubtedly the 4-0 thrashing of QPR. It should really have been 6/7, we were so wasteful but it was a tremendous 90-minute performance to watch and in that season we rarely played well for more than one half.

Jon – I think a bit of both. I for one never expected what we saw last season. It was obviously a welcome surprise as Slav had deemed it more important at the end of the season before, to forget his philosophy and just stay up. Watching us passing teams to death and scoring for fun was the first forward step the club had taken in four years. I think how good we were to the end of last season makes our poor play this look much worse. Our squad should be top 8 I believe so we are underperforming based on that. Although by no means our only problem, injuries have been a massive hindrance this term and when we have a fully fit team it will be easier for us all to judge.
I’m not really qualified to answer the second question, as I didn’t manage to get to many. I thought near the end of last season the game against Brentford was a great game with both teams playing well. Disappointing result but probably fair.

Dave – Most certainly, as long as the standing is of the “safe variety” as currently used in Germany and being trialled at Celtic. In my view this much safer than people standing in seated areas.

Matt – I do agree with the safe standing movement and especially since we had terracing more recently than most teams at our level. A lot of people at the Cottage like to sit, but if there was an allocated area then I don’t think there could be any complaints. Also, moving more vocal supporters – which I’m presuming the standing group would be – nearer to the away fans would help the atmosphere.

Michael – I remember as a kid standing there and really enjoying it being able to move around. I think it’s a good idea but think that most Fans, me included have become accustomed to luxury of sitting down but worth a try.

Jon – I would like a standing section but think it should be in the Hammy End. That’s where our most vocal fans are and think for safety reasons it makes more sense. There are too many different exits that would need to be opened in the JH and not much space under the stand. Would all the Hammy loyalists move seats if it was there either?

Dave – Yes, it’s quite ironic that the goal of Championship sides is to be promoted to the Premier League which, in turn, is simply a fight to survive. The product in the Championship is far more even and therefore competitive, whereas the Premier League is made up of half a dozen sides who can win it in a “normal” season and the remainder making up the numbers. The financial differences are immense of course but I agree that the Championship is far more enjoyable.

Matt – It’s tough. I am happy to be in the Championship and personally think it’s one of the most exciting leagues in the world to watch. I sometimes hear people say that this league is our ‘level’ but I disagree with that notion. I want to see Fulham take on the best players in the world. I want to see Fulham in another European adventure. I want the excitement of watching a Dimitar Berbatov or Mousa Dembele. So would I swap to be a small fish in a big pond for the hope of witnessing magic again? Absolutely.

Michael – Come kick off not really thinking about what league it is, still think most games are tough and we need to perform to our best to get a result. I want to see us in the promotion mix and dream of winning promotion but in terms of what it means now with the money being spent is realistically finishing top 6 is probably way beyond most teams now but I can dream that maybe, just maybe we might surprise everyone and qualify for Europe to experience those glorious nights just one more time. My only complaint, and it might be me looking back with rose tinted glasses is the poor standard of referees at this level –maybe they were much the same, certainly when we get the occasional temporary demoted premiership Ref they rarely offer any improvement.

Jon – I love the championship and would almost rather us stay here. Tickets are cheaper and available for any game and we have a genuine chance of winning any game. Money for the club is the only benefit of getting promoted and that is obviously very important. It’s hard to get players to stay in this league when they are getting rave reviews but it’s exactly the same in the premier league. How many great players for us turned down big club moves? I’d be happy if we yoyoed a bit. Filled our pockets, got parachute payments and had the best of both worlds. The championship is the third most attended league in the world. Can’t be all that bad.

When short passing tactics are not working, why is there no change of plan to include a more direct style? (Norman Reynolds)

Dave – Simply we do not have the personnel to play too directly. “Hoofing” the ball up inevitably will be giving back to the opposition and bring about pressure back on our defence.

Matt – It’s tricky because just going direct from pass-and-move is a big tactical change and I do think teams need to perfect one or the other. I don’t think it’s necessarily ‘direct’ passing we need, but to be honest the missing link could well be Chris Martin. He burnt his bridges, of course, but having a striker who has good control with feet, head and chest is absolutely critical to our style of play. If we did have a striker of that ilk then we would have the option of mixing up the style on the pitch to suit. From what I’ve seen so far, neither Rui Font nor Aboubakar Kamara can play that tight, link-up game that the Derby player brought last season.

Michael – Not sure we have the players to play that way, unfortunately, Fonte who ran into space expecting through balls seems to have given up and plays deeper as the ball never got played through. Following a summer of recruiting wingers, we do not seem to have clicked no matter who the front 3 are.

Jon – Slavisa and only Slavisa knows the answer to that. While I respect his faith in his philosophy i believe he is too rigid in it. What befuddles me is that being able to mix it up for games or periods of games keeps teams more honest. A more direct style would throw teams drilled all week in how to play us off. I think someone who can hold the ball up, be it Kamara or someone in January would be a good thing. At the end of last season we did do exactly that with great success so hopefully we see it again.

After the Riverside Stand Development project is completed, could there be an opportunity to expand the amount of seats at Craven Cottage even more in the future? (Russ Goldman @Russ_Goldman)

Dave – That could only happen behind either goal, most likely at the Putney End if an overhang of the park could be agreed / an encroachment into the park in exchange for development of facilities there. That would bring about big planning constraints. One of the major issues is the exits from the ground, it is not just the space for the seats but for the time taken to clear the ground in an emergency. Currently everyone exits either through gates into Stevenage Road or along the River Path towards Hammersmith. It would need additional exit points into the park (not sure if the new stand plans provide for that – assume they must do for the same reason)

Matt – I don’t know about how limited the expansion for potential actually is, but my understanding is we couldn’t make the Cottage that much bigger. I doubt there would be expansion again too soon after the current plans, should they ever come to fruition. I suspect it would really only pick up pace if we establish ourselves in the Premier League again. But if any increase in capacity afterwards means we might have to move away from the Cottage for a bigger stadium… I don’t think many would want that.

Michael – Depends on what the council allows I guess if we could take 10 feet either Putney (more likely and Hammersmith ends we could increase the capacity of those stands and more easily fill in the Gaps between the ends and sides of the ground. They would need to be able to recreate the airflow for the pitch, I remember grounds, Spurs, West ham, Watford, Derby spring to mind that had the pitch encircled either being quagmires or sandy beaches in winter with rock hard pitches with little grass left in spring.

Jon – I hope this has been considered in the redevelopment of the plans for redeveloping the riverside. It would be bizarre if it hadn’t. The problem we face is that we can’t fill this capacity. I hope this has been considered in the redevelopment of the plans for redeveloping the riverside. It would be bizarre if it hadn’t. The problem we face is that we can’t fill this capacity. If the riverside development ever happens it will be a great boost for the club, the non-matchday revenue, the improvement of facilities and the commitment to stay at the ground would be massive. Definitely build the new stand now. Should extra capacity be considered? Yes. Should it be implemented? Only if we get promotion and stick for a year or two.

What’s your view on the standard of the Championship this season, compared to last season? (Jamie Reid @JamieDReid)

Dave – Overall standard not quite as high but more evenly spread amongst most teams. Other than Wolves who seem to be the standout team at the moment (may not last of course) it is very difficult to predict the top 6 at season end.

Matt – It’s always been the case that anyone can beat anyone in this league, but this season it’s even more true. I think what that says about the standard of the Championship is that I can’t currently see any side surviving if they went up, Wolves apart. Then again I did say the same about Brighton and they’re doing just fine. It also seems this year that 80% of teams are playing negative football against us – time-wasting, snide fouling, strikers backing in, etc. That, however, is probably just be a side-effect of how good we were last season.

Michael – Much like last season there’s very little in it. From what I’ve seen even Wolves don’t live up to the hype lauded on them by channel 5 even just watching highlights. I think there are a few more ‘efficient’ well drilled teams but confidence is everything, unfortunately the one thing we look to be lacking after the first few games. If we can come back from break re-energised and scrape some early wins maybe we might get back into the mix but at the moment it’s a big IF.

Jon – Can’t say I follow every team and channel 5’s exposure of a great division is very poor but improving. While we have not improved I do feel more teams are trying to play the beautiful game this season than last. This can only be a good thing. The only way to drastically improve the quality is to create more interest in, for me the most competitive league in the world. The marketing is non existent and coverage likewise. As I said in a previous reply it’s the third most attended league in the world and the coverage should match this as should the money. The gulf between us and the prem is embarrassing and the reason clubs have to strip assets so heavily if relegated. A clearly flawed situation that isn’t discussed enough let alone rectified.