Behind Enemy Lines : Fulham

Behind Enemy Lines : Fulham

After the disappointment of Monday nights loss to Everton we move onto our first home game of the season when we will be playing Fulham in a rare, for us, 3pm kick off.

Ahead of the game I spoke to Archie Rhind-Tutt, a passionate Fulham fan and up and coming broadcaster who writes the brilliant “Gone with the Rhind” blog, about his hopes for Fulham this season and our upcoming game.

So, your start to the season was pretty good and you’re top of the table! Did you think you’d beat Norwich that convincingly?

What with the rumblings about Dempsey’s future – certainly not. There were fears the Dempsey affair might spill onto the pitch but Fulham swept Norwich away on Saturday. The Canaries were very poor but still, it was a very encouraging and impressive performance from the Whites.

What do you make of your new signings so far?

Only three new first team players have come in but all three played on Saturday – Hugo Rodallega came on and won a penalty and Sascha Riether had a leisurely game at right back. However, the best signing by far is Mladen Petric. It’s very early days – yes. Yet the Croatian was superb in pre-season and carried that on in the first game with a handy double. One for United to watch carefully this weekend…

Clinton Dempsey has apparently refused to play for the club and stated his desire to leave the club, even though it’s worth noting that Dempsey himself later tweeted “There’s two sides to the story”. What are your thoughts on this?

It’s such a shame that it has come to this after the times Dempsey’s enjoyed at the club. He’s scored so many important goals whether it was the winner against Liverpool to keep us up in 2007 or the infamous winner against Juventus in 2010. Last season he was sublime but you can understand why he wants to play in the Champions League. He’s 29 and doesn’t have too many years left at the top. However, if the reports that Clint has gone on strike are true, and he subsequently departs, it would be a disappointing end to an otherwise fantastic time at Craven Cottage.

If Dempsey does leave is he someone you can replace or do you think you’ll have to change the system he make up for his absence?

Though Clint would be a great option to have, Fulham can certainly cope. The likes of Kerim Frei and Bryan Ruiz are both extremely capable in the role behind the striker, which is where Clint is best. They’re not as direct as Dempsey but they’re very capable of feeding Mladen Petric and things will happen if the ball is at his feet in and around the box.

What are your thoughts on Martin Jol so far? I’ve spoken to a few Fulham fans who think that his management style is making players not want to play for the club, e.g. Zamora and now Dempsey. Do you think this is fair?

There were some fantastic results last year (unbeaten against Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool in the league) but there are some worrying things about the Jol reign. Since he joined, none of the senior players at the club have been rushing to renew their contracts which is disturbing. Unsettled players (Zamora, Johnson, Dempsey) is something we haven’t seen at Fulham for a while after what were halcyon days under Roy Hodgson. Jol still has some convincing to do…

What are your hopes for this season?

Top half finish again would be great but having spent 11 seasons in the Premier League, it’s about time Fulham reached a domestic cup final. It hasn’t been done in 37 years though – easier said than done!

Onto the game, who do you think will win?

United will win but it shouldn’t be a walk over as we proved at Old Trafford last season – in fact Fulham were unlucky not to get a point but Michael Oliver decided Danny Murphy tripped himself up… The match at Craven Cottage was an anomaly as Fulham usually give very good accounts of themselves against the big sides. After the Norwich game, fans will be hopeful and United need to be wary of Kacaniklic on the left especially.

United have enjoyed some great matches with Fulham over the years. What has been your favorite encounter between the two teams?

Some good games you say – mainly for United! But no, we’ve have had terrific matches at home against United over the last few seasons. However, the absolute favourite has to be way back in 2003. I remember the date to this day – 25th October. Fulham won 3-1 at Old Trafford. It was the first time I saw Fulham win away in the Premier League – a very deceiving experience as in the years after, many more didn’t follow!

Where do you think you’ll finish this season?

An optimistic 10th…

Where do you think United will finish this season?

Everyone looks at United’s signings now and will focus solely on van Persie. However, should he be given plenty of game time, the real one to watch is Shinji Kagawa. He is an unreal talent and will provide the strikers with more than enough chances to win a title. The defence needs to improve but I think this year United will return to the top of the league as Champions.

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