Archive for April, 2008

Unlucky

April 25, 2008

F365

Is he really on 15k a week? Yipes.

Advertisements

Motivation Chapter III

April 24, 2008

If you’ve been reading my riffs on guts and motivation this week, you might be forgiven for thinking me completely jaded. I don’t actually believe that any attempts to inspire or motivate footballers is futile. I simply question 1) whether motivation is what’s been lacking at Fulham these past months, and 2) whether the ability to motivate should be the trait of primary importance in a football manager.

Over the course of a 38 match league season, there are of course going to be times when not every player is 100 percent up for it, one of the endearing things about sport is that athletes are not, in fact, robots.

So, if players do occasionally need to be motivated, who should be in charge of this task, and more importantly, who is most effective in this task?

I submit to you that there are two entities who are much more suited to the task of motivation than a team manager, and two entities who, when properly utilized are much, much, much, better at it.

The team captain and the supporters.

Let’s face it. Managers are bosses, and even when we like and get along with our bosses, there is always going to be a little bit of antipathy in that relationship. Bosses tell people what to do, and most people don’t like being told what to do.

Team captains don’t have that problem. A good team captain is a player first, he’s not a pawn of management, he represents the players. And if he’s a good captain, he will be respected by his teammates in a way that no manager can be. So when the captain offers leadership, either vocally, or by example, it’s more inspiring than some old geezer who hasn’t been there since the days before goal nets and tabloids telling you need to try harder.

Do captains like this grow on trees? They do not. Is Brian McBride a captain like this? I have no idea. None of us do.

The other entity that can inspire players is the crowd. 20,000 vocal supporters is the best team talk in the world. And yes, players have to inspire the crowd as well. But if a crowd really and truly cares, then it would take a heart of stone not to be affected.

Should a manager have no say in the motivation and inspiration of his team? Of course not. But should the ability to motivate be the first and last trait a team looks to in a manager? No.

Show me a manager who can buy and sell players wisely, and come up with a solid tactical game plan, a captain who leads from the pitch, and a vocal and enthusiastic crowd and I’ll show you a healthy football club.

Motivation Chapter II

April 23, 2008

Cast your mind back to last summer, when Fulham were in twenty-way tie for first. We had a new manager bringing in a brand new squad, and I, for one, was fairly optimistic.

I know. I’m a chump.

But now that the dust has cleared, what do we make of our former manager, Mr. Lawrie Sanchez?

He was, wait for it, a motivator.

He promised to give a kick in the pants to the aimless team that finished season 06-07. And a kick he gave it. Unfortunately it was a kick in the wrong direction, straight down the table.

Because, you see, once the players realized that all Mr. Sanchez’s stories about Vinnie Jones and the Crazy Gang weren’t bringing wins, Mr. Sanchez had nothing left to give them. He had no “plan B.” He was a motivator, and while that cup final mentality might work in the international game, it can’t really survive the rigors of a league season where there are always going to be peaks and valleys.

Results have not gone our way in the Hodgson era. But to compare the play of the team that matched possession with Liverpool (the same, well, almost the same, Liverpool that played Chelsea off the park yesterday) with the utter incompetence of the team in the days before Christmas, when three consecutive passes looked to be a bridge too far… I for one know which one I’m happier with.

It’s true that our attack looks anemic, but look at our forwards! There’s just not enough quality there. And true, pinging the ball into the box continuously might result in a few more goals, but we’d probably be conceding twice as many. Our strength, such as it is, is midfield. So under Roy Hodgson we try to keep possession, pass the ball around, and wait for an opening. It hasn’t worked, but at least we are doing something, anything, well.

We’ve tried the motivator, and he was rubbish. Let’s give a football manager a chance.

Motivation

April 22, 2008

It is certain that if you spend any time in Fulham-o-sphere (and if you are reading this right now, then I’m betting you do) that you will come across the following comment sooner or later.

“Roy/Woy seems like a nice bloke/man/gent, but he was the wrong man for a relegation scrap/battle. What the players need is a motivator. Someone who can give them a kick in the pants/shot in the arm, get them inspired/passionate/up for it. IMO next season Roy/Woy should be kicked upstairs/promoted/sacked/defenestrated and we need to bring in a motivator like Ince/Collins/Warnock/Coleman/any other lower division manager who shouts a lot on the touchline.”

Fine. Good. It’s a point of view, and it’s a perfectly reasonable opinion. Roy Hodgson does not shout a lot on the touchline. Not even his staunchest backers (and I’m pretty staunch) can say that he does. From the outside looking in (as we all are) I would characterize Roy’s approach as being. “Here is a plan. This plan is a good one. This plan gives us the best chance to win. We will work on this plan, we will practice this plan, and on Saturday we will execute this plan. And if we execute this plan, then we will be in good shape to get a result.” It doesn’t exactly send shivers up your spine, does it?

But no matter who the manager was, this team was always going to lose games since January. It was always going to suffer some tough breaks, and it was always going to be a very, very, very, difficult uphill climb to escape relegation. There were always going to be setbacks.

So if you’ve got a manager screaming “THEY CAN TAKE OUR LIVES, BUT THEY CAN NEVER TAKE OUR FREEDOM!,” and you really buy into it and then you lose anyway, where are you then? When the goosebumps fade away, what are you really left with?

Everytime Fulham get a win, everybody gets pumped up. Then the club comes out with a new video set to that PUMP UP MUSIC, and everybody starts bouncing off the walls. And then Saturday comes, and we lose. So if the club comes out with a video for Man City, will you still buy into it? And if you don’t, how can you expect the players to

Imagine this. Your working at your job and your boss calls a meeting. The whole company assembles, and he tells you…

“Times are tough right now. And I’ve got some bad news. If we don’t meet the new timeline, there are going to be some massive lay offs. There are going to be pay cuts, and there will be benefit reductions.”

What do you want his next sentence to be?

“BUT WE CAN DO IT!!! YAAAAAARGGGGGHHHHHHH!”

Or:

“It’s going to be tough. But I’ve got a plan, and it’s a good plan. We’ll go over the plan together, we’ll talk about the plan, and we’ll make sure everybody knows the plan. Then we’ll execute the plan, and if we execute it correctly, we may just get our result.”

Guts Chapter II

April 22, 2008

Well my last post stirred up some comments on TIFF, and really, what else can a humble Fulham blogger ask for?

The chief criticism seems to be that my view is simplistic. Well… of course it is. Like I said, I don’t know any of the players personally.

One other quick point – tackling is a skill just like shooting or passing. And, like most football related skills, it would seem to be in short supply at Craven Cottage this season. So it’s all well and good to say that the players should have been flying into tackles, delivering some early ‘crunching’ challenges etc. etc. etc. But if the players aren’t very good at tackling, and are even worse at tackling than they are at passing, shooting and dribbling, then does it really make sense to base the teams game plan around it?

A genuine question – against a much better team, would it have been better to do what Fulham does best (even though they don’t do that very well), or do something theoretically more effective, but practically foreign to the team’s makeup? I don’t know. But here’s the thing: neither does anyone else.

A more physical approach could have worked. But it could just have easily got a player sent off for two yellows, and in my mind’s eye I can just imagine young Lucas skipping merrily towards goal, with a succession of Fulham players sliding wildly past him in vain attempts to win the ball/break his leg. But we’ve all got our quirks.

A quick note of self-examination: it’s very possible that I’ve fallen into the ‘Young Nick Hornby’ trap.  In Fever Pitch he talks about having blissfully ignorant confidence in the England team and manager. I believe the line goes something like, “of course he was picking the best players for the team. I mean, why wouldn’t he? What would be the point?”

Guts

April 21, 2008

Guts. To listen to the first wave of reaction to Fulham’s loss (gutless capitulation) to Liverpool (there for the taking!), what this team needs isn’t an infusion of skill, or talent, but simply good old fashion willpower.

After all, Liverpool might be one of the top eight football clubs on the planet, but surely if the team had simply tried harder, or if Roy had simply inspired them, then well! Three points in the bag! I mean, sure Javier Mascherano is much, much, much better at football than anyone on Fulham’s books, but, if Danny Murphy had just cared a little more, and, you know, got stuck in a few times, then that would have canceled out all that talent. And Liverpool didn’t even start their best 11! Sure, Peter Crouch is a dead cert to be starting for some Europe-chasing squad next year, but, but, but, he’s so tall! And if Kasey Keller had just wanted to not make mistakes… well you see how this goes.

I’m perfectly willing to believe that money changes a person. And I accept that professional footballers don’t care about their clubs in exactly the same way that football supporters do. But I refuse to believe that they don’t care, full stop. And I refuse to believe that the money they are paid has sapped every ounce of their collective ambition, contrary to all established laws of human nature.

People who get rich want to get richer. People who taste success want more. And you simply can not tell me that Fulham’s players who obviously were thrilled by the reception they got at the Reading game said to themselves, “Well, that was nice. But you know what? It wasn’t that much better than getting slagged off and being called a useless wanker.”

I mean, even if the player’s weren’t affected by the fact that they will be tarred with the relegation brush the rest of their lives, surely cold hard unemotional logic would get to them.

Consider:

Kasey Keller is older than the sun. If Fulham go down he will never play in the premiership again. He has had a long and successful career, and he might stay with Fulham in the Championship, or he might head to the fields of MLS, but, if relegated, he will never play in the Premiership again. Fulham offered him a lifeline this year, but what are the chances of that happening two years in a row? But he wouldn’t care, right?

David Healy is a punchline. If Fulham go down, he may well eternally be labeled the mystery man who scored a zillion for Northern Ireland but was completely useless in the Premiership. Unfair? Sure. But you don’t think that that thought haunts him at night? This is his chance, it might be his only one, and it is slipping away from him. But he wouldn’t care, right?

Jimmy Bullard spent most of his career working his way into the top flight, and then had a year robbed from him by injury. He’s now on the wrong side of 30, and if he ever wants to get a shot at International football, it’s got to happen now. Relegation leaves him with the unsavory options of returning to the Championship or becoming a Lion Judas (again, unfairly, because he’s never said that he’s stay, but perception is reality). But he wouldn’t care, right?

Brian McBride’s situation is very close to Kasey Keller’s. If Fulham are relegated, then these are the last games he will ever play in the premiership. But he wouldn’t care, right?

Brede Hangeland has grabbed his place in the Premiership, which would appear to be a defining career goal for Scandanavian footballers. Success here could lead him to the upper echelons of world football (see Olof Mellberg). But no, he’d rather spend a year, slogging it out in the Championship, because failure is so much fun, right?

I could go through every player, but the fact is I don’t know the players any better than the ones who say that they are gutless do. But what seems more likely: that these players, who have carved out careers for themselves in one of the most competitive industries in the world through discipline and a lifetime of training don’t care about failure, or that they are trying as hard as they can, but were, on Saturday, beaten by a much better team.

Mr. Hodgson

April 8, 2008

Lot’s of speculation about Mr. Hodgson’s future. I think Roy is a good manager, and I think he’s doing the best he can with a very bad squad. However, failure taints you, whether fair or not, and it’s entirely possible that the stench of this season, the emotional wounds that come with high pressure failure week after week will damage his standing.

When you tell a group of players week after week that they can do it, to keep believing because you have the plan that’s going to save their necks, and it doesn’t work out, even if the plan was a good one that trust is damaged.

I have no idea what’s happening in the Fulham clubhouse. I sincerely hope that Roy is the manager next year, as I believe he’s the right man for the job. I haven’t lost faith in him. But I’m not the one who counts.

Nobody knows anything

April 7, 2008

From F365:

BULLARD VOWS TO STAY

Jimmy Bullard says he is not thinking of leaving Fulham as the club battle for Premier League survival.

The midfielder has been the shining light for the Cottagers in recent weeks following a successful return to action after a long-term knee injury.

His performances for the strugglers have seen him linked with top-flight rivals Aston Villa, Middlesbrough and Portsmouth.

The 29-year-old insists he is enjoying his spell at Craven Cottage, despite the club’s troubles at the bottom end of the table.

And Bullard remains confident that Fulham, who are six points from safety with five games to play, can still survive.

“I don’t worry what will happen if we go down,” said Bullard in the Daily Star Sunday.

“I love playing for Fulham and I don’t want to move – not at all.

“I think we are going to stay up anyway!”

The headline may be “Bullard Vows To Stay,” but I don’t see anything in his quotes that would constitute a vow.

“I don’t worry what will happen if we go down” — Good for you.

“I love playing for Fulham and I don’t want to move – not at all.” — I’m sure you do love playing for Fulham, and the fact that you don’t want to move does you credit. But what if you need to move to continue your career in the top flight? After all you aren’t getting any younger, and a return to lower division football probably won’t do your admittedly long-shot England hopes any favors.

“I think we are going to stay up anyway!” — Again, your optimism does you credit.

But really Jimmy, you must realize that even when you try to deflect questions with wishy-washy non-committal remarks like “I don’t want to move” the illustrious sporting press will negate all your careful wording with headlines like “Bullard Vows to Stay” and if you then decide to move you will become a Lion Judas to a significant portion of Fulham’s support who allowed themselves to hope.

It’s an impossible position for you and an impossible position for us. Best not to say anything at all.

Some fun with the formations editor

April 2, 2008

Against Blackburn

This was, more or less, our formation vs. Blackburn.

Against Everton and Newcastle, things looked a bit more like so:

Against Derby, more like so:

vs Derby

Some would have us play like this:

In my heart of hearts, I’m probably more comfortable with this:

One thing’s for certain though, we will never, never, never see this: