Prior to his wonderful goal last Saturday, Zoltan Gera had to be the dissapointment of the season. People can talk about Simon Davies poor form (though now improving thankfully), or Jimmy Bullard’s “greed” or Bobby Zamora’s finishing or even Andy Johnson’s pricetag, but Zoltan Gera was the real loser here.
At times it can seem to be impossible to be dropped from a Roy Hodgson team. The great man’s greatest strength is his patience, and while it does make it tense for scoreboard analysts and knee-jerk reactionaries, it has proven to be an admirable trait. He never panics, and he doesn’t lie, and when he says, “We played well but unfortunatley..” you know that it’s not an excuse, and that calm extends itself to the team. How great is that? He is not perfect. But nobody is. He makes mistakes but everybody does. But as far as Fulham goes, I wouldn’t trade him for any other manager in the world.
But Roy dropped Zoltan Gera. And he still hasn’t clawed his way back.
Zoltan was a fairly early summer signing as far as I recall, and it seemed like he was a big part of Roy’s plans. But his form never really came together and while he showed promise… it just wasn’t there. And eventually Clint Dempsey got his chance and grabbed it by the forelock. And that was pretty much it for ZG. He’s been a reserve ever since.
It’s easy to see why Mr. Hodgson brought Zoltan Gera in. In theory he’s exactly the player this team needs. Rich keeps drilling it into our heads that one of the reasons that our attack looks so anemic and our defense looks so great is that that is the way it’s built. The midfielders’ emphasis is on positioning and defense and ball retention and short passing and possession rather than getting forward.
So to play up front Roy bought a nippy, intelligent finisher, and he got a big, strong, burly center forward to hold up the ball and distribute it from the front and he made sure they both defended and pressed worked for ninety minutes, and to help them he got Zoltan Gera.
The idea is that Gera can do the short passing, the possession, can handle the defense, but can also ghost in to the back post, can cut inside and curl in a shot to the far post. Can slip in up front and use his head. Can be the third man to join the attack, can add fluidity and dynamism and take advantage of space and be the third heat.
And he did some of all that from time to time but he didn’t put it all together, and then Clint got angry and trimmed the fat from his game and the rest is history.
I don’t know who the better player is between Zoltan and Clint. They have similar games, although Clint’s is a little more physical and Zoltan tends to glide a little more. What’s clear is that Clint has raised his game and that’s good for Fulham. What’s unclear is whether Zoltan would have done the same given more time. We have to assume that Roy knows what the two of them bring to the table, and I’ve got no complaints about his decision.
But it seems a shame to waste him, so when Zoltan sprang Andy Johnson and then received the return pass and twisted his body in the air and drove the ball past Edwin Van Der Sar, well, I was happy not just that Fulham had won, but that Zoltan Gera, the Magic Magyar, could be a part of it.
Zoltan Gera day is past now. The streamers have fallen down, the cake has been eaten, the last bottles put in the recycling. Sammy Davis Jr. and Gera Sr. have been bundled home. But I like to think that it won’t be too long until we celebrate again. Because Zoltan’s got a taste now. He’s started it and finished it and he’s done it against the BEST TEAM IN THE WORLD, and hopefully, somewhere out there, he’s waiting, like a coiled spring, for someone to take him for granted.