Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Fulham FC: We're All Going On a European Tour

While a "season preview" might be a misnomer given that the season has already started for Fulham FC, I've yet to find a word that means "a look forward at the future of something that has already started but has really just begun so that the look forward is still relatively profitable." Or at least as profitable as any of these look-aheads are.

The Premier League season begins this Saturday, barring the riots spilling over onto the grounds at Craven Cottage as the angry masses yank the biggest statue they can find from the ground (please don't be Johnny Haynes!) and chuck it into the nearby Thames. Actually, that might be worth postponing the first game. No matter, though; let's focus on the important stuff, which is obviously not the overwrought violence, but football!

Fulham are venturing back into Europe looking for a little more of the magic from two years back, when the Whites ran all the way to the final, taking scalps from the likes of Juventus, Shakhtar Donetsk and Hamburg. This European adventure is a tad bit longer, beginning in the First Qualifying Round with all the minnows. Before we look forward to what Fulham can accomplish this year, we need to look back at what has been a surprisingly tumultous summer at the Cottage that has settled down into calmer waters.

It began with the sudden departure of Mark Hughes. The man, who did a proper job with the club during his year-long tenure, declared that he was off to bigger and better things. He was bigger and more ambitious that this small team (who had managed a European final and has finished consistently well in the top league in the world) and was off to bigger and better things. If you thought it was perplexing when that big, ambitious dream lay at Villa Park, imagine how strange it is to find that his final ambitions lie simply on his own couch. How daring! How bold!

It was no problem for Al-Fayed, who simply went out and found the man who he originally wanted instead of Hughes, the affable Martin Jol. Jol came in seeming to be everything that we wanted out of Hughes. He was excited to be here. He was dedicated to the club and didn't just want to use us as a stepping stone to greater things (or to watch those greater things on TV). Looking back, Hughes' departure might be one of the best moves Fulham has made. That's not to say that Hughes did a poor job; he did great job of keeping Fulham completely out of the relegation scrap by the last month of the season even after being plagued with injuries, namely to Bobby Zamora. Jol was the man that was the first choice after Hodgson left and it only seems fitting that he get his chance.

Jol has stated that his policy in the transfer market has been to look for good youth talents. Looking at it now, it is hard to judge how his signings will turn out. Only time can tell on that. Hungarian goalkeeper, Csaba Somogyi, impressed Jol when he went on trial at Ajax. He has only signed a one year deal and looks to serve as an emergency netminder with Mark Schwarzer starting and Neil Etheridge deputizing. Czech midfielder, Marcel Gecov, impressed enough at the European U21 Championships to get named to the team of the tournament to get a signing at Fulham. Jol's other youth signing, thus far, is 2009 U-17 World Cup champion, Pajtim Kasami, a midfielder, who was signed from Palermo. Promising 19-year old defender, Dan Burn from Darlington, along with Everton youth product, Tom Donegan, who defeated the Whites in the Academy League Final, were brought in before Jol and both look like potential first-teamers who could make a good impact. 

Read the rest of the article on The Pursuit of Victory here.

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