It seems Roy Hodgson may finally have had enough of his big, strong, immobile front man who apparently thinks the goal is situated in row Z of the Hammersmith stand. Yes, if rumours are to be believed, then Bobby Zamora will be packing his bags for the Midlands – and Championship side West Brom – come January, tail firmly between his legs. (Although his navigation of Clapham Junction will likely be similar to his ability to find the net.) Coming in the other direction? A big, strong, immobile front man – Emile Heskey. Except this one is a starting international – for England, not Trinidad & Tobago.
Of course, it must be said that there is probably only the one person who feels Heskey’s starting berth alongside Wayne Rooney is justified – Fabio Capello. The striker himself in all probability doesn’t understand it. The England Head Coach, along with Fulham’s own Roy Hodgson, are firm believers of the big-man/little-man combination, and this writer has seen times where Zamora’s influence has told, but such a pairing either proves prolific (in the case of Kenwyne Jones and Darren Bent) or the exact opposite (Zamora and Andy Johnson), and rarely anything in between. England may have won eight qualifiers running before the Ukraine defeat, but little of that success is due to Heskey’s prowess – and Fulham, well, six goals in seven Premier League matches with none coming (intentionally, at least) from the strikers doesn’t need emphasising further.
Quite how another forward who looks to pass before shooting, and frequently turns good chances into glaring misses will help Fulham’s cause, this writer doesn’t know. One thing is for certain, with the Heskey and Zamora rumours gathering momentum, the latter has approximately two-and-a-half months to change a lot of peoples’ opinions. Stealing the headlines from the likely return of Jimmy Bullard on Monday night, by scoring the winner, would have the added bonus of upsetting the Fulham hero-cum-villain in front of 24 000 Whites fans calling for his head – so the ex-Brighton legend could do worse than perform against Hull.
Bullard, if he plays, will be up for it. But so will the Cottage faithful. Fulham fans, in general, are welcoming of ex-players, as long as they have proved themselves to be worthy of it. Edwin van der Sar and Steve Finnan, for example, get a standing ovation whenever they return, for they left without a fuss or a demand. Steed Malbranque and Papa Bouba Diop, on the other hand, are jeered with every touch they have – threats to leave on a free-transfer and the demand to play for so-called ‘bigger clubs’ does not go down well. Which is exactly where Bullard stands. Yes, he had a big say in the ‘great escape’. He is also – erraticness aside – entertaining to watch on the pitch. But certain quotes, specifically “I told the club I wasn’t willing to play with 18 months left of my contract” and “this [Hull] is the biggest club I have played for”, mean he is firmly in the ‘to boo’ category at Craven Cottage.
His leaving was not entirely from choice, of course, Hodgson had more than a say in it. After all, the manager’s least favourite trait in a player is the aforementioned erraticness. Hodgson’s sides rely on organisation, stability and work rate. Bullard could not be accused of lacking the latter, but he was never the most organised player and certainly is not stable in any given formation. His replacement, Dickson Etuhu, has all three in abundance, even if he lacks much of the technical ability of his predecessor. Not only is the midfield surer with the Nigerian, but by doing the dirty-work – often left to the more creative-minded Danny Murphy when Bullard went marauding – Etuhu has also allowed his captain to lead by example. When the pros and cons are weighed – is less goals and inventiveness, but more balance and consistency a better option than before? Probably, yes. And a resounding yes from Hodgson – these are the attributes he wants from his players.
For all the positives discussed, the lack of creativity Bullard’s departure has produced, has meant a lot of extra pressure on Murphy. The big problem now – with the defence allowing more through than last season – is goals, and so a more imaginative striker, who is able to work his own chances, might be more worthwhile than bringing in Heskey. A player along the lines of Diomansy Kamara, perhaps. He is not as big, not as strong, but is certainly more mobile than his teammate. Oh, and he recognises the net is the bit between the three metal poles.
Fulham Club Focus
Long season ahead – July 29
Confirmed: Zamora’s foot does fit in his mouth – August 5
Fulham needs Brede to survive – August 12
How do Fulham push on? – August 18
Roy Hodgson raids the Post Office queue – August 21
Lethargic Cottagers slump to derby defeat – August 25
Makeshift Cottagers shuffle into Europa League – August 28
No ammunition from midfield as Cottagers continue to fire blanks – September 1
Window shut firmly for Fulham – September 4
Hodgson must adapt to rid closet of skeletons – September 8
Forget August, the season starts now – September 11
Normal service resumed? – September 15
Second string given chance to shine – September 18
No-one fearful of Fulham, so time for Plan B – September 22
Rotatation, rotation and more rotation – September 25 Ten points for effort, but no points where it matters – September 29 Cottagers should follow Baird’s example – October 2 Whites Kagiso close to unlikely win – October 6 Whites hope for unhappy return for Bullard – October 16