Club Focus – Fulham – Pile-up at Cottage exit doors

With no European football last night and only three weeks to go until 2010, minds have inevitably turned towards transfers, with talk of a mini-exodus circulated by the ever-reliable football oracle, The Daily Mail.

This season there has been as much chance of a Dodo bathing in the Thames than the likes of Fredrik Stoor, Toni Kallio, Eddie Johnson and Seol Ki-Hyeon making a telling contribution to Fulham’s cause – even before Stoor and Kallio went on loan to Derby and Sheffield United respectively. It is of course speculation as usual that they are being presented to other clubs, but the logic is clear, if they do not play, then they might as well leave. All four players have been given opportunities, some more limited than others. Yet they have all failed to take them and there is little point from the club’s point of view in keeping third, fourth or – in Johnson’s case – perhaps even sixth-choice squad players.

The American international came to Fulham in the January 2008 transfer window with a decent reputation in his homeland and, more importantly, potential. Now, at 25, he is no longer young, and the word potential cannot be used in the same sentence as his name, unless the sentence is: ‘Eddie Johnson has failed to live up to his potential’. Almost two years on from Roy Hodgson’s first transfer window as Fulham manager, his first signing is still very much the same player – lightning fast, but with no end product to speak of. A return of zero goals for his current employers and, more tellingly, just two in 30 games on loan at Cardiff last season are quite simply proof that the striker is not cut-out for English football. Perhaps the best thing about the whole Johnson debacle is that the club might otherwise have signed a certain Marlon King. A misfiring striker for £3m is a small price to pay in that respect.

Johnson, then, will not be missed, but one player this writer feels is worthy of another chance is the giant Finn, Kallio. Having only appeared three times for the Whites, largely due to injury and the fitness of the first-choice defence, the left-back is now on loan to get the football he desires. He showed enough in his debut against Arsenal to suggest he could cut it in the Premier League. That day, back in August 2008, Kallio was imperious, and made the livewire Theo Walcott look like a schoolchild in a Sunday League team. With more luck, he could have had a successful stay, but he is too far down the pecking order to recover his Fulham career. Perhaps shifting the deadwood is in order to make way for a big-name signing. Mohamed Al-Fayed has been Chairman long enough to realise that spending lumps of cash on just one man is rarely a successful policy at this club, record signing Steve Marlet and, to a lesser extent, Andy Johnson are testament to that.

As the debate regarding Bobby Zamora’s England speculation subsides, a player with a genuine chance is hoping for the playing time so many national team Coaches require. Kagiso Dikgacoi has come out fighting for a place in the first XI, just as he did, literally, on his debut at West Ham. If he is indeed complaining about a lack of chances at the club, then he has only himself to blame. As with the injuries to Danny Murphy and Dickson Etuhu (for which Jonathan Greening and Chris Baird have deputised,) the South African would have had plenty of opportunities in the Whites midfield, but his red card at Upton Park put paid to that.

His handiness aside, Dikgacoi was quite useful with his feet too, and his staying to battle for a midfield berth at Fulham can only benefit him and the club ahead of the World Cup. The last four Premier League games were looked at by the optimistic fans amongst the Cottage faithful to bring in 12 points. Of course, as even they would have known deep down, things are far from smooth in SW6. As it turns out, seven points is a decent return from a run of very winnable games.

The next challenge facing Hodgson’s squad is Premier League new boys Burnley at Turf Moor. The Whites’ away record is derisory at the best of times, and trips to the north of the country have – less so since Hodgson took over – often proved fruitless. That, combined with the Clarets’ superb record in front of their own supporters does not bode well for all concerned at Fulham. So that will be three points, then.

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