Club Focus – Fulham – Zamora and Gera ready to fire for Fulham

As the typical transfer rumours regarding managers’ previous clubs continue to bounce around the national press – the latest being Zoltan Gera to link up with Roy Hodgson at Liverpool – all that can be said at this time is that since Mark Hughes’ Fulham appointment, no players have left the club, and no players have joined.

And, unless the new manager had his back to the action on Saturday, where the Whites defeated a strong Werder Bremen 5-1, Gera will be one of the better players Hughes has stated he will be looking to keep. A 12-minute hat-trick from the Hungarian proved he is ready to continue where he left off last season and, owing to the lack of options up front for Hughes, looks set to play a very important role in the coming term, which opens at Bolton on Saturday.

Gera’s hat-trick was technically class and professional, displaying his wide range of abilities that proved so useful to his club throughout last year’s remarkable Europa League run. The first he fired home from distance, giving the keeper no chance, and his second showed his ability in the air, as he nodded neatly past Tim Wiese from a Bobby Zamora cross. The summer break appears not to have made Gera lose his touch, and his continuing ability to score all manner of goals bodes very well indeed for this coming Saturday and beyond.

And the recently called-up England forward, Zamora, excelled too in his role, contributing Fulham’s opening goal and generally making a nuisance of himself all game – a responsibility everyone has come to recognise from the big man. His form bodes well, not only for Fabio Capello ahead of Wednesday’s international with Hungary – a game which will be enthralling viewing for Fulham fans as Zamora hopes to win his first cap – but also for the Hughes’ curtain-raiser on Saturday.

Hughes has already recognised his star forward is a confidence player, and has wasted no time in praising his talents to the press, claiming the Englishman has the potential to be one of the league’s best. The partnership between Zamora and Gera, although it cannot be called the divsions best, could quite easily propel Fulham to early Premier League safety and mid-table mediocrity – or better. Performing as they did against Bremen at the weekend, and indeed a couple of their Bundesliga compatriots in Europe last season, makes them a threat that plenty of defences around the country will be doing extra homework for.

Although friendlies are not always anything to go by when predicting the season ahead, a thumping win over one of Germany’s Champions League hopefuls is a strong statement of Hughes’ aims, if nothing else. Five unanswered goals in the second 45 made up for what was a rather disappointing first half, and proved two of the stars of last season are intending to prove their success was no fluke. Most media outlets appear in agreement that they cannot agree on what kind of season Fulham will have. In truth, the Whites should be looking towards sneaking into Europe as they managed in Hodgson’s first full season, but the amount of teams who are capable of making seventh-place means any top-half finish would go down as a success. But with some shrewd signings, why should it not be the Cottagers?

Fulham are – and rightly, after the all-too public Martin Jol chase – keeping their cards close to their chest with regards players arriving at the club, but at least until any official announcements are made, Hughes has a very capable squad to work with, especially considering there will not be a further 19 games to play this time around. Whether any players come in before the end of the transfer window or not, it is looking ever more likely that those players who are already there will be staying together, and that can only be a positive sign.

Despite the positive friendly win, competitive Premier League football is an entirely different matter, and a matter Hughes is very experienced in. Hodgson’s tactics away from Craven Cottage were, at times, seen as playing for a 0-0 draw. That, arguably, is the only criticism that could be levelled at the former manager. Hughes, on the other hand, has a very positive outlook. If this can be transferred to his players then Whites fans may well be treated to more of what they have missed in recent years – delirious train journeys back to London.

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