Fulham Focus – Hangeland extends Fulham stay to end speculation ahead of QPR clash

At last all the speculation has been put to bed as Fulham captain Brede Hangeland has signed a two-year contract extension to keep him at Craven Cottage until the summer of 2015. The central defender has been a stalwart at the club since arriving in January 2008 and has been first-choice under three consecutive managers, making over 200 appearances for the Cottagers, leading them to three top-half finishes as well as a famous place in the Europa League final in 2010.

However, with his contract due to expire at the end of the season, speculation had begun to rise that the Norway international, who has been linked with moves away to some of the league’s bigger clubs in the past, was considering his future at the club, particularly during the winter months when the Cottagers’ form was poor.

Indeed, there were even suggestions that the Fulham hierarchy were unwilling to be held to ransom by Hangeland over his desire for improved terms, particularly as his form nosedived during the club’s mid-season struggles. Had Hangeland reached his peak at the age of 31? Should a younger alternative be pursued if the Norwegian’s demands were too extortionate? Did Hangeland really want to commit his future to Fulham with this possibly being his last chance to move to a bigger club? These were all questions for both the player and the manager Martin Jol to ponder.

However, as Fulham’s form has picked up in recent weeks, so too has Hangeland’s, possibly due to a slight change in tactics which has seen the side take a far more defensive outlook. This suits Hangeland, who for all his qualities can be susceptible to pace and movement, particularly when afforded little protection from the midfield ahead of him. But the Norwegian has looked imperious at times.

Additionally, the decision of Jol to commit his future to the club will have also provided a fillip to the Fulham skipper. The prospect of staying at Craven Cottage may not have quite appeared so appealing when speculation was linking the Dutchman with a move away from the club that he has managed so well at since the summer of 2011.

Thus, Hangeland’s decision to stay provides a major boost to the side ahead of the visit of relegation-threatened QPR to West London on Monday night. Against the aerial threat of Bobby Zamora and the pace of Loic Remy, Fulham fans can certainly expect the big Norwegian to have his hands full if the Cottagers are to extend their four-match unbeaten run. Certainly, after Swansea and West Brom’s defeats over the weekend, an eighth-place finish may not be entirely out of the question.

However, the fact that remains that at the age of 31, Hangeland is hardly likely to improve in the future and so Fulham and Jol would be wise to invest in a new, younger central defender in the summer to first partner and then eventually replace their skipper.

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