View from the opposition: Squad sticking together has kept play-off hopes high at Fulham ahead of Championship opener against Norwich City
©Focus Images Limited www.focus-images.co.uk +447814 482222
Boxing journalist STEVE LILLIS, of BoxNation, is feeling confident that Fulham will be able to reach the play-offs in the Championship again this season – and that Norwich will as well.
Things are looking good for Fulham aren’t they?
The only real spend has been on Aboubakar Kamara, the striker who came in a few days ago. The rest has been guys like Oliver Norwood who’s in on loan, Ibrahima Cisse was pretty cheap, so I wouldn’t say they’ve been spending, it’s been about as much as the players who have gone out. The team has pretty much stuck together apart from Scott Malone and Chris Martin, who’s gone back to Derby and never really made any impact at Fulham, got off to a bad start with the fans. So it’s pretty much as you were from last season for Saturday but I think there are one or two injury worries.
The big one has been keeping manager Slavisa Jokanovic though hasn’t it?
Keeping the manager was vital, there were still rumblings the other day that he’s not happy, I’ve heard one or two things and even now I would still be surprised if he’s still there at Christmas because he has nothing to do with the players that are coming in now. He still has a say on who can go, like he authorised Scott Malone leaving for Huddersfield, which was great business for Fulham, getting £5million for a player that you got on a free transfer a year earlier in a swap deal with Cardiff for Jazz Richards. But the problem is he’s got nothing to do with the incoming players and it’s well known he still isn’t happy with the size of the squad – and in the friendly against Wolfsburg on Saturday, he only had six substitutes and two of those were goalkeepers!
It must be a pre-season thing because we’ve had a bit of that at Norwich as well. City fans hate going to Fulham because it’s so long since they’ve won there, how do Fulham fans feel about coming up against Norwich on the opening day?
I’m an old man so I can go back to Norwich losing to Fulham 4-0 in 1974 when Kevin Keelan was in goal and Duncan Forbes was the captain, so that’s how far back I’m going, but I think they’ve won once there since. Every year you think they’ve got to go to Fulham and win there but you go back to the 6-0 and if you go back to last year, if Norwich were ever going to win at Fulham it was going to be last year. They were 2-0 up at half-time, they played fantastically, that was the best team I saw in the Championship last season for that 45 minutes. But as good as they were in the first 45 minutes, they were as bad in the second 45, Fulham got a draw and could have won the match at the end.
So who do you think will finish higher this season out of Norwich or Fulham?
I think Fulham will win on Saturday and will get in the play-offs this season. Norwich will be there or thereabouts but I think the teams you’ve got to look at in terms of outright promotion, you’ve got to look at Villa, Middlesbrough and it will be interesting to see what Wolves will do, I think they’re buying players to sell on for more money with their transfer dealings there. I think Middlesbrough will be the team to beat but, let’s be honest, it’s a poor division and it’s not going to take a lot to get into the play-offs. You see the run that Fulham came in on from that Norwich game, when they were struggling, to get into the play-offs comfortably in the end. I don’t think it’s going to take a lot for teams like Fulham or Norwich to make the play-offs this year, even though Norwich are rebuilding. I really like the look of James Husband, the left-back, when he turns up at Craven Cottage there will be some jealous Fulham fans because he was very popular when he was on loan at the club a couple of years ago
• Lillis was speaking to The Pink Un Show on Mustard TV, which you can watch every Wednesday from 7pm on freeview channel seven or Virgin 159, or on-demand at youtube.com/OfficialPinkUn • You can watch this week’s Pink Un Show above