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Saturday Fulham Stuff (20.02.10)

Started by White Noise, February 19, 2010, 10:41:51 PM

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White Noise

The back door into Europe

By: timmyg | February 19th, 2010

Fulham may be going back to Europe next season — and not just by winning the FA Cup.

If you listened to the latest podcast, I mentioned that Fulham currently lead the Fair Play Table with a six point lead over Manchester City. It can be found here, but below it is in full:

If that wasn't good news enough, England are currently third in the latest UEFA Fair Play Table; just one-thousandth of a point behind second place Denmark. The complete listing was released last month but I just found it today. It can be found here.

The top three nations that lead the UEFA Fair Play table have their respective leaders qualify for the Europa League's First Qualifying Round, which kicks off the first week of July. Last season Fulham lead the table, but England finished a lowly seventh. In 2008-09 Manchester City were just 8/10ths of a point ahead of Fulham to nick that UEFA spot.

Hopefully the rest of England can keep on their best behaviour so we may have another European tour. And this is yet another testament to Roy Hodgson' s managing expertise: in his three seasons at the helm Fulham have finished 2nd, 1st, and now are en route to another 1st place finish.

It's like that quote that I cannot find a source for: "Losing at Fulham is a little like being mugged at an art gallery. It's so civilised you don't notice the blood on the carpet."

White Noise

Fulham Record Famous Win Against UEFA Cup Champions

The Whites got the game off to a fantastic start; a Damien Duff free kick had Shakhtar in trouble almost immediately off the bat, allowing Brede Hangeland to aim his header on target and forcing a fine save from Pyatov.

The Whites took the lead only moments later when a wonderful piece of deceptive play from Bobby Zamora allowed European specialist Zoltan Gera in on goal. The Hungarian international made no mistake with his finish, slotting a low shot under the body of Pyatov to hand Fulham the lead.

But there were soon nervy moments for Fulham when Brede Hangeland was robbed of possession on the touchline by Fernandinho, who raced away towards the Fulham by-line. Fortunately his cross was blocked by Aaron Hughes and the danger was averted.

The game settled down somewhat following Fulham's flying start and it was Shakhtar who were dictating the pace of the game. Their unorthodox 4-2-3-1 formation looked to be keeping the Whites off balance.

The visitors, despite not being able to find space in front of Fulham's penalty area, still looked extremely adept in possession as they worked the ball from left to right with great skill. Fulham stood firm however and stoically maintained their shape.   
Darijo Srna, who previously faced the Whites in European competition with Hajduk Split, went close to netting an equaliser when he fired wide on 30 minutes. It proved to be just a warning shot as Adriano got the visitors back on level footing on 32 minutes. The striker raced on to a through ball, nipping in front of Stephen Kelly before taking the ball around Mark Schwarzer and passing into the net.

The game started to open up following the equaliser and Simon Davies came close to putting the Whites back in the lead when his header from a Damien Duff cross flashed just wide of the goal.

A loose ball from Danny Murphy was almost capitalised upon by Willian, who seized possession and let fly with a fierce shot which was well blocked by Hughes. Fulham's Northern Ireland international was again Fulham's saviour when he provided a vital interception on 40 minutes to cut out a dangerous final pass.

The Craven Cottage crowd were whipped up into frenzy when Darijo Srna was booked for dissent in the closing stages of the first-half, having been fouled moments before.

Shakhtar got the second-half under way, with Fulham facing a tough task in trying to wrestle the advantage from their opponents. And it was certainly a cautious start from the visitors as they looked to draw Fulham's sting, having learned their lesson from the first-half.

With the visitors quick to try and prevent Fulham from linking up their defence and midfield, the Whites duly adapted to the circumstances and started played a slightly more direct game. As a result, Fulham were able to get at Shakhtar's defence with greater speed – causing a degree of panic in the Miners' back line. Shakhtar were by no means looking as fluid as they did in the first-half.

With the game repeatedly punctuated by stoppages, both sides were struggling to get into their rhythm. If anything was going to decide this game, it was going to be a moment of brilliance or a calamitous error.

As the second-half progressed Fulham started to establish more of a rhythm, it was achieved by making the game more 'English' in nature.

The high tempo Fulham were setting was personified by Damien Duff on the right wing, who was keeping his opposing numbers busy.

The Whites re-took the lead in spectacular fashion through Bobby Zamora on 63 minutes. Zoltan Gera passed into the path of Zamora on the edge of the area and the Fulham font man smashed a glorious right-footed shot past Pyatov into the top corner of the net.

A fine move between Baird and Duff set up Gera with a headed chance which was put just wide – Fulham were certainly pressing their advantage. When not in possession the Whites were keeping things tight. This saw Shakhtar hitting more long passes out of play in an attempt to find a way through Fulham's lines.

With the game entering the final ten minutes Shakhtar started to force their way back into the game, but resilient defending from Hangeland and Hughes helped restrict the Ukrainians to shots from distance.

Zoltan Gera's involvement ended on 88 minutes when he was replaced by David Elm as Fulham looked to see out the remaining minutes.

The result was secured when a world-class save from Mark Schwarzer denied a certain equaliser late on and despite the energetic efforts of Mircea Lucescu's men, Fulham heroically held of for a memorable victory.

Posted by: AmericanMike on Friday, February 19, 2010 - 06:28 AM 

White Noise

Mad but true

by Dan on February 19, 2010

Take a look at this from Sky Sports:


Fulham: 30.1%

Shakhtar: 69.9%


Fulham: 50%

Shakhtar: 50%

Another Roy Hodgson masterstroke?

White Noise

Busy Fulham eye top-half finish

Author:  Nigel Brown

Posted on:19 February 2010 - 12:10 PM

Birmingham City travel to Craven Cottage on Saturday hoping to rediscover the form which saw them win five games in a row during November and December.

Alex McLeish's charges have managed just one win in their last five Premier League games and, on Saturday, face a Fulham team that have won two of their last three games, drawing the other one and keeping a clean sheet in all three.

The Cottagers have been particularly strong at their west London home, winning seven and losing just one of their last ten Premier League fixtures at their Thames-side ground.

Fulham's great home form is the main reason why they are currently sitting in tenth place, a position that many people, including manager Roy Hodgson is proud of.

Hodgson has revealed that: "Everyone realises our players have done an exceptional job and have punched above their weight for a period of time and continue to do so."

Conversely, the Blues have struggled on their travels in recent weeks, losing both their last two away games and failing to score in either.

They will hope that Lee Bowyer is in the mood once again. The tenacious midfielder has scored four goals in his six Premier League appearances against London sides this term already.

It was Bowyer that scored the only goal of the game in their Premier League meeting earlier this season, as Birmingham defeated the Cottagers 1-0 at St Andrew's.

Fulham will hope to win only their second match in six league attempts against City, and will be buoyed by the fact that the Blues have failed to find the net on their last two visits to Craven Cottage.

Birmingham go in to the match with no fresh injury concerns or suspensions, but Fulham will be missing South African midfielder Kagisho Dikgacoi following his recent ankle injury. However, they could welcome back the creative Zoltan Gera.

White Noise

Fulham defender Aaron Hughes sends Shakhtar warning

Feb 19 2010 By Jacob Murtagh

AARON Hughes has warned the job is only half done after Fulham' win over Shakhtar Donetsk last night.

The Whites head to Ukraine with a slender 2-1 lead thanks to goals from Zoltan Gera and Bobby Zamora.

And Hughes admits they still have it all to do to set up a Europa League last-16 clash with Ajax or Juventus.

He said: "We're only halfway there. We got a good win last night but it's only half the job and there's still a lot of work to be done.

"We're pretty pleased we've got a 2-1 win against a very good side.

"It's going to be a tough match over there. It's a fantastic surface and they'll be popping the ball around, but we know we can pass it around on a nice surface too."

White Noise

Shape and stuff

by Dan on February 19, 2010

There are so many things to talk about last night. Fulham's rip-roaring start where we really went for the throat of the opposition, Shakhtar's mesmorising passing and Bobby's thunderbolt that rocketed in off the crossbar. What fascinated me was the tactical battle between the two sides.

Shakhtar adopted a formation that is rarely seen in these parts. The only thing you could recognise from an English point of view was a back four, although that was hardly a standard British back line. The full backs pulled out regularly to the touchline and the centre backs were ball players. In front of them were two central midfielders, but neither were anchors, stoppers or holding midfielders. To describe Fernandinho, who seemed to have the ball glued to his feet at times, as anything like that would be ridiculously insulting to his outrageous ability.

The South American rhythm of the side was evident from the fact that Mircea Lucescu's team included an all-Brazilian front five. Ilsinho showed his quality with a remarkably perceptive searching pass to release the deadly Luiz Adriano, who seems a snip at just £2m, for the equaliser whilst we can expect a higher quality performance from Jadson in the second leg. At times, it seemed as though Shakhtar were passing through us at will, although on reflection that doesn't really do justice to some diligent defensive work, including a couple of terrific saving tackles from Aaron Hughes.

Hodgson's tactics were constrained by the ineligbility of Stefano Okaka and injuries to our other forwards. The flexibility of Fulham's formation allowed Zoltan Gera to line up just behind Bobby Zamora and the Hungarian revelled in the space he found. The goal Fulham worked inside the opening minutes was a think of beauty. Bobby might have benefited from a missed interception from Kucher and Pyatov might have saved Gera's shot, but it was a slick move worthy of Shakhtar.

It's clear that Gera benefits from playing in advance of a set midfield rather than wider in an orthodox midfield. He has greater scope to influence the game than when he is restricted to a particular flank and, when closer to a centre forward, the flicks and tricks he brings to the party have the potential to be much more effective (see Zamora's stunning winner). Gera's been much more influential in Europe playing in this role (see his goals against CSKA Sofia and FC Basel) and I'd be tempted to try him here with a little more regularity in the league.

It would be interesting to gauge Zamora's thoughts on his role as a lone striker. The number of times he lifted his arm and gesticulated to Schwarzer or a defender to play the ball in his direction suggests he thrives on being the target man and the interplay between him, Gera, Duff and Simon Davies was excellent at times. The confidence is coarsing through Zamora's veins and his finish was absolutely astonishing. There's every chance Roy Hodgson will have to set a higher target than 20 goals before the season's out at this rate.

The only thing that troubled me was the disappointing distribution of Dickson Etuhu. The Nigerian looks good against the likes of Portsmouth and Burnley – and would be particularly useful for some of the pitched battles we seem to fight away from home – but he seems frustratingly limited at this level. When he wasn't nervously turning away from goal and sending the ball backwards, Etuhu placed an alarming high number of passes straight to the opposition. He might just be coming back from the Africa Cup of Nations but we'll need a more disciplined performance from him in Donetsk next week.

White Noise

Debate: should Fulham's Bobby Zamora be considered for England's World Cup squad?

After Bobby Zamora inspired Fulham to an impressive Europa League victory over current holders Shakhtar Donetsk, and with England's striking options beyond Wayne Rooney limited, should the forward be considered for Fabio Capello's World Cup squad?

Published: 11:14AM GMT 19 Feb 2010

Comments 17 | Comment on this article

Zamora was exceptional against the Ukranians, setting up Zoltan Gera's opening goal and securing a 2-1 victory with a stunning 25-yard strike.

His club manager Roy Hodgson praised the former Brighton striker's all-round game as well as his recent prolific form that has seen him score 14 goals in 31 appearances this season.

"Apart from his usual accomplished performance as a target player, setting things up, winning challenges and working very hard, his touch for the first goal was excellent, a touch of real quality," said Hodgson.

Zamora's strength and power, along with his ability to hold up the ball and bring others in to play could be the perfect foil for Rooney should Capello elect to start with two strikers in the World Cup finals in South Africa.

Emile Heskey has played that role in the past but Zamora carries more of a goal threat to go along with the work rate and ability to give opposition defences a physical battle.

Darren Bent and Carlton Cole appear to be challenging Heskey for a place in the squad and Zamora has the pace and strength to match either the Sunderland or West Ham striker.

Questions remain over Zamora's consistency and a previous best Premier League goals haul of 11 does not guarantee goals at the highest level but Capello is insistent that he will select his squad on form not reputation.

Has Zamora's recent success been timed perfectly to earn him a surprise place on the plane or will the fact that he plays for one of the less fashionable clubs in the top flight and a lack of Champions League experience count against him?

Have your say below...

White Noise

Greening backs stadium calls

By Staff Copy

JONO Greening believes that new footballing facilities in Scarborough are vital.

The 31-year-old, who has just signed a three-year deal with FA Cup quarter-finalists Fulham, graced the Athletic Ground's terraces on hundreds of occasions to watch Scarborough FC when he was growing up as a youngster in the town.

But now, with the club's former base lying in tatters, Greening is backing calls for a new ground to be built.

Jono's younger brother Josh plays for Scarborough Town at Pindar, while the other senior side - Scarborough Athletic -are turning out at Bridlington for their home games.

The Premiership midfielder said: "It is a huge shame what happened to the old club and now the old ground.

"I hear the odd thing about what is happening now from my mum and dad, but it is clear that a town the size of Scarborough does need a decent football stadium.

"I used to go down to the Athletic Ground as a boy with my dad and brothers. I was there for some important games, the most recent being the FA Cup match against Chelsea in 2004, when Scarborough were unlucky to lose.

"When I first talk to players about where I am from, a lot of them have good memories of Scarborough.

"I was chatting to my Fulham teammate Danny Murphy the other day about when he played there, he said it had an amazing atmosphere for a small ground."

Jono has also been keeping check on the playing situation in Scarborough and says that making any strides back up the football ladder will be difficult with two senior sides competing in the town's name.

He added: "I'm not really sure which club has taken over form the old Scarborough. I know Josh plays for Town and I know somebody else who plays for Athletic.

"I'm sure the fans know a bit more about it than me, but I do think that football would move a lot quicker in the town if there was one side instead of two.

"At the moment there is a split in fans, but if one club could get everyone together then I'm sure it would improve the situation and a team could move up the footballing ladder a fair bit quicker."

White Noise

Schwarzer enjoying fixture pile-up

Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer insists he is thriving amid a punishing schedule which resumes with Sunday's league clash with Birmingham.

The Cottagers are nearing the end of a five-week period which has seen them play a match virtually every three days yet defy the workload by continuing to challenge for silverware on two fronts.

They have reached the quarter-finals of the FA Cup while on Thursday night they humbled 2009 UEFA Cup winners Shakhtar Donetsk 2-1 in the first leg of their Europa League last 32 match.

But rather than complain about the fixture list, veteran stopper Schwarzer is pleased the matches are arriving thick and fast.

"If you don't enjoy this as a footballer then when are you going to enjoy your football?" the Australian said.

"This is what it's all about, playing games, and playing in Europe and playing in the FA Cup and playing in the Premier League.

"It's the best life to have and I'm enjoying it, at the young and tender age of 37."

Schwarzer, who pulled off a marvellous injury-time save to deny Shakhtar a draw, admits next Thursday's second leg at the Donbass Arena will test Fulham's Europa League ambitions to the limit.

"It's about balance. Okay, we scored two goals on Thursday but we also conceded. Now they only need to score one goal," he said.

"It would have been nice to have won 2-0 ahead and then all of a sudden they've got to score two goals.

"But if we score over there, all of a sudden it changes the picture a little bit. It's going to be tough for us.

"We've got a slightly important Premier League game against Birmingham in between but then hopefully we can go there and continue on the journey that we've been having."

White Noise

Fulham feeling effects of Cup success, says Roy Hodgson

Published 05:00 20/02/10

By Neil McLeman

Roy Hodgson has admitted his Fulham side are paying the price of fighting on three fronts this season.

The Europa League win over Shakhtar Donetsk was the Cottagers' 41st game of a gruelling season which began way back in July.

And Hodgson admitted his depleted squad, who are also in the last eight of the FA Cup, were running on empty before hosting Birmingham tomorrow.

"Now it is just a question of recovery," said the Whites boss, who face the second leg in Ukraine on Thursday.

"This win taken a lot out of us tonight. This result comes at a price - the prize of fatigue, tired legs and minds. We have a lot of tired players.

"Our next two days are going to be very much a question of trying to get ourselves ready mentally and physically for the next challenge because Birmingham will be a different kind of team from the team we played in the Europa league but they will be as every bit as difficult to beat.

"This is a our third week running where we have played three games in a week and we have got another three weeks in front of us of doing the same. And we are doing all this with a very small group of players."

But keeper Mark Schwarzer, who produced a fingertip injury-time save to guarantee the 2-1 victory over the Brazilian-inspired Ukrainian side, has no complaints.

"If you don't enjoy it as a footballer then when are you going to enjoy your football?" asked the Aussie.

"This is what it's all about, playing games, and playing in Europe and playing in the FA Cup and playing in the Premier League. It's the best life to have and I'm enjoying it, at the young and tender age of 37."

Captain Danny Murphy has revealed he is continuing to play despite the "impending arrival" of his second child his wife Joanna Taylor. "It is due any day now," he admitted. "Hopefully it will be either before or after the match."

White Noise

That is quite appropriate as Wenger should see the Knightsbridge store's owner - and Fulham chairman - Mohamed Fayed about his keeper Mark Schwarzer.

The Gunners missed a trick when they failed to sign Shay Given when he left Newcastle for Manchester City.

First-choice Manuel Almunia and understudy Lukasz Fabianski, despite his errors in Portugal, are good keepers. But to be champions you need an exceptional one.

Cottagers star Schwarzer is a top-four keeper in waiting. He knows the league and age isn't so important for keepers.

At 37 he is not a long-term solution but with so many young stars in his squad, Wenger needs to worry about the short-term. In a couple of years he could then move for Real Madrid's Iker Casillas.

Read more:

White Noise

Fast Track

Saturday 20th February 2010

Fulham FC News

It was the match that arguably signalled the arrival of Kagisho Dikgacoi as a fully fledged First Team player.

At the Reebok Stadium in early February Dikgacoi dominated the midfield battle against Bolton Wanderers before Fulham's winter injury curse struck again as the South African hobbled off the pitch with a knee injury just before the hour mark.

Despite the injury setback Fulham's supporters could not help but be enthused by Dikgacoi's performance; a player whose game seems perfectly suited to the high octane pace of the Barclays Premier League.

When caught up with KG this week, he was evidently focused on the positives as he discussed a possible return from injury in the next few weeks.

"At least the injury came well before the World Cup," said Dikgacoi. "From my point of view I was really enjoying the game against Bolton and I was unlucky to get injured just ten minutes into the second half. It was really unfortunate.

"Right now I'm just looking forward to being back in the starting eleven and I'm pushing myself hard to get back as quick as possible. I'm hoping that I'll be starting to train again in two weeks time. The Club's Medical team have also been working really hard on the injury."

Dikgacoi has seemingly made a smooth transition from the Golden Arrows to Fulham and his progress is certainly being monitored by his family and friends back home, who were justifiably concerned by his recent injury ahead of this summer's World Cup Finals in South Africa.

"I'm happy with what I've been doing and I think tactically I've improved, as have my reactions and speed. I think I've improved most areas of my game and I'm looking forward to progressing further but it's up to me to continue working hard.

"My mum and my friends call me after the games if they've been watching them. They watch a lot of Premier League games back home. Most of them called after the Bolton game to check the injury wasn't serious and that it wouldn't affect me for the World Cup.

"I'm really looking forward to the World Cup, especially as we're the hosts. The World Cup is obviously very important to me but it's also important that I play games before then."

Dikgacoi could be in line for a memorable few months on the domestic and international stage if results go Fulham's way over the next few weeks. The chance of being involved in the later stages of the UEFA Europa League and FA Cup are the stuff dreams are made of and Dikgacoi makes no secret of his desire to experience such moments.

"Of course I've thought about playing at Wembley," said Dikgacoi. "Everyone loves to play in the FA Cup and it would be very special for Fulham to get to Wembley. Not only in the FA Cup but if we can get past Shakhtar Donetsk and into the last 16 of the Europa League I'd be so happy.

"Juventus and Ajax were teams that I used to follow, especially when Steven Pienaar was playing for Ajax - so I would love to play against them."

For the moment Dikgacoi's primary concern is his rehabilitation from injury but it is a tremendous fillip for the Club to have potentially unearthed another jewel who has clearly settled into life at Fulham with ease.

"I'm enjoying it in England and most of the things are actually the same as back home. We drive on the same side of the road and the signs are all the same so there aren't that many differences and I keep in touch with the other South African players who are playing in the Premier League."

Read more:

White Noise

Angel happy to sign on for another year

Friday, February 19, 2010, 20:00

ANGEL Rangel has set his sights on the Premier League after signing a one-year contract extension at Swansea City.

A clause in the right-back's contract was triggered when he made his 23rd league start of the season at Plymouth, keeping him at the Liberty Stadium for another season. His current deal was due to expire in the summer and the Spaniard had attracted interest from the Premier League.

Fulham made a transfer deadline day move for the 27-year-old last month and afterwards Rangel hit out at Huw Jenkins, claiming that the Swansea chairman had prevented him from furthering his career by rejecting the approach.

But Rangel now insists he is happy to stay in South West Wales.
"I am very happy to sign the extension," he said.

"I have always said that Swansea gave me my opportunity in British football and I am so grateful for it, and now my aim is to reach the Premier League with the club.
"Now I have played the 23 games I am just happy to have it sorted."

White Noise

5 – Fulham are GOOD! Roy Hodgson's men beat the holder's in a tie that they were not even considered to be capable of winning. I hope this finally shows people that they are a fairly decent team. If they could sort out their away form in the league then they would be much higher up. Unfortunately, a one goal lead might not be enough to take to sub-zero Ukraine. Best pack your tights Zamora and Co.

White Noise

The Top 10 Premier League 09/10 Signings

by Craig Farrell 

The football transfer market exploded to ridiculous heights this summer. Cristiano Ronaldo went for over $80 million and Kaka went for over $64 million. Both of these transfers broke the world transfer record. The transfer fees that Real Madrid put up along with the likes of the Zlatan Ibrahimovic/Samuel Eto'o deal that Barcelona struck with Inter, which was valued somewhere in the region of $60 million has sent the transfer market into a spiral.

In a time where football clubs are struggling at an all-time high to keep the books balanced and stay out of the red, no team could afford this spend carelessly and risk wasting money aimlessly on transfers (unless your Manchester City that is).

The footballing transfer market is a cutthroat business. One poorly judged signing could end a club's title or survival aspirations. While an over priced transfer or two can cost your club everything (just ask Portsmouth).

The most important transfers for a team is not the big name signings that cost upwards of $20 and $30 million, it is the small budget player that produces on a large scale that can make all the difference for a team. Be it staying in the Premier League or breaking the barrier into Europe.

The following list comprises of the best transfer signings that Premier League clubs made. How much was spent on the player, how productive he has been, how important his has become to the team and the talent that was put around him.

9 - Damien Duff - $4.7 Million

Fulham signed Irish Winger Damien Duff from Newcastle one game into the season. The $4.7 million price tag was considered a big risk for Fulham considering Duff's previous tendency towards injuries.

Fulham decided to part ways with the cash and have been rewarded for doing so. Damien Duff has missed just two of Fulhams 26 league games, one of which was due to the fact that Fulham signed him late.

He has managed to net five goals in 24 games and is third in scoring for Fulham.

On top of the five goals Duff has scored he has created four goals and in total has created or scored just under 1/3 of the Fulham league offense.

Duff has become an instant fan favorite with the Fulham faithful and has played a major role in Fulham's F.A cup and Europa League success.

Duff has given Fulham a genuine wide threat on the left side and has brought the best out of striker Bobby Zamora.

Despite Duff hitting 30, under five million was a reasonable price to pick up a player with proven Premier League experience and someone who was able to come straight into the side and make an impact.

White Noise

Stefano's Ten from Ten

Posted by Stefano Okaka on February 20, 2010 at 12:00pm

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View Stefano Okaka's blog

A big thank you to everyone who submitted their questions and posted comments on my profile.

Q: What made you join Fulham? (Nigel Spackman)

It made sense for me to join Fulham for footballing reasons and it was a fantastic opportunity for me personally to play abroad. I'm really looking forward to playing against all of the big sides in the Premier League.

Q: What would it mean to you if Fulham got through the next rounds of the FA Cup and go on to play at Wembley. (Aaron)

Let's hope so! It would be great to play at Wembley but it depends on the games coming up. It would be a great occasion for me if the Club does well and I'm able to play.

When you played against Fulham in the Europa League at the Stadio Olimpico what did you think of the Fulham team? (wasclapyouhands)

I thought they had a very good squad and it was evident that they were a very well organised Team on the pitch. The approach to fitness is very strong at Fulham and is at a very good level. They were both very hard games and it was great to be involved.

Have you tried out your local restaurants yet and what do you think of them? (Keith Haynes)

I've tried a restaurant called Chica and the food was good - I eat well in England.

Do you prefer to be referred to as Okaka or Okaka Chuka? (Charlie Whelton)

I prefer to be called Okaka!

What targets have you set yourself for your time at Fulham? (Andrew Terrey)

The main objective for me is to make a really good impression and do well on the pitch. I have to adapt my style to the English style and do well in all of the games I play in - I hope to adapt to the pace of the Premier League very quickly.

How good is Roy Hodgson's Italian? (Andrew Terrey)

Roy's Italian is very good and I've spoken to him many times and we understand each other well.

Have you ever played cricket? (Stridey 15)

No, I've never played cricket before but I'd like to have a try one day!

If you could trade places with any single sportsman, for one day only, who would it be (mo) and who is your favourite artist? (C@rme99)

I'd trade place with Kobi Bryant of the LA Lakers, and my favourite artist is 50 Cent.

Do you think we can qualify to the round of 16 of the Europa League and what do you think of Shakhtar Donetsk? (TL)

We've got a very good chance of qualifying and let's hope we do so. They are very good side and I'm expecting a very good style of game between the two sides.

Read more:

White Noise

Former Birmingham City star has no regrets over Fulham move

Feb 20 2010 By Jacob Murtagh

FULHAM defender Stephen Kelly admits he quit Birmingham City to play for a bigger club.

The Irishman lines up against his former team-mates tomorrow, with the Blues two places above them in the Premier League table.

But the 26-year-old insists he's got no regrets about leaving St Andrew's, and says the lure of European football was too big to turn down.

He said: "I've come to Fulham and got the chance to play in Europe, and never had that chance with Birmingham.

"I don't regret coming here. Birmingham have had a fantastic season but for me coming to Fulham and playing in Europe at a higher level was the next step up for me.

"You need to be testing yourself at the highest level, and for me that's in Europe."

The former Tottenham trainee was on the losing side when the two sides met in November, but he's desperate to get bragging rights this time around at Craven Cottage.

"I get on well with all the lads and will give Maik Taylor a text before the game winding him up," he added.

"You're playing against your old team and you want to do well and get one over on them. I had a fantastic time there and they've done really well this season, but it would be nice to get a win against my old side."

White Noise

Birmingham City: Why trip to Fulham won't be about revenge

Feb 20 2010 by Andy Walker, Birmingham Mail

Comment (1)

BLUES boss Alex McLeish insists tomorrow's trip to Fulham won't be about banishing bad memories.

The last time Blues were at Craven Cottage was May 3 2008, when a 2-0 defeat virtually condemned McLeish's side to relegation from the Premier League.

That result took fate out of Blues' hands and despite a 4-1 final-day victory over Blackburn, they suffered an immediate return to the Championship.

Tomorrow's journey to west London will not only give the visitors the chance to reach the so-called magic 40-point mark, they will also have the opportunity to finally distinguish the pain of their last relegation.

However, McLeish insists the change in circumstances over the last two years means there won't be any significant psychological steps taken by beating Fulham in their own backyard.

"It's just another game. On paper Fulham are a better team now than they were two years ago, there's no doubt about that," said McLeish.

"But we're better than we were two years ago. The bookies favourites will still be Fulham this weekend so if we were to win there it would be another terrific achievement.

"There's no guarantees we will go to Fulham and win, but we hope to do that.

"Craven Cottage is never an easy place to go. In 2008 they were on a roll and they took care of business and we never quite managed to get over the line.

"I've had many frustrating games in football and I wouldn't say Fulham two years ago was the most frustrating. The last day against Blackburn was more frustrating, seeing that we won 4-1 and still went down."

And on the possibility of taking satisfaction from reaching the 40 points mark, McLeish added: "I don't think you should stop there because 37 points might be enough, which is what we're on just now.

"People talk about the magical 40 - teams have gone down before with 40. I think Glenn Roeder and West Ham went down with 42.

"It doesn't look likely this season, but we will try to go as many games as we can getting points along the way."

McLeish is due to meet owner Carson Yeung after Sunday's game to start discussing the finer details of his new contract.

While currently on a modest salary in Premier League terms, the Blues boss should be in line for a significant pay raise.

And while he insists that the challenge has always been more important to him than the cash, McLeish does admit that Blues' achievements have put him in a strong position when it comes to contract negotiations.

"There's no time scale, we've never said that it must be done by next week or the week after. But the club have intimated that they would like to talk to me about a contract and I'm very happy to talk.

"Carson Yeung is staying over and I'm supposed to be having talks with him to talk about the real terms of a new contract because that hasn't been discussed yet.

"Money has never be my god and when I joined the club I told my lawyer to get it done and dusted, I didn't want to fight over particulars too much because my mission was to come and prove myself in the English Premier League. That was more important to me.

"But I suppose when you make progress, then you look to be on parity with your contemporaries."

White Noise


By Duncan Bech, Press Association Sport

Roy Hodgson believes Fulham are on course to emulate their most successful season under his guidance.

The Cottagers exceeded all expectations last term when they finished seventh in the Premier League - the club's highest top flight finish.

While Hodgson accepts they may struggle to rescale those heights, he expects them to end a domestic campaign that resumes with Sunday's clash with Birmingham in relative safety.

But what sets the season apart for the Fulham manager is their ongoing success in the FA Cup and Europa League.

A quarter-final against Bolton or Tottenham beckons in the cup while Thursday's 2-1 first-leg victory over Shakhtar Donetsk has given them a fine chance of progressing in Europe.

Despite the workload placed on an injury-hit squad, Hodgson expects them to perform on all fronts.

"We're trying to compete in every competition. The FA Cup is very special and that quarter-final will probably be the most important match we play in the coming weeks," he said.

"But the game in Shakhtar is one we'll definitely want to do well in.

"We have another 12 games in the Premier League and we have to make sure we continue producing performances like we did in the first leg against Shakhtar.

"If we manage that then I'm confident we'll get enough points to put us in a comfortable position.

"If we manage to finish comfortably in the Premier League this year after doing so well in the FA Cup and Europe, I'll compare this season with last season - even if we don't finish so high in the league."

Fulham sit 10th in the Premier League on 34 points, one victory adrift of Sunday's visitors Birmingham.

Despite a notable injury list that includes key players Andy Johnson, Clint Dempsey and John Pantsil, they have defied all predictions once again.

For Hodgson, the most pleasing aspect is the way his squad is managing to adjust the workload that has seen them play a match virtually every three days for the past five weeks.

"The way we're balancing the competitions is exceeding my expectations," he said.

"It's exceeding what we're entitled to ask of the players. There were some very tired people on the pitch against Shakhtar.

"We're doing that with a very small squad because of the injuries.

"Any credit and praise the players get during this period is well deserved.

"Now it's a question of recovery. This result has taken a lot out of us and comes at the price of fatigue, tired legs and minds.

"The next two days are about getting ready physically and mentally."

White Noise

Fulham to offer O'Hara London stay

11:30 AM 18 February, 2010

Fulham Football Club are set to make an offer for Jamie O'Hara at the end of the season.

The talented midfield player has struggled to force his way into the Tottenham Hotspur side under Harry Redknapp, who still rates him as a player of real quality.

O'Hara has impressed during his season-long loan deal at Portsmouth to date, and he admits he may have to leave White Hart Lane on a permanent basis for regular first team football.

It is believed this something Roy Hodgson is willing to offer him at Craven Cottage, with an offer for the 23-year-old expected to be tabled in the summer.