Everton at Fulham: Q&A with Cottagers Confidential

Alex Livesey

RBM's Q&A with Fulham blog 'Cottagers Confidential', ahead of the Premier League game on Saturday.

Everton travel to Fulham on Saturday, and we talked to Kristian of Cottagers Confidential about how their season has been progressing so far. Take a look at the Q&A we did for their blog here.

RBM - Since barely escaping relegation five seasons ago, Fulham has put together a run of seventh, twelfth, eight and ninth place finishes. This year they are off to a flying start again, currently in seventh. Fans must be happy about performances at the Cottage? There must be hopes that the team can put together a higher finish?

CC - If you had told us in May 2008 that we'd be lining up in the Premier League with Dimitar Berbatov spearheading our attack, we'd all have laughed you off. In that sense, and in the grand scheme of things, it's remarkable where we are at as a club. We're ambitious too, with a Grade 1 academy and some exciting prospects coming through.

That said, we're still hoping there's room for improvement, especially after a summer of selling. You get the feeling that if we hadn't lost Moussa Dembele and Clint Dempsey - in truth, even keeping just one would have been brilliant - we'd be flying even higher right now. Dembele is something special and that is exactly what we are missing in central midfield right now.

RBM - For those who don't remember, Fulham made a fairytale run in the 2009/10 Europa League, losing narrowly in the final. After making it to the 2011/12 competition, they barely missed out on making past the group stages. What do you feel Fulham have learned from their European forays?

CC - We carried through a great sense of belief from that first run. We felt like we could do anything at that point. We had a team of, ultimately, has-beens - and I don't mean it negatively, that was simply Roy Hodgson's transfer policy - and yet we beat the previous holders, Shakhtar Donetsk, Wolfsburg, Hamburg and, most notably, Juventus. We won those games because we were organised as a unit, but also prepared to be patient with our build up play.

In a sense, we're a different outfit now and that may have had something to do with our being knocked out last season. We're far more attacking and progressive now, which has undoubtedly undermined stability at the back. Not that it's bad - I prefer the way we play now as opposed to then.

RBM - Fulham have gone through three managers in the last few years - Roy Hodgson, Mark Hughes and now Martin Jol. What is Jol's current philosophy? Are the fans happy with the kind of football he has been promoting? How about the players?

CC - We're more than happy with how we're shaping up as an outfit now. We take the initiative now, in a way we never used to. It's wonderful to see but it does, inevitably, mean we leak goals more than ever before, also. Our recent two away games highlight that. We're bad enough outside of Craven Cottage without our new fascination with conceding late, costly goals.

One at Southampton and two at Reading meant we have dropped four points recently from solid, winning positions. It's a worry but, before, we wouldn't have even got the goals to take the lead anyway.

RBM - The Cottagers were quite busy in the summer transfer market - did the manner of Clint Dempsey's exit leave a bad taste in the mouths of fans? A couple of other big names left as well, Moussa Dembele, Pavel Pogrebnyak, Danny Murphy, Andy Johnson - how badly did these players leaving affect the team?

CC - Clint Dempsey's departure was cruelly handled and crassly negotiated by Liverpool - to such an extent that he, of course, joined Tottenham Hotspur. Obviously, we've all been a little hurt by how Dempsey handled himself - refusing to play, pushing for a transfer, e.t.c. It's not the way professionals are supposed to work but, unfortunately, it's now become a part of the game and in many ways, we expected it.

The only other departures that have hurt us are Danny Murphy - though to a lesser extent - and Moussa Dembele. I've already mentioned the benefits of having a Dembele in your team. He's a huge, huge player. We'll miss him and I doubt we'll go close to truly replacing him.

RBM - On the plus side, Dimitar Berbatov has sparkled since coming in at Fulham, do questions still remain about his work ethic on the field? How has he been in training, and how do Jol and his colleagues feel about his supposed 'lackadaisical' approach?

CC - There's a lot said about Berbatov's slow, tepid approach to the game but it's not for want of trying. He's worked harder than I've ever seen him do so before at Fulham and his off-the-ball work goes wholly unnoticed. But yes, I'd agree he perhaps has a different approach to the game to many but he's earned the right and every now and then you need a player who thinks a little differently and acts a little differently.

He's a world-class player. Simple as that. I have yet to complain about him at Fulham and I doubt I ever will.

RBM - Fulham, like Everton, are considered to be one of the smaller clubs in the Premiership. However, unlike Everton, Fulham do have an owner with deep pockets in Mohammed Al-Fayed. Are the fans happy with him? Do they feel he is completely committed to the cause and has given Jol the support (read: money) he needs? How about the Cottage, any plans for relocation or expansion?

CC - Yet another man I will never complain about (unless he puts up a somehow more controversial statue). He's one of few owners these days that has both a considerable amount of money and a distinct passion for the club he owns. He loves Fulham and he will never see anything bad happen to us.

We will stand by Mo as he has always stood by us but it's also worth noting that, though rich, he's as keen on a self-sustaining model at the club as other, respectable chairmen. We're one of few clubs currently turning a profit - even though our ground is tiny, and more on that in a bit - and we have a solid wage structure that probably only Berbatov has gone close to breaking. To that end, yes, he has supported Jol and he will continue to do so. Jol himself said he has a good £16 million or so in the bank to spend on players as soon as January so the support is 100% there.

As for the ground, we're due to start work at the end of the season on an expansion that will take us to 30,000. The early sketches look wonderful and, even though they look overly modern in what is a traditional ground, it still manages to work. I cannot wait for it to be unveiled.

RBM - Finally, what are you expecting on Saturday, do you think we're going to have another barn-burner like last week's 3-3 draw against Reading, or a battle of wits between the coaches in a tactical game? What formation do you expect Fulham to line up in? How about a score prediction?

CC - At home we're simply a different force and I expect there to be spells within the game where we are controlling and dictating play. That said, you yourselves have a top-notch squad and if you squeeze us sufficiently then you can easily take something away from the game.

I think we'll end up with something resembling 4-4-1-1 with Bryan Ruiz - who can be pivotal on his day - in the hole and Berbatov leading the line, if his rib injury is not too severe. My score prediction is an entertaining but disappointing 1-1.

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