Newcastle will host Fulham on Saturday in what will be their third league match of the season. In order to help us preview the upcoming match, we asked CHN readers to submit questions they would like answered about the Whites, then submitted them to Andrew Beck, manager of SBN's Fulham blog Cottagers Confidential.
Coming Home Newcastle: What is al-Fayed's legacy at the club and how do you think Khan will measure up?
Cottagers Confidential: Most of the fans have a lot of respect for what al-Fayed did. The club is in the process of expanding the Riverside stand and the general consensus is that it should be named for him when it's completed. I myself wouldn't be a Fulham supporter if it wasn't for him. Because I live in Seattle, there's no way I would have picked a 3rd division club to support. It's only through his investment that the club is in the Premier League. However, as he aged there was a little uncertainty about what would happen to the club after him. The worst case would have been his children fighting for control if he passed away. Khan seems to be a good fit to succeed him. The Jaguars fans I've interacted with seem to love him, and he seems to have realistic expectations for the club. He understands that Fulham is never going to be challenging to win the league; but that they would like to be a top 10 club year in and year out, with an occasional finish in a European spot.
CHN: With Taraabt and Bent coming in and Ruiz still present, what is your favored pairing up top? Berbatov and...?
CC: No one really knows how it's all going to work. To get them all on the field at one time you'd need to play a 4-2-3-1 with Taarabt, Berbatov, and Ruiz all behind Darren Bent. The problem then is width and work on defensive. Ruiz and Berbatov will actually do more work than they get credit for, but simply aren't that good at it. Taarabt really doesn't get back on defense at all. You also run into the problem of everyone cutting into the middle. The biggest issue is that all three players are probably best used in exactly the same position, right behind a striker. I'm not sure my best eleven ever includes all of them at once. I'd prefer a 4-2-3-1 with Alex Kacaniklic on the left, Ashkan Dejagah on the right, and Berbatov playing behind Bent. Another option would be the same thing with Taarabt or Ruiz playing behind Berbatov.
CHN: Is Fulhamerica over and done with? What are your thoughts on a club being linked with a particular nationality (For example, Newcastle/Arsenal and France)?
CC: Being that I own a Fulhamerica T-Shirt, I'm not sure I'm the best one to ask. One of the biggest factors in me choosing to support Fulham were the Americans on the team. Whether that era is over for good is something I'm not sure of though. Brede Hangeland was actually born in the US, but never really considered playing for anyone other than Norway. Also, one of the most promising U-18 players for Fulham is Emerson Hyndman. He's only 17, but he's highly thought of and might even get a game or two with the U-21's this year. With our new owner being American, it wouldn't shock me to see more American's coming to the club. I think it can be good marketing to have a lot of players from one place (assuming you aren't sacrificing quality). For instance, Sunderland has already been moved to a better slot on NBCSN twice this year simply because Jozy Altidore is on the team.
CHN: NBC's coverage of the league makes it easier than ever to watch the EPL in the states. How would you sell your team to a new fan looking for a club?
CC: I'd kind of use my own history as a way to sell the club (assuming I'm convincing another American). I'd start with the history of the club (London's oldest) and the history of Craven Cottage. I'd tell them about the story of all the American players: Keller, McBride, Johnson, Dempsey, Bocanegra, Hahnemann; most of whom are still visible with the sport in the states. Finally, I'd use this argument: "If you ever travel to England, are you really going to spend much time out of London? You should pick a London club. No one wants to cheer for a front runner, so Spurs, Arsenal, and Chelsea are out. Fulham is obviously the best of the rest!"
CHN: What are your thoughts on swapping management with us, from the owner down?
CC: Personally I like our management. There is a good chance that Khan cleans house after this season and brings in his own kind of people, however. That was what he did after the first year in control of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Personaly I think that would be a mistake as I believe Alistair Mackintosh is a great CEO and having someone like Huw Jennings in charge of the Academy is very important.
There are also a lot of Fulham Supporters who are uncomfortable with the "gamble" the team is making this year however. The Fulham U18 squad has one the league twice in a row and also won the Dallas Dr. Pepper Cup last year. Both the U21's and the U18's are undefeated this year as well. Fulham management seems to be gambling that they're going to get quite a few first team players out of this group in the next few years. So much so that they are unwilling to commit to long term deals with many players. The plan seems to be to keep their options open, see who can make it out of the academy and then fill in the gaps with new signings. It's a risky plan, but one that has the potential to reward the club with a very valuable young team.
CHN: How much does Scott Parker have left in the tank, career-wise, and has he looked rejuvenated since joining Fulham?
CC: Parker has played well in both his matches since he joined the club. People are worried about his age, but when his contract ends he'll be the exact same age that Danny Murphy was when he left the club. And Danny Murphy was an excellent servant in his time at the Cottage. I also think if the club starts it's youth movement in earnest, it's going to be very important to have people like Parker around to help guide the kids.
CHN: What lineup do you anticipate Martin Jol selecting on Saturday? How would your preferred XI differ from his?
CC: Funny you should ask, I just wrote a whole post about it. To sum it up, I'd like to see Jol role out a pacy lineup that can counter and attack quickly. With athletic wings who are willing to work on defense. However, I expect that Jol will stick to the players he likes, the squad will be more slow and deliberate, and will require a piece of magic from Berbatov to score.
CHN: What matchup are you most looking forward to?
CC: He can be a frustrating player sometimes but there is always the chance that Berbatov does something you've never seen before. He's good for one or two eye popping moments a game. And I also get a kick out of his glares and gestures when he doesn't get great service.
As for Newcastle I'm a big fan of Tim Krul. Along with Asmir Begovic and Simon Mignolet, I think he's one of the top keepers in the league. It's a shame Stekelenburg won't be available to start as I think it would have been fun to see the two keepers face of trying to prove who is most worthy to man the sticks for the Netherlands going forward.
CHN: What is your prediction for the match?
CC: I have a hard time seeing Newcastle going another league game without scoring. But I also don't think Fulham will get shut out. My guess is that Berbatov works some magic early and Fulham go up 1-0. Jol decides to bunker in and the squad is unable to withstand the late pressure. Newcastle equalizes some time around the 80th minute and the game ends in a 1-1 draw.
Thanks to Andrew Beck for taking the time to answer these questions. Check out Cottagers Confidential for all things Fulham.
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