Note: We're previewing each team in the Premier League in advance of the coming season. We started with the promoted teams, and now we are moving up the table (more or less), skipping Newcastle and saving them for last.
Fulham finished 12th last season as they replaced Clint Dempsey with Dimitar Berbatov and turned in a solid mid-table performance as always. Now armed with a new owner and a new goalkeeper, the Cottagers will look to take a step forward. To preview the Fulham 2013-14 season, I sat down with Russ Goldman, host of Cottage Talk, an excellent internet radio show.
Coming Home Newcastle: This summer Mohammed Al Fayed sold Fulham to Shad Khan, owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars in the NFL. My impression is that Al Fayed was beloved by many (if not most or all) in the Cottager fanbase. How do you view this move?
Russ Goldman: After learning about Mr. Khan more and actually talking to him on Cottage Talk, I have much confidence that he has the best intentions for Fulham being a club that can sustain itself financially and be a top half club on a regular basis. Mr. Fayed was a wonderful owner but I am encouraged that Mr. Khan can take Fulham higher in the future.
CHN: Last season Dimitar Berbatov was rather expectedly the top scorer by a wide margin (15 vs. 5 for the next highest scorer). He turns 33 this January. When will he start showing his age, and what is the contingency plan when that happens?
RG: Berbatov really hasn't showed his age yet and his skill seems to be razor sharp. He might not be as quick as he once was but I don't see his ability to score goals to change much this season. However, I do think another striker is needed to lessen the load on Berbatov and we are hopeful that will happen before the window closes.
CHN: From afar, the permanent purchase of RB Sascha Riether (previously with you on loan) looks like good business. What are your thoughts on this deal?
RG: Sascha Riether I feel was the Fulham player of the season and was so valuable last season. To take him on loan and make it a permanent signing shows Jol's ability to find a diamond in the rough. We are lucky to have Riether with Fulham.
CHN: Are you happy with Maarten Stekelenburg as a replacement for Mark Schwarzer?
RG: I am very happy with Stekelenburg as this is an upgrade at the goalkeeper position. Nothing against Schwarzer but Stekelenburg is younger and just better.
CHN: Given your current squad, what would your ideal Starting XI be?
RG: Right now the starting XI ideally will be Stekelenburg, Riether, Amorebieta, Hangeland, Richardson, Sidwell, Boateng, Kacaniklic, Dejagah, Ruiz and Berbatov
CHN: What do you expect Martin Jol's Starting XI will be?
RG: I expect the lineup to be the exact same but Fulham need to upgrade the CM and Left back positions as Sidwell is not good enough, and Richardson at left back is OK but he is injury prone.
CHN: What would have to happen this season for you to consider it a success?
RG: If they do not get in the top half, the season would not be a success. Fulham finished 12th last season so anything less than 10th is just not good enough.
CHN: Where will Fulham finish in the table?
RG: If they bring in a striker, a creative CM, and a new left back before the window closes Fulham should be able to push for a Europa League spot. If there are no new additions to those to those positions I am going to say 10th.
My thanks to Russ Goldman for taking the time to answer these questions. Check out the Cottage Talk page for information on show times and to listen to on-demand episodes.