Substance and Style

Thursday 22 November 2001

Put it down to confidence, top level experience or just plain old luck. Whatever your reasoning, results are now starting to show that Fulham are one of the form sides in the Premiership.

With Fulham's last two victories coming from an away trip to a previously unbeaten home side in West Ham and a, then, fourth placed Newcastle outfit. The pre-season hype which accompanied Fulham's first campaign in the Premiership, appears to be long gone - so too the frustrating results.

Had high expectations prevented the team from getting down to what they did best? Playing fast, effective, passing football? One of Fulham's most consistent players this season Steve Finnan looked back on the winning streak and gave his interpretation of why everything suddenly clicked.

"I think the difference in recent games is that the penny has finally dropped that putting in good performances does not necessarily win you points. If we played well in the First Division last season, we invariably took something from the game. In fact, with all due respect to Division One teams, there were a few times when we played really badly and still won matches."

Looking at recent Fulham performances, you would be hard pushed to find any real differences from the early-season style of play. Yet the Newcastle performance saw the Whites passing the ball around with the same style that was shown in the First Division, as well as putting the ball in the net three times.

Given that teams in the Premiership are far more lethal in front of goal as well as being more experienced at keeping possession for extended periods of time. Finnan surprisingly indicated that one of the main obstacles that needed to be overcome had less to do with the opposition than one would first have thought.

"This year it's almost the other way around. We still want to play attractive football, but we're realising that counts for nothing unless you can also get results. The boss would never let us abandon our style, but we've got the message now that a stylish display is worthless if you get beat 1-0. It's about your frame of mind.

"Everybody is beginning to feel much more at home in this division. We never lacked the self-belief that we belonged in the Premiership, but it is a culture shock when you first get the opportunity to play at this level regularly."

Perhaps the biggest test of Fulham's current run of from is going to come this Saturday as the team travels to face a tough Bolton side. The Trotters have surprised many this season and picked up more than their fair share of results against sides in the top half of the table.

For Fulham it will be a return to facing an opposing team that sets their stall out to defend and attack on the break. Bolton's well-renowned 4-5-1 style has served them well this season. Despite sometimes reverting to a 4-4-2 when playing at home, they will no doubt recall last season's 2-0 defeat to Fulham at the Reebok and take appropriate measures.

Finnan, however, is expecting a more attacking display from the Trotters this weekend.

"Playing at the Reebok does put the emphasis on them to play further up the field and that will probably suit our style. They're definitely most dangerous on the break, but I don't think their fans will stand for them sitting too deep at home, waiting to catch us out.

"There will definitely be an edge to the game, as there always is when two of the promoted teams clash. I suppose it's a pride thing really. Wherever you eventually finish in the league, you always want to prove you are the best of the promoted clubs."

Whatever style Bolton play, they will be looking to put the record straight with a home victory. Tickets for this match are now on general sale and are priced as follows:

Adults £20.00
Seniors £15.00
Under 16's £10.00