The Tony Gale Column

Tuesday 24 December 2013 13:30

The whole tempo of our game is quicker under René Meulensteen. It’s something I’ve been banging on about all season as you can’t play a slow game in the Barclays Premier League and allow teams time to get back behind the ball and organised against you. You’ve got to play quickly, which René has done and I compliment him on that.

It was a great game of football on Saturday against Manchester City. I have to be honest, I thought City were the better side but there were so many positives to take from the game for Fulham, despite the 4-2 defeat. When you’re playing the top sides, if you are going to lose it’s important you take something out of the game and there were loads of things to make Fulham fans feel a little bit more confident that we’re going to survive the drop.

Adel Taarabt had a good game up front. He’s played that position before, of course. That’s the way Queens Park Rangers often used him last season. I don’t think he can play up front every week as there will be games against lesser teams when we have to force the issue a bit more rather than playing on the break, as we did against City. But Adel did a very good job and his first touch was excellent.

Kieran Richardson was played in a more advanced position than we’ve seen him in for a while and I think it suits him more in midfield than it does as a full-back. Sometimes his positioning isn’t the best and he can get caught out – West Ham United away springs to mind when he had a torrid time against Stewart Downing. But he was better against City and he made some good runs across their backline, especially for his goal. He nearly got in on another couple of occasions, too.

We’ve got three massive games coming up in Norwich City on Boxing Day, Hull City on Saturday and West Ham on New Year’s Day. Five points from those games should be the target.

In the two away games, we can let the home sides have a bit more of the ball and try and hit them on the break. If Dimitar Berbatov’s fit I think he’ll play up top. There’s room for both him and Adel in the same team but, if we lose the ball, the Moroccan has to know he has a big job to do.  

I used to room with Norwich boss Chris Hughton at West Ham and he’s done a good job at Carrow Road. He spent a lot of money in the summer but he needed to in order for them to survive. They had a bit of a dip in form earlier in the season but they’ll be okay and their home form will keep them up. I’m at Carrow Road for their game against Manchester United on Saturday so I’ll pop in to see Chris for a mince pie or five.

After Norwich, Fulham head to Hull. I know Steve Bruce well – he’s a proper bloke, a real man’s man and he’s getting the best out of a side that I don’t think is in Fulham’s class. Fulham have better players than Hull and out of the two away games, that’s the one where we might have a good chance of nicking all three points.

The game with West Ham on New Year’s Day obviously has added interest for me. I played for both sides and they’re two clubs close to my heart. West Ham have been poor lately, apart from their League Cup win at Tottenham Hotspur. That’s a big, big game. We got it wrong against them at Upton Park and René really needs his side to get at them if Fulham are to get the points.

A loan deal for Clint Dempsey is a good one for Fulham as he can play in a number of positions. When the January transfer window opens, René might feel he also needs to strengthen his midfield and he might have an eye on a centre-back as Brede Hangeland has been out for so long.

Fulham’s New Year’s resolution should be to stay up at all costs. It’s taken them so long to get back to the top flight and they don’t want to spoil all that by going down. I’ve got complete confidence that we will survive. From watching the last four games and having seen all the other teams play, Fulham are certainly not in the worst three sides. We will stay up!