We’ve had a bit of a break since our last game and there isn’t a great deal we can say about the goalless draw at Norwich City. The main positive, however, was that we kept our first clean sheet in 15 games.
It’s a little bit worrying that we didn’t create many chances again. Martin Jol will have to keep working at that as it’s becoming a bit of a problem. At the start of the season, we were scoring plenty of goals but it seems to have dried up of late. There’s obviously a reason for that and it can’t all be attributed to a lack of confidence. It also comes down to our style of play which seems to have got much slower.
They have to play quicker as otherwise it takes too long to build an attack and it becomes too easy for the opposition to defend against it. We really just need to make a conscious effort to play quicker – across the back and in midfield – and just make our passing a bit zippier and get people in behind.
This weekend we take on Stoke City at the Cottage for a live-on-Sky clash. It’s one of those awkward 12.45pm kick-offs. The commentators like games that start at that time as they can get away early, but it’s not conducive to the fans, particularly the ones coming down from Stoke.
It’s a big game. Stoke are just above us in the table, but they’ll have no problems in staying up. Tony Pulis has developed a style of play which sometimes gets criticised, but I think that’s a little bit unfair. They’re better than people think and when they do get the ball down and play in the last third then they’ve got a lot of creativity about them. They’re so difficult to play against for all the obvious reasons – the set-pieces, the corners, the free-kicks, the long-throws – but what I think has developed in the years since Tony has been in the Premier League is they mix it up a bit. He knows that the direct style won’t work all the time as it becomes a little easy to play against, so gradually he’s brought in a better class of player and they’ve improved because of it. They’re now an established Premier League side, much like Fulham.
As a former defender, to deal with the aerial threat from the likes of Peter Crouch and Kenwyne Jones, I wouldn’t get too pre-occupied with all this blocking off. If you’re in an area where you’re under the flight of the ball, you’ve got to head it. Too many defenders now are looking for a way out because they’re lacking heading ability and they try and stop a player by not even looking at the ball and blocking them off. In a game against Stoke, you’ve got to man up and make sure you head that ball and close them down in the wide areas as they create plenty of chances from crossing positions.
I think it will be a draw. It will be difficult for Fulham, but if they can get a win, it will be an excellent three points. Stoke are better at home than they are away but they’re still a difficult nut to crack.
The weekend afterwards, we head up to Sunderland. We all remember the game against them earlier in the season when Brede Hangeland got sent off for a two-footed tackle and we ended up losing 3-1. Looking back, that’s when the wheels started coming off a bit for us. If we’d won that game, we’d have been propelled into a really good position. But we lost and since then it’s gone a little bit downhill. It will be a tough game up at their place as their form has got better and ours has got worse.
On Sunday, it will be 20 years since the death of the great Bobby Moore. What can I say that hasn’t been said before about the man? I feel lucky that I played with Bobby and also followed in his footsteps at Fulham, West Ham United, and on the radio at Capital Gold. I didn’t know Bobby that well but he always had time to speak to me and would always give me a call and have a chat, which made me feel very honoured. Quite simply, he’s footballing royalty.