It’s been a bit of a tough time of late to be a Fulham fan.
Our last home game with Wigan Athletic was a match we were expected to win. But I think what’s happened is we had a really bright start to the season and everybody got a bit ahead of themselves, thinking that we could push on further. Wigan was a game where perhaps we thought a win was a foregone conclusion but the Latics are an unpredictable side so you never know what you’re going to get with them and a draw was a fair result in the end.
The fact is that we’re not playing well at the moment; I don’t think anyone can deny that. We just need to chisel out a result and that will give us the confidence to start playing again but, without doubt, I think we need to bring a couple of players in during this window. I think that’s evident because we don’t really want to be slipping down the table and getting in a dogfight.
The transfer window closes in just over a week. Alistair Mackintosh and the scouting staff have always had their eye on the ball to pick up some decent signings so a lot of pre-work will have been done on anyone we are going to bring in during the next week or so. But we’ve got to hurry up as the closer it gets to deadline day, the more the selling side gets the upper hand.
At Manchester City last weekend, we only had two shots and that’s worrying. At the start of the season we were getting quite a few goals – they were going in from here, there and everywhere. But we’ve really dried up alarmingly and, not only that, we don’t seem to be getting in behind teams. The game against West Ham United is one where he might have to play Dimitar Berbatov, Bryan Ruiz and Mladen Petric because, at the moment, we’re not having shots or creating chances.
You can’t just rely on your defence all the time, you’ve got to score a few goals. We’ve got to add a little bit of zip to our game because when you’re playing against top defences you can’t just pass the ball into the net. Patient play and possession play is not good enough – we need to create chances and when we get into that last third, something productive needs to come of it.
This weekend, we’ve got a great Fourth Round tie up at Manchester United in the FA Cup with Budweiser. I don’t imagine they’ll be fielding a full-strength side. Robin van Persie probably won’t be playing – he didn’t start in the two West Ham games so I can’t see him starting against Fulham. So you have to look at it and think that we’ve got a real chance. I’m sure we’ll go up there with a full-strength side, there’s no doubt about that.
After that, we host West Ham at the Cottage. I’m commentating on this one and it’s always a game where I have to sit on the fence as both clubs are close to my heart. I always go with the side that needs the points more but at the moment they both need them and it’s a massive game now. West Ham are, again, a side that are particularly good going forward. They’re decent in the wide areas now they’ve signed Joe Cole and obviously they’ve got Matt Jarvis. Marouane Chamakh’s come in from Arsenal and Carlton Cole’s sitting in there in reserve so they’re a good side. They’ve proved to be the strongest side of the ones that have come up and I anticipate, like Fulham, that they’ll stay in the Premier League but these are times – as I mentioned a while back – where the next few weeks to a month will determine whether the Whites, and indeed West Ham, are going to get in a relegation fight or mid-table prosperity.
West Ham have got goals in the side with Kevin Nolan playing further forward in midfield so it should be a really good game. It’s a fixture I always look forward to because I’ve got a lot of friends from both camps at the game. There was a match between the sides at the Cottage a few years ago when I came onto the pitch at half-time and David Hamilton asked me who I wanted to win. I went for the draw which meant all the Fulham and West Ham fans booed! But I can’t be any more honest than that, that’s how I like to see it. I don’t care that they booed because it shows that I didn’t have both feet in either camp, but I think David set me up terrifically! I owe him one after that!
We’ll need to play better than we did at Upton Park in September when we lost 3-0. That was one of Fulham’s worst performances of the season. That was the day Andy Carroll made his debut so everyone was on a high and that probably pulled West Ham through on the day. It’s got to be a better performance than that because that wasn’t good enough. As a London derby it’s one the fans look forward to so the lads have got to perform.
Just three days later, we’re at home once more and again we face Manchester United. I’ve commentated on United’s last two games against Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur and they’re doing what they have to do at the moment. Away from home, they look decent – they sit back and hit teams on the break. I wouldn’t be expecting much from us in the United game so it makes the West Ham one doubly important. A win against West Ham would certainly give us a bit of breathing space. It’s a big game and has become a match that will determine who’s going to pull out of trouble and who may get sucked in. I couldn’t put it higher than that really.