The Tony Gale Column

Tuesday 5 March 2013 16:45

Sascha Riether is in the top two or three right-backs in the Barclays Premier League in my opinion. He’s such an uncomplicated player and such a good crosser of the ball when he gets in the last third. He’s been a tremendous signing for Fulham and I, like everyone, hope to see that loan deal become permanent.

I don’t think I’ve seen anyone get the better of him in a one-on-one situation. As a full-back, he ticks all the boxes when it comes to what his job is and he’s certainly one of the very best in the league. It was great to see him get on the scoresheet at Sunderland to make it 2-0 in Saturday’s 2-2 draw and just reward for the way he ran the length of the pitch to join the attack.

A trip to Sunderland was a game we’d probably have taken a point from beforehand but it’s obviously disappointing to see us throw away a two-goal lead. In the end, we were probably hanging on for the draw. But, all in all, it’s a good point as it’s not the easiest place to go to.

I have to say, Dimitar Berbatov’s penalty to make it 1-0 was different class. I was doing a function for Walton Casuals, the non-League club I’m chairman of, on Monday night and Rodney Marsh was over from America. I told him that Berbatov is a modern-day Rodney Marsh. Marshy used to get accused of being lazy but one bit of brilliance and a game was turned on its head. He was delighted to be put in that category.

Sunderland’s penalty to reduce the score to 2-1 was a little bit harsh on Philippe Senderos who was adjudged to have fouled Danny Graham, but it’s a side of his game that he has to work on. Philippe sometimes gets too close to people and it gives opposition players the chance to win fouls. As a defender you can mark loosely and Philippe can’t keep getting that tight. As a centre-back, when you make a mistake, more often than not, it ends in a goal.

He was also fortunate to get away with an error against Stoke City when he tried to usher the ball back to Mark Schwarzer and Peter Crouch almost nipped in to score. As a central defender, he’s the last line of defence and one mistake, especially in a very punishing league, can cost you. It’s something he has to eliminate from his game.

Stoke are a tough team to play and it was a great three points for Fulham in our last home game at the Cottage. It was never going to be a pretty game against them but Berbatov’s goal that won it was superb. The ball was dropping out of the air with no pace on it and he took a look to his left, a look to his right and smashed it in. It was a wonderful finish and a goal fit to win any game.

The penalty save by Schwarzer from Jonathan Walters obviously proved crucial, though. Walters normally goes straight down the middle but he went to the side and Schwarzer guessed right. It was an excellent save.

With no game this weekend, our next match is against in-form Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane. Gareth Bale is obviously the man to stop right now and it will be interesting to see which position he plays against Fulham. If he starts on the left, we need to double up on him. But if he starts in the middle, we need to get an extra body in the centre of the park. You really have to exaggerate your body position – even from 25 or 30 yards out – so you don’t let him shuffle onto his left-hand side. It’s easier said than done but you have to force him to go onto his right-hand side. I’m surprised Premier League defenders aren’t really doing that at the moment.

Matthew Briggs and Alexander Kačaniklić recently departed the Club on loan for the rest of the season. Briggs going to Watford is a great move for him. I’ve seen them in action recently and they play some good football, similar to Fulham. That will suit Matty and he’ll grow up there as Gianfranco Zola will really take him under his wing. I worked with Zola at West Ham United and he’s so good with younger players and that will be a beneficial move for Matty.

Kaca’s gone to Burnley and it’s a chance for him to really work on his game, especially the physical side of it. Going down to the npower Championship against some big bruising defenders will help him as sometimes he can get knocked off the ball a little bit too easily.