Martin Jol has hailed the impact ‘old warhorse’ Giorgos Karagounis has made in his time at Fulham.
The Greek midfielder signed for the Whites on a free transfer in January and, despite his advancing years, has been a model of consistency in the centre of the park, scoring twice in 19 appearances.
The 36-year-old is expected to keep his spot at Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday (3pm) when his experience could prove invaluable against Andre Villas-Boas’ in-form side.
“We signed him outside of the transfer window on a free,” said Jol. “It was a gamble at the time. We’d had to let Mousa Dembélé go because of his clause and Clint Dempsey had gone and the window was closed.
“There were two players [available] outside of the window – Thomas Hitzlsperger, who’s now at Everton, and Karagounis. We took Giorgos and we’ve never looked back.
“He’s an old warhouse; he’s a bit like Danny Murphy in that he’s dedicated and gives everything. He’s got a big heart and is one of the players I’m very pleased with.”
Karagounis’ easy adjustment to life in the Barclays Premier League has been all the more important for Fulham in the continued absence of Mahamadou Diarra.
The Mali international has played just eight games this term and hasn’t featured since the 3-0 loss to Tottenham in early December due to an ongoing knee complaint, an injury Jol expects to sideline the midfielder for a further couple of months.
“He had an operation and came back and then had a little operation again,” Jol stated. “It’s still a niggling thing and it’s painful so we will go back to the surgeon and ask for different advice. I think it will be complicated without an operation to get him going and get him fit. I think he will be out for the next couple of months.”
Jol believes Diarra’s absence has been felt by Fulham, adding: “He was the main man when he came last season. He gave us a boost and was one of the most important players. But this season, he had two or three little problems, especially with his knee, and that was a big issue for us. We had to chop and change and play other players, hoping that he would come back.
“He’s promised me he’ll come back and he’s 32, so why not? He said he had a problem with his other knee in the past which was much worse and now that’s fine.”
Meanwhile, Jol admits his side will need to group together in an attempt to try and nullify the threat of Gareth Bale at Spurs on Sunday.
The Welshman is one of the best players in world football right now, hitting 22 goals in all competitions for Spurs this term, and Jol said: “He can score from deep if you try to mark him in midfield. He can score from crosses. He can stretch the defence and use his speed. It is not easy to get a solution but we know his strengths and we will try and do something about it.
“You can play with a number four and try to mark him but he plays on the left, the right, he drifts. He can be a second striker so it’s not easy to try to do something with your centre-backs or midfield – it’s a collective thing to eliminate his strengths. It’s not easy but we will give it a go.
“The main thing is to try to focus on your own qualities. You have to score a goal at White Hart Lane as otherwise you might end up with nothing.”