There’s only one place to start in my column this week and that’s the 4-1 win at Selhurst Park. If I’m being honest, I thought Crystal Palace started really well and they imposed themselves on us, but obviously the turning point was that wonder goal from Pajtim Kasami. I don’t think I’ve seen a better goal when I’ve been watching a game live – it was fantastic. Some people are saying it’s the best goal the Premier League has ever seen and I think it’s got to be up there. Off the top of my head there are certain goals that everyone admires; Wayne Rooney’s volley, I always remember Tony Yeboah’s goal for Leeds United, and David Beckham’s from the half-way line stands out for me. Watching that goal on Monday, it’s obviously fresh in the mind and maybe in a couple of years it will have gone down as one of the best goals that the Premier League has ever seen.
After Pajtim hit that equaliser against Palace, Steve Sidwell scored a fantastic goal as well and it’s a shame that won’t get as much limelight as it should. But Siddy’s the kind of character that won’t be bothered about that, it’s getting the three points that’s the main thing. It was a great win on Monday but I wasn’t surprised at all because I’ve been saying for a while now that once it clicks, we’ll hammer someone because we’ve got players that can score goals at any minute. Obviously Darren Bent didn’t score on Monday but he came off the bench against Stoke City and scored. You’ve got Dimitar Berbatov who can score a goal at any time, Kasami showed that he’s got the ability to score out of nothing, and Bryan Ruiz got two assists against Palace. These are all exciting attacking players who can make something happen.
I honestly think this might be the stepping stone for our season – okay, we said the same after the Everton win, but I think this could be the springboard for us to go on and do well. We’ve got difficult games coming up but I still think we’ve got the players capable of getting points on the board. The Palace match is definitely a confidence-boosting win and hopefully everyone can stop talking about the gaffer being under pressure now. I think the players put pressure on themselves but hopefully the media can stop speculating about his job and let him get on with coaching and managing the team. We’re now looking to push up the league table because I do think we have the players to finish in the top 10. Obviously it would be hard to break into the top six, but seventh, eighth, ninth is definitely an area where we’re capable of finishing.
We’ve taken six points from our last two matches which is excellent, not just for the obvious reasons, but also because securing back-to-back wins is very good for a team’s momentum. When I was a player at Fulham there were different periods where our form varied. In the season when we were Division One champions, we beat teams most weeks and we actually won our first 11 games of the campaign. But when you join the top flight, it’s a different proposition and to get back-to-back wins is a massive, massive boost. Obviously if we lose at the weekend then the pressure will be back on a little bit but I think this little run of form will give the players a lot of confidence. Scoring four goals in a game away from Craven Cottage is massive as well so I think the camp will be buzzing and the players have proved that we’re a good side that’s capable of going away from home and scoring some goals.
The task of beating Southampton is our next priority and that will be another game where people will be thinking that the home side will win because they’re on such a good run. The Premier League is so unpredictable, though, that I’m sure we can go down there and get three points on Saturday - the form guide certainly suggests that it will be an exciting match. They went away to Manchester United and nicked a point, they’ve won away at Liverpool, they’ve got a young manager who’s hungry, they’ve got a good, young squad of players, so it should be a great game. I think playing away from home, we’ve got a lot of creative players and if we can hit them on the counter attack then we’ve got goals in us from a number of positions.
I’ve not really been surprised by how well Southampton have done this season. I watched them towards the back end of last season and what I was most impressed with was the way they pressed in numbers high up the pitch. They weren’t frightened to press the ball high and if you do that, and you’re brave doing it, then you can win the ball back in the opponents’ half and attack straight away. I’m maybe a bit surprised they’re as high as sixth in the table, but I’m not surprised at the improvement they’ve shown because the manager has had the whole of pre-season to talk to the players and show them exactly what he wants. They’ve got a lot of young players and young players are hungry and want to improve and want to succeed in one of the best leagues in the world, and that can only be a good thing for a team.
After the trip to the South-Coast, we’re back at the Cottage for the visit of Man United. I think we’re capable of beating United because they’re not in the greatest of form so all the pressure will be on them and it’s clear to see that the Sir Alex Ferguson fear factor has gone. I feel for David Moyes a little bit because whoever was going to step into that job was always going to be compared to Ferguson. Obviously people are used to Man United winning home games 3-0 or 4-0, so when they start drawing a few games and losing at home to West Bromwich Albion, people are going to criticise. But the main thing with Man United is that I don’t think they’ve improved their squad, whereas everyone else has. Chelsea have, Tottenham Hotspur have, Arsenal have, Manchester City have – they’ve all bought players whereas United have struggled in the transfer market. They’ve only really bought Marouane Fellaini in the summer. I do think they’ll regain their form, but I’m not too sure if they’ll win the title. They’ll definitely be there or thereabouts in the UEFA Champions League spots, but hopefully only after we beat them!