A Change Of Focus

Monday 9 September 2013 09:00

With a number of the First Team squad away on international duty, Assistant Manager Michael Lindeman reveals the impact it has on the Club.

Fulham can boast a host of international players from all across the globe, with many involved for their countries in FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, Under-21 matches, friendlies and other international competition.

The debate over Club vs. Country has been a long-held topic within the game, and Lindeman believes that it is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, there’s the travel and fatigue that accompany overseas fixtures and the inevitable risk of injury, but players no doubt develop when tested on the international stage.

“It depends on your situation in the league,” he told the official website. “Sometimes a manager will want to keep the momentum going and the break isn’t easy. For us, it’s never easy because most of our international players have to travel a long way.

“If, for example, you have an international game just three days before the first Barclays Premier League game [as we did this season] and Bryan Ruiz has to travel all the way to Costa Rica and back then it is tough.”

Indeed, Ruiz was left out of the starting XI against Sunderland, with Pajtim Kasami grabbing his chance to impress by scoring the winning goal. But, with more players heading away to play games last Friday and tomorrow, Lindeman is wary of how long they will take to recover.

“Even when we went to a training camp in Costa Rica and spent more than a week there, it took the staff almost seven days to recover,” he said. “So can you imagine a player going to Costa Rica for just a few days? Now with Fernando [Amorebieta] heading to Venezuela, it doesn’t help our preparation much.

“It’s mainly tiredness. Normally the fitness is there, but a few of them will pick up knocks and you just pray that they come back healthy. That’s the physical part, but there’s also the mental part which constitutes jet-lag and the impact that travelling can have on a player.”

Fulham has a string of internationally recognised players with the likes of Ruiz and Amorebieta in Central/South America; Alexander Kačaniklić, Aaron Hughes, Brede Hangeland, Philippe Senderos, Giorgos Karagounis, and new signing Elsad Zverotić closer to home in Europe; and even as far away as the Philippines, for whom goalkeeper Neil Etheridge plays.

“It says something for Fulham that the Club has so many internationals, as if you didn’t it would be a bad sign,” Lindeman added. “We are proud that our players have risen to represent their country for sure.

“Playing at that level does help them develop, as they play against some of the best players in the world and experience different styles of football. When you play in an international, you can see how far along you have come and where you are. It’s something you can’t get from staying at home and playing friendlies - it’s also a chance for the younger players to improve off the pitch as well as on it.”

Our preparation for the West Bromwich Albion game on 14th September may take a bit of a battering as Lindeman reveals there’s not a lot you can work on tactically with so many absent, but it seems that those left behind are keen to impress.

“Tactically you can’t do that much,” he said. “You can give the players who are still here individual pointers over things, but the main thing is that you have to keep up with the cycle that we are in. Last week we played 11 vs. 11 and the aerobic endurance stayed up, so that was good. Usually you’ll see them training harder than normal actually.

“The players who come back are normally at pretty much the same level. But they don’t train too hard when they are out there because everything is more focused on tactics and match preparation. When the players return on Wednesday, we have only got three days to get them fit and fresh again and gel the group together as a team to face West Brom. We can work more individually, and on their weaknesses, but when there are spaces around, the ones who stay here double their efforts because you can’t hide!”

Indeed with some away, it’s a good chance for the next generation of Fulham youngsters to prove themselves as they hope to catch Manager Martin Jol’s eye.

“It’s a good thing to play with the Under-21s during this time,” he added. “It gives the Manager a chance to see how they cope against Premier League players and that’s always good. For the youngsters it’s great because they get to test themselves and they know how hard it is once the game is over. They get to showcase their skills to the Manager and there’s a lot of benefits to that.”