The Tony Gale Column

Tuesday 4 February 2014 12:30

I’m still standing by my prediction that Fulham will stay up this season. The Barclays Premier League table doesn’t make good reading right now but it’s so important to stay positive.

We’ve got four tough league games coming up but if we can still be in touch after that, the last six fixtures really play in our favour. Look at the run-ins of the other teams around us – Norwich City, for instance, have to play the top four in their final four games.

The minute you become negative about things, you’re doomed. I was involved in three relegations – one for Fulham and two for West Ham United so I’ve been there and I know one result can change things in an instant.

Alan Curbishley knows all about staying up. When he went to West Ham, they survived on the final day of the season with a win away at Manchester United. They’re the sort of things that can happen and, with 14 games left, there’s still plenty of time for Fulham to get out of this predicament.

I just hope now that the new signings can hit the ground running because there’s no time to readjust. The signings had to be made, without a doubt, and I was pleased with the dealings we did.

Going through them one by one, let’s start with Lewis Holtby. He’s a good player. He made his name as a goalscoring midfielder in Germany and it’s important we find a system that suits him. 

Konstantinos Mitroglou’s been in good form in the Greek Super League so I hope he can bring that with him. I’ve seen him play a few times in the UEFA Champions League and he’s showed a lot of promise.

John Heitinga’s a good signing. He’s a no-nonsense player and he’s experienced in the top flight. He can do two jobs – he can play at the back or in a holding role in midfield.

I have to admit, I don’t know much about William Kvist. He played in a holding role on Saturday and did okay, and he could be a good asset to have in the squad.

The two boys from Manchester United, Larnell Cole and Ryan Tunnicliffe, were probably made more with the future in mind, but René Meulensteen knows them well from his time at Old Trafford and I’m told Red Devils fans weren’t too pleased about their departures so hopefully that bodes well for us.

Four players left the Club, too. I wasn’t surprised by the exit of Adel Taarabt – I said he was a gamble when he signed. Philippe Senderos was a decent player but he made too many errors for my liking. Aaron Hughes was a good servant to the Club but he deserved to playing week in, week out, and he’ll get that at Queens Park Rangers. Dimitar Berbatov was an enigma and an incredible talent but I don’t think he was the easiest to work with. I must say that I loved watching him play when he was at it but a move away was probably best for all parties.

Saturday’s loss to Southampton was a funny one. As Sven Göran-Eriksson used to say, ‘first half good, second half not so good.’ Once we went 1-0 down, we got picked off. It just shows how important it is to take your chances when they come along. Brede Hangeland had a header well saved and Darren Bent had two good opportunities. That’s what happens when you’re down the bottom – chances don’t come along too often and when they do you sometimes snatch at them. Hopefully Mitroglou will be the answer. He’s a gamble, but it’s a gamble worth taking if we want to stay in the Premier League.

We play Sheffield United on Tuesday night in the FA Cup with Budweiser Fourth Round Replay and we should make home advantage count. It could be a chance for some of the younger players to feature again and they’ve impressed me when I’ve seen them play.

Then on Sunday we head to Manchester United. They’re giving everyone a chance this season. Even when they beat Cardiff City when Juan Mata made his debut, the away side still had chances. If those chances arise, you have to take them, it’s as simple as that. But I’d take a point now as United will be stung after losing at Stoke City at the weekend. Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie are both fit but they have got problems in defence. So it shouldn’t be a case of sitting back - we need to try and score.

A few days later we host Liverpool at home. Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge are up there with the best top-flight partnerships right now but Liverpool have got their weaknesses – West Bromwich Albion showed that they can be got at defensively. You have to make it a high-tempo game and get into them. It’s a match Fulham can win.

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