Fulhamerica may be no more now that Clint Dempsey has returned to his boyhood club in Seattle, but Fulham is still very much a thing, and Spurs entertain the Cottagers this weekend in a match that the visitors desperately need to win to stave off relegation. With Cottagers Confidential big bossman Andrew Beck in London (and apparently set to attend the Fulham match at White Hart Lane), I denoobulated the eee-mayl machine and connected with co-manager Doug Danger to talk about Fulham's chances of staying up, that whole Moussa Dembele thing, and just how awesome Lewis Holtby is. In exchange, I answered a three questions (in depth) over at his neck of the woods, which you should check out.
Uncle Menno: Relegation to the Championship beckons for Fulham. Take the pulse of the Fulham community for us Spurs fans -- do you think you can stay up? Why, or why not?
Doug Danger: Relegation has been batting its eyes at us since it first noticed our strong jaw line and boyish good looks at the end of last season. After the 2008 escape, I know relegation isn't a certainty until the numbers say it's so, but I wasn't holding out much hope because the club simply wasn't showing signs of life. When they did - a productive transfer window and then the Manchester United draw followed by the Liverpool match - the Chairman's answer was to sack Rene Meulensteen. I still think that move was foolish one, but with the club finally picking up points, I don't think many of the Fulham faithful care all that much.
With a favorable run-in and a feeling of optimism surrounding the club, I think Fulham have a very good chance, however unlikely it looked even two weeks ago, to beat the drop. We just need a few other clubs to read from the same script, but it seems like everyone at the bottom of the table has suddenly woken up and realized where they're at.
UM: What's the deal with Konstantinos Mitroglou? He was linked to Arsenal and a number of other big clubs before signing for you guys this summer. Is he injured? Is he dead? Is he a figment of our collective imagination? Or is he just shit?
DD: He's not dead, I don't think, but the Mitroglou who was supposed to come in, start immediately, score loads of goals, and drag us up the table is/was certainly a figment of our imagination. He may actually be shit, but I haven't gotten to see him play enough to know for sure. The official line out of Motspur Park is that he came in something much, much less than fit and has been bothered by a knee injury. Dropping £12 million on a player who can't play would normally be cause for a riot, but in a season of bumbles, it's just one of many. All anyone is worried about at the moment is staying up.
UM: What's your take on Felix Magath? His reputation pegs him as a proper nutter of a manager... was that hard-nosed take-no-prisoners style what Fulham needed to avoid the drop? Do you wish you would've hired him earlier, and is he a good match for Fulham?
DD: He does have quite the reputation, doesn't he? Whether or not he's what Fulham needed is sort of beside the point at the moment. He's what we have. As I said before, I think Meulensteen was given the ax prematurely, but I also found the Meulensteen, Curbishley, Wilkins triumvirate really, really strange. Based on some of the performances prior to the transfer window, so did many of the players. Maybe too many cooks in the kitchen? Regardless Magath's reputation and possible penchant for industrial heavy metal music, what he's provided is a streamlined approach. He's decided on the players he thinks give the club the best chance of staying up and he's stuck with them. The players seem to be responding. If all the rumors about how universally disliked he was a previous clubs were true, I don't think we'd be seeing the sorts of performances we've see recently from players like Ashkan Dejagah, Sascha Reither, and Lewis Holtby, all of whom have played under Magath previously. Or maybe they're just worried about getting caned?
UM: On behalf of Cartilage Free Captain, we'd like to apologize to your fan base for selling you Scott Parker. Is he past redemption at this point, or do Fulham fans still like him a little bit?
DD: Apologies accepted, although that's hardly the transfer between our two clubs that warrants the most peace-making between fans! In general, Fulham supporters have a lot of time for Scott Parker. Work rate will get you a long way with most supporters, especially after those supporters have been subjected to the somnolent wanderings of the likes of Dimitar Berbatov and Bryan Ruiz. That said, although Parker has been out with injury lately, William Kvist and the corpse of Mahamadou Diarra were both brought in to address central midfield deficiencies. My issue with Parker is not so much how he plays, but how he plays when he's paired with Steve Sidwell. The two have a tendency to go forward at the same time and leave massive amounts of space behind them. Fulham's back four have been underwhelming this season, but much of the club's generosity at the wrong end is down to poor tactical awareness in central midfield.
UM: How much do you love Lewis Holtby? If Fulham stay up, do you think you'll make a bid for him this summer?
DD: I sleep with a photo of Lewis Holtby under my pillow and have to refrain from writing about him as "the cherubic faced Lewis Holtby." Not really...but maybe. He's been a spark for the club and plays with the sort of verve and energy that used to define Jimmy Bullard's performances at Fulham. He certainly doesn't play like a loan player. I would absolutely support a bid for the cherubic fac-... er, Lewis Holtby in the summer if the club stays up. I think it's down to whether or not Magath rates him, whether or not Holtby minds playing for Magath, and whether or not Tottenham's new manager wants him back. If Fulham go down though, it's a non starter.
UM: What's the future of Fulham look like? Are there any players in the academy that look promising? (Secondary question: would you sell us Moussa Dembele so we can complete the set?)
DD: The future looks bright for Fulham, which is why going down, while not desirable, wouldn't be the end of the world. Dan Burn, Cauley Woodrow, Moussa Dembele, Patrick Roberts, Jack Grimmer, Freddy Plumain, Chris David, and Muamer Tanković are all young, impressive players, a number of whom have made their Premier League debuts this campaign. Dembele and Roberts are both only 17.
In answer to your second question: No. Don't be greedy. But I had a thought. Would it be "Moussas Dembele"? Or "Moussa Dembeles"?
UM: Actually, I prefer "Moussas Dembeles," or just "Los Moussas." But let's talk tactics. How do you expect Fulham to set up against Spurs this weekend, and what do the Cottagers have to do to get a result against Tottenham?
DD: In previous difficult away fixtures in which Magath's been in charge, the side has been set up not to concede. In the Manchester City match, a match in which Fulham was playing well until Fernando Amorebieta gave up a penalty...and then another one, Magath started three center backs, although Johnny Heitinga was deployed as a right back. Sascha Reither was moved into midfield to provide cover for the back four and both Kvist and Sidwell, essentially both holding midfield players themselves, rounded out the guts of the Fulham lineup. Kieran Richardson, Alexander Kacaniklic, and Cauley Woodrow were the wide players and lone striker respectively.
I would expect Magath to deploy something similar against Spurs. It will be interesting to see if Diarra gets a third start in a row as the last match nearly killed him. I'd expect Hugo Rodallega to stay in the side as the in form striker and be tasked with providing an outlet from which to possibly spring a counter. I think if Fulham can limit space in wide areas, service into Adebayor, and prevent Christian Eriksen from having the run of the pitch they stand a chance of getting something from the match. It's going to be very, very difficult though.
UM: Tell us something confidential. Your blog is, after all, Cottagers Confidential. What's something about Fulham that we don't know that would make us twiddle our bow ties?
DD: Fulham's communications director has a phalanx of young men pining away for her. It's not quite to Eva Carneiro [Editor's note: that's Lady Physio to you lot] levels, but that's because Fulham is a more modest club than Chelsea. Twiddle away.
UM: Finally, let's have a score prediction.
Let's not. Predictions exist to make fools of us all and survival is such a delicate proposition for Fulham at the moment that I'm afraid even a whisper will break it. Let's agree to hope for a great match!
Thanks to Doug Danger from Cottagers Confidential for taking the time to answer my questions! Check out Cottagers Confidential for information regarding all things Fulham, and be sure to follow Doug on Twitter.