Opposition Q & A
After three consecutive wins, scoring three in each game, West Ham fans will be looking forward to welcoming Fulham to the London Stadium in the 5.30pm kick-off game this Saturday. Ahead of the game I spoke to my son’s old school friend and lifelong Fulham fan Joe Potter to discuss the season so far and our game.
Hi Joe, this time last season you were lighting up the Championship, and you were eventually promoted via the Play off final, at what stage did you become confident you would be promoted?
I think during the play off semi final second leg against Derby, at the Cottage. We’d lost 1-0 at Pride Park but there was a special atmosphere that night and it just felt fated that we were going to do it. We went to Wembley with so much positivity and confidence .
In great contrast you sit at the bottom of the Premier League having recently sacked your manager. Was Slavisa Jokanovic given enough time to keep you up: how do you rate his time with you? And is Claudio Ranieri the man to guide you up the table?
‘Joka’ will always be held in high regard at Fulham. He gave us back a footballing identity, pride and excitement for the first time since Hodgson. We’d been a poor Premier League and Championship team before he arrived. In the end his lack of pragmatism and unwillingness to change his principles was his undoing. I was sad to see him go but it just wasn’t working – we were much too easy to play and score against. Claudio feels like a good fit with the club. He’s a calm and classy character but he has a hell of a job to keep us up. We’re all just hoping his pedigree as a Premier League winner will come though and get us out of trouble.
What do you think about Manuel Pelligrini’s appointment and tenure as West Ham manager?
You had a dodgy start, but no one can doubt Pelligrini’s credentials. Expectations are obviously high with the stadium and spending that you did in the summer and it looks like things are bedding in with a few wins recently. There’s no doubt that you have quality in the squad.
Which teams have impressed you at this season, and which teams do you think will win the league and end up in the Champions League slots?
I think City have to be favourites for the league and I think they will pull away from Liverpool as the season goes on. They dispatched with us up in Manchester pretty easily. Arsenal were strong when we played at the Cottage, probably the best performance against us so far and they look to have improved in a number of areas. I’d put them in the Champions League places alongside Spurs (if only to keep the other team in Fulham out).
On the other hand who has been poor this season, and who are your favourites (or hopes)for relegation?
I think Cardiff will struggle, although they are out of the relegation zone at the time of writing. I’ve got no love for them as a club and wouldn’t be disappointed to see them go down. Huddersfield is a great away day and I admire what they’ve done as a club but money talks and I think they will be down there at the end of the season. As for the 3rd relegation place, anyone but us!
What positions do you think Fulham and West Ham will occupy at the end of the season?
I’ll take 17th for the Lilywhites and reckon West Ham could make 8th quite comfortably, although expectations are probably higher!
Most fans will have heard of Ryan Sessegnon and his potential, who are the other players who are going to be instrumental in keeping you up this season?
If we can find a system which suits him then Jean Michael Seri could be instrumental. He has so much quality on the ball. Also Tom Cairney if he can get fully fit. He still makes us tick. Mitrovic’s goals will be crucial.
The transfer window is soon upon us, where do you need to get players in to strengthen you?
There’s a lot of strengthening to do. No secret that our defending has been shambolic so we need some steel and defensive nous. That includes in midfield as well as defence. A lot got made of the money we spent in the summer but we lost 5/6 first team players who were on loan last season and needed to be replaced. That was always going to be expensive.
Which players have disappointed this season so far, and you would be happy to see go?
The fact that Seri has so much quality means he’s the biggest disappointment despite not being our worst performer. When we beat Burnley 4-2 at home early in the season he was getting stuck in, spraying passes and scored a great goal. Unfortunately his lack of interest recently in tracking back (there was a shocking example against Man Utd at the weekend) is not what you need when you’re fighting for every point.
Which if any West Ham players would you like to see playing for Fulham and why?
Even though West Ham have much more talented players, and he has his limitations, we badly lack Premier League experience and for that reason probably Mark Noble.
How will Fulham set out against West Ham on Saturday? Formation/Team?
We’ve got the Tinkerman so it’s hard to predict! We’ve lacked consistency of selection all season which has been a problem.
Ranieri has tried to sure things up at the back and I hope Callum Chambers will come back into defensive midfield. We missed him against Man Utd at the weekend when he was injured and Ranieri called it ‘11 lambs against 11 wolves’!
Mitrovic and Sessengon are very likely to start in forward positions, probably alongside Schurrle
Are you confident you can get a positive result against West Ham this weekend? Prediction for the score?
I’ll take a gritty 1-0. However it comes!
Well many thanks to Joe for his time, although he did post his answers to me within about an hour of receiving the questions. For my part I can recall a few memorable victories at The Cottage and will take us to continue our winning run, I know I’m getting delirious, another three goals: 3 – 1 West Ham. COYI
PS I couldn’t find any pictures of West Ham v Fulham so posted this one of Anderson striking the ball for that glorious goal last week. Great goal!