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2001-2 Season Review: Fulham
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Steve Finnan had a superb first Premiership season (Allsport)
05/13/2002. Well what a roller-coaster season we have had!

We were promoted in May 2001 having gained more then 100 goals and points. Expectations were high and made even more so by the pre-season signing's of Van Der Saar, Legwinski, Harley and Malbranque, Louis Saha was expected to be the star of the season while we had real concerns about Steve Finnan, Rufus Brevett, Andy Melville and Sean Davis.

We thought we had the strikers to score lots of goals, especially as Steve Marlet signed at the end of August. We had defensive worries and felt that if anything would let us down, it be that. Oh how wrong that proved to be!

In total Fulham had spent £35m pre-season on mainly attack–minded players.

Expectations were high and most experts expected us to finish at least in the top 10. As fans we knew that Fulham wouldn't go down, but as it was our first season in the Premiership, we wanted easy survival and a decent cup run. We have ended 13th, got to the FA Cup semi-finals and qualified for the Intertoto Cup. We met our expectations but all Fulham fans know it could have been a lot better!

The season started at Old Trafford and our superstar striker Saha scored both goals in a 2-3 defeat. We played well and were really unlucky. Unfortunately for Saha his season peaked at this point and the striker, who started the season on the fringe of the French World Cup squad, ended it knowing that the fans would be happy if he was discarded back to the Nationwide divisions!

The next game was at home to Sunderland and we won 2-0. Unfortunately that was just about it for goal scoring as we only managed to hit two goals in a game in ten league matches this season. In total we scored thirty-six goals in thirty-eight matches. The problem was not that we did not create the chances; it was simply that Saha, Hayles and Boa Morte were not good enough to play as Premiership strikers. Combined with only having one goal scoring midfield player – the irrepressible Steed Malbranque – it was an incredibly frustrating season.

The defence performed superbly all-season. Edwin Van der Saar was an excellent and despite occasional bloopers justified his £7m price tag. Steve Finnan deservedly won his place in the PFA XI awards and is probably the best right back in the Premiership – if only he was going to the World Cup to play for England rather then Ireland! Alain Goma was incredibly consistent all season while Brevett and Melville silenced their doubters with impressive form all season.

The midfield was made up of a strange combination of players. Malbranque being the pick while Davis, Legwinski and Collins all performed well at times but never really consistently. They were excellent at Fulham's pretty passing football but all lacked a bit of grit when the going got touch. Also none of Fulham's midfield can be regarded as a wide player and there was always a lack of width in the team.

The FA Cup run was excellent but losing to Chelsea in the semi-final was hard to accept especially as they played very poorly on the day. The fact that we couldn't sell our allocation of tickets was disappointing but understandable for a club who only five years ago struggled to get 5000 fans to attend a third division home match.

The season was also our last at Craven Cottage for a couple of years and the big send-off against Leicester matched the mood of the season. Lots of huff and players but once again no goals. The sell out, party atmosphere crowd deserved a lot better – but to be honest that sums up the season!

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE SEASON

1, Staying up in our first season. This shouldn't be a highlight but, with some poor performances, we managed to drag ourselves into the relegation dogfight. A superb away win at Leeds got us clear while the performance of the season at home to Bolton ensured safety.

2, Mid-December we reached eighth place in the table – one above Man United. Just six years earlier we had been ninety places behind them!

3, Getting to the FA Cup semi final. Ok we got there without facing a Premiership, but then we also never got a home draw. The boys did well getting that far and with a bit luck would have got to Cardiff.

4, Qualifying for the Intertoto Cup. It may be two-bob and no one else may care less about it but it will be Fulham's first ever season in a European competition.

LOW POINTS OF THE SEASON

1, Two points out of twenty-seven. February/March was the pits. We lost matches against Middlesboro, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham, Everton and West Ham. We didn't play too badly in some of the matches but were awful anytime we got near the goal!

2, Mid-September when we realised that the ever-impressive Louis Saha had been replaced by long-lost cousin who was incapable of kicking a ball!

3, Losing three out of three to a poor Tottenham side. They knocked us out of the League Cup and beat us home and away in the League but we never got out of first gear in any of the matches.

4, Losing to Chelsea in the FA Cup. It was bad enough going out but to them…

5, Being stuck behind a huge stanchion at Ipswich so couldn't see a damn thing! It was also yet another game where we dominated but got beat!

PLAYER(S) OF THE SEASON:

Number one has to be Steve Finnan – the best right back in the Premiership

Plus special mentions for:

Steed Malbranque – the French Under 21 captain will be in the world-class bracket in the next two or three seasons.

Rufus Brevett and Andy Melville – proved all of the doubters wrong. They both turned into consistent, quality Premiership players.

DUFFER(S) OF THE SEASON:

Only Louis Saha can get this award. I genuinely thought he was going to be the French number one striker by the end of this season but he totally flopped. Maybe he has replaced by an alien, it can be the only reason why he was barely a shadow of the player who performed in division one.

OVERALL OPINION OF 2001-2

At the end I feel that the season was a bit disappointing. We know that apart from the top six the Premiership is all fairly level and there are no good reasons why we didn't finish a few places higher.

That being said, it was our first season and we survived fairly comfortably. The squad is young and there will undoubtedly be a few new purchases for next season. Combine that with the return of Chris Coleman and Lee Clark and Mr Al Fayed should be hoping for a better return for his investments next season.

My hopes for next season are simple.
1, Finish in the Premiership top eight. We are not ready for the "top six" step up yet but top eight would be a significant improvement
2, Reach the quarter finals of both the League Cup and the FA Cup
3, Do well in the Intertoto Cup and hopefully qualify for the UEFA Cup
4, See Sean Davis get picked for the full England squad while Chris Coleman and Lee Clark have an injury free season.

soccerage
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
2001-2 Season Review: Ipswich Town
News Archive

Marcus Bent was one of the few plus points this season (Allsport)
05/13/2002. HIGHLIGHTS OF THE SEASON

With a season that ended so badly it is hard to imagine there were any highlights to look back on, but let us not forget our time in Europe, (yes it did more harm than good but it was still exciting) beating Inter 1-0 at home was a good night. We did have a good run after Christmas that really gave hope to the fans and the club. Too bad we couldn't play Spurs every week. After the disappointing season the brightest point has to be the fact that Norwich lost in the play-off final. That at least is sweet.

LOW POINTS OF THE SEASON

Where to start? There have been so many low points that it is hard to pick which one is the worst… actually relegation would be the low point though it did take Sunderland until the last weekend to see us down. Losing to Liverpool home and away by a total of 11 goals will be a memory I try to block from my mind, but I think the worst was losing 4-1 to Bolton when we KNEW we needed a win. I will have to go home and erase that tape tonight. That was the lowest point in my opinion, how could we look so unprepared for that game when we NEEDED it so badly because of our run in. How do you play Manchester United and Arsenal so well to lose to Bolton so badly? I think it was after that game most of the fans knew we were doomed.

PLAYER(S) OF THE SEASON:

Who do you choose? How can you possibly pick a player of the season when no one played well? Okay Marcus Bent. He picked us up after coming over from Blackburn at the end of November and really gave the team a lift. Top league scorer with 9 league goals! That's it, no wonder we were relegated. Sixto Peralta did well when he was fit and I hope we sign him for next year he should be fantastic in the First Division. And finally Darren Bent did well when given a chance toward the end of the season scoring a couple of goals; hopefully he will be in the starting XI next year. I am sure that you could argue that some of the defenders weren't totally crap all year but giving up the most goals in the Premiership (tied with Leicester how sad is that) isn't going to convince me of it.

DUFFER(S) OF THE SEASON:

Could I pick the starting XI? Seriously most of our big signings this year have not preformed up to expectations, Finidi George – out with Nigeria for 6 weeks and out injured another 6 or so never turned into the playmaker that he was hoped to be. Whether or not he gets a chance next year remains to be seen. Matteo Sereni when he played he was decent the problem was he spent so much time in the trainer's room during our run in and for the money he cost we needed him on the pitch. It is easy to pick on the new signings and say they were at fault but the team that got us so far last year didn't play up to snuff either. Holland, Reuser, and Stewart weren't nearly as good as last year. Given time and space I could wax poetic on the failings of any number of players but much of the blame should fall on George Burley as well. Don't get me wrong I want him as the manager and I know he will be able to get us right back up, but it is his job to pick and motivate the team and there were a large number of lackadaisical performances this year.

OVERALL OPINION OF 2001-2

Were we to good to go down? Maybe, yet it really doesn't matter how good you think you are, all that matters is results and we couldn't deliver them when we needed to. We didn't get relegated in May, it happened in September, October and November. Going three months without a win isn't the best way to ensure Premiership survival and yet with the good run after Christmas we almost did. It was a disappointing season after the 00-01 campaign had raised hopes probably too high. Did the European campaign affect league play? Probably, but that is why you bring in more players and spend the money on quality. Not very many great performances this year and a lot of mediocre to poor ones, exciting to be back in Europe but then to go back down, overall it was frustrating because you could see glimpses of good football and you knew they could play better. But in the end we deserved what we got, now we just need to learn the lessons again and pop back up.

soccerage
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
2001-2 Season Preview: West Ham United
News Archive

David James recovered from serious injury to have a superb season (Allsport)
05/15/2002. HIGHLIGHTS OF THE SEASON

The most satisfying game of the season for West Ham United is certainly the 1-0 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford, due to a splendid goal by Jermain Defoe. That game was a great demonstration of teamwork.

Amongst London's clubs, West Ham finished third behind Arsenal (who else!) and Chelsea. Against other London rivals, The Hammers didn't lose to Charlton Athletic and finished 3 points ahead of Tottenham. For that, they have to be grateful to Leicester for winning against the Spurs in the last match of the season.

LOW POINTS OF THE SEASON

Even in a great season like West Ham just had, there was a couple of low points, starting with the quick elimination in the first round of the Worthington Cup. After more than 120 minutes of regular time without a single goal, West Ham United lost 6-5 against Reading on penalties.

The FA Cup wasn't any easier for our team. A 3-0 win to Macclesfield Town set the tone for a bright future. In the second round, they faced Chelsea. After a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge, Glenn Roeder's troop came back at Upton Park with the field advantage. But guess what? They lost the second game at home, 3-2. At that point, they had to concentrate on the domestic league and play good, which is what they did.

During the regular season, West Ham's fans were also witness to a couple of nightmares. We must admit that the 7-1 defeat against Blackburn was surely one of those!!

PLAYER(S) OF THE SEASON:

At least half of the team deserves a mention. Sebastien Schemmell was extremely reliable on defence and started the counter-attack with creativity. The stricking partnership between Paolo Di Canio (9), Frédéric Kanouté (11) and the promising young superstar Jermain Defoe (10) scored 30 Premiership goals this season. Defoe also hit the target 4 times in 3 FA Cup games. Joe Cole and Trevor Sinclair were really good in midfield by supporting their dangerous forwards. Cole will represent England during the next World Cup and Sinclair could be invited due to unlucky injured players already named in the squad. But West Ham's player of the year has to be David James, another member of the English squad. Coming from Liverpool, James ruptured a ligament in his knee before he had even played a game for West Ham United. But after the recovery period that forced him to miss the first twelve games, he came back strong allowing only 32 goals in 26 games for an average of 1,23. He was left by himself a lot of times, always coming up with big saves. Remember the game at Old Trafford! In fact, when he was on the pitch, West Ham had a chance of winning.

DUFFER(S) OF THE SEASON:

It's difficult to pick one particular duffer on the first team. But on the reserve team, there's a striker called Titi Camara. The problem with Camara is that he only played 7 games for West Ham since his transfer from Liverpool, in December 2000, for the amount of £2,200,000. The Guinean international is absolutely unable to secure a spot on the first team, staying in the shadow of Di Canio, Kanouté and Defoe. Imagine, on the reserve team he only netted three goals in twelve games. A couple of months ago, we even heard that he was thinking about retirement. Go ahead!!

OVERALL OPINION OF 2001-2002

That 2001-2002 season was the swansong one for Nigel Winterburn with West Ham United. Winterburn provided some precious services during his years at Upton Park, but he will be replaced by Vladimir Labant, a talented defender, who came from Sparta Praha.

Glenn Roeder's first season as West Ham's manager was very promising, but the team really took a run up with David James back in the net. Roeder guided the team, he raised the level of play to high standards and he has a plan for the upcoming year. After the first half of the season, all the transfer rumours distracted the team and didn't help the team spirit. Di Canio, Sinclair and now Kanouté were all linked elsewhere this year. But now, by keeping their top players, by having David James in front of the net for the whole season and by starting next season the way they finished this one, who knows what could happen with the Hammers? Maybe Europe is possible in a near future…

soccerage
 
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