Continuing with our fan previews, Kristian Balkin of The Technical Area, who also writes for The Metro, talks about all things Fulham related.

Scott: How did you rate 2012-2013 for your club?

Kristian: It was quite disappointing if I’m honest, if only for the fact we had such a tremendous start to the season. You can never read too much into an opening day 5-0 win over Norwich City, but we played such fluent, progressive football that it seemed that this would be the season that things finally came together.

It wasn’t to be, though. Losing Clint Dempsey, and more importantly, Moussa Dembele, killed our early rhythm and before long we were looking over our shoulders at the relegation zone.

There were some positives, of course, not least Dimitar Berbatov. The fact that we continued to look relatively safe despite spending little-to-no money over the past few years bodes well, too.

Scott: Who was your best player?

Kristian: Many, many Fulham fans will dislike me for this, but I say Dimitar Berbatov. The reason for potential disdain from my peers is because Sascha Riether was so superb for us, and in that there is no doubt. For me, though, Berbie was the difference between relegation fodder and sustainable mediocrity.

A man that can turn a game on its head in an instant is invaluable to any club, but for us he has been superb. Knowing such a talent is spearheading your attack makes being a Fulham fan that little bit more pleasurable.

Scott: Which player are you expecting most important in 2013-2014?

Kristian: I think Brede Hangeland will be very important simply because we need to get our defensive record back on track. Only a matter of years ago we were infamous for our defensive solidity and while it’s not the most flattering or entertaining trait, it was something to be proud of, and something that helped us pick up points, obviously.

Under Jol though, such defensive aptitude has dissipated and we’ve been conceding left, right and centre. One man who can help out there is captain Hangeland and having signed a new two-year deal, much to the surprise of most of us, he should be more committed to the cause than ever.

Scott: If you could take one United player, who would it be?

Kristian: Even though we’re already blessed with your old boy Berbatov, I’d happily take Robin van Persie on board. He’d be brilliant up top alongside, or ahead of, the Berb and would make us particularly potent.

Saying that, what we really crave is a talented, creative central midfielder so we’d happily taker Michael Carrick off your hands.

Scott: Are you pleased Fergie’s retired?

Kristian: No, not really. I understand he ruffled a few feathers and wasn’t amazingly popular among the rest of the league’s fans, but I have always seen him as something of an elite when it comes to British managers.

Despite his age, he had an uncanny ability to renovate your United side and encouraged many, many evolutions in his time at Old Trafford, not just in playing staff but in the way you played and approached football. Most manages, it must be said, just stick with their tried and tested formulas and, I feel, if Sir Alex is to be praised for one thing, it’s his ability to embrace change. He will be missed.

Scott: Where do you think your club will finish this season?

Kristian: It all depends on where we go in the transfer market, really. With a brand new owner you’d hope we will be investing quite heavily but I don’t think that’ll be the case. We will probably just invest as prudently as we usually do and for that reason, we’d do well to finish tenth.

That said, we can still spend wisely and fill the right holes in our squad – centre midfield, up front, perhaps at full back. That could see us break the top ten and maybe grab eighth or ninth place.

Scott: Where do you think United will finish?

Kristian: I’ve struggled to place you guys whenever I’ve considered how the table will look come next May. You’ll certainly finish in the top two – you’re just too good to drop out.

But I just don’t feel 100% persuaded that David Moyes has the nous to carry you straight to the title in his first season. That’s not to say he never will, or that he’s not a good manager, but the buzz at Chelsea with Jose Mourinho, or the sheer spending power of Manchester City, may see you ousted to a second, consecutive Premier League trophy. So, in summary, a close second for me.

Scott: How did you rate Berbatov’s first season at Fulham?

Kristian: As you’ve inevitably gathered, I’m a big fan of Berbatov. He’s had his bad moments, and he has faced the wrath of some fans that confuse his languid style of play with laziness, but on the whole he has been one of our best signings in many, many years.

His ability is just so natural and though his demeanour can be somewhat stroppy, sometimes irritable, he is an asset we cannot afford to lose now. We all know that he is a particularly large fish in an otherwise small pond but we’re content with that and, seemingly at least, so is he.

Scott: What do you think of Richardson?

Kristian: I like him. He’s had a mixed season, blighted by both injury and form, but he’s showed glimpses of what I’d loosely label as a ‘competent player’. That’s not to say he’s not of first team quality, just that he hasn’t had the chance to show his full potential.

At left midfield he looked, at best, awful. At left back, however, I thought he produced his best football and that’s quite encouraging given John Arne Riise’s questionable displays. For me, he’s our number one left back but we will have to wait and see if Martin Jol feels the same way.




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