Songs of praise are rising majestically lately in West London for Fulham striker Bryan Ruiz. Clint Dempsey may hog all the attention on our shores when Yankee gaze turns toward little Craven Cottage. But like Dempsey, Ruiz has put together some top drawer afternoons in this, his debut campaign upon arrival from FC Twente in the Netherlands.
The Costa Rican international – whom Mexico will soon be dealing with in World Cup qualifying, with the United States perhaps soon to follow – is just part of the good times at Craven Cottage. There’s a bigger story afoot on the West London banks of the Thames.
Fulham is such a little fish among the English Premier League sharks. Who would be surprised if Dempsey’s side, as the calendar moves into mid-March, was down among the stragglers, cast mercilessly into the white knuckle zone of the relegation-stalked, alongside Blackburn and Bolton, QPR, Wolves and Wigan? The little Cottagers have long made do with limited revenue streams, and dodging relegation is part-and-parcel with official membership of the EPL-lite Club.
And yet, they sit today solidly mid-table, 10th among 20. However unlikely they are to climbing into a top 6 spot, know this: the odds of such a farfetched happening are surely better than odds of a drop into the relegation zone. Martin Jol’s men are surely safe, free and clear with two months remaining.
The bigger story to consider here: people around Fulham have done a remarkable job over the years of collecting usable talent on the cheap. As for Ruiz, you can read about him here, in Ben Lyttleton’s sharp piece from today.
But Ruiz is just another smart acquisition for a club that has occupied a seat at the smart kid’s table for years in transfer matters.
Can we talk for a second about Pavel Pogrebnyak, who has quickly made everyone forget about Bobby Zamora along Stevenage Road? The Russian international moved to Fulham on loan in January from VfB Stuttgart and immediately struck for a remarkable five goals in his first three matches.
So it looks like we can add Pogrebnyak’s name to the growing list of evidence suggesting Fulham braintrust knows just how to play the foreign market. Other examples? How about Dempsey, Ruiz, Brede Hangeland and Moussa Dembélé. Still others, like Danny Murphy, Mark Schwarzer, Damien Duff and Philippe Senderos were risky pickups due mostly to injury history, and yet have managed to contribute something to the Cottager cause. In Schwarzer’s case, quite a bit of something.
Smaller teams like Fulham must try harder and act smarter to keep from being complete chum for the big boys – but it can be done.