Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughPremier League shake-up in west London - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Premier League shake-up in west London - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Premier League shake-up in west London

When I heard that US international Carlos Bocanegra was heading back to the MLS, I thought he would be doing so with the doors of Craven Cottage closing behind him. But while I was asleep the man had contracted Anelka-siosis and been to France, Scotland and Spain. It was from the newly relegated Racing Santander that the former Fulham defender was crossing the Atlantic to return to his home state of California and join Chivas USA. Now, it’s not the adventures of a US pro footballer in the sunset years of his career that I wish to elucidate. The Bocanegra story simply alerted me to a summer clean-out taking place quietly in West London.  

It really is out with the old and in with the new at the Cottage: new shirt sponsor, new kit manufacturer, and new pre-season destination; Costa Rica, home of their creative engine, Bryan Ruiz. But more importantly, a good number of the fading veterans have been shipped out and more sturdy versions of them installed. The Bernabeu’s former midfield terrier-in-chief Mahamadou Diarra and Greece’s Euro 2004 hero were among a dozen players whose contracts were not renewed. The latter’s lot may not be as bleak as it appears with A-League outfit Melbourne Victory reportedly interested in his services. Escaping from the perpetual gloom of London to the sunny shores of Victoria’s capital does not constitute a death sentence by any stretch of the imagination. Plus there is the bonus of meeting for drink-ups with other former greats of Alessandro Del Piero’s ilk.

Also pulling off the Fulham jersey, and gloves, is long-serving keeper Mark Schwarzer who is in the top 10 list of those who’ve played the most EPL games. But at 40, he is not yet ready to call it a day and is keeping his ear cocked for offers after declining the 1-year deal Fulham had offered him. Playing second fiddle to the incoming Martin Stekelenberg wasn’t how he was going to bow out of the beautiful game. Apart from the ex-Roma number one, Fulham have brought in Ghanaian stopper Derek Boateng and former Athletic Bilbao centre back Fernando Amorebieta to help stiffen the spine of Martin Jol’s attack-minded squad.

To improve the attack Jol intends to reel in 25 year-old winger Bakary Sako from Wolves to add to the talents of Ruiz, Alexander Kacaniklic, Karim Frei and Damien Duff. Damien Duff? Perhaps Sako’s arrival will signal the end of the Irishman’s days as the Cottagers’ first choice left winger. He is 34 after all, and not everyone is Ryan Giggs. Now what remains to complete the shake-up is a more energetic replacement for John Arne Riise and we might be looking at a side that can sustain a good start to a season. Not begin losing utterly winnable fixtures and sinking into the murky relegation mire before limping back to safety at the 11th hour. Spend wisely Jol, and don’t be afraid to lighten the wage bill where it’s called for.