Kettering v Fulham: Interview with Kettering fans

 We caught up with Karen Spencer of the Kettering Town Supporters’ Trust for a chat ahead of our visit to Rockingham Road on Saturday. Our grateful thanks go to Karen for her time.

 

How much of a boost is it to Kettering to be drawn against a Premier League side?

It is a fantastic boost to the Club and the town.  To reach the FA Cup 4th round is a brilliant achievement.  This is the second time in our history we have reached this stage and I was lucky enough to have experienced that game back in 1989 away to Charlton in the days when they played at Selhurst Park.  We lost 2-1 that day but I will never forget it.  The whole town buzzed for weeks before the game and for a few days afterwards (!) and that same feeling has come back to the town again.  It is great to bring the whole community together, even if only for a short time, particularly with all the doom and gloom in the media at the moment.  This tie is really what the FA Cup is all about and everyone is talking about it and the excitement is building!

 

You’re currently in 9th I believe. How would you describe your season so far?

I think our season has far exceeded our expectations.  The Poppies were one of the original founders of what is now the Blue Square Premier (Alliance League in 1979) and we spent 22 years in the League until our first relegation in 2001.  We bounced straight back and then were relegated again immediately and then spent three-four seasons looking to get back into the top flight of non-league football.  We achieved that last season when we won Conference North with 5 games still left of the season.  Fans knew life would be tough in BSP because it has changed so much over the last ten years with ex-League teams all vying to get back into the Football League and a lot of teams are now full-time.  I think, before the season started, if you told us that we would be 9th in January, having topped the table earlier in the season, we’d have settled for that big time!  The FA Cup, of course, has been a bonus!

 

What have been the highlights and disappointments over recent years?

I’ve been a regular supporter of the Poppies for 30 years and there have been, as with most football teams, highs and lows. 

The lows have included both our relegations from the top tier of non league football, and going into administration in the early 90s and not knowing whether we would survive or not

But the highs outweigh the lows in the long run. These include two visits to Wembley in the FA Trophy final in 1979 and 2000; the downside being that we lost both!

FA Cup highlights include the 4th round visit to Charlton in 1989 and a 3rd round visit to Blackburn Rovers in 1991 when King Kenny Dalglish was manager!

There is also winning the Southern League title in the 2001/2002 season and winning the Conference North title in 2007/2008 season.

 

What players should we be looking out for on Saturday?

Obviously, all our players need to be looked out for on Saturday!  Exodus Geohagan has a long throw to rival that of Rory Delap’s.  We’ve got Alfie Potter playing for us – he scored against Liverpool at Anfield last season in the FA Cup for Havant & Waterlooville.  Jean-Paul Marna, if he plays, is a crowd favourite and a bit of an enigma but, when on form, is great to watch.  Brett Solkon likes to steal in from midfield and score the odd goal.

 

Can you tell us some facts about Kettering that we might not know?

All time top scorers in the FA Cup ahead of Aston Villa (hopefully adding to that tally this weekend!)

First team in the world to have shirt sponsorship back in the 70s

Tommy Lawton was our player manager back in the 50s

Ron Atkinson was our player manager back in the mid 70s

Other well known names to manage us include Derek Dougan, Don Masson, Dave Needham and Gazza!

Well known players to have passed through Rockingham Road include Steve Daley, Dave Watson, Dennis Mortimer, Trevor Christie and Lil Fuchillo.

The Kettering Town (Poppies) Supporters Trust was the second Trust to be formed in the country back in the early 90s after Northampton Town.

 

Who are your all-time greatest players?

This is a difficult one.  My personal choice would differ to the next Poppies fan and his from the next one and so on.  So I’ve listed those who I know have generally been the fans’ favourites (whether it be because they were all-time great players or simply a favourite for whatever reason) in the time I’ve supported the Poppies:

 

Roy Clayton

Frankie Murphy

Peter Phipps

Phil Brown

Robbie Cooke

Carl Alford

Johnny Graham

Craig Norman

Dougie Keest

 

What should travelling Fulham fans expect?

Rockingham Road is an old-fashioned and tired looking ground but it is our home and has been for over 100 years.  The crowd will be tightly packed in on Saturday which will make for a great atmosphere and the partisan Poppies fans will relish winding up Premiership players at close proximity! 

 

Is there any advice for them on pubs to go/places to eat?

Depending on how the Fulham fans get here, there are pubs in the town centre most of which serve food.  Closer to the ground there is the Beeswing which also serves food (about a two minute walk).  The Club itself has a social club but I suspect it will be members only and it does not serve food.  There is a bowling alley next door which has a Wimpey at the front for burger and chips!  Of course, there will be catering inside the ground!

 

What are your hopes for the season?

My main hope for the season is to get back some of our League our form which has been interrupted by the FA Cup somewhat!  It would be great to think we could get into the play-offs but if we had a top ten finish I think that is more than we would have hoped for at the beginning of the season.

 

Who do you see as the main threats in the Fulham side?

Fulham is a Premiership side so all your players will be threats!

 

Can you give a score prediction for the match?

My heart says 2-2, my head says Fulham will win but as long as we get a goal for the fans to cheer and give a good account of ourselves then you can’t ask for more than that.

 

Any other comments?

I hope the Fulham fans enjoy their visit to Rockingham Road and may the best team win!

 

 

 

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Interview with Villa fans

We caught up with Damian who runs the excellent Aston Villa blog to ask his views on the season so far. Our thanks to him for his help.

Q. You’ve had a great season – are you happy with everything so far?
A. Am I happy with 5th? Yes, absofuckinglutely!

Q. What are your chances of getting a champions league slot?
A. I like to call it the Chumps League – only because it’s not really about the champions any more. When we won it in 82 it was about Champions but when Liverpool got in for finishing 5th it became all about the Chumps. But to answer your question, our chances are above average. We need a good run and for Liverpool and Everton to drop a few points.

Q. Who have been your best players this year?
A. Best players in no particular order; Olof Mellberg (who is leaving at the end of the season – last home game is Mellberg Day), Ashley Young and Gabby Agbonlahor – both have developed under O’Neill.

Q. What’s your assessment of Zat Knight?
A. Knight is solid but he tends to switch off.

Q. Where could you improve your team?
A. I want to give you an opinion, but I’ll leave that to Martin O’Neill!

Q. What do you make of Tom Hanks being a Villa fan
A. Me and Tom go way back. He asked me one day what team I supported and I told him about the Villa. After that he was a convert – he’s a very intelligent man!

Q. What do you make of Fulham so far?
Fulham have gone backwards this season and unless you start something soon you’re going to struggle. I expect Fulham to stay up but mostly through luck – Sanchez was a huge mistake.

Q. Who do you think will be relegated?
My gut tells me Derby, Wigan and Birmingham City.

Q. Who should we look out for this weekend?
A. If I had to pick one player I’d say Wayne Routledge because it’s going to be his debut and we’ve not got Ashley Young, who we normally try to channel stuff through. If Martin O’Neill can do for Routledge what he has done for others he could be a super star.

Q. What do you reckon the score will be?
Sorry, but 3-1 to the Villa.

Interview with Arsenal fans

We caught up with the lads from the Inside Arsenal blog to ask their thoughts ahead of our match with the Gunners. Our thanks to them for their help.

1. How do you feel your season is going so far?
Many pundits wrote us off and it did seem that it would be a tough season ahead after the departure of Thierry Henry. It was really dependent on how the team would cope without him. They have been freed and to be joint top in January is brilliant and higher than many Gooners expected.

2. What silverware do you expect to collect this year?
I would hope we can win at least one cup. The Premiership will still be a tough challenge. With so many big teams out of the FA Cup I would hope Wenger’s success here could continue. If we beat Tottenham on Tuesday, I fancy us in the Carling Cup.

3. Who have been your star performers and why?
Bakary Sagna – He came in any many wondered why Wenger bought a new right back. He has made our defence more solid and is good going forward. Always gives 100%.
Cesc Fabregas – faded a little lately but at the start was amazing. The new leader after Henry left and has been the fulcrum for the team.
Kolo Toure & William Gallas – together they have formed an awesome partnership and been one reason we are where we are.
Emmanuel Adebayor – Flourished since Henry left and has worked hard alll season, even when alone up front.

4. Has anything disappointed you this year?
The form of Gilberto and Walcott – Gilberto has dipped so much lately. Last season he was awesome, now he gives the ball away and adds no fight to the midfield. Theo has not come along as fans would have hoped. He still has much to learn.

5. Who do you see as your main rivals now?
Manchester United and Chelsea right now but surely Liverpool will click into gear soon?

6. What’s your view of Fulham?
Under Roy Hodgson they might be rejuvenated and against Chelsea they were unlucky. Whether they can keep working that hard and score more goals than they concede, we will see.

7. Are you concerned about any of our players?
Marlon King will add potency to the attack and on his debut could cause problems. Niemi has hade many a good game against us in the past.

8. Who do you think will be relegated this year?
Derby, Sunderland, Boro

9. What’s your score prediction for this weekend?
Fulham 1-3 Arsenal

Interview: Newcastle fans

We caught up with Ed Harrison of the Newcastle United blog (http://www.nufcblog.com/) to hear his views ahead of tomorrow’s match. Our thanks go to him for his time.

Q. How would you describe your season so far?
A. Disappointing – we were doing quite well when we beat Tottenham 3-1 on Oct 22nd but then had a run of 6 matches with just 2 draws against Sunderland and then Arsenal. But we won last Saturday against Birmingham – who were good – and hope to keep that up at craven Cottage.

Q. What is your view of Sam Allardyce – is he the right man for you?
A. There’s divided opinion on him still. We think he’s good but he’s come in for unreasonable rough treatment from the fans. But we think they have relaxed a bit with 4 points from the last 2 games and will give him a chance. As we said we think he’s good for us..

Q. Who have been your star performers and why?
A. James Milner been very consistent and very good on the wings almost every game. he’s a great young player coming through. Also another 21 year old Frenchman – Charles N’Zogbia has been very good. He’s playing left back right now but is really a left winger. We expect him to be LB at Craven Cottage. Recently one of our new players Habib Beye, right back, has been looking good. We’ve had big problems in defense, with too many mistakes being made by our new defenders.

Q. What’s been your biggest disappointment so far this season?
A. Not being further up the league. Also the two recent home games with Portsmouth (3-1) and Liverpool (3-0) we were just hopeless. Terrible performances. But then against Arsenal we were great and really deserved all 3 points.

Q. Where do you think you will end up this season?
A. We want to finish in top 6 so we can get into Europe – that’s what we really want. But we’d probably be happy now with top 8.

Q. How do you view Fulham?
A. As a team we can beat. Although when we’ve seen them Sanchez has them playing very well and they may be hard to beat. Aaron Hughes was here for a while and played over 250 games for us – a solid player and a great guy who married a Geordie girl. But we are really going for all 3 points on Saturday. Since you are below us in the league we think we should win – we’ll see

Q. Where do you think we will end up this season?
A. Probably bottom 8, but don’t think you are in any real danger of relegation. I’ve been impressed with Sanchez this season – he seems to be able to motivate the players but hasn’t got too much skill at the club.

Q. Any of our players that you’re particularly wary of?
A. I haven’t really looked to be truthful. Your 2 Americans Brian McBride and Dempsey look good. Also Kasey Keller – but I think he’s now injured.

Q. Who do you think will be relegated this season?
A. Derby, Wigan and Middlesbrough. We are hoping Sunderland stay up – but they need to start picking up points.

Q. Finally, what’s your score prediction for this weekend?
A. It would be great if we can keep a clean sheet – I’d go for a 1-0 Newcastle win.

Interview: Manchester United fans

We managed to catch up with Paul Freeman who runs the www.unitedonfire.co.uk website, as well as United fan Stuart Parish ahead of Monday night’s match at Old Trafford. Our thanks to both of them for their time.

How do you think your season has been so far?
PF: So far so good, the hiccup against Bolton last week so far. It started slowly when we had injuries and suspensions but we managed to grind out a few results to get our season going. Then we went on a spree where we couldn’t stop scoring. Obviously, we’d have preferred a win over Arsenal and it was gutting when they scored in injury time, but looking back it was a good result (better than last season). I hope that the loss to Bolton is a rare mistake.

SP: I think Fergie has made some excellent buys, especially Tevez, him and Rooney are an absolute joy to watch, so much for the press saying they wont be able to play together, Fergie has also added a couple of exciting young players in Nani and Anderson, who have brought our average age down considerably, alongside Hargreaves, we know have a squad who can challenge on all fronts. We are also playing attacking football, which is what this clubs built on, we have won five out of five in the Champions League and are not too far behind Arsenal in the Premier League, so no complaints here, our dreams of the League cup will have to wait another year though.

Who have been the stars for you so far?
PF: We are a different team with Rooney and Ronaldo in the team, it almost goes without saying. Who wouldn’t be? But the best, most consistent player has been Nemanja Vidic. A rock in defence, and also seems to make Ferdinand play to his best ability. Another player looking good is Anderson. With a reported price tag of £18million, he should be good, but we’ve been surprised quite how well he has been doing, and as a result, how little we’ve missed Paul Scholes.

SP: For me, personally, I think our defenders deserve a lot of credit for the start we have had, Patrice Evra has been immense since the season started, but Carlos Tevez has been unbelievable, his work rate, skill, vision, commitment, has been second to none, I can see him becoming a bit of a United legend if he carries on the way he is playing over the next few years.

Anyone you’re disappointed with?
PF: Your ex-player, Louis Saha. I think, because he has been out so much with injury he just hasn’t been able to get a run of games in. With only three strikers available, we need him to come in and do well now, but in the last two games, he has been poor. When he was in a good run of form last season, he was the key player in our team.

SF: Saha doesn’t seem at his best yet, but he hasn’t played much so hopefully he can get match fit, and I would like to see Hargreaves start more with Anderson in the midfield.

What silverware will you end the season with?
PF: I’d like to think we can win the league and Champions League this season, but most likely just one of the two. We are already out of the League Cup and we’ll do well in the FA Cup again, probably. I think the league will be hard to win this season, Arsenal are looking very good, and Chelsea have quietly got themselves back into the race.

SF: The title is the one most reds want, but we need to prove ourselves in Europe too, if I had to choose, I’d take the title every time, its harder to win and a true test of any team.

Is there anything about your team/its tactics you’d change?
PF: I’d like to see another striker come into the squad, but apart from that, I think it is spot on. The 4-5-1 formation is mostly long gone.

SF: I can’t understand why Fergie plays John O’Shea in so many different positions than defence, but he’s won nine Premiership titles, so who am I to judge?

Who would you like to see take over from Fergie?
PF: Hard question. I think it will probably be Queiroz and Fergie will go just as soon as we win the Champions League (so another 5 seasons then). I’d like to see an ex-Red get a go, and of the current managers I think Mark Hughes has done a great job at Blackburn, so I’d go for him.

SF: I honestly have no idea at the moment, I see Fergie being around for a few more years yet, so it would be best to make that judgement then.

How do you view the Glazers?
PF: They have plunged the club into debt and raised ticket prices so the fans are paying for their own club. I think worse is to come. I fully support MUST (Manchester United Supporters Trust) and hopefully one day the Glazers will sell up.

SF: Would you trust a family that to a man wear NHS specs? My season ticket has risen by over 40% since they took over, we are now saddled with even more debt, all season ticket holders have been forced into the Automatic Cup Scheme, so you could say there’s a lot of bad feeling amongst match going reds about the price hikes, especially the ACS.

What’s your view on Fulham this year?
PF: I think you will do enough to stay up this season. You are currently top of the relegation third of the Premiership and as long as you pick up points against your rivals, you will stay up. Have to say that I prefer Chris Coleman to Lawrie Sanchez as a manager though. I did think you were relegation bound at the start of the season.

SF: Honestly, I haven’t seen you play at all, so I can’t comment, a lot of United fans tend to be very insular and only follow United or results which influence United, that’s what I am like, if United aren’t playing, I’m not really bothered.

Any of our players you’re wary of?
PF: Danny Murphy because he always seems to score against us. Well, when he was at Liverpool anyway. Maybe David Healy will start to reproduce his Northern Ireland form against the bigger Premiership teams.

SF: Same as above.

Where do you think we’ll end up?
PF: There are at least 3 sides much worse than you, so to pick a place completely at random, 14th.

SF: Mid table.

Who will be relegated?
PF: Derby, Birmingham and Wigan. Although Sunderland and Middlesbrough are looking really suspect as well. It is hard to say (apart from Derby) because even a team reasonably placed in February can go on a dreadful run and go down.

SF: Hopefully Bolton, Middlesbrough and Wigan, in terms of football they don’t offer much to the premiership

What will the score be on Monday night?
PF: Ok, I’m dreadful at picking the right score, so whatever I say will be wrong. Of course, I think we’ll win, and the score will be 3-1 (Rooney, Tevez and Ferdinand for us, Murphy for you). So, now I’ve predicted that, it will be 1-0 to Fulham

SF: United 2 – 0 Fulham

Interview: Paula Martin, chairman of Supporters’ Trust at Reading

We caught up with Paula from Star (Supporters’ Trust at Reading) to ask her views on Reading’s season so far and what she thinks will happen at the Cottage on Saturday. Our grateful thanks go to her for her time.

Q. How good was it to get a win over Newcastle on the weekend?
A. Extremely good, not just the result but the spirit that was back in the team. Steve Coppell summed it up for all of us when he said it was like seeing an old friend again.

Q. What do you make of your season so far?
A. Disappointing because the standard of play has dropped from last year, until the last game. We started so well playing well (if not our normal game) against Man U then losing narrowly against Chelsea when we could have won, but then something went missing that we finally saw again last Saturday.

Q. Do people going on about ‘second season syndrome’ annoy you – or have they got a point?
A. It annoys – if only because the statistics do not show any second season syndrome, the first season syndrome is the dangerous one! With luck we will consolidate this season and then we can hear all about third season syndrome next season.

Q. Who have been the best and worst performers for you this season?
A. The injured right wingers have been the worst as it has meant playing someone out of position on the right – since you nicked Seol and Rosenior is not at home there. The other disappointement has been Shory but he is showing signs of his old self again. Best is probably Dave Kitson who had a horrible season last year with injuries so could not really show himself at his best then but is now.

Q. How do you rate Steve Coppell?
A. Very highly. I spoke to a Crystal Palace supporter at the SD conference who asked for ‘their Coppell’ back!

Q. What’s your view of Liam Rosenior?
A. Not really a right winger, and with our captain at right back, has not really had much of a chance to prove himself yet.

Q. Opinions are mixed at Fulham over Seol Ki-Hyeon…what’s he really like in your opinion?
A. My opinion is mixed. When he is playing well he is immense but that is not every game. He appears lazy but that could just be appearance as apparently he is seen as a high tempo player in Korea so maybe he is just playing the Korean way.

Q. Where do you think you’ll end up this season?
A. Mid table please

Q. Which players should we be wary of this weekend?
A. Whoever is playing, we should play our game and not play according to who you play.

Q. What do you think about Fulham this year?
A. Most Reading fans see them as a team to finish below us – but there is a feeling of support (as long as you do finish below us) because of Sanchez who we still see as a Reading boy.

Q. Which teams do you think will be relegated?
A. Derby, Middlesborough and Bolton, I think

Q. Finally, what’s your prediction for this weekend’s game?
A. Our first away win of the season, but not as high scoring as our game at Portsmouth!

Interview: Sunderland fans

We caught up with three Sunderland fans for a quick Q&A session ahead of this weekend’s match at the Stadium of Light. Our grateful thanks to author Jeff Scott (JS) at http://www.methanolpress.com/; Jim Higginson (J) of the Black Cats of America and Judith Hood of the Sunderland AFC Supporters’ Association (JH) for their time.

Q. How does it feel to be back in the Premier League? Are you here to stay this time?
Jeff Scott. I think you’re supposed to aspire to Prem football but, to be honest, I prefer the Championship as grounds you visit are more ‘real’, the kick off times are more ‘normal’ and the likelihood of a good result is higher. I really hope we are here to stay but history suggests otherwise.
Jim Higginson. Great
Judith Hood. It is the only place to be.

Q. What’s your honest appraisal of Roy Keane? The positives and any negatives?
JS. I must admit I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the professionalism of his approach. He’s been there, done it and got the t shirt so that has to be good but the downside is he’s not the finished article so he’s still learning. Realistically, if he was we wouldn’t have him.
J. He’s doing a good job
JH. Postives: He has rejuvenated the club. Negatives: Timing-wise he didn’t come at a good time and as a result very few premiership players were available so we had to settle for second best.

Q. Who have been your best and worst performers this season?
JS. Nyron Nosworthy has the odd moment but has continued his revelatory form.
Grant Leadbitter has also stepped up to the plate Greg Halford has a long throw but has yet to impress
J. Pass.
JH. Best performer: Kenwyne Jones. Worst: No comment

Q. Are there any areas where you would like to see an improvement?
JS. We need to score goals to stay up, defending better would help and a skilful midfield would be useful.
J. Goals.
JH. A good midfielder who can put his foot on the ball.

Q. What position do you think you’ll be in at the end of the season?
JS. 17th.
J. 16th or 17th.
JH. Hopefully sixth off bottom.

Q. Who do you think will be relegated?
JS. Derby, Bolton, Wigan.
J. Derby, Wigan, Fulham (Sorry, its early yet!)
JH. Derby, Bolton, Wigan.

Q. What’s your view of Fulham this season so far?
JS. Better than under Chris Coleman but still not setting the world alight. I expect you to stay up without really drawing attention to yourselves.
J. Patchy.
JH. I haven’t seen enough of them to comment. Honestly.

Q. Are there any of our players you are particularly wary of?
JS. That combative player you got from West Ham (thankfully sent off this
weekend) & Kamara
J. No
JH. –

Q. Which of your players should we fear the most this weekend?
JS. K. Jones
J. ?
JH. –

Q. Finally, what do you predict will be the result?
JS. 2-1 or 4-0
J. 3-1 Sunderland
JH. –