Everton are on the verge of selling striker Andy Johnson to Fulham for a tidy profit. Johnson joined Everton from Palace for £8.6m in May of 2006 and after scoring 22 goals in 74 appearances, his value has gone up significantly. Fulham will reportedly pay a fee that could eventually rise to £13m for the 27-year-old, who is thought to be keen on a move back to London for family reasons.
For their part, Everton are expected to use the money obtained from the transfer to make an improved bid for 21-year-old Sporting Lisbon and Portugal midfielder Joao Moutinho. Everton had an £11.8m bid rejected over the weekend, with Sporting demanding £20m.
If Fulham complete the deal for Johnson, he will become Roy Hodgson’s ninth signing since the end of the season. Johnson would join Mark Schwarzer, Zoltan Gera, David Stockdale, Andranik Teymourian, Toni Kallio, former West Ham duo Bobby Zamora and John Pantsil and defender Fredrik Stoor who signed on from Rosenborg.
I can’t help but recall Fulham’s busy summer last year and the resulting struggles as the team did not seem to settle. You’ll recall that last summer, Lawrie Sanchez went on a £25m spending spree and brought in a boat-load of new faces. Hodgson is also bringing in many new faces so I thought it would be interesting to compare the two manager’s performances in the transfer market. Obviously it is much too early to know how Hodgson’s signings will turn out but that’s what speculation is for !
Let’s start with Sanchez’s deals from last summer.
A couple of the players had a positive impact on the team such as Paul Konchesky, Hamuer Bouazza and Aaron Hughes. Most of the others never found their stride at the club and you wonder if they’ll remain after the summer. I’m choosing to abstain from judging David Healy as I don’t feel he’s yet to get a proper run of games at the club in order to show his worth.
In particular, I could see Seol Ki-Hyeon and Chris Baird moving along and Fulham have been trying to sell Steven Davis to Rangers. Ki-Hyeon was essentially traded for Liam Rosenoir and I think that was a bad deal for Fulham. Rosenoir is only 24 and still growing as a defender while Ki-Hyeon struggled to break into the first team and did not produce much when given a chance. Baird seems better suited to the Championship level at this point though that might be a bit harsh of a judgment.
Diomansy Kamara, a £6 million signing from Championship outfit West Brom, would have to be looked upon as a flop. 5 goals in 28 appearances is simply not what Sanchez was hoping for with that signing.
Shefki Kuqi, Dejan Stefanovich did not bolster the team much, if at all. I like Danny Murphy as a player but he had a rough start for Fulham but did come good towards the end of the season. All in all, a so-so record for Sanchez.
With that in mind, let’s examine some of Hodgson’s signings a little closer. Replacing Kasey Keller was vital and in Australian goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, Fulham have a decent starting goalkeeper. When you consider they picked up the 35-year-old on a free, I’d put that down as a solid signing.
Fredrik Stoor is a 24-year-old who played for Sweden at Euro 2008 and made 29 appearances for Rosenborg’s first team, including 7 appearances in European club competition. He looks to have a good shot at grabbing the starting right-back berth as Moritz Volz seems to be out of favour and loan signing Paul Stalteri does not appear to be making a permanent move to Fulham from Spurs. Whether Stoor can adapt to the Premier League remains to be seen.
Toni Kallio did not make a single first-team appearance during his loan period with Fulham and must be viewed simply as a depth signing as he is versatile enough to play either centre or left-back positions. He is also well known to Roy Hodgson from his time as Finland’s coach.
Andranik Teymourian came over from Bolton on a free after struggling to get first team action under both Sammy Lee and Gary Megson. He had shown flashes of brilliance and could be a very good bargain pickup. Cracking the first-team might also been an issue at Fulham considering how many senior players are currently at the club.
Bobby Zamora is a streaky player and is likely a depth signing though he might get some starts if he starts the season on one of his hot streaks. He was not a costly investment so consider this one a roll of the dice.
John Pantsil spent two years with the Hammers but made just seven league starts and is hoping to use his move across London to prove he is good enough for the Premier League. Pantsil will compete with Stoor for the starting right-back slot. Another relatively low cost gamble.
Zoltan Gera turned down a contract extension with West Brom to sign on a free with Fulham and wages have to be the reason. He’s likely to be a depth player as I don’t see Gera supplanting Dempsey or Bouazza as an attacking midfield player. Coming over on a free looks to be an OK deal for the club.
That brings us to the Johnson signing. Is he going to offer something that Healy does not? They both seem to be pacey, predatory players and I don’t see much to choose between the two. I think Fulham could have used a strong centre forward ala Brian McBride and I’m not sure that Zamora or Collins John, if he remains with the club, are the answer.
Overall, beyond the big splash signing of Johnson, I would say that Hodgson has been pretty shrewd in his transfer dealings and has taken calculated chances on “unknowns” ala Sam Allardyce. He has spent a good amount of cash but Fulham are backed by a relatively rich chairman that does not mind investing in the club from time to time.
Fulham’s Premier League consolidation (they’ve stayed up since 2001) is quite an achievement in view of their low ebb during the 1990s. The club was relegated to the Third Division in 1994 and two years later finished 17th out of 24 teams. Mohammed Al-Fayed (owner of Harrod’s department store) bought the club in 1997 and has to be praised for reviving their fortunes.
They have yet to find their feet in the Premier League but I think this could be the season they finally move toward being a top 10 club possibly at the expense of a club like Blackburn. I am not predicting a UEFA Cup berth or anything that high but I certainly feel they will do better than 17th. Hodgson is an underrated manager and I look for the club to move forward this season under his experienced tutelage.