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Q&A with Roker Report

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Ahead of Sunday's fixture with Sunderland, I had a chat with the guys at Roker Report about all things Fulham and Sunderland. Here is what they had to say:

1. You've suffered a bit of a dip in form recently. Do you think this is just the O'Neill factor wearing thin or this there a deeper problem that needs to be addressed?

I think it's clear that the initial 'new manager' bounce has passed. Early on in O'Neill's reign we were all singing his praises and amazed at what he was doing "with Steve Bruce's players" now, with results on a mild downturn, we fickle football fans are saying "yeah, but it's Steve Bruce's players isn't it?"... Results have dipped, but given the resurrection we've had under him, he's earned a bit of leeway. The deeper problem is what I've said above, we're short of quality in a few areas, which O'Neill will be looking to address over the summer. A striker who can hit double figures would be the no.1 priority, but areas sucn as defence and in goal, we're pretty solid. Not enough goals or creativity in the side at the minute.

2. Are you pleased with how your season has gone so far?

I think I'm pleased. I think. Prior to the start of the season, the top ten and a good cup run was the aim. Then after suffering such a massive step back under Bruce, expectation changed to just "avoid relegation"... O'Neill dragged us well away from that, and we've had a decent cup run to the quarter finals, and while a top ten finish is possible, I'm not banking on it. Overall, an OK season, but I think we'll improve considerably next season.

3. Were you at all sad to see Steve Bruce go, or were you just glad to see the back of him?

Hahahaha... No, not sad in the slightest. In fact, I nearly organised a street party. Things had become so sad and stale under Bruce. There was little to no organisation, and worst of all, nothing was his fault. A drum he's continuing to pound through the media. It's true that at the end of the 2-1 home defeat to Wigan, there was some unsavoury chanting about Bruce, his roots and his weight, however this was the first time it had ever happened, and was merely born out of a collective frustration at him. He needed to go, by whatever means, and this was a means to an end. Not only had the football played been terrible, the humiliation in games against Newcastle, plus the fact we'd won 3 home games in the calendar year of 2011 under him were grounds enough for a sacking.

4. Where do you think you'll end up in the league this year?

This season it could be anywhere between 8th and 14th. I'll be delighted if we get to 10th or above, but I think we're more likely to end up where we are now in 11th or 12th. I'll take that given the start to the season we had.

5. Who's your most threatening player?

Well the obvious answer is Stephane Sessegnon, but I'd also be on the look out for James McClean who as many will know has come from nowhere to become a very exciting Premier League player. McClean has suffered recently after teams got wise to him and doubled up on him, but against Aston Villa and Bolton Wanderers recently he's got back to his old self a bit, and could be hitting form this weekend against your lot. Nicklas Bendtner might appear to do very little, but it's quite deceptive as we on our own site did a recent study of 'contribution' by minutes, and Bendtner's providing an assist or goal nearly as often as the highly sought-after Sessegnon.

6. What improvements do you need to make over the summer?

We definitely need a striker. Many have talked of a "Martin O'Neill" style striker, which for all intents and purposes means a big man. The most strongly linked name here is Steven Fletcher from Wolves, who I wouldn't mind, but I'd rather we tried to nail Bendtner down to a contract, despite his own reluctance. I'll be honest, I also like the look of Pavel Pogrebnyak, he'd be the perfect fit, although I realise there's little to no chance of signing him. Outside of that, we're pretty set, maybe a right back and a creative midfielder, but over all we need quality not quantity this summer.

7. Who do you see as Fulham's best asset?

If you've asked this question before to other teams you're no doubt sick of the answer, but Clint Dempsey is the one. He's got all the skills, gets plenty of goals and is really a wonderful player. I hope for your sake that you can hold on to him, because he's got the ability to play at a Champions League level I think. He's the kind of player we'd love to have at the club, but it would take a hell of a lot of money and persuasion I think before he'd even consider it. Great, great player. You've got a gem there.

8. How do you think this match will end?

With us a little out of sorts, and a few players looking like they're already on holiday, plus there's not a great deal to play for I think a draw is the most likely result. I'll go for a fairly languid 1-1 draw which does neither side any favours.

Thanks again to Roker Report for answering the questions. You should be able to find my responses to the questions they posed over the coming days.