Talking Fulham With… Example

Example… Jol fan

Pop sensation Example releases his fourth album The Evolution of Man in November, so Football Burp caught up with him for a ruddy good natter about current goings-on – and what encouraging goings-on they are, too – at his beloved Fulham FC.

First, though, check out forthcoming single “Close Enemies”…

Did you see the Reading game?

I did. It was amazing goals and dreadful defending in equal measures!

Regardless of defensive frailties, Martin Jol seems to have turned you into a nice, continental-style team…

Yeah, the way we’re playing is certainly not very English. I remember a few seasons ago hoofing the ball up to the other end in the hope that Bobby Zamora might get it and get a goal – I think we won a few games of our Europa League run like that. There wasn’t much fluid play through the middle or down the wings in those days, but we seem to be passing the ball really well now. All the players look really fit and hungry, and a lot of them look comfortable on the ball.

Bryan Ruiz and Dimitar Berbatov look to be striking up an exciting understanding…

Yeah, it’s great, because Ruiz looked a bit lost at times last season. I think the thing with Berbatov is that, whoever he’s put with, he sort of makes them understand him, or he understands them. He doesn’t really do much off the ball, but when he does get it his first touch is amazing, his passing is exquisite and his reading of the game is brilliant as well. I’m really happy at the moment, and it’s nice to see Steve Sidwell get the chance now because I always really liked him whenever I watched him.

Sidwell hadn’t had a good time of it at Aston Villa…

Yeah, or at Chelsea before that, where he only made a few starts. He looked a bit out of place at Villa but he’s started really well for us this season.

What do you think of the likes of Mladen Petrić and Alexander Kačaniklić?

I don’t know, I haven’t really seen enough of them yet. Petrić started the season well, got a goal, but I haven’t really seen enough of him yet to make a call. What’s clear though is that Martin Jol has brought players with a bit of class about them – alright, they might not have settled yet or adapted to the English game, but you can certainly see when they’re on the ball and with their movement that they’ve got a bit of class.

There’s some speculation at the moment as to whether or not Jol will sign a new contract. If you had a message for him, what would you say?

I’d love him to stay, because we keep getting a great manager and then, when everyone’s getting used to them, they go. Everyone was getting used to Roy Hodgson, and he left, then everyone was getting used to Mark Hughes, and he left, so it would be bad to see Martin Jol go just as everyone is really starting to like him.

Fulham are quite a rare club insomuch as how consistently they seem to get their managerial appointments right…

Yeah, I don’t know what it is, because you look at other clubs of similar stature – in terms of value, players and following – and a lot of them seem to make the wrong appointment more often than not. Someone on the board seems to consistently pick managers that do a good job at Fulham. We’ve had some rocky moments but we haven’t really been close to a relegation battle, and for the last five or six years we’ve finished consistently around mid-table. I think we even finished 7th a few seasons ago…

You finished 7th under Hodgson, then you had the Europa League season, then you finished 8th under Hughes, and last season Jol took you to 9th.

That’s pretty consistent, so I really don’t want to see Martin Jol leave just as he seems to know what his team is. It would be a real shame. Please don’t go, Martin!

Do you think there’s still a lot to be said for the foundations left by Hodgson? Because the defense, bar one or two changes, remains the same at its core…

Yeah, I mean, Brede Hangeland, Aaron Hughes and Mark Schwarzer are solid, and between those three they’ve started pretty much every game, when fit, since they’ve been there. That says a lot, really.

Well, Jol seemed to have a thing about picking Philippe Senderos ahead of Hughes for a while last season…

Yeah, but I think he’s seen sense now! (Laughs)

Is it satisfying to see Hughes and Zamora struggling at the bottom of the table?

It’s not so much satisfying – I don’t want to be bitchy about it! – but I think the circumstances in which Hughes left weren’t great, left a sour taste in the mouth. With Zamora I can sort of understand it because he’s moved so much in his career already, so it didn’t come as a shock that he’d up and go as soon as he was offered a better deal somewhere, whereas with Clint Dempsey I think it really hurt him to leave Fulham – he’d only played for us and New England Revolution in his professional career, and he seems like one of those old-fashioned players who likes to be loyal to his club where he can be. It really hurt Fulham fans when he left, but I think it hurt him too. I don’t think he really wanted to leave.

Quite a season he had last year – 23 goals…

Yeah, and about twenty assists as well. You never really know the full reason why players have to leave sometimes – it’s not always just about money or contract extensions, there’s stuff going on that we don’t always see. I think had Clint been able to stay under his terms then he’d have loved to.

To lose both him and Moussa Dembele and still look to be making progress is the sign of a club going in the right direction…

Totally, yeah, which is why I’d be really upset if Martin Jol doesn’t renew his contract. I live pretty much next to the ground and I go to every home game except for when I’m on tour. I’ll be away over December and January touring in Australia and Asia, so I’ll be catching up with the games from a different time zone, but other than that I’m at every home game and I’ve lived in Fulham my whole life.

The club’s very important to me, and we’re at a stage now where I think we’re doing really well, at least within our means, so you don’t really want to see the manager or important players jumping ship all of a sudden. If Jol goes then there’s no guarantee that Berbatov will stay, because obviously Berbatov played under Jol at Spurs.

Does your celebrity status ever grant you access to the players? Do you know any of them?

I met Dempsey through Twitter and then got to know him after we met face-to-face after a game – he gave me a few match jerseys and went out for dinner with him a few times. He’s a really nice guy. I suppose it’s kind of a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” kind of thing – I don’t really go to clubs so I don’t meet players in clubs, nor would I really want to meet the sort of footballer who hangs out in dodgy clubs, but you sometimes meet football players at TV shows like Soccer AM and they say, “If you ever want to come down, let me know,” and I’ll say, “Likewise, if you want to come to one of my shows I’ll get you a ticket.” Obviously the bigger I’ve got the more I can offer in return to these players who give me free tickets to their football matches.

Going back to your meetings with Dempsey, did you ever discuss collaborating musically?

(Laughs) No! I think he did that as a hobby when he was on his way up, when he was unknown. I don’t think a player of his current profile could really have a sideline in music, because people won’t take you seriously. The fans love it, it’s a bit of fun for them, but managers and board members at clubs aren’t going to take a player seriously if they’ve got a sideline in rap music. Ryan Babel posted a video of him rapping – it was dreadful, and where is he now? (Laughs)

“Keep your daughter in sight, or you will be my family / I’ll take your daughter and let her make clean”

Do you remember the first match you ever went to?

My dad tells me it was Fulham v Rotherham, many, many moons ago. I remember being there but I don’t remember the game as I was too young.

Would you be able to name the best and worst games you’ve ever been to?

The best match I’ve been to was Fulham 4-1 Juventus – I was sitting right behind the goal in the Hammersmith End when Dempsey scored the winner, and I think I simultaneously hugged 27 people! I think the worst match I’ve been to was an FA Cup game in 2007 where we lost 4-0 at home to Spurs. When you play one of the top four you don’t really mind losing if it’s 1-0 or 2-1, but losing 4-0 at home to a team like Spurs…especially with all the gloating Spurs fans…

I’m quite lucky now though as I met John Arne Riise a few weeks ago on Football Focus – lovely fellow he is, very sharp, very intelligent, quite witty – and he sort of invited me to come and watch the games from his box every week now, which is lovely.

Finally, if you had to select a five-a-side team out of all the Fulham players you’ve seen in your time as a fan, who would you pick?

Wow. See, that’s different from picking an XI, isn’t it? You want different skills. Berbatov would be amazing at five-a-side because he hardly moves or runs anyway, so he’d pretty much be able to just hang about until he gets the ball, then cause lots of damage. I’d have Dempsey because he’s a good all-round player with a good engine on him, and I reckon Danny Murphy would be good at five-a-side. You don’t really need a big defender in five-a-side so I’d rather have someone like Luis Boa Morte, who’d be really tricky and have loads of pace, and then Schwarzer in goal.

Example, thank you.

The Evolution of Man

This November will see the release of Example’s fourth album The Evolution of Man, which has already spawned the No.2 smash hit single “Say Nothing”. For more information, please visit trythisforexample.com