by Mike Forrest
A frantic deadline day spent pounding the poor refresh icon on my internet browser and the incessant watching of Sky Sports News. My efforts were rewarded by the midnight signing of FC Twente sensation, Bryan Ruiz. What did I know about Ruiz? Nothing. So then with my nonexistent knowledge of our new signing, why was I excited about the capture? Because Fulham were spending relatively big money for a club our size but more importantly we beat Newcastle for his signature! The sweet taste of having a player choose your club over another; I felt like running through Geordie land, giving the crushed Newcastle supporters gloating, condescending pats on the back while telling them to keep their chins up. Little did I know that a mere six months later, the tables would have been firmly turned.
After watching unnecessary amounts of YouTube clips showcasing our new signings talent, I was already getting frustrated that Fulham is a selling club as I had convinced myself that we would be lucky to survive the January transfer window with Ruiz still in our squad. I mean all mononymous football players are world class: Romario, Ronaldo, Pele, Maradonna so I felt sure we had a mononymous great on our hands when it was revealed that Ruiz would simply be referred to as “Bryan” on the back of his jersey. The omens suggested we had struck gold. Then came his debut against Blackburn. *Insert tumbleweed and cricket noises*.
I felt as if there were some type of inside joke taking place of which I was not privy to. Why was our Costa Rican magician with his smooth, shiny hair failing to yield his powers? Why was he scurrying about, attempting back heels, which resembled a leg with a bad twitch, and not doing anything constructive or unbelievable? I thought the second half would bring answers but Bryan was withdrawn at half time. I had gone to the game purely to see our new signing – to see Jol’s symbolic signing – whom was the figurehead of the new era of attacking football that was promised to the Craven Cottage faithful. He was tacitly withdrawn. Nothing needed to be said. It was the elephant in the room that I was only too keen to address, our new signing, our new superstar, our new hero was rather…rubbish.
Perhaps one of the problems with Bryan is that no one seems to be sure of his strongest position.
Ok, so I am being deliberately melodramatic but I hope I am conveying the feeling of disappointment that Ruiz performance left me with. In the immediate aftermath I couldn’t help but feel that Ruiz was destined to join Andy Johnson and Steve Marlet in being big money flops acquired by Fulham. Excuses were being made saying that Ruiz would need a full season to adapt and bed in before we could see a return on Jol’s but more importantly, Al-Fayed’s investment. Fair enough, give him the year I thought. Yet the nagging feeling that somehow Fulham deserved more from Ruiz persisted and still persists. Perhaps one of the problems with Bryan is that no one seems to be sure of his strongest position. Jol has played him wide left, inside left, centre mid, just off the striker and as a striker. I suggest that perhaps playing him in the same position routinely would aid and hasten his settling in period. In Jol Ruiz has a manager that is benign to an attacking system, which suits Ruiz.
Jol also has and maintains his belief that Ruiz will be a great Premiership player in time to come. I wish I had such belief. Ruiz is a neat player. He is a tidy player. However my gripe is that surely a player that costs more than 10 million pounds should have more to him than being neat and tidy? Swansea has Britton and Allen, both of whom are neat and tidy. Both cost a pittance, if anything at all. In Ruiz’ defence we have caught glimpses of that “magic” I thought we were acquiring. A magnificent chip against Everton and an equally magnificent chip against Blackburn showcased a taste of what he is capable of. I am longing for more and consistently so.
Ruiz has much to do to assuage Fulham fans doubts over his ability to make the grade in the Premiership and with Cisse scoring a scorcher of a goal on his debut for Newcastle, a player we chose to neglect in favour of Ruiz, the pressure is being continuously cranked up on him to deliver the goods.
My fingers are firmly crossed that he will be the greatest Costa Rican player in the Premiership since Paulo Wanchope…
Ruiz League Stats:
20 Appearances. 12 starts.
18 shots. 11 on target. 2 goals. 1 goal every 9 shots.
553 passes. 437 successful. 79% accuracy. 3 assists. 1 assist for every 145.6 successful passes made.