Another panic at Fulham
Just when things were starting to sort themselves out, Fulham pulled the panic cord. After a promising week and a couple of solid performances against Manchester United and then Liverpool, even in a losing effort, the new owner at Craven Cottage saw fit to install his third management team of the season.
March 12th, 2014
Rene Meulensteen, recruited to work with Martin Jol before being his eventual successor, was removed from his position in strange fashion and replaced by Felix Magath, a man with years of experience in the Bundesliga.
The move reeks of panic and desperation; especially when it came just two weeks after the transfer window had closed. Facing the very real prospect of relegation, Shahid Khan assumed another new face at the top of the club would spark an unprecedented revival. It hasn’t.
Other than the teams that were original members of the Premier League in 1992/93, Fulham have enjoyed the longest tenure at English football’s top table. They won promotion in 2000/01 and have worked hard to establish themselves as a solid, if unspectacular, member of the top 20 clubs in the country.
Thanks to Khan’s desire to replace his head coach at the first sign of danger, the Cottagers look set to end that run this season.
The club’s last win in the league came on the opening day of 2014 with a victory over West Ham. There have been promising performances since then, as already mentioned, but they came under the previous manager. Magath has seen his team win one point from three games so far. He has just nine matches left in the league to find a way to overturn a four-point deficit to safety, and do something about keeping three teams below Fulham right up until after the final game of the season.
It’s unlikely to happen. That’s as optimistic as I can be.
Newcastle, Fulham’s opponents this week, are the only one of their upcoming opponents with little to play for. They are five points off seventh position but a comfortable 12 points clear of 10th. It can be pretty much guaranteed they’ll be in eighth or ninth come the end of the season – they’ll be on the beaches/thinking about the World Cup already.
In the rest of the games, they’ll need to scrap for everything. They haven’t shown so far this season that they are ready for the fight.
Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Everton are future opponents and have both got ambitions on finishing as high as possible. Aston Villa, Norwich, Hull, Stoke and Crystal Palace are all in the relegation dogfight and will be licking their lips at the prospect of facing the division’s bottom club.
For Magath to get the best from his players, he’ll have wanted more time. He likes his teams to be fit. Stories about his training programmes are the stuff of legend. Jan Aage Fjortoft, who played under Magath at Eintracht Frankfurt told the Mail on Sunday: “The Fulham players have to be aware that you have never had, and you will never have, a manager like this in your career.
“A player at Hamburg collapsed on one of his training runs and was left in the forest. And when he finally arrived at the hotel, he got a fine for being late for breakfast.”
I’d worry he’ll knacker the players out before getting a chance to retain the club’s Premier League status.
Would Rene Meulensteen have kept Fulham up? It’s incredibly hard to tell as he, Ray Wilkins and Alan Curbishley were only just starting to turn the club in the way that they wanted. However, he’d have had a much better chance than Felix Magath has.