Over the past few weeks I’ve been trying not to think about Kit Symons. More specifically I am making a conscious effort to not focus on the nagging issue of his future as Fulham manager.

Having spent the better part of the last 3 years arguing that a succession of managers deserved their P45s, I’m getting rather tired. It’s also not got us very far. I’m also trying to not be reactionary. It’s hard not to be, but our form of late has been so undulating that it seems somewhat pointless to argue the toss either way because as soon as you think there’s a clear answer we go and perform the exact opposite.

So rather than simply looking at Fulham’s management on a binary yes or no, in or out basis, I’ve moved onto a sort of existential and holistic questioning of the coaching framework of modern football and the managerial selection process in general.

For the sake of brevity (and your attention span’s), I will split the summary of my thoughts into two articles. This article will look at coaching, while the second will deal slightly more scientifically with the way managers are appointed.

Football is one of the only sports that doesn’t operate a system of position or schematic specific coaches as part of its accepted status quo coaching structure. Yes, every club employs a goalkeeping coach, but where are the defence, midfield and striker coaches? Why do clubs not openly employ specialists to teach them how to attack and others how to defend? Why are coaches not more publicly transferred, traded or sacked?

As an illustration – Fulham have a six man first team coaching staff (seven if you include Alan Curbishley). Yet there isn’t a single former striker amongst them. Would our young forwards not benefit from some experienced position specific coaching? Moussa Dembele, for example, is a good coach away from stardom.

The argument against position coaches is an obvious one – football is a team sport, where the emphasis is how the team plays as a whole.

With so much pressure levied on managers, is it any wonder that the focus is on implementing team tactics rather than coaching up specific positions and players. You can have the best technical players around, but if they don’t play as a team they’ll struggle to get anywhere and the manager would get sacked.

Roy Hodgson used to place a huge emphasis on the entire team operating as one unit where every player knew his position on the pitch at all times. Hodgson’s ability to get the best out of those players with limited technical ability has been a hallmark of his career. The record books show how successful he was at Fulham and our organisation as a team was a major reason for that success.

Though Roy also placed a great emphasis on having the right coaches. It’s why Mike Kelly followed him to the club and Ray Lewington went with him to England.

If you fast forward to the current Fulham team and it’s been obvious that tactics haven’t been the only thing missing over the past few seasons. As highlighted again last Sunday, our defence has struggled to cope under successive managers. A revolving door of players has done little to solidify a defence that has been consistently underwhelming since Hodgson left.

One of the great hopes when we appointed Kit Symons in the first place was that, as a former defender himself, he would be able to sort out our defence.

A year on and whilst the personnel are the best we’ve had in recent years, there is little evidence of them being coached up as a collective and there are still individual mistakes littering our performances, especially at set pieces. There simply can’t be enough hours in the day for Symons to impart the position specific coaching and tactics that his defence need, without to some extent ignoring the other outfield players. Considering our team needs both tactical and technical help, do we have the coaching resources that we actually need?

It is of course impossible for us as fans to know how training sessions are divided and how time is spent. Yet with Fulham continuing to concede set piece goals with alarming frequency, the only logical conclusions are that either not enough time is being allotted to their eradication or the coaching staff just don’t know how to deal with the problem.

But back to my more general point as I wasn’t intending to have a rant about corners. Why are coaching staffs assembled as they are? At Fulham, the aforementioned coaching staff comprises a manager (Kit Symons), two first team coaches (Sean Reed and Mark Pembridge), a goalkeeping coach (Martin Brennan) and two fitness coaches (Gary Hall and Alastair Harris). Internally, Reed and Pembridge will hopefully have defined roles, but to the untrained eye it all seems a bit haphazard.

When millions are poured into players and transfers around the football world, it is somewhat baffling that coaching still operates under a veil of secrecy and anonymity once you get beyond the manager. It is not unique to football that the manager or head coach has the power to appoint their own staff, but it is unique in that so little importance seems to be placed, at least publicly, on having the right coaches to support a manager.

Martin Jol was in need of coaching support for so long, that when it finally arrived he only got two weeks with Rene Meulensteen before he got sacked.

Can football – and Fulham – learn from other sports?

The current Rugby World Cup is a good place to start. England were unceremoniously dumped out the World Cup by Australia last weekend, thanks in a large part due to the Australian dominance at the scrum. Whereas one year ago Australia had one of the worst scrums in the game, having hired specialist coach Mario Ledesma, their set piece has transformed from laughing stock to powerhouse.

American Football is another, and perhaps the best example of where defined position coaches operate. The accepted and replicated coaching model has a Head Coach under whom will be Offensive, Defensive and Special Teams co-ordinators with individual position coaches beyond that.

Yes, we are comparing apples with oranges, but the overarching point is that coaches beyond the top man play an important and visible role in successful teams.

At Fulham, we are showing the early signs of progressive ownership. Transfer strategy is being re-shaped and the club is very much hinting at positive progression off the field. Is it unreasonable to expect that one of the next areas to come under scrutiny is not who coaches Fulham, but rather how we are coached?

For now, all I want is for Fulham to hire someone who knows how to set up and defend a corner.



Friday Night Lights

by Lydia on September 26, 2015


“It’s happening again, it’s happening again, Queens Park Rangers, it’s happening again!”


What a night at Craven Cottage last night. I’ll admit that I haven’t been to the Cottage that much having grown up in Belfast and now living in Glasgow. This was only my third visit and, as a friend pointed out before the match, I haven’t had the best of experiences having watched a defeat to Swansea in 2011 and then a humbling to Brentford in our last West London derby at home last April. However, now I can finally say that not only have I seen a win at the Cottage, but I got to see one of the best performances Fulham have put in over the last number of seasons!

We controlled things right from the beginning and played like a team brimming with confidence. Fulham look to finally have a squad that has both depth and quality. The additions that have been made over the summer have shown that Kit Symons has a very good understanding of this league. Yes, he still has a lot to learn tactically but he has put together a very solid squad. If the tactics are right this season surely Fulham will be challenging for one of the top six spots come May.

There are some things that I made note of last night. First of all Fulham’s retention of the ball was much better that it was last season. Too often the team give the ball away so cheaply or else just punt it up the pitch aimlessly. Last night they pinged the ball about the pitch right from the defence to the attack. Fulham looked very comfortable playing possession football and it was great to watch. We also played at a very high tempo and got a reward for it in the amount of chances that were created. All of the goals came from good team work and the third in particular came from a lot of short, fast passes with movement that just completely opened up the QPR defence.

Secondly, Fulham are playing high pressure football when the opponent has the ball. I vividly remember the Brentford game last season were pretty much all of their goals came from not closing down players and continuing to step off. Whether you are a striker, midfielder or a defender, if you continue to step off your opponent than you make it very easy for them to attack. Last night Fulham played it perfectly in that any time QPR had the ball, no matter where they were on the pitch, they had one or two Fulham players giving them no space or time on the ball. If you give teams space then you are asking for trouble and it was too often the case last season. The second goal last night was a classic example of how successful high pressing can be. Giving the defenders no time on the ball resulted in a mistake that Ben Pringle gleefully took advantage of.


Thirdly, Fulham are showing the kind of determination that we used to see under Roy Hodgson. Even at 4-0, we were pushing forward and trying to add to the score. McCormack looked like he was on a mission for a hat-trick while both wing-backs were continuing to make runs forward into injury time. Admittedly, the game had a bit of a training game feel to it for periods in the 2nd half but whenever the opportunity arose both Husband, Fredericks and then Voser showed the desire to make something happen.

Fourthly, Fulham finally have players who can put a good delivery into the box. Both Husband and Fredericks showed that they have the ability to find the likes of Dembele and McCormack in front of goal while Cairney and O’Hara both have the vision to thread balls through the defence. We aren’t a one dimensional team anymore, we have options to play the ball through patiently or to play with pace from the wing-backs and put the ball on to the head of one of our strikers. This sort of versatility will be hugely important for a promotion push.

Finally, Fulham have found a thriving partnership up front in McCormack and Dembele. How good was Dembele last night? He was completely unplayable, just as he was throughout the first half of the Blackburn game. The QPR defence just couldn’t handle him. He even showed his ability to know when to drop deep and put a tackle in and when to sit high and be a focus for attack. We can’t take away any importance from his early goal, it could have been a different outcome if he hadn’t given us a lead after two minutes. Given his age, it is likely that he is just going to continue to get better, especially if he gets a proper run in the side and learning from McCormack. McCormack also had a great game. We saw the poacher side to him last night again, particularly with his second goal. He was probably disappointed in himself after a few costly misses on Tuesday night, but he made up for it against QPR. What was great to see was that he showed the fans exactly what it meant to him getting those goals, fist pumping before signalling to the crowd to keep the noise up. It was so encouraging to see.


In general it was a superb performance that was enjoyed throughout the club by Shahid Khan, the Kit Symons, the players and the fans. We couldn’t really have asked for more on the night and the bragging rights are finally back where they belong. Roll on Tuesday night were hopefully another 3 points awaits against Wolves and Fulham can continue to rise up the table.


Follow me- @Lyds_campbell


Dembele demolishes QPR

September 26, 2015

Tweet Football might well be a very funny old game, but rarely can it have produced nights as surreal as this. Two west London sides desperate to return to the top table of English football came together at Craven Cottage seeking a catalyst to reignite their fitful seasons and two likeable, yet inexperienced mangers, knew […]

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Fulham cling on for third straight win

September 13, 2015

Tweet Gary Bowyer called for the introduction of goal-line technology in the lower leagues after this game – and the Blackburn manager was fully justified to air his frustrations given the way in which his side were cruelly denied a point when Grant Hanley’s effort clearly crossed the line before being cleared by Jamie O’Hara. […]

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Bettinell in good spirits, says Lonergan

September 4, 2015

Tweet Injured Fulham goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli remains in good spirits after his horrific injury at Hull last month, according to the man who has replaced him in the team, Andy Lonergan. Lonergan revealed that he has been exchanging text messages with Fulham’s academy graduate, who stepped impressively in the first-team goalkeeping position last season, since […]

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Ream attracted by Fulham’s American heritage

September 3, 2015

Tweet Tim Ream chose a move to Fulham this month over other potential options due to the club’s rich history of nurturing American talent. The experienced defender admitted that leaving Bolton Wanderers, the side who had given him his chance in European football, was a real wrench but the opportunity to follow in the footsteps […]

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The Development of Moussa Dembele

September 3, 2015

Tweet As the transfer window drew to a close on Tuesday and it became increasingly likely that Fulham weren’t going to be signing another striker, I was probably one of the few pleased Fulham fans. Instead of a loanee coming in and taking his game time, Moussa Dembele will now get to continue in the […]

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Careful Coleman confounds the critics

September 3, 2015

Tweet Chris Coleman is on the cusp of something remarkable. His young Wales side, who face Cyprus tonight as they approach a pivotal point in their Euro 2016 campaign, stand on the brink of reaching a major international tournament for the first time since 1958. The success of his managerial reign has revitalised Welsh football […]

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Symons on Curbishley

September 3, 2015

Tweet Fulham manager Kit Symons has opened up about Alan Curbishley’s role at the club – revealing that the former Charlton Athletic boss operates as a sounding board and source of advice to him on managerial matters. Curbishley had a brief spell as a football consultant at Craven Cottage when Rene Meulensteen was appointed as […]

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The Mike Rigg Era

September 2, 2015

Tweet The transfer window is shut, the summer business is done and once the players are back from the international break, the season really starts. But we move back in time to just after Christmas when it was announced that Shahid Khan had invested in a ‘Chief Football Officer.’ Khan, a man whose ownership has […]

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