I think it’s fair to say that yesterday was one of the worst days that I have ever had as a Fulham fan. It wasn’t just the fact that we were relegated but rather the way in which we were relegated. Stoke completely turned us over! We couldn’t get the ball and the few times that we went on attack we lost all sense of structure and intelligent play which resulted in us conceding a total of four goals on the break. We were shocking, and apart from a number of great games, the whole season has been shocking. On the pitch too often our players didn’t look interested and off the pitch we were a disaster. Too many changes in management and we fielded about 38 didn’t players this season, more than any other side. A sports team needs structure both on the pitch and off. A lack of structure has played a massive part in us going down.
However, I think we have already had enough time to be angry/upset so it’s time to look at the positives and the reasons why I think we ought to be optimistic. First of all, whether it has been evident or not, the majority of our players do have a massive amount of football passion. David Stockdale, who often hasn’t had the best of times at Fulham, has finally been given a decent run in the first team and was clearly heartbroken yesterday after the game. I want him as our first choice keeper next season. He has a good experience of championship football (let’s not forget he was promoted with Hull last season) and has shown in the past while just how good he is. There has been many a game he has kept us in with a chance. Also, the fact that sometimes he has been dropped when playing well, but stuck at it and continued to work hard just shows us that he has great character. I hope he stays this summer.
Secondly, we have one of the best youth set-ups in the country. I’m sure I don’t need to remind anyone that our U18s are in the final of the Youth FA Cup on Monday night, taking a fine 3-2 lead to Stamford Bridge. No matter what happens on Monday against Chelsea, we can be confident that some of those players are going to play a big role for us soon. We also have a number of highly rated players out on loan at the minute gaining plenty of experience so Magath is going to have a large base of players to work with from now until the Championship starts in August. We have already seen Cauley Woodrow, Patrick Roberts, Moussa Dembele and Dan Burn have a go in the Premier League so they must be thinking that they have a big chance to hold down regular spots in the team now. Never underestimate the impact of young and hungry players. For years now our team has been too old so maybe this is finally the time for a clearout. Yes, we need experienced heads in there, but we also need to add a new freshness to the team and we have already seen that Magath is willing to do that.
Thirdly, we are in good shape financially. Mohammad Al Fayad paid off all of our debt before he sold us to Khan in the summer so, although relegation is expensive, we don’t need to be too worried about the financial side of things. I believe that Khan will work with the board to help us invest over the summer to give us the best possible chance of going up. We don’t have a ridiculous wage bill so with regards to money, we are in a healthy position.
Fourthly, Kostas Mitroglou was bought for 12million in January and has barely played. I don’t believe that anyone is going to be massively keen to take him off our hands so I reckon that we have a quality striker who will be keen to show what he can do. I reckon he will be class in the Championship!
And finally, we have a manager who seems keen to be given the chance to rebuild Fulham. We have been baffled by his team selection at times but he only came in with 12 games to go and was expected to work a miracle. He couldn’t really change things the way he wanted due to having no time. But he now has the whole summer and a transfer market to put together his own team with his own philosophy. Also, he is known for his tough training regime so I expect our players will be in fantastic condition when the season starts again. If he stays and completes his squad clear out (but hopefully keeping Dejagah etc.) then we should really be looking forward to next season. In a way, this is maybe what we needed! Not that I’m glad we went down, far from it, but this gives us a good opportunity to rebuild.
We haven’t had a fun season but next year we should realistically be targeting at least a play-off spot so we should have plenty to cheer about! I am optimistic that we will have a positive season under Felix Magath and Khan. We as fans have certainly done our jobs and kept behind the boys even during games like yesterday, but now is when they need us the very most, when they are battling for promotion.
Here’s to a great 2014/15 season.
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