Lawrie Sanchez has hit back at his critics by making the claim that had he not reshaped his Fulham squad in the pre-season then they would have been fodder for relegation.

Fulham find themselves just two points off the drop zone after 11 games and their recent performances have been far from impressive.

But Sanchez, who was handed a healthy transfer budget in the summer, believes there was plenty of dead wood that needed offloading upon his arrival, and that now he has done that – with time – the club will benefit.

The former Northern Ireland boss believes he has rejuvenated a ‘stale’ squad, partly by dispensing with the services of the likes of Zat Knight and other players who had lost their way at Craven Cottage.

“With the squad I inherited, we wouldn’t have finished 15th or 16th this season – we would’ve probably finished in the bottom three,” said Sanchez.

“I don’t want to be disrespectful to the players who were here, because they did a good job for the club.

“But the signs were there when I took over. Maybe their best days were behind them, and some of them needed a fresh challenge.

“I decided we needed a major overhaul, and only time will tell whether I was right or wrong.

“Speaking to the fans, I got the impression they thought the team had gone a little bit stale. They were picking on some of the players because they’d been here so long.

“Zat [Knight] would probably fall into that category. If he made a mistake, people would say he’d been doing that for years. So I decided to make a fresh start and make use of the money that was available.

“We’ve got a younger squad now – all the players want to prove themselves at Premier League level. And there’s certainly a much better balance now.”