Chris Coleman claims Mohamed Al Fayed has spent more in 12 months on Fulham than he got in four years as boss – and he still dreams about what he may have achieved with similar backing.
Fulham, adrift in 19th place in the Premier League, could be relegated tomorrow if they lose at Manchester City and Bolton and Reading win at Tottenham and Wigan respectively.
Coleman insists he would be devastated if the club he joined as a player in 1997 before taking over as manager in 2003 went down.
But despite keeping Fulham in the top flight during his reign against a backdrop of selling stars such as Edwin van der Sar, Louis Saha and Steve Finnan, Coleman was dismissed a year ago by the club’s wealthy owner, Al Fayed.
Fulham have won just six of 40 league games since. The hapless Lawrie Sanchez blew £20million last summer on flops such as Diomansy Kamara, Chris Baird, Lee Cook and Hameur Bouazza.
His successor Roy Hodgson, appointed at Christmas, has fared no better despite splashing out another £10m in January on the likes of Brede Hangeland, Leon Andreasen and Eddie Johnson – all unproven at the highest level in English football.
Coleman admits the club’s plight is hard to take, as he steered them to 14th, 9th, 13th and 12th-placed finishes on a limited budget.
“It will be a shame if Fulham are relegated and I hope it won’t happen,” said Coleman, who has been in charge of Championship club Coventry City since February.
“But it doesn’t look great. I was there from the very start under Al Fayed and helped get us to the Premier League and I know how much work it took to get there.
“My first job as manager from the chairman was to slash £5m off the wage bill.
“We lost Finnan and it was like a revolving door while trying to stay in the league.
“Every year we lost one of our best players and we didn’t invest all the money back into that position. We had to spread it and it was a tough job.
“If you look over four years, we never spent money because what we shelled out, we got back in, so we were even.
“But last summer they spent £20m and of course as the ex-manager I have to be disappointed with that because I wish I had that.
“I was thinking ‘if only I had had that money’. It is human nature to have a look back and say that.
“In four years as the manager I think I spent £26m but we sold as much, and since then they’ve spent over £30m – so they have spent more in a year than I did in four years.”
Even if Fulham avoid going down this weekend, they appear to be only delaying the inevitable and Coleman believes that should they be relegated it will not be straightforward for them in the Championship either.
“Teams do bounce back up but it is not easy because this is a tough, tough league it really is,” he added.
“Fulham are going to come down with a lot of money to spend in this league but it doesn’t guarantee they are going to go back up, it really doesn’t.
“The Premier League is different, there are three mini-leagues – but anyone can beat anyone in the Championship.
“Colchester are going down yet they could beat Stoke this weekend.
“But Derby are not going to beat Manchester United, it’s not going to happen.
“In this league the teams at the bottom often beat the teams at the top and the sides that drop out of the Premier League will find it hard, I am sure of that.”