There’s been a lot of talk about our ambition or lack of it during the transfer window. Whether it’s the weather or something else, not a day seems to go by during the summer without somebody suggesting that Fulham are content to be also rans because we haven’t made any big signings. The beauty of the internet is that the abundance of messageboards, forums and websites such as this one makes everyone’s opinion readable. And, because we’re often hidden behind handles or names and aren’t likely to have to account for our views, they all (well, almost of all them) appear valid.
There’s no doubt that we went into the summer months thinking about strengthening. It might be something of a disappointment to have only brought in Stephen Kelly and Bjorn Helge Riise. Kelly actually looks something of a steal – given the fee that Roy was quoted for him a while back – and, on my admittedly limited viewing, Riise appears to be a real talent. These two will be worthwhile additions. You can’t deny that we were in for Peter Crouch and missing out on the former Pompey forward was a big blow – but I can understand why the club would be reluctant to pay the kind of massive wages that would have made Crouch considering choosing us over Tottenham.
There have very definitely been other targets too. It’s been widely reported that we were looking at Michael Turner to give a bit of depth at centre back. Turner reportedly turned us down and has been quoted as saying that he didn’t want to take a sideways step at this stage of his career. Whoever is advising him really needs to have a think. Why would swapping a side who ended the season scrapping for their lives at the wrong end of the table for one that had just had their best ever season and qualified for Europe have been a backward step? Christian Poulsen wasn’t too keen on a mere loan move from Juventus and so his agent has started to look elsewhere.
Whilst it’s all very well bemoaning the lack of arrivals, it is much easier to spend someone else’s money. Fulham need to be more prudent in the transfer market and Roy’s obviously decided that he’s looking for value as well as players who have the right ethos and will fit his system. If he doesn’t find them, he’ll make do with what he’s got. If they are considered too expensive – like Jonathan Greening, whom West Brom look to have priced out of a move – then he won’t be held to ransom. It’s entirely sensible.
If you still need convincing, have a think back to the Sanchez summer. We bought a whole host of players and arguably paid over the majority. We saw little of Lee Cook, David Healy wasn’t as deadly as he can be at international level (I’m still struggling to work that one out), Hameur Bouazza’s didn’t really impress before his shoulder started popping out, Chris Baird looks far more suited to being a squad player than a starter and there’s Diomansy Kamara, whose headless chicken running was widely derided until he scored those famous goals at Manchester City. Only two, Aaron Hughes and Danny Murphy, are still regular fixtures in the first team.
Now compare that to the kind of investments Roy made in January. His first signing was Brede Hangeland – and nobody can argue with the impact the big Norwegian has had at the back. Erik Nevland’s poached some vital goals. His business since then has been steady rather than spectacular. Andy Johnson arrived for a big fee but for the most part we bought on the cheap – witness the arrivals of Mark Schwarzer, Zoltan Gera and Dickson Etuhu for a comparative pittance.
My reading of the landscape is that Fulham are certainly looking to strengthen but not at any cost. The European campaign, which could be ardurous if we get past the Russians in the play-off, obviously could stretch resources. Ideally, we’d be looking to bring in another midfielder and, especially, a striker as well as holding onto Hangeland. Arguments about ambition are always thought-provoking but sometimes misleading, particularly as anyone who thinks we could kick on and finish in the top six is probably living on another planet.