With glorious timing, a letter from Fulham Football Club was waiting for me as I came through the door this evening. It thanked me for my loyal support and hoped that I’d enjoyed the previous season as much they had. It talked about the pre-season friendlies that had already been arranged, mentioned that I should be getting my ‘access card’ (commonly known as a season ticket) a week before the start of the league campaign – you can see the potential for problems – and there was a whole seperate sheet that managed to shine very little light on the loyalty scheme that will be introduced shortly.
There was, alas, no mention of Roy Hodgson or his successor. Fans might still be vexed about the manner of Hodgson’s departure or the lack of information that the club’s website (once one of the best in the business – and now merely a marketing opportunity) prvoided, but it’s clear that the supporters are seen as little more than revenue raisers. How else can you explain the fact that my foolish attempts to take a couple of friends to the Werder Bremen pre-season friendly and enjoy some not-so-lavish hospitality generated no response? Two emails, three phone calls and nothing until a helpful lady managed to email me what I’d already seen on the afore-mentioned website.
The summer was bad enough when the architect of the recent success was the subject of speculation linking him to Liverpool and England (the FA might well be kicking themselves now, given how swiftly Liverpool were able to bring Hodgson end once his media commitments in South Africa came to an end) but we’ve now good the joyous spectacle of clubs circling around our players and no manager to persuade them to stay. This being the British media there’s absolutely no way of knowing how accurate the reports are but apparently Arsenal are ‘set to sign Mark Schwarzer, Brede Hangeland could be going to Liverpool, it’s either Napoli or AC Milan for Clint Dempsey and clubs are ‘sniffing all over’ Bobby Zamora.
The last link is, of course, the most pertinent. Not because of what it says about Zamora but that Fulham are confident of appointing a new boss in days. Ray Lewington might be a loyal servant to the club but he’s not a manager: we’ve found that out the hard way. I wouldn’t be too delighted if the board decided to turn to Alan Curbishley and I doubt that Danny Murphy or Paul Konchesky (to name just two current Fulham players) would be especially pleased either. The one plus point is that the Fulham job is no longer something to laughed at.
Regular readers will remember that I defended Sven-Goran Eriksson on these pages – and elsewhere – throughout his reign as England boss. His record of reaching three quarter-finals in successive major tournaments doesn’t look that bad all of a sudden, does it? The Swede’s clearly an accomplished club manager but he’d want a transfer budget that might undermine the quest to make the club self-sufficient. That’s not a deal-breaker – it just means Mo would have to loosen the purse strings once again.
On other sites, the name of Mark Hughes, who cut his teeth at Southampton before taking Wales as close to a major championships as anyone in the last two decades, has been too easily discounted. Yes, his Blackburn side might have been a little rough round the edges but that was due to the resources he had at his disposal and, certainly compared to his Eastlands stint, a lack of resources in the transfer market. Whatever Roberto Mancini achieved, Hughes was harshly dealt with by Manchester City and would probably relish a return to the Premier League. He’d certainly be tough enough to impose himself on the squad – and hasn’t been away from the game too long.
It could be that a candidate we’ve not considered is unveiled at Motspur Park next week, much as Roy Hodgson was a couple of years ago. We can only hope that, whoever the new man is, he arrives quickly. Pre-season’s meant to be about preparation, not panic.