The imminent departure of Gerard Houllier from Aston Villa leaves Fulham fans experiencing an eerie sense of deja vu. With Mark Hughes rumoured to be high on Villa’s list of preferred replacements for the Frenchman, Fulham could be faced with another summer of uncertainty.
Our last pre-season was beset with rumours about the future of Roy Hodgson and the failure to replace him with Martin Jol, badly destabilised the club. Hughes was brought in without the luxury of assessing the squad or the opportunity to have a summer lining up transfer targets. A repeat scenario would arguably be even more damaging as Fulham’s European campaign is due to kick off at the end of the month.
The club were quick to quash rumours that Hughes could have been heading to Bayern Munich or Chelsea in recent weeks, but the only word out of SW6 has been a terse sentence in the Evening Standard from a spokesman, insisting that the club were concentrating on next season. It seems as though Hughes and Fulham are still trying to negotiate an extension to his initial rolling contract – something which might have encouraged Randy Lerner if Aston Villa are seriously interested in luring Hughes to Villa Park. The conventional wisdom within football is that Hughes would have taken the Villa job when Martin O’Neill suddenly resigned on the eve of the new season kicking off last August had he not been already employed.
It’s no good attempting to analyse a manager’s intentions – even if Hughes’ public pronouncements have given the impression that he is keen to remain at Fulham. Hodgson retained that position last summer when he was first linked with the England – and then Liverpool jobs. If Hughes is to decamp for the Midlands, a quick appointment of his successor is essential. We can only hope it doesn’t come to that.