Human nature is to be ambitious; we all want to be the best we can be, and to make the most success out of those abilities. The grassy knoll of human ambition is one that we all strive to climb but its as easy to climb to far, as it is to refuse to climb it at all. One thing’s for certain, if you go to far, there can be a heck of a fall.
If that’s all a bit existential, lets bring it back on topic, in the week that our neighbours from Shepherd’s Bush finally saw the deathnail in the Premiership survival hopes, the blurred lines between genuine ambition and over-ambition have never been clearer. The lure of Italian, Indian, Malaysian and Formula One funded cash under the heralded title, ambition, has led Queens Park Rangers on a journey that their Four Year Plan could never have envisaged, yet was all too obvious.
Having bought their way up from the dog eat dog championship, they sought to buy themselves into mid-table in the top flight. It lured Mark Hughes and his mercenary army for hire in 2011, then players swapped the likes of Marseille, Inter Milan and Real Madrid for Loftus Road, before finally Harry Redknapp turned down Ukrainian petrodollars for a shot at fulfilling QPR’s ambition. Look where it’s got them, an away trip to Doncaster next season. I’m led to wonder if Loic Remy, Julio Cesar and Esteban Granero have ever heard of Doncaster?
At Fulham, we always seem to understand the level of our ambitions. Even after that mesmeric run to Hamburg, when it would have been easy to get carried away, we have stayed true to who we are, building brick by brick and appreciating that finishing tenth is a good ambition for a club of our resources.
As another season draws to a close though, I ask, are we ambitious enough? This is something of an esoteric question as I am quite happy with the club’s on and off field performance in recent years, as I’m sure every level headed fan, player and director would be.
However, for another 12 months, we will go trophyless and Wembley appearanceless, we still have a middling to poor away record and we have had a season of overall slumber. But here’s that question again. Would wishing anything more than this be over-ambitious?
Let’s face it, you name me a mid table club who sells their two best players in the last three days of the summer window and really pushes on the next year. Heck, compared to the pre Roy days of relegation dodging, our rise has been somewhat Napoleonic in its brevity.
Right now, however, I would like to state that for as enjoyable as it is, I would like next season to be about more than simply watching Dimitar Berbatov play. Our Bulgarian talisman has been the recurring constant in the theme of this season. Whether it be his soo ften-mesmeric skills, or listening to another so-called “expert” misanalyse him as lazy. Even daring to make the phone call to his agent to sign him in the first place was ambitious. But there’s been little else of late.
Ambition and Dimitar Berbatov go hand in hand though. The “Keep Calm and Pass Me the Ball” shirt is the perfect example. We only have one more shot at making the most of Dimitar’s monumental talent, the second year of his two year contract. We have to help him help us to push on next season. He needs a supporting cast. Watching Daniel Day-Lewis play Abraham Lincoln in a home movie is unlikely to win him an Oscar, for that he needs a supporting cast and director to all work as one.
We reached 40 points in Mid-April, and let’s face it, that’s not bad. But what happened to those incremental increases? If you look back and view this season as a complete picture, we’ve done ok considering. Injuries, badly timed suspensions and yes, those damn sales in August, have all gone against us, and yet we should hopefully end comfortably mid-table when all is said and done. But is wishing for a few Berbatov calibre complimentary pieces being over-ambitious?
The most frustrating thing is that unlike QPR, who were never even remotely the sum of their parts, at times this year, Martin Jol has gelled Fulham into a very attractive, skilful and tactically astute bunch, but there has been little to no consistency.
This is not a season review, the season still has three games to go. A club bigger than our own could well join Reading and QPR in the Championship next season with Newcastle and Villa still amongst the quagmire.
There have been highlights this year. Along with Dimitar Berbatov, the play of Sascha Reither in particular, but also the likes of Giorgios Karagounis and since January, Mark Schwarzer, have been particularly pleasing. Urby Emmanuelson and Eyong Enoh joined on loan and have showed flashes of quality to light keep alight the embers of ambition in all of us.
Lets just hope that we all manage to keep the ambition in balance in our heads. As fans it is unreasonable for us to get all miserable and sulky if the club isn’t over ambitious. It’s ok if we aren’t in on signing Falcao or Cavani, but perhaps if we ever sing “attack, attack, attack” at our players, we’ll know we have a problem.
For all our sake though, lets hope Fulham take every effort towards the goal of collective improvement this summer, even if it is baby step by baby step.