Felix Magath says that keeping Fulham in the Premier League is his toughest challenge in management – but remains confident that he can pull off a remarkable rescue act at Craven Cottage.
The Fulham manager is the subject of a fascinating profile in the German newspaper Hamburger Abendblatt that goes behind the scenes at the club and gives an insight into his famed training methods and how he has settled into London life since replacing Rene Meulensteen in February. Yesterday’s victory at Aston Villa took Fulham off the bottom of the table and sets up a crucial clash with Norwich City next weekend.
The newspaper article suggests that chairman Shahid Khan has taken the lead on Fulham’s expansion plans at Craven Cottage and claims that the redevelopment of the Riverside Stand – which has recently received the approval of the Port of London Authority – is merely the first part of a plan that could see the capacity rise significantly beyond the current plans for 30,000 seats. Magath says he reports to Khan on a weekly basis:
He’s not happy. But we both know how the situation was when I arrived and we know how to continue. He wants Fulham to be successful. That’s my aim as well, I want to build something. I’m not in it for the short-term. This is the toughest job I ever had. But I knew it would be tough when I arrived.
Magath has been impressed by the strength of Fulham’s youth set-up, bringing through a number of promising prospects into the first-team during his short time in charge. Magath and his trusted lieutenants Thomas Oral and Werner Leuthard took in Patrick Roberts’ sensational performance in the first leg of the FA Youth Cup semi-final at Reading last week. Magath has already handed Roberts two substitutes’ appearances in the Premier League and the manager has been giving serious consideration to whether the 17 year-old winger, linked with interest from Arsenal over the weekend, is strong enough to hold down a starting place in the Premier League.
Magath is sanguine about his famed training methods. Although he has installed a varaint on the infamous ‘Magath mound’ at Wolfsburg, his attempts to increase the regularity of Fulham’s training sessions have been scaled back:
Players wouldn’t understand if we did more sessions. They’d tell themselves it was too much and wouldn’t feel good as consequence. The players can have fun during my training sessions!
Magath’s influence has certainly rubbed off on his new charges. Ashkan Dejagah, who played under Magath at Wolfsburg, has scored twice coming on as a second-half substitute in recent weeks and the Iranian international turned the game at Villa Park in Fulham’s favour yesterday afternoon. He credits Magath’s methods with sparking an upturn in his own performances:
I feel much fitter since Magath’s arrival. I play better. To work harder can’t be bad. We want to get out of the relegation zone.
Magath, who is enthusiastic about his new life in London, says many of the squad arrive an hour early for training and stay behind afterwards. Speaking after the victory at Aston Villa, he is targeting three further wins to secure safety for his new side.