Plenty has already been written about Ross McCormack swapping Leeds for Fulham in a big-money move since the transfer was confirmed this morning. Much of it is remarkably conventional: how Fulham, recently relegated, have paid way over the odds for a striker who – with the exception of last season – has proved pretty inconsistent, why McCormack’s hefty transfer fee proves that there’s a British premium in the modern transfer market and how the much mocked Massimo Cellino has proved his business credentials.
Shahid Khan isn’t known for great sporting success. His American football franchise the Jacksonville Jaguars haven’t pulled up any trees in the NFL and the less said about his debut season as Fulham’s ‘custodian’ as he described himself after completing his takeover from Mohamed Al-Fayed the better. Alistair Mackintosh came out of a bruising season with brickbats accompanying his every move. Many remain surprised that he is still in a job, but this transfer represents a huge statement of intent for the pair. Signing the Championship’s top scorer – and holding off Premier League interest in the process – shows that Khan isn’t scarred by January’s big-money move for Kostas Mitroglou and that Fulham, even the wake of relegation, can still attract talented players.
It might signal the end of Fulham’s approach to signings in recent seasons. With the exception of Mitroglou and Ruiz, Fulham’s recruitment largely centred on bringing in experienced players at the cheaper end of the market, with little re-sale. While that policy unearthed a few gems (Schwarzer, Murphy, Gera, Zamora), its ultimate result was an ageing squad that had none of the energy and pace to elevate a struggling side to safety. As the penny-pinching inched Fulham into profit and sustainability (something that seemed unthinkable in the early Al-Fayed era), the club quietly slipped out of the top flight.
McCormack joins a underwhelming list of Fulham big-money signings who struggled to live up to the hype. Steve Marlet, whose transfer ultimately saw the breakdown of Jean Tigana’s previously profitable relationship with Al-Fayed, struggled to adapt to the pace and power of the Premiership, quickly shuttling back to France just when he seemed to be ready to make his mark. Andy Johnson – the subject of similar summer transfer intrigue – never really recovered from being ‘literally banjoed’ against Amkar Perm as he appeared on the cusp of rediscovering the promise of his partnership with Bobby Zamora, whilst Bryan Ruiz’s silky skills recently on show in Brazil with Costa Rica, rarely lit up English football.
Time will tell if McCormack can repeat the heroics of last season with Leeds. His 26 goals did an awful lot to ensure one of England’s most illustrious clubs avoided relegation and show that he knows how to find a net in a league that requires far more than finesse. In a squad that doesn’t currently possess a natural goalscorer, McCormack ticks that most crucial of boxes. With Felix Magath set to a shape a new Fulham side, the Scot’s leadership qualities shouldn’t be underestimated. A popular figure with his team-mates at Elland Road, he was a success as a skipper and, with Fulham having released a number of seasoned professionals over the summer, his arrival is a timely one.
There are plenty of question marks ahead of a new season in a new division: one that has changed markedly since Tigana’s team stormed to success with a short, slick passing game. But, after McCormack’s move this morning, nobody can question Fulham’s ambition. There are plenty of pieces of the jigsaw still missing but, for me at least, this is a promising start.