After the feelings of frustration and hurt caused by relegation had started to fade I reckon that most Fulham fans believed that this season would bring some happier memories. The majority believed that we would be promoted at the first time of asking, a number believed that we would breeze this league. I knew that this league would be very tough and that would be unwise to underestimate the other 23 teams but I was still very confident that we would at the very least finish off in the play-off places. No one, even the most pessimistic of fans, would have expected that after five games we would be second from bottom with just 1 point. Apart from the Carling Cup match against Brentford and the match against Cardiff our performances have been dire. We have been shocked by the difficult culture of the Championship when really we should have been prepared for a real battle. The team has had no consistency and even the most loyal of fans were calling for Magath’s head after the Derby game. I generally believe that sticking with the manager is the best way to do things but even I was in the #felixout team after the 5-1 defeat at Pride Park!
However after a cooling off period I considered a few things. We all knew that our squad has needed a complete revamp. Ever since the Hodgson era we have an aging squad and although it was exactly what we needed at the time, it should have been improved year after year but it unfortunately wasn’t. Last season saw even more change with Khan taking over the club but he struggled to find the man he wanted at the helm of the squad and you could say that we had five different managers at the club last year in Jol, Meulensteen, Wilkins, Curbishley and then Magath. The inconsistencies were happening on the field as well as off when over the course of the season we used more players than any other team. Every game had a different selection and it just looked like a group of strangers were playing week in week out. A revamp was needed and Magath has given us exactly that. I haven’t agreed with everything that Magath has done and the insane team selections have confused and frustrated us all but we have to realise that we aren’t going to see immediate results. Our academy players have a great future ahead and it is a great incentive for them when they know that they are going to be given a chance. However, I think Magath has to be careful here as one of the worst thing for a young player is to have your confidence completely shot by being put into a game that you aren’t ready for! I am all for players being given a chance but that has to come from training first, not from experimenting with the team every week. Although from after the Derby game, things have been better even though it has only been two games. I believe that after the international break things will continue to settle for the squad. We have made another addition in Matt Smith which should help us upfront. Magath seems to like playing McCormack as a winger but that only really works if you have a solid centre forward so Smith is a welcome addition. I like Woodrow, but he still has an awful lot to learn. He doesn’t take enough of his chances yet so Smith will hopefully help out there. Although some of the signings have been strange (Fotheringham for example) some of them have been very positive. Eisfield and Stafylidis are quality young players while McCormack looked like a boss in the last two games! Our defence was shambolic in the first few games but since Dan Burn has been recalled and Bettinelli has had a chance we have looked far better. I have no doubt that things are going to improve if Magath stops changing the team around so much. We have the talent in the squad and we also have the passion, which is something that we sorely missed last year bar a couple of matches. The celebration when McCormack scored against Brentford shows that the players care and that is so good see.
Something that I Have respected about Magath is the open letters to the fans. He is speaking honestly in them and is calling for our support. I know it is hard when it looks like we are the laughing stock of the league but our young players in particular need our support. Another managerial change will only unsettle things more so we must acknowledge that a major squad revamp and using a lot of young players is going to take time to come good. I believe that the international break has come at a good time for our squad so hopefully the few weeks that they have had to work on things will show when the league starts back next Saturday. If we keep supporting the team and manager in the short term then I believe that the club will reap the rewards in the long-term.
In terms of our aims for this season, I think that if the performances start to match the talent that we have in the squad then promotion is still possible. This league is so unpredictable so the top 6 places won’t be fully decided until the last day. Our squad is good enough to be there but it just depends how long we take to gel and how long it takes for Magath to STOP experimenting during matches (although I think he realised after the Derby that it had to stop). One thing is for sure though, we need to start getting results. Keep believing, folks.
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