Felix Magath is instantly associated with the recent decay at Fulham but former skipper Danny Murphy believes there were signs of rot at Craven Cottage long before the German’s appointment in February.
Magath was sacked last week after a disastrous seven months; a period that saw the club spiral from a struggling Premier League side to a team stuck firmly at the bottom of the Championship.
While Murphy was among those pleased to see the back of Magath, the retired midfielder says there was trouble afoot when he was released two years ago. Fulham, then under the ownership of Mohamed Fayed and with Martin Jol as manager, had finished ninth in the Premier League but a summer exodus sparked a freefall.
“It goes back a lot further than Felix Magath,” Murphy said. “He’s taken a hammering, and rightly so, because what he’s done has been ludicrous but the problems started the summer I left.
“Clint Dempsey, Mousa Dembele, Andy Johnson, Bobby Zamora, Zoltan Gera and Dickson Etuhu all left. That’s half a dozen players – one of whom was top goalscorer for four years.
“They didn’t offer him a new contract, which he’d asked for, until the February and he’d already scored 20 goals. Andy Johnson was a valuable asset and a brilliant character.
“I was the captain and they tried to reduce what was already an average wage. The way they treated us was not far off a disgrace.
“Was it the manager? Was it the chief exec? Was it someone above? We don’t know. You make decisions together and they made those choices.
“They never needed to lose Clint, AJ or myself. Dimitar Berbatov was their only marquee signing, who was great for about four months. I’m not suggesting you keep the same team forever but to change it so radically and so quickly was always going to be negative. I made that known at the time.”
Fayed sold his club to Shahid Khan the following summer but there was no bright new dawn, with Jol sacked before Christmas, Rene Meulensteen in and out within two months to be replaced by Magath, who oversaw the club’s drop into the Championship.
There was another cull of players this summer, with club captain Brede Hangeland among those shown the door, having found out about his release via email.
It may seem like an unconventional way to part with one of Craven Cottage’s most popular players but – like issuing a remedy of cheese soaked in alcohol for a thigh injury – Magath was not one to do things by the book.
“As I said, it started long before Felix but he had the chance to fuse a squad ready for the Championship; keep some players and let some go,” said Murphy. “What he did was to allow an exodus of players. I think some of them were desperate to get out because of the regime and the crazy ways he was running the place.
“One story that springs to mind -much more significant than using cheese to fix an injury – is training for two-and-a-half hours on a Friday afternoon, the day before you play Stoke in a game you’ve got to win to stay in the Premier League. The lads were dead on their feet before half time.
“Ideas like that can’t be dressed up as anything other than crazy. The lads just couldn’t adapt to his ways. We can smile at the stories now but he’s part of a bigger picture that has put the club in this predicament.”
Caretaker boss Kit Symons will be in charge of the team again tonight as Fulham host Doncaster in the third round of the Capital One Cup.
Whoever takes over will face a huge rebuilding job when he inherits the damaged squad. Murphy is among those being linked with the job, although the 37-year-old has not yet had any contact with the club.
“I think the hierarchy will speak to lots of people. I don’t think they’re going to rush it. They need to make an informed decision because whatever formula they’ve used to recruit managers recently has failed miserably.
“It’s a shame that it’s come to this. It used to be a good place for people to play and for young lads to learn. Now it’s just trouble, trauma and stress.”