For months, we’ve wondered what it was like to play for Felix Magath. And now, thanks to Danny Taylor’s jaw dropping column in this morning’s Observer, we know. It is as wild as any Fulham follower might have feared.
Let’s start with how Brede Hangeland was told to treat a routine thigh injury with a block of cheese. It is worth quoting Taylor in full here:
“It goes back to last season when Brede Hangeland, then the Fulham captain, was diagnosed with a slight thigh injury and the club’s doctor, Stephen Lewis, with more than a decade of working in elite sport, put together a recovery programme to try to get him fit for the weekend. Except Magath thought he knew better. There was another way to treat the problem, he said. So he sent the kit-man to the Tesco in New Malden, a short drive along the A3 from Fulham’s training ground, to buy a large block of cheese.
Hangeland was then told to perch on the end of a massage table and spend the afternoon in that position with a slab of cheese carefully positioned on the sore spot. The cheese, according to Magath, would have soothing effects. Hangeland was a sceptical patient and, funnily enough, Lewis decided a few months later he would rather stick to more orthodox practices and left to join Brighton and Hove Albion. Hangeland could not wait to get away either and has been a frequent critic of Magath ever since.”
Fulham fans were well used to playing Felix bingo the day before a game: guessing the most preposterous starting line-up the German could possibly field and not coming close to matching his selection. Serious players were exiled for no reason – literally, as Taylor reveals.
“The list of outcasts featured Bryan Ruiz, who you may recall featured in many people’s World Cup XIs because of his performances for Costa Rica, and previously included the club’s £11m record signing, Kostas Mitroglou, now on loan at Olympiakos, and Fernando Amorebieta, formerly of Athletic Bilbao. Every day they would be left to mundane exercises on the next pitch to where the first-team squad were going through their sprints. Maarten Stekelenburg used to be with them, too, until he moved to Monaco on loan, and the Magath way was very much to close them off as if they did not exist. Another player was seen talking to Stekelenburg and one of Magath’s coaches ran over to tell him it was not permitted.”
Magath’s madness extended to tactics. Taylor recalls the fate of Dan Burn, picked to play at right back in the crunch relegation decider at Stoke last season, who resorted to asking Oussama Aissaidi to swap sides as he was being run ragged. The master motivator blanked senior players for more than three minutes at a time after requesting meetings with them in his office and tried to fine youth team players thousands of pounds for being late to training. Whoever recommend Magath to Shahid Khan must have been joking.
Things can only get better.