With the final blow of the referee’s whistle at Carrow Road on Saturday, Fulham’s tumultuous maiden season in the Football League Championship will draw to a close. It has not been one of heroes, but largely of ignominy and ingloriousness. Misfortune is a cornerstone of comedy and at times this season there has been little left to do but look back and laugh. So here are my Alternative Fulham End of Season Awards
Worst Managerial Appointment of The Season
Has any club been mismanaged quite as badly as Fulham recently? Yes. Several actually. One of them happens to be Wigan, who were officially relegated to League 1 last night only two years after dropping out the Premier League. However, whereas they exited the top flight as a harmless club punching above their weight in a town dominated by a passion for rugby league, they fall from the Championship as a shambles nobody is particularly sad to see the back off. The reason for this was the midseason appointment of former Cardiff manager Malky Mackay. Mackay, in case you were living under a rock for the past year or so, was sacked by Cardiff City after he was exposed to have sent offensive text messages that in this age of super political correctness were actually very offensive. In doing so he managed to undo all of the goodwill he’d bought for himself whilst working stoically under maniacal super-villain lookalike Vincent Tan. What people forgot in the whole episode was that Mackay was tactically as adventurous as a building society branch manager and was on for the sack from Cardiff anyway. Wigan’s appointment of Mackay made no sense from both a political or footballing sense. Compounded by the fact that selling their best player to the MLS in January also somehow went wrong, Wigan have paid the price and will play next season a division down.
The Oxymoron Award for Best Loan signing
This is a tough decision as they’ve nearly been failures to some degree. The nod probably goes to Michael Turner, whose 9 appearances towards the end of the season helped to steer us to safety. Would you welcome him back next season. Probably, yes. Can the same be said for any of Ashley Richards, Kostas Stafylidis, Seko Fofana, Richard Lee or Danny Guthrie? No not really. Maybe Guthrie on a good day. Fofana looked bright in patches and supplied on of the few feel good moments of the season up at Huddersfield but you always felt we were developing someone else’s player by giving him games. The exception to the above is James Husband. The young left back who joined from Boro in a loan swap with Fernando Amorebieta looks to have real potential. Should Boro wish to part with him, I’d gladly send Mr Khan’s money up to Teeside to get him back.
Kostas Stafylidis – for his absurd two yellow cards in less than a minute red card against Leeds. This minute of madness has likely cost young Kostas any chance of converting his loan from Bayer Leverkusen into a permanent transfer. On the subject of discipline, this season has been very un-Fulhamish (if you’ll excuse the phrase). 7 red cards in 45 games is a poor showing by anyone’s standards and a long way off the Fulham that got into the Europa League via fair play. Red cards cost you points and we had too many cards and not enough points.
The Richard Osman Award for Most Pointless Transfer of the Season
Richard Lee. A goalkeeper on the verge of early retirement due to persistent injury joined from Brentford in March on loan deadline day. Why? I’m not even sure he knows.
(Although I do quite like the rumour that he’s actually an advance scout for Mark Warburton in the event Warburton joins as manager in the summer)
The Michael Ricketts Award
Amongst the legacies from Felix Magath’s reign of doom will be his scattergun approach to transfers. A couple of the more random ones have been semi successful – Tim Hoogland & Nikolay Bodurov, but there is a large contingent that have not been. There’s the aforementioned Fotherinham, pyjama bottomed goalkeeper impersonator Gabor Kiraly, the lesser spotted Thomas Eisfeld, the even lesser spotted Kay Voser and the never spotted Dino Fazlic. However, the award for the greatest of the one hit wonders goes to Adil Chihi. The lumbering winger made a solitary substitute appearance against Cardiff City in August and actually didn’t look atrocious (that’s not to say he was good), however he was never to be seen of again. Presumably he’s been busy phoning Giles Barnes and Jari Litmanen for advice on what to do after a non-playing Fulham career.
The OMG That Was This Season, I’ve Already Blocked That Out Award
Two words…Mark Fotheringham
The Chris Baird Award for Player Who Made a Catastrophic Start but Might Actually Be Quite Good
Shaun Hutchinson. The defender had a nightmare start to his Fulham career being largely at fault for both Ipswich goals on opening day. Subsequent appearances were hardly any better and included a sending off. However, given time and despite a rotating cavalcade of partners at the back, Hutchinson is now slowly resembling a decent centre back. There are still holes in his game and he is living proof of how poor Scottish football is as preparation for the real world but I have a feeling Hutchinson might yet prove an astute piece of scouting and become a future lynchpin of our defence.
The Tutti Fruiti Award for Flavour of the Month
Football manager can probably only be topped by Government Minister for the title of profession where public opinion can spiral out of control against you in a worse manner. Poor old Kit Symons came on the scene as the all-smiling warm hug of a manager we all wanted to replace Felix Magath back in the autumn. Having been recommended by the Five Man Panel of Shared Responsibility to Shahid Khan, Kit was temporarily in vogue as a veritable Mr Fulham until the shine wore off and his tactics didn’t show any sign of getting better. Unfortunately for poor old Kit, a series of dire results and lacklustre tactical performances culminated in all sides of the ground uniting against him in the draw at home to Rotherham a few weeks ago. Hopefully, Kit will eventually find a happy middle ground and perhaps stay on in a role at the club even if he leaves the top job, however he is the latest in a long line of managers to suffer their rise and fall over a short period of time.
The Surprising Thing I Miss About The Premier League Award
Being last on Match of The Day? No.
Losing every week? We still do that.
Having good players? Debateable.
No the thing I miss the most is the referees. The standard of refereeing down here is just so bad. I actually miss the likes of Clattenburg, Moss and Oliver sometimes making semi-logical decisions, though it is nice to not really have any big team bias go against you.
The Abdesalam Ouaddou Award for Most Mispronounced Name
This season saw Ivan Berry replace Diddy David Hamilton as the Cottage’s man on the mic. Poor Ivan hardly had the best of starts to his new career with barely a goal to announce in his first few games and he has got steadily better over the course of the season. What he lacks in gravitas, he does make up for in enthusiasm. However, he has a very annoying habit of mispronouncing two of the simplest names at the club in Hoogland and Hyndman. Ivan over emphasises the “land” in Hoogland as if his name was double barrelled and the over emphasis on “man” in Hyndman would make you thing young Emo is a burgeoning superhero. You probably never noticed, so, well, sorry about that but now you will.
The Adidas Infra-red Award for the Worst Use of the Colour Orange
This season’s home kit was just not good. Grey and White vertical stripes with bright orange trim. Along with the bizarre kit, Adidas gave us black training kit with white and gold shoulders. Hoping we wouldn’t notice, they also gave the same training stash to all of their other template kit teams, so when we played Brentford you had the odd scenario of two teams playing each other with the coaches in identical kit. Hopefully next year’s offering will be white with black trim. It’s not that hard.
The Star Wars Episode VII Award for Excess Hype
Prize wunderkind Patrick Roberts has played so infrequently under Symons you’d be forgiven for wondering if he was still at the club. However this hasn’t stopped several national papers from proclaiming him “the best young English player” and linking him to every club under the sun. It really doesn’t seem to take much to convince a paper someone is worth £15m as Roberts, for all his potential, is yet to justify the proposed price tag when he has played. I’m sure he will, but perhaps the horses need to come back to the stable for now.
The Laughing Cow Award for Best Cheese To Treat an Injury
You’ll have to ask Brede Hangeland. Personally I’d go for some cheddar melted over ham, though perhaps I’m only saying that because it’s lunchtime.
That’s all for Part 1 of the Awards Special. In Part 2 I’ll crown the Fulham Player of the Season.