After a dreadful weekend, Fulham’s position is precarious. The Whites are eighteenth in the Premier League, seven points adrift of safety and with a worse goal difference than Brighton, whose precious win over Tottenham last night only deepened the gloom. Anyone who watched the car crash that was the 2018/2019 season will be filled with a sense of deja vu.
Tony Khan, Fulham’s Director of Football, is about to oversee immediate relegations from the top flight and, amongst everything else, you wonder, why he seeks so much responsibility at Craven Cottage alongside his other ventures in the shape of American football and wrestling. The brutal reality is that businesses are based on results and neither the Jacksonville Jaguars and Fulham are achieving them at the moment. Success requires both time and hard work and with Khan’s outside interests it seems very difficult for him to give this fantastic football club time and knowledge we need?
The story of Fulham’s last promotion to the big time is already well known. More than £100m was splashed on an entirely new squad, assembled late in the summer and Slavisa Jokanovic paid the penalty for not getting immediate results. A horribly unbalanced side didn’t prove competitive under three managers and the chance to establish ourselves in the top flight vanished in the blink of an eye. The heart and soul of the side that had so stylishly played their way out of the Championship was torn out in favour of new arrivals on big wages, which cost a great deal in terms of cohesion and harmony. There’s no doubt the team needed strengthening that summer, but turning our backs on the likes of Oliver Norwood and Matt Targett – two loanees who have gone on to star in the Premier League – left Jokanovic without two players who understood the identity Jokanovic had built and what he was trying to create.
Jokanovic was gone in November and Claudio Ranieri’s dreadful reign lasted just 106 days. It fell to Scott Parker to see Fulham through painfully to the end, managing wins over Everton and Bournemouth when the day had long since been cast. A novice manager then had to set about trying to change the club’s mentality with an eye on an immediate return. The summer’s transfer business appeared impressive, with experienced Championship performers in the form of Anthony Knockaert and Ivan Cavaleiro arriving to bolster Fulham’s attacking options. But both failed to hit the heights of their previous seasons – and Knockaert is now on loan at Nottingham Forest. Cavaleiro has been pressed into service as a makeshift forward, a position the club has failed to strengthen, with Aleksandar Mitrovic showing the first signs of strain after two-and-a-half unstoppable seasons.
The Serbian striker’s record since coming to Craven Cottage has been remarkable. There’s no doubt he has been short of those standards in recent months and is suffering from a shortage of confidence, but that is understandable after arguably the lowest point of his professional career and a recurrence of the injury that saw him sit out a significant portion of the run-in last season. Parker has such a paucity of forward options at his disposal and definitively ruled out a new arrival after the dispiriting draw at the Hawthorns on Saturday. It is difficult to see where the goals will come from to keep us up.
Successive managers have spoken about Fulham’s frustrations in the transfer market. It is clear that Tony Khan has a huge say on the incomings and outgoings at the football club – but we keep falling short. I have no doubt that he has the best intentions for Fulham, but I believe it is time for him to either give the club his full attention or step aside and allow someone else to fulfil that role. His AEW venture appears to be a great success – and that is to his credit – but Fulham risk squandering another shot at the top flight.
The fans who live and breathe Fulham have been venting their frustration all over social media. Tony Khan tweeted earlier in the season that we would have killed to have been a yo-yo club before he took over his current responsibilities, which shows just how misguided he is. We do not expect miracles or constant success, but commitment to the cause and hard graft from the eleven on the pitch all the way up to the boardroom. I do wonder what the Khan family thinks when seeing Fulham cut adrift from safety with half of the season remaining. A businessman would probably conduct one of those root and branch reviews and consider whether an experienced football figure could make a difference. If Tony stepped aside, giving him more time to grow those outside ventures, he’d remove the vitriol at a stroke – and the club could benefit from a fresh viewpoint.