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There have been plenty of ups and downs since Shahid Khan took over Fulham Football Club in 2013. The relegations from the Premier League are the most obvious element of that, but there is also the ongoing debate about the club’s recruitment of players.

Fulham have become known for pretty passing game and a desire to try and dominate opponents in the quaint and historical surroundings of their unique home, Craven Cottage. Ahead of a new campaign, it is appropriate to ask whether the club is heading in the right direction.

No Fulham fan needs reminding of the glorious 2009/10 season when Roy Hodgson’s men surprised almost everyone apart from themselves by winning nineteen games in the revamped Europa League to reach the club’s first major final since 1975. The Whites might have ultimately lost in the final, heartbreakingly to Atletico Madrid, but it was unquestionably one of the finest moments in Fulham’s history. Hodgson’s shrewd recruitment, typified by the quiet acquisitions of Damien Duff and Stephen Kelly, helped a well-drilled side punch above their weight only a couple of years after pulling off a miraculous escape from relegation.

That wasn’t the only biggest loss suffered, for the fans, as Roy Hodgson left Fulham to join Liverpool after the final. It felt like a backward step when we appointed Mark Hughes who left after one season. We finally got our main target Martin Jol. It wasn’t all sweetness and light under the Dutchman, with key players like Moussa Dembele, Clint Dempsey and Bobby Zamora moving on and there was a worrying end to the 2012/2013 season where Fulham flirted with the relegation zone after appearing comfortable at the mid-point of the campaign.

That summer saw Shahid Khan purchase the club from longstanding owner Mohamed Al-Fayed for a rumoured £200m. Could this be seen as a step in the right direction? In theory, it seemed so – but in practice the first season under the new ownership was shambolic. Fulham went through three managers, with an ageing squad, and slipped out of the top flight. Mistakes by experienced managers and some missteps by the new regime saw the Whites end their thirteen-year stay in the Premier League with a bit of a whimper. The decision to appoint Magath sticks out as a mistake in retrospect, as does the splashing of cash on Kostas Mitroglou, in a desperate bid to secure the goals that might lift Fulham to safety.

Magath’s reign lurched to further disaster in the Championship, with the Whites picking up a single point from eight games seeing the German finally depart. Kit Symons steadied the ship but couldn’t translate his promotion of young talent into a serious promotion push, although even Slavisa Jokanovic was sucked into a relegation battle after he took over the reigns at the Cottage. The Serbian’s arrival was the catalyst for a change in Fulham’s fortunes as he implemented an attractive and adventurous playing style and transformed the first team’s fortunes.

Jokanovic’s side forced their way into the play-offs and were arguably unfortunate to be eliminated in two tight semi-finals with Reading. That campaign was one of the most magical years as Fulham’s style suddenly changed and Jokanovic constructed a midfield triumvirate to envy any in the division. Little did we know that the following season would be even more remarkable. Jokanovic’s charges became the Barcelona of the Championship in a wonderful 23-match unbeaten run to end the season, overcoming the disappointment of missing out on automatic promotion to triumph in the play-offs – with a wonderful win over Aston Villa at Wembley. One of the huge keys to promotion was the arrival of Aleksandar Mitrovic, whose relationship with Jokanovic proved crucial to moving to Craven Cottage, and the Serbian striker’s impact on Fulham’s fortunes can’t be overstated.

The summer that followed now looks like a missed opportunity. We can talk about how much of statement Fulham were making with the signings, there is no kidding ourselves with the signings. We thought it would work, we thought finally some real investment. We kept spending and spending until we reached just over £100 million, imagine the shock on my face when we were announcing players for £30 million. This was a step back, some fans aimed their anger towards the owners, some believed Jokanovic was to blame.

Jokanovic’s departure still remains a sticking point and the appointment of Claudio Ranieri unquestionably didn’t work. Scott Parker did remarkably well to rebuild a sense of unity around the football club and, although the football was dull and never really recaptured the heights of a marvellous early home win over Millwall, winning promotion in his first full season as a senior manager was some achievement.

The following campaign was always going to be complicated with the impact of coronavirus meaning the shrinking of the close season and a short timeframe in which to strengthen the squad before both the beginning of the Premier League campaign and the closure of the transfer window. The initial faith in the stalwarts who had secured promotion seemed misplaced and, although the likes of Alphonse Areola and Joachim Andersen were undoubted successes alongside permanent acquisition Harrison Reed, Fulham ultimately went down limply having given themselves a shot at salvation with two wins on Merseyside.

A third relegation clearly hinted at a sense of complacency amongst the club’s hierarchy with the same mistakes recurring once again and the lack of a long-term strategy. Are Fulham heading in the right direction? You’d have to say no on the balance of recent seasons. The new Riverside Stand could eventually prove to be a real boon, but the club are still wrestling with the financial impact of that disastrous 2018 summer splurge.

I firmly believe something needs to change. The Khans business interests are firmly established but they leave the key players too stretched – looking after the Jacksonville Jaquars, All Elite Wrestling and our beloved club. If Fulham remains a business investment, it should be subject to the same scrutiny as any other – and blaming successive managers seems to miss the point. Marco Silva might prove to be a fantastic appointment, but he can’t be asked to work with one hand behind his back.