In the end it was a marriage that just wasn’t meant to be.
Following another home defeat that was more humiliating than humbling, Kit Symons was dismissed as manager of Fulham Football Club over the weekend.
The defeat to Birmingham City on Saturday was the fourth time during Symons’ tenure that Fulham have conceded 5 goals at home. Saturday’s result highlighted the crippling defensive problems that will last as one of enduring legacies of the former defender’s time in charge at Craven Cottage.
What mustn’t be forgotten once the dust has settled on Symons exit is that Kit has left Fulham in a far better state than he found it. Whilst his reign as manager was not spectacular, or even overly successful, it served a very important purpose given the position inherited following Felix Magath’s departure.
Under his immediate predecessors, Fulham went from Premier League stalwarts to becoming very serious candidates for Championship relegation. Symons’ year in charge was the first step on the long road back. From a position of considerable weakness, Symons leaves behind a solid platform on which to build.
The move by Mike Rigg and Fulham to move on from Symons is one that points to the future as much as it does to the past. This isn’t a move born simply out of results, although Saturday’s defeat undoubtedly made it easier. It is a conscious decision to take Fulham above and beyond where Symons would have been able to take us.
On paper Symons had everything we could want in a Fulham manager – a former fan favourite, off pitch affability and a genuine desire to take the job. Unfortunately it became fairly obvious not too long after he was given the job permanently that those off-field credentials were not backed up by any natural managerial talent. If that sounds harsh, it is not meant to. He was the right man at the right time last season, but this season was just a step too far for a man with no managerial experience. Eight horrendous games at the start of last season are no reason to accept mediocrity this season.
A mutual parting of the ways back in the summer would have been better all round. Even after he was allowed to drop the “Caretaker” from his job title, Kit’s role last season was really that of extended caretaker, getting us to the end of the season when the whole club could start again.
Whilst even his most ardent detractors (and there were an ever steady and increasingly growing number) would admit much of last season’s malaise was due to the poorly assembled and browbeaten squad he inherited, his managerial inexperience often showed. Aside from his inability as a former defender to organise our defence, Symons leaves behind a record of consistently inconsistent performances and results.
In moving into a second season, Kit gave up any chance of being treated with a degree of home-grown forgiveness when it came to his job status. Ours is a fanbase that has become accustomed to disappointment over the past few seasons. Success breeds short memories and disappointment lingers. Whilst Symons was excused for last season, he was under pressure from Day One this year. After a full season in charge, there became a point when tactical naivety began to a lot like ineptitude and it was obvious this was as far as he could take us.
The warning signs were ominous, in less than a calendar year, the Hammersmith End went from singing “stand up for the Kit Symons” to “you don’t know what you’re doing”. Symons’s early success had set him up for failure.
It is a sad end to a long Fulham career, but as soon as he threw away the shackles of caretakerdom, Kit exposed himself to the harsh realities of management. His departure is the right decision and my hope is that in time, Symons is remembered as the man who stepped into the breach when called upon and saw us through in our season of need. He does not deserve anything less.
Like many Fulham fans I wish Kit Symons well. I would be surprised if he is offered an immediate return to management elsewhere, but hope that in time that Fulham can find a place for him to return home in another capacity, and that Kit could find the humility to return.
Deciding to replace Symons is only the first step, where Mike Rigg goes next is the most important part of the entire story.
Like the rest of the fanbase I sit with baited breath to see who comes in.