The drawbridge is about to rise and another transfer window set to close. With that in mind, a quote in Felix Magath’s latest letter where he claims Fulham were quoted £12m for a Championship goalkeeper has left me wondering why Fulham seem to have so much trouble when it comes to selling players? We either seem to give them away on the cheap or can’t sell them at all?
This might actually be a false assumption. When it comes to transfers, appearances can be deceiving and reports in the press can be highly deceiving. Comparing one deal to another is a fool’s errand at the best of times, let alone without the full facts to play with. Seeing one well respected journalist tweet a comparison between the transfers of Ross McCormack and Xabi Alonso today shows the ease at which transfer stories can be manipulated and misinterpreted.
However, one undeniable fact is that, on the face of it, Fulham have for a while now, appeared to under-value our players when it comes time to show them the exit. Felix Magath’s £12m goalkeeper claim comes in stark contrast to the sale of David Stockdale to Brighton for a paltry £1m. Bryan Ruiz reportedly has a £3m price tag around his neck despite costing £11m and starring at the World Cup, while Kostas Mitroglou seems to have been linked to every team in Europe with nobody yet willing to pay us what we paid for him seven months ago.
So why then, do Fulham appear to come off on the bad end of these deals?
Communication (or-lack thereof)
Under the club’s current communications regime it is safe to say there has been a reluctance to share information. We may have actually profited on some deals, but Fulham could have sold Ashkan Dejagah to Qatari side Al Arabi for half of Doha and 50,000 barrels of crude oil and we’d still be told it was an undisclosed fee. The need-to-know basis on which information has been shared with fans and journalists over the past few years has restricted the flow of facts to the very minimum. This has led to rampant speculation amongst fans and a need to get information from other sources for journalists. Hence the talk of Ross McCormack’s fee being £11m coming from the Massimo Cellino spin machine at Leeds. With no retort from Fulham is it any wonder we’ve been the butt of so many ill-fated comparisons so far this summer.
*Of course there must be reason to Fulham’s methods, indeed one can’t help but think this week’s tub-thumping bout of verbal mud-slinging between Felix Magath, Shahid Khan and former owner Mohamad Al-Fayed has come about thanks to an apparent bypass of the club communication team. Although, while the public blame game has now turned somewhat unsavoury, it is at least nice to see Fulham actually make the papers. With perpetual undisclosed fees and player quotes normally coming straight from watered-down club website PR puff pieces this change of tact is at least a tiny bit refreshing.
Selling at the wrong time
Part of the blame for Fulham having to sell low is that we’re currently obvious sellers. Having been relegated and left with disillusioned players, Fulham’s negotiation poker face has been turned into a blank stare. When buyers know you want to sell, there is no incentive to pay fair value, let alone over-pay. The transfer window system has made the entire business of negotiating player movement one giant game of chicken. Unfortunately for us it is usually the party in the more eager position that blinks first. Fulham have been panic buyers in previous windows and are facing the prospect of being panic sellers on Monday.
An example is Bryan Ruiz in whom Fulham have a player they do not wish to keep, and one who himself does not wish to stay. With a year left on his contract, Bryan currently resembles a used car, if he stays at the club a minute past the transfer deadline, his value will plummet below its already deflated asking price.
Selling the wrong stock
Of course you can’t sell what you don’t have. Unless Alistair Mackintosh is sat at Motspur Park practicing his best Jordan Belfort impression, there is little chance of him conjuring up any miracle transfer fees. Of the playing staff from last season there was barely a player of decent value amongst them. Most were old and suffering from a decline in performance even Mohamed Al-Fayed’s ‘peppermints’ would have struggled to fix. The younger ones were nearly all played sparingly or out-of-position by Fulham’s cavalcade of different managers, diminishing any prospect of generating future hope value.
Those that did command fees on departure mostly left under the aforementioned iron curtain of undisclosed ambiguity, such as Kasami and Dejagah. Others, like Stockdale, were reportedly sold disaffected and un-wanted. It’s the exact method Roy Hodgson used so brilliantly to acquire the likes of Etuhu and Murphy for us in exchange for little more than a few grains of sand.
The outward transfer of Kerim Frei in 2012 was a prime example on the face of it. Our brightest academy prospect at the time, he left for Besiktas under-valued and over-weight. Players must be nurtured in order to yield magic beans come transfer windows and up till now the pressures of Premier League football have prevented that from truly taking place.
One look at Southampton this summer though and we can see where Fulham might be in a few years in terms of transfer fees received. There is little to suggest that the likes of Roberts, Woodrow, Dembele, Hyndman, Bettinelli and Burgess don’t have the talent to emulate the Lallana, Shaw, Forster, Chambers and Schneiderlin’s of the world in years to come. Given the right environment and regular game time these players could command significant fees in the future. Of course not every young player has the potential to be bought for £20m but it’s amazing the value that big clubs will place of young players who have actually played.
Alistair Mackintosh has always had a good reputation when it comes to negotiating. There often seemed a “take it or leave it” hard-line stance to our negotiations. We rarely usurped other teams when buying, and when we wanted rid of players we sold them with little fuss and fanfare. The Jol years slowly seemed to change that though and the now infamous Dembele & Dempsey summer was particular disastrous. The Belgian’s release clause was set at the frustratingly realistic sum of £15m, while we were surreptitiously held to ransom by a wantaway Dempsey. Of course, none of us know whether Mousa’s release clause was a condition of his transfer from AZ Alkmaar in the first place, but it was hard not to feel as if a part of Fulham’s soul got burned that fateful August week in 2012.
Whether you bear in mind the fact he largely dealt himself the hand in front of him, considering what he had to work with our CEO did actually do quite well to get any return on some transfers. Getting Monaco and Valencia to absorb the contracts of Dimitar Berbatov and Philippe Senderos felt a bit like giving a piece of rubbish to someone else to put in the bin. That both players are actually now playing at a higher level above and beyond their performances for Fulham is more a testament to our lack of decent coaching and management than anyone’s negotiation skill.
Ashkan Dejagah was sold almost immediately following a stellar World Cup and you rather feel we missed a trick not selling Bryan from a beachside cabana in Brazil while his stock was at its highest in July.
There is one other factor making sales difficult, foreign exchange. The British Pound is incredibly strong at present. The value of £1 Sterling has risen 10 cents from €1.16 to €1.26 in last year.
If you consider Bryan Ruiz’s reported asking price of £3m, currency fluctuations over the past 12 months would mean an increases cost of £300,000 (or €380,000) for a continental European buyer. If we also consider that Ruiz is likely to command anywhere up to £40,000 a week, currency movement alone has increased his wage by £208,000 a year (€262,000). Over the course of a four year contract that’s an additional £1,150,000 in total cost for a European team looking to buy Bryan. If you consider then that the majority of our more expensive players would be targets for clubs in the Eurozone (as opposed to domestic £GBP sales) and combine that with players’ ages, contract length and desire to leave along with our position as known sellers, the only realistic outcome is that asking prices become reduced.
Similarly, why would a club like Werder Bremen who are struggling financially mess around structuring a transfer deal in multiple currencies when they have the option not to?
It is cheaper for European countries to sign players from areas where the Euro is the stronger currency. It is perhaps then no surprise that we discover Werder Bremen’s biggest transfer outlay this summer has been €1m on Argentinean defender Santiago Garcia from Chilean club Rangers Talca. The Euro has risen almost 20% against the Chilean Peso in the past year. As Garcia was signed at a pre-agreed price following a loan spell, were the fee agreed in Pesos at the start of the deal, he would have been €200,000 cheaper at the end of his loan deal than at the start. Though that transfer was likely hedged against currency movement, the point still stands that it will always be easier to import to a strong currency than export to places with a weaker currency.
The final point is that relative value is generated in each particular market. This is not necessarily a currency point and more a multi-layered question as to a player’s style, experience and perceived compatibility to a particular league. Does a £1,000,000 fee in England for one player equate to a €1,000,000 fee or a €1,260,000 fee for an identical player in Europe? Is it a question of currency or relativity? With the in-built wealth present in the English game, it is inherently a question of relativity.
The highest transfer fee paid domestically in England this summer was the £30m paid by Manchester United for teenage left back Luke Shaw from Southampton. The biggest domestic fee in Germany on the other hand was the €14m paid by Bayer Leverkusen for Hamburg attacking midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu. The highest fee in Italy was €22m, paid by Roma for Argentinean winger Juan Iturrbe from Hellas Verona, however, Hellas themselves had simultaneously exorcised a €15m purchase option in Iturrbe’s loan from Porto in order to cash in on a player who had taken immediately to Serie A. The Iturrbe deal aside, the next highest domestic fees in Italy were the equal €5.5m deals Lazio completed for Dusan Basta and Marco Parolo respectively, while the highest in Spain was the €20m Barcelona paid Valencia for experienced French centre half Jeremy Mathieu.
Would any of those transfer fees have been as high if there were only foreign clubs in for the players? Maybe as each players value comes as a result of supply and demand, but as long as there’s a player who’s a proven commodity in any particular league, demand for signature will always be higher. This explains the Ross McCormack price as he is worth more to a team in the Championship, where he is proven, than a team in the Premiership where he’d present a risk.
The magnitude of those domestic European deals serves to reinforce the assertion that the intrinsic value held within the English game places it at a premium above its European rivals. For a smaller club like Fulham looking to the European markets to sell, this premium can make it incredibly difficult to sell unless our expectations of fees received come down.
When you put all these together, perhaps it’s little wonder that Fulham haven’t been able to cash in this summer.
19th Century American philosopher and pragmatist William James wrote that “there is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision”. One might use this logic to surmise that dinner parties at the Magath’s are hardly a barrel of laughs.
For there is no greater shuffler of packs than Felix Magath. In our first three Championship matches, Fulham have used 20 different players despite 6 of those starting all three games. Several others have featured on the substitutes bench but are yet to make an appearance meaning there are more debuts to come. Felix Bingo, the game of guessing Fulham’s starting line-up, has progressed from a humorous sideshow to a sad indictment of present times. Indeed Sean Kavanagh has said he was only told of his selection for his professional debut two hour before kick off on Wednesday. Presumably the likes of George Williams and Emerson Hyndman were told of their apparent dropping on equally short notice.
Following Saturday’s defeat to Millwall in which we dominated possession and had double the number of shots, Felix’s call for patience seemed a perfectly legitimate request. Wednesday’s loss to Wolverhampton Wanderers however, was quite the different story.
For many fans the game marked something of an epiphany. There was no plan, or at least not one that showed any signs of working. After Saturday, our first win looked only a matter of time. After Wednesday, our first win is significantly harder to visualise.
The Constant Unpredictability
Change for the sake of change. Are Felix’s rotations the result of a man with a plan or a man searching for answers?
At this stage that looks a hard question to answer. With a squad filled almost entirely with new signings and academy products, knowing the ideal team straight away would be a challenge to any manager. However, there is an over-riding sense that Felix has been treating the opening few games as something of an extended pre-season. In three games, we have lined up with three different formations at kick off – there was a narrow 4-4-2 diamond at Ipswich, a 4-5-1 / 4-3-3 hybrid against Millwall and a flat 4-4-2 against Wolves.
In two of the three games there has been a substitution at half time, while it took until 49 minutes for the opening change on Wednesday. Indeed it was Wednesday’s substitutions that sent out warning signals to our manager’s sensibilities. Over the course of three second half substitutions, the left back that was playing in left midfield went to central midfield with a centre forward going to left wing followed by the actual left back being subbed off with the left back playing in central midfield then moved back to defence only for the incoming player, Ryan Williams – a right winger by trade, to play out of position at centre mid. All while Thomas Eisfeld, a central midfielder, was sat on the bench doing nothing.
Hopefully that section was as confusing to read as it was to watch?
The Dearth of Experience
Of the 20 players that have featured for Fulham so far this season, only 4 (McCormack, Parker, Fotheringham and Rodallega) have more than one full season of experience in English league football. 4 players (Joronen, Kavanagh, Burgess and Hyndman) have made their professional club debut’s this season, while 6 more (George Williams, Christensen, Roberts, Dembele, Eisfeld and David) can count on one hand their senior appearances before this month.
What puts this all into stark contrast is the downright bizarre ostricisation of some of last season’s squad that are still on the books. You can almost understand why the remaining high earners are being sidelined before they depart. I don’t think anyone really expected to see Amorebieta, Mitroglou and Ruiz. However, to have players who have not expressed a desire to leave and who have Championship experience, such as Dan Burn and Alex Kacaniklic, sat in exile is little short of madness.
Of the two senior players that survived the cull, Hugo can at least outrun most people in our squad, but aside from athleticism he is not what we need up front. He may well end up as fourth choice striker and that’s ignoring the fact Adam Taggart is yet to feature. As a squad player, Hugo is a fair survivor, he is unlikely to fire us to promotion but he’ll provide reasonable support for the young guns and a willing runner for McCormack.
In all of this though, it is not the young players who are underperforming. Indeed Burgess, Roberts, Williams, David and Hydnman have been bright spots amongst the pointless fortnight just gone. Cauley Woodrow showed his technical ability on Wednesday night while Moussa Dembele had our only shot on target.
The area that is costing us more than any at the moment is central midfield, and in particular Scott Parker. The veteran midfielder has started in all three of Felix’s selections so far and has seen far too much of the ball. That we are seemingly building our team around him fills me with dread. For a team supposedly wishing to develop fast, attacking football, the pirouetting ponderousness of Parker is significantly out of place. Our young midfielders need space to play, not an obligation to pass it to Parker every two seconds.
The Championship is a physical league and against Wolves on Wednesday it was noticeable that we lack in physical stature. Parker’s lack of size and power mean our midfield is getting over-run. We have technically gifted youngsters who will eventually learn to pass round teams, but until then, they need some protection, and that is something we are sorely lacking at present.
I asked a friend of mine who’s a season ticket holder at Birmingham City for his thoughts on us starting Parker and Fotheringham leading to tendency to play long balls over the top:
“[This] is a hallmark of playing dirty – there is no point of doing that if you don’t have the personnel – it is a waste. Blues now have the personnel for that and literally have been peppering balls over the top – we have two big, powerful (fast!) strikers who can run in behind and hold it up or win flick on headers. Fulham seem (from the outside) like a technically gifted side that need to get the ball down and move it quickly and smartly, running at defences when they can. Parker and Fotheringham do not facilitate this.”
On Wednesday night, Parker led the team in passes completed with 61, yet for the second game in a row, it was young centre half Cameron Burgess who led the team in forward passes with 34. Playing Fotheringham is in itself the sort of decision to question a man’s legitimacy as decision maker, but to play him next to Parker is sheer tactical tomfoolery. Interestingly, Fotheringham was nicknamed the crab during his time at Norwich for his tendency to pass the ball sideways. Alongside Parker was there really ever any chance of the ball getting to our attacking players, let alone at speed?
The selection of Fotheringham was undeniably the straw that broke a few camel’s backs. However, his arrival at the club in itself should have raised red flags. Transfer policy is an area Felix is famous for. Those Bundesliga aficionado’s amongst you will be well aware of his wheeler deeler reputation. Again not entirely problematic if the players being wheeled and dealt are the right ones. However, instead of a Championship midfielder of sensible age, experience and quality, we get a man released by a team struggling in League One. More pennyball than moneyball.
Indeed there is no real problem with our summer transfer strategy to date. Veteran players like Hoogland and Bodurov could prove shrewd additions over the course of the long season, while Stafylidis has already shown potential and one suspects Shaun Hutchinson would do the same if he were allowed to play again. The arrival this morning of Tiago Casasola from Boca Juniors is something to lighten the spirits, it’s not every day your club signs a 19 year old from one of South America’s most famous clubs.
However, without a bit more ready-to-play quality, our squad is not complete. Our young players need some help, they need a central midfielder who can take control of a game by the scruff of its neck. Counter attack goals and a set piece aside we’ve defended pretty well this season, it is the transition from defence to attack that is once again proving our Achilles heel. Mr Mackintosh and Mr Khan need to open their chequebook at least once more before September rolls around. We are heading for a roughly break-even summer when you take into account player sales and the dramatically reduced wage bill, it might now be just the time to spend a fraction of those infamous parachute payments.
I wouldn’t advocate changing the regime just yet. I think we need to see where Felix is going with this. We all support the project. We want the kids to play and develop, they are the future of our club after all, but its time for the incoherent chopping and changing to stop. How will this team ever learn to play together if it’s one game on two games off for those but a chosen few?
We comfortably outpassed Ipswich and Millwall and outshot the latter 2 to 1. Were we to continue on that path, then the results would undoubtedly come. Let’s hope Wednesday was the anomaly from within Felix’s research and development phase, though I fear it may not be. The next two games will be tough, Derby and Cardiff are amongst the league’s favourites for promotion, but the beauty of the Championship is that any team can beat any other on any given day. I, for one, just hope Felix’s random generator isn’t actually as random as it appears and lands on the winning numbers sometime soon. Losing habits are hard to shake.
It says a lot about the Premier League these days that getting a draw at Old Trafford is enough to see a manager sacked.
Although sacked might not be the word – more usurped.
With Alistair Mackintosh and Shahid Khan now sat bolt upright in seeming the headlights of doomsday fast approaching, the move last Friday evening to appoint Felix Magath as Fulham’s third boss of the season represents one final throw of the dice in the hope of retaining the club’s top flight status.
The arrival of ex-Wolfsburg and Bayern Munich manager Magath is, to borrow a phrase from Khan’s other sport, something of a Hail Mary. To see how this is going to pan out would be to see into the proverbial crystal ball of football uncertainty. That ball is still very much up in the air and with 12 games to go, 36 points to play for, any outcome is yet possible.
It was a move the caught everyone off guard. Should it though? Under likeable Dutchman Rene Meulensteen it appeared Fulhamwere on the road to recovery, but we were certainly taking the scenic route and may well have had to go through relegation before getting back to pass go.
Under Meulensteen we had simply not improved enough on the lamentable performances that got our first Dutch manager dismissed. In the third of a season Rene was ‘in charge’, Fulham only won 2 league matches, kept only 2 clean sheets in all competitions and got knocked out of the FA Cup to a side in the relegation zone of the division two below our own. Team selection was schizophrenic, tactical focus appeared lacking and the much maligned defense remained on their six month long holiday.
Whilst many of the problems were not of Meulensteen’s making, he failed to bring any true leadership. It may have been unrealistic to assume anything else was possible from a man with little to no managerial experience on his CV, and none in either the Premier League or a relegation scrap.
Finding anything insightful to say or write about Fulham over the past few weeks has been remarkably difficult. There has been a prevailing sense that the dice had already been rolled for the last time. The six new players who arrived at Motspur Park on the final two days of the transfer window appeared big move in the race to stay up. Kostas Mitroglou was our final £11m trump card.
The excitement of transfer deadline day suffered something of a hangover as the despondency of another convincing home loss at the hands of Southampton arrived less than 24 hours later.
As fans all we had left was hope. Hope not grounded in fact or reason, but the irrational blind hope that a miracle was possible. We didn’t know how or when or why our fortunes would change but there was and is an ever-flickering hope, slowly extinguishing with each new way this team finds a way to disappoint.
Then came Old Trafford and that game against Manchester United. It was written in the stars that Rene would walk back into his old stomping ground and leave with his head held high. The Dutchman had the audacity to start Muamer Tankovic the exciting 18-year-old rookie at centre forward, the ingenuity to drop the undroppable Scott Parker and the gumption to replace skipper Brede Hangeland with debutant John Heitinga, trusting 21-year-old Dan Burn to anchor the defense. Not to mention there was a debut for a 21-year-old Ryan Tunnicliffe who left Manchester United for Fulham only 9 days before.
What transpired that Sunday afternoon was in the eyes of many the watershed moment for this Fulham side. It was the first game Meulensteen had his squad available at his disposal, liberated of the uncontrollable burdens left to him by his predecessor. Free from the personnel shackles, this was a moral victory for Rene, even if it took a 95th minute equalizer from Darren Bent (the Darren Bent who was rightfully dropped for Tankovic) to actually secure anything from the game.
Tasked with the then near impossible follow-up fixture, the performance at home to Liverpool was again encouraging. Both games were examples of stripped back tactics, a lesson in doing what you can do rather that attempting what you can’t. For this Fulham side, learning to play without the ball is something they should have started a long time ago. At this stage of the season, to be leading twice at home only to lose is simply not the form becoming of a team staying in the league.
Whilst Rene was doing some good things, such as successfully blooding youngsters, there had been little to tangibly show for it. If staying up is the only goal from now on, Meulensteen may simply not have been the man for us. A case of the right man at the wrong time.
There is much to question the logic of Meulensteen’s appointment into our predicament. Were he appointed in July with funds at his disposal and a pre-season to train the players his appointment would have made more sense. To task such an inexperienced manager with the job of keeping a mismatched and ill-fittingly assembled squad in the league on short notice was perhaps a fool’s errand in the first place, and one that does not reflect well on Fulham’s Chief Executive and owner with the benefit of hindsight.
Indeed when the dust settles on this traumatic season, there will be an inquisition into the events. Idle speculation as to who is at fault for the chronic indecisiveness will solve nothing with nearly a third of the season to go, but there is little doubt that structural changes above the level of manager are needed to ensure strategy can once again replace emergency planning in the Fulham boardroom.
Enlargement of the board of directors beyond its current four man format is essential. Such a small brain trust places undue stress on Mackintosh in his role as its pivotal member. If the man trying to make the decisions is also the man having to persuade an owner with multiple priorities to back those decisions, is it any wonder determinations have become prolonged and management has at times seen to be lacking focus.
The recent sad loss within the Fulham Family of former director Dennis Turner serves to highlight the current absence of any independent or fan representation on our board. Dennis, a lifelong Fulham supporter served as a non-executive director under Mohamed Al-Fayed and brought his knowledge as both club historian and HSBC’s former chief economist to the role. The club currently has nobody with such outside gravitas.
Whilst Mr. Al-Fayed ran the club with an iron fist, albeit a slightly eccentric one, there is one parallel with our new owner that has surfaced in the last week; Al-Fayed’s sons Omar and Karim were involved at board level, while press reports are now linking Shahid Khan’s son, Tony, to an increased involvement at Craven Cottage. While final decision making power will understandably remain with the Chairman as is his remit, the decision making process remains a critical link to successful strategic planning. Hopefully the Khan’s will follow the Al-Fayed’s lead in extending the board of directors beyond the current close conclave.
From the current episode, it has been the perceived treatment of Meulensteen that has upset many fans along with the miscommunication that has leapt from one misstep to another like a drunk Budweiser frog crossing an ever lengthening pond over the last few days.
Who do we listen to? Who was in charge? Who is in charge? Who still has a job? Uncertainty breeds chaos as it seems so does the certainty of being bottom of the league.
Meulensteen is eminently likeable. His interviews were frank (too much so on more than one occasion) and entertaining and he preached ideals we as fans could believe in. The tumultuous reaction to Martin Jol’s prolonged employment stemmed in part from his attitude towards the fans and ours to him in what became akin to a messy divorce. Rene still had the fans onside. It’s amazing what playing the odd 18-year-old does for the mentality of a fanbase.
There was apparent callousness in the club not confirming Meulensteen’s position after the announcement of Magath’s arrival. The truth is likely more innocent, in that the position was simply not known or agreed. But the incident does not reflect well on the club. Press ridicule has centered on us either bungling the decision making process or our owner and chief executive unsympathetically putting the boot into a man who placed his own reputation on the line by stepping into this fire.
However, it is important to remember Rene was (and maybe still is) Head Coach and has never been our manager and as such his position at the head of the pack never quite seemed set in stone. The arrivals of Alan Curbishley and Ray Wilkins showed Meulensteen’s frailty. They may have been intended to show an edifying willingness to get support, a self appreciation for his own areas of weakness, but in this time of crisis the club, its players and its fans needed genuine leadership, not watered down decision making by committee.
The chant “We’ve got three managers” might have been tongue in cheek, but it was drenched in a sour reality that it might just have been one big cruel joke.
In Felix Magath, we might just have our leader. The German divides opinion in his homeland. He was seemingly close to taking over at Hamburg last week until the board rejected his request for full control over the club. He is an authoritarian, a disciplinarian and foremost an experienced football manager. Should we stay up, his reputation for wheeler dealing may be fun to watch, but for now, we have a specialist captain to rescue our sinking ship. Perhaps in getting one over on Hamburg we can, once again, still believe.
The hope then springs that Magath’s arrival isn’t the latest in a series of decisions that have happened after they should have been made. Martin Jol was relieved of his duties several months after he should have gone. Money was spent in January on the last possible day it could be spent. Hopefully Felix Magath’s arrival won’t be too little too late.
We have a new manager, we are four points (five if you take into account our hideous goal difference) from safety and we have 12 games to seal our destiny. Only time will tell if this move is the latest bottle rocket to emerge from a madhouse or a moment of clarity that will save our season. For now it is the job of all Fulham supporters to get behind the new man and rally to the aid of our side. An already full allocation at West Brom on Saturday shows the fans are doing just that.
The atmosphere at Craven Cottage against Liverpool last Wednesday was one of the best in recent times. We are all fearful of what has at times seemed inevitable. The r-word may well be the outcome of our season, but in throwing this Hail Mary, Shahid Khan and Alistair Mackintosh have given it one last go.