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Moving On

 

Tu ne cede malis sed contra audientior ito
Yield not to misfortunes but advance all the more boldly against them

I have refrained up till now of canonising my thoughts on the matter of Fulham’s management into words, preferring to give a team and a manager the common decency of time to improve.

There is, though, a quote by Oscar Wilde that sums up most of the opinion swirling around the Fulham managerial position that has now reached a crescendo; “It is absurd to divide people into good and bad, people are either charming or tedious”.

As it is, after another largely lifeless late loss, Martin Jol’s tired and passionless attempts to lower expectations in post match interviews have crossed to the point of tedium.

Change will not come if we wait for some other time, for some other moment of despair. The time for action is now, not posturing or equivocation.

The current situation at Craven Cottage is not something that has just arisen out of the blue either. Calls for the manager’s head are not new and they are not unexpected. Form has long been a matter for concern and it has now reached breaking point.

Had we not won at Swansea on the last day of last season, it is not unreasonable to believe we would be under different management already.

Three weeks ago the excuse was that at least we were still mid-table. Well now we are in the relegation zone and at risk of being cut adrift. Our points tally this season is also somewhat misleading with the one shot opening day win at Sunderland masking glaring deficiencies from back to front.

The match yesterday felt like a dead man’s walk to the gallows. The midweek victory over Everton seems little more than a stay of execution. If body language tells more about a person than their words, then this Fulham team and its management are in deep trouble.

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Following Jordan Mutch’s spectacular but deserved winner for Cardiff yesterday, Martin Jol slunk into the dugout like a man resigned to his fate. While Paolo Di Canio’s opposite tact of standing in front of fans taking the flack was the polar extreme prior to his dismissal last week; the lack of any passion from Jol was a similar moment of separation from his people. While we had to stand there and take it and then share a walk through Bishop’s Park with swooning gleeful Welshmen, our manager was making excuses and attempting to lower expectations.

This side, like their manager, appear passionless.

Brede Hangeland, club captain, is playing like a dethroned monarch; sunken, sullen and afraid to gee up his troops. His worst performance, or close to it, in a Fulham shirt yesterday shows that he either doesn’t like working with Jol or the manager has failed to spot a glaring lack of leadership from Fulham’s would be defensive talisman.

While the substitution of Alex Kacaniklic worked tactically, the young winger was then promptly ignored by his manager upon reaching the dugout. For a manager who has a reputation in hushed tones for behind closed doors favouritism and as a bully boy [example Kasami’s 18 month extrication, Kerim Frei’s sale and the disappearance of Ashkan Dejagah], this cold hearted and callous gesture showed more than he’d care for it to. The shift in tactics to a never before seen 4-3-1-2 also the act of a man scrambling for a lifeline.

Martin Jol referenced Danny Murphy’s late winner at Portsmouth in 2008 and Clint Dempsey’s goal against Liverpool in 2007 seemingly ignoring three top ten finishes, two 12ths and two European campaigns that have taken place since that day at Fratton Park 5 years ago. I can only imagine his insistence on tempering expectations is a tactic to keep himself employed.

A Dad’s Army summer recruitment strategy, narcoleptic defending and schizophrenic tactical pack shuffling has left Fulham as a team as bereft of confidence as they are points.

Yesterday’s game against Cardiff was embarrassing. Bryan Ruiz’s magical equalizer served merely as temporary pain relief, with the problems running deeper than one or two abhorrent performances.

There are rumblings that Martin Jol has lost the dressing room. Despite his nepotistic recruitment it is evident this team are not playing for him, while some of them don’t even seem to be playing for us.

Even if he hasn’t yet lost the players; inside the ground, talking to fans of all ages and creeds, there is one thing that is blindingly evident, he has lost the fans. Fulham is a family club, and there is a large proportion that won’t holler, scream and boo, but the near unanimity of season ticket holders in our section in the Riverside is that change, starting with the manager, is immediately necessary.

It is never nice to see vitriol pointed at one man, but a football club’s manager is its figurehead. Cardiff yesterday out shot us 22 to 9, had more possession at 51.5%, had double the number of key passes and out passed us in general 432 to 386 with a better completion percentage. All this against a team without a top-flight away victory since 1961. It simply isn’t good enough.

There is also talk of a justifiable split inside the club, with the seeming insistence on keeping the talented academy and the first team as separate entities at the whim of the Dutchman. The out-of-the-blue first team debut of Mesca at Chelsea last week an obvious reaction to the catcalling for more youth from many after the West Brom debacle the week before.

Life moves on, and so should we. The quicker Mr Khan and Mr Mackintosh let go, the sooner we can begin to improve. Yes inheriting an aging team such as ours is not an easy job for any manager, but this Fulham team isn’t far from being half decent, it just has no idea how to get there.

If change doesn’t come, we are in danger of leaving it too late.

COYW

Danny’s Not Right For Us. Yet.

It is pretty common knowledge that Danny Murphy wants to be a manager one day. With a vacancy at the club that he captains and has a great deal of affection for, combined with his ambition to manage and inevitable retirement in the near future it is no suprise that speculation about his future here is pretty highly debated; the Bookies have him as one of the favourites. And while this would be a sweet ending to his playing career, I can’t see it happening, not now anyway.

Firstly from Fulham’s point of view it would be a risk to employ a complete rookie as manager. The league now is so competitive that a few points slip up for club like us who finished comfortably mid table will mean a certain relegation battle. Rarely will a player who goes straight into management instantly pick up the subleties and demands of management to a high standard (in lower divisions it is more common to see success in this way since the more talented young managers will be able to hold their own against the less talented and experienced ones, but off the top of my head I can’t even remember a player going straight from playing to management in the Premier League). It is a learning curve which induces risk, one that we can’t afford to take., even with a guiding hand like Ray Lewington as his assistant. The last two ‘experiments’ with similarly inexperienced managers Sanchez and Coleman almost ended in disaster despite having many years coaching experience, and in Sanchez’ case it was a spectacular failure. No doubt that Murphy is more suitable for top flight management than those two, at least from the characteristics he displays as player and captain, but it demonstrates how hard it is to hit the ground running. I know we had a good couple of years under Coleman but from his career path after them they seem to have been one offs. Whether it was down to good fortune or if he just ran out of ideas, I’m not sure.

Secondly, Murphy himself probably knows that it is not the time for him. While I am sure that he will have been tempted to submit an application for the job, he is sensible enough I think to recognise that he himself is not the right man for the job. He will also feel that he has at least a year, if not two, left in him to play and prove himself as a player in his mid thirties at the ‘top level’. The career of a professional football is not long and he won’t want to reduce it any further than he has to. Going off the Talksport article earlier, it doesn’t sound like he is interested.

However there is no doubt in my or Murphy’s mind that he will be a manager. I expect that as soon as he retires he will either coach with us or become assistant at a lower league club. The attributes he has, such as level-headedness, intelligence, determination and being able to motivate lend themselves well to being a good manager, and already he displays a fairly deep understanding of the game. His experiences with previous managers will no doubt rub off on him too. Dario Gradi from his time at Crewe will have, from a young age, instilled a passing philosophy even with the lesser talented players in the lower leagues. The success he had at Liverpool and time at England means he knows first hand what you need in a team, both in terms of mentality and player quality, to win trophies and accolades. Murphy’s experienced the opposite side of the game with us too, having score the goal to keep us up in ’08, and considering the glowing terms that he talks about Roy in it will be interesting to see how much of his management style is influenced by what he learnt under Roy; I’m sure it’ll be fairly substantial.

So, give it 5 or 6 years of coaching and managerial experience and I will gladly accept Danny Murphy as Fulham manager because I’m certain that he is destined to be one of the better English managers of his generation, having had experiences that will have taught him alot and the brain to take advantage of what he knows. But, right now, we can’t afford the risk, and neither can Danny.