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What the Magath? A lesson in (mis)communication

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.

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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.

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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.

COYW

Merry Christmas to the Fulham Family

The season of festive cheer often overlooks us football fans. While Ebenezer Pellegrini and his band of not so merry Mancunian Scrooges spoiled our comeback on Saturday, it still seems only appropriate to wish everyone connected with Fulham Football Club a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

2013 has been a year of mixed fortunes and troubled transition for our fabled football club. Too often the brief highs have been followed by conspicuous lows.

Now, after another encouraging performance, it appears that we have emerged from the period of prolonged worry and fear, and can hopefully move on into the second half of the season with renewed hope and a sense of optimism under new Head Coach Rene Meulensteen.

We are obviously a long way from safety and while we may not have turned the corner completely, we have certainly approached the bend. With festive fixtures against four fellow relegation candidates in a row to come, we will soon see if our transition translates into points on the board.

This season, the Premier League is living up to its reputation to expect the unexpected. Across the division we have seen a quarter of managers lose their jobs with that number likely to rise. Christmas cheer it seems is in short supply all around.

In the Fulham household there is a palpable sense of us all wishing for Good Saint Nick to come down the chimney clutching gifts, albeit a day late on Boxing Day. Three points on Thursday would be the present we’re all craving. A defeat and we may as well be looking at a lump of coal.

With Chairman Shahid Khan at Craven Cottage last Saturday, he would have seen a motivated Fulham side playing in front of a spirited crowd. The atmosphere was tremendous. Hope has sprung its merry web amongst the Fulham Faithful.

January will prove pivotal. If the performance against Man City proved anything, it’s that the squad and first team remain short on quality even with a good new coach. It is no use if our players play to the best of their ability, yet their maximum performance ceiling is still short of the level we need to escape the doldrums. Clint Dempsey’s return is a great first present sitting under our tree, but Santa Khan must provide the chequebook for several more players to follow.

Regardless of the matters on the field, Fulham fans and the devoted hardworking staff at the club have had an arduous and fraught few months. With relationships and communication becoming fractious and increasingly agitated, it is splendid to see the club, its staff and fans once again unified.

Like any family at this time of year, the Fulham family has had its fair share of squabbles. Now though, we go onwards to the New Year as one; a cohesive body of collective support for the new Head Coach and his chosen charges that will undoubtedly aid our ascent from the depths of relegation candidacy.

Merry Christmas Fulham Family. Let’s make 2014 memorable for the right reasons.

COYW

 

Looking Forward: The FFC Christmas List

The departure of Martin Jol has seen Chairman Shahid Khan thankfully taking some overdue action to arrest Fulham’s alarming season. Fulham fans have finally got their wish on the first day of Advent. With November turning to December it is less than a month till Christmas and the opening of the January transfer window. How the next two months now unfold could set the tone for years to come.

With change now affected, it is a time to look forward. There is a month for Rene Meulensteen, Alistair Mackintosh and co to plan, and on the somewhat wishful assumption that cash will go into Fulham’s January transfer kitty, who, or what, would you like to see on your Fulham Christmas Wish List? All the cries for a managerial change were only as fans wanted the best for their club. So what now? Will we get a late Christmas present from Santa Khan come January the 1st or will it be bargain hunting at the January sales come the end of the window?

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Before I list what I’d like to see happen in January, here are a few assumptions and hopes:

• The list is written on the basis, likely or not, that Shahid Khan sanctions actually spending some money. By finally pulling the trigger on Martin Jol’s tenure there is the sign that Khan understands the severity of Fulham’s current predicament. That the situation is also largely the result of penny pinching underspending last summer will hopefully also not have gone unnoticed.

• Though January is well recognised as the worst time to go spendhappy – prices are inflated, good deals are rare and unscrupulous agents look to secure transfers for their players off a whim or a prayer or less – another cheapskate transfer window is not an option. January shopping sprees can go both ways; Roy Hodgson kept Fulham up with some smart January spending in 2008 but QPR wasted millions in a vain effort to stay up last season.

• No more past-their-prime formerly decent players can be allowed to arrive on Ryanairesque budget. Players to be signed will hopefully have been long identified and mercilessly scouted, fitting the club’s style and philosophy, rather than simply the manager’s {well we’ll give Rene a chance with an old boy or two seeing as his former club is rather more successful than any of Jol’s} or on the basis of reputation or former talent.

1. Sign at least one young central midfielder

Stamina and a lack of fitness have been one of several alarming traits that have characterised Fulham’s season so far. Whilst training, or the lack thereof, may have contributed significantly to our lack of physical athleticism, the age of the side is also an undoubted factor. In Boateng, Sidwell, Parker and Karagounis, our engine room options top a combined 120 years old. One of our more technical weaknesses also appears to be the inability to get the ball from midfield to the attack. Finding someone who can play a full 90 minutes as a defence to attack pivot could prove crucial to survival hopes.

Good athletic central midfield playmakers don’t exactly grow on trees, and when they do come round they tend to be on the expensive side of the equation. Unfortunately for Mr Khan’s wallet, this is one position that Fulham’s academy doesn’t appear ready to fill. Of the two leading candidates, Lasse Vigen Christensen has shown considerable promise at U-18 and U-21 level but is not yet first team saviour material, whilst the leading creative central midfielder in the youth ranks, Emerson Hydnman, is a year or so off senior football.

All this means the owners’ chequebook needs to be opened. Here are two targets I’d like to see Fulham linked with:

Will Hughes

18-year-old prodigy Hughes is the English crown jewel in the football league. With over 50 first team appearances already under his belt for Derby County, his is the signature that nearly every Premierleague club would give their proverbial right arm for. The teenage midfield maestro with the peroxide blonde hair is said to have an asking price in the mid teen millions, however how Derby would react to a concrete offer in the multiple millions remains to be seen. Though costly, Fulham could offer Hughes near automatic first team football, something that bigger suitors, such as Liverpool who were linked last week, could not. Signing young talent like Hughes would also make coming back from relegation a lot easier should the worst happen.

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Stefan Johansen

22-year-old Norwegian Johansen would be the perfect signing for Fulham. The majestic playmaker was recently voted Norway’s co-Player of the Year, sharing the award with our very own Brede Hangeland. It was a moral victory for the Stromsgodset player as Hangeland himself admitted to forgetting to cast his vote, which he retrospectively said would have gone to Johansen. A ringing endorsement from our skipper which should help Johansen’s cause in getting a move out of Norway, though truth be told he doesn’t need much help. A glorious left foot and the ability to glide across the pitch saw Johansen star for a strong Norwegian Under-21s last summer at the European championships in Israel and has seen him go on to progress into the Norwegian senior side, where a debut goal v Sweden and a league title as the star of lowly Stromsgodset capped a stellar year.

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2. Sign a strong centre forward

While the common opinion would have Fulham set up front, there are a plethora of problems with Fulham’s striking core. Aside from devastatingly talented 17-year-old Moussa Dembele, Fulham’s entire attack is on the decline. Berbatov has looked uninterested and sub-par all season, Darren Bent is proving unreliable and well past his prime and will hopefully be sent back to Villa for good as a 32 year old come the summer and the Hugo Rodallega experiment is a year and a half in. While Hugo would be a great striker at Championship level should we get relegated, a fit, hungry, agile and strong top level hitman or partnership is lacking and very much needed. Academy talent Marcello Trotta and Cauley Woodrow are both gaining experience on loan and Muamer Tankovic will likely do so at some point this season. This leaves reinforcements being needed. Though a midfielder should be the first cash deposit of January, some firepower is needed, even if on a short-term basis. Here are two below the radar options:

Pavel Pogrebnyak

One thing Fulham have lacked up front this season is an ability to hold onto the ball. The little round thing is never up front long enough to take any pressure off the midfield and defence. Former Fulham man Pogrebnyak was a fan favourite in his 6 months here. A long term Fulham target, Pogrebnyak was brought to Fulham on the instructions of chief scout Barry Simmonds, not the manager. He knows the club and the league, and is stronger than all our current strikers put together. At 30 he’s not exactly the long-term answer, but a loan from Reading would take the striker’s wages of the Championship club’s books and provide us some strength up front in a move that would potentially suit all parties.

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Jordan Rhodes

Blackburn striker Rhodes is someone I’ve wanted Fulham to sign for several years now. Stuck outside the top flight in a Blackburn side not going anywhere fast, Rhodes would likely jump at the chance to move up a division. Rovers might also be tempted to sell should the right offer come in. A natural poacher with 36 goals in 59 league games for Blackburn, at only 23, Rhodes would provide the long-term striker Fulham need rather than any of the current crop at Fulham, all of whom should be gone after the season closes.

3. Sign a left back

Oh Kieran, honestly it’s not your fault; you’re just not a left back. Yes, one of Martin Jol’s more foolhardy moves has been to rely upon converted midfielder Kieran Richardson at left back. While this has been predicated mostly by the alarming decline of John Arne Riise and injury and lack of faith in Matthew Briggs, Richardson simply isn’t good enough to line up in a defence that needs to be better than the sum of its parts. A fine squad player, the left footed Chris Baird, I’d like to see Richardson stay at Fulham as a utility player, able to cover various positions. The defence has issues across the line. There is no doubt a centre back is needed but there is a good player in Amorebieta and Dan Burn will start next season, but full back is consistently a source of encouragement for opposition, just look at Jarvis and Downing for West Ham during the abysmal showing on Saturday.

Alexander Buttner

The somewhat obvious suggestion, Buttner was a supposed Fulham target before his surprise move to Manchester United in 2012 where he worked under fellow Dutchman and new Fulham Head Coach Rene Meulensteen. A pacy natural full back, a loan or permanent move for Buttner would suit Fulham’s needs at left back.

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Jamaal Lascelles

20-year-old England U-20 centre half Lascelles might seem a surprise answer to our defensive issues but a move for the Nottingham Forest man would suit Fulham in several ways. By signing a centre half, Amorebieta could play at left back for the remainder of the season, where he has done well when tried, and though not a natural left back, he is far more solid than Richardson. Signing a young centre half to potentially pair with Burn going forward is some forward thinking we’re not used to. While academy players Jack Grimmer and Liam Donnelly could well play first team football in the future, loan periods will be required before they are ready. Lascelles’ ability to play right back would also allow for more cover for Sascha Reither who has looked sub-par and unfit himself at times this season and Montenegran utility man Elsad Zverotic. Albeit this might be a pie in the sky suggestion too far. Lascelles is perhaps just too inexperienced to drop into the fire pit that is a relegation dogfight, but Fulham are the opposite to most struggling sides who usually have an abundance of exuberance but a lack of experience, we have the opposite, all the experience but non of the youthful exuberance.

4. Bring Clint Dempsey back on loan

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Not a complicated decision this one. Yes he left acrimoniously, but that was a result of ambition fuelled by incessant chirping in his ear from the US media that Fulham weren’t good enough for him. Fact is, we were. I’d bet a good dollar or two Clint now knows that, and with a loan to Europe supposedly being written into his MLS contract with Seattle, it is a deal that would hardly need mountains to be moved to get it done. We need goals and don’t have a bona fide starter on the left wing; Demspey is our record Premierleague goalscorer and scored nearly all of them from a starting position on the left of midfield. Put the ball in the back of the onion bag once again and all will be forgiven for the way he left.

5. Expand the Board

The departure of Martin Jol this afternoon was a decision that came not a second too soon. The entire management debacle has shown Fulham’s new ownership and management structure to be somewhat understaffed. Top down decisions come from the owner who along with Mark Lamping, make up half the board whilst being based several thousand miles from Craven Cottage. Day to day responsibilities in running the entire enterprise that is Fulham Football Club fall onto the other half of the board in the form of CEO Alistair Mackintosh and Finance Director Sean O’Laughlin. No wonder then that decisions seem to take a while under disjointed circumstances. Khan and Lamping need more help on the ground in England. A Non-Executive Director or two would give the existing directors some operational help and perspective. A few extra Fulham or Football brains in positions of influence would also help Fulham look beyond the week-to-week and towards the long term.

Postscript: Requiem for a Dutchman 

Seeing a man lose his job is never great. Wishing downfall on a man is not great, but there has been something not right at Fulham for some time. Whilst his first season in charge was successful, it was largely an inherited team and club scouted additions that led the success. Fulham have never recovered from losing those key men, Murphy, Dempsey and Dembele in 2012, and Jol’s tenure has only been going one way since. Comments about expectations and the fans led to alienation from the fanbase for Jol while on-pitch performances have been declining for over a calendar year (Sunderland last November was the beginning). Whilst always wanting to wish someone the best for the future, it was time for Fulham and Martin Jol to part ways and move on.

Bring on the first game of the Rene Meulensteen era, however long that is. We await news of his tenure and backroom staff. January will be crucial. Time for making excuses is over. Results must now improve. Fulham are a Premierleague club, starting on Wednesday lets all show it again. The energy has been put back into Fulham Football Club. Perhaps now we can believe again.

COYWs

All at Swansea: A Game Too Soon or a Game Too Far?

As we reach the end of November, a month adopted as Movember for many around the world, Fulham remain in charitable spirits when it comes to opposing teams.

Not wishing to flog a dead horse, there is little that needs to be said around the management situation at Fulham. It is really just starting to get very tiresome watching Fulham lose every week.

Questions in the media have shifted to Fulham as relegation candidates and what would happen if we went down. It is telling that while the fans tried to embrace some cautious optimism following Rene Meulensteen’s appointment over the last fortnight, the press focussed on how Jol was now on borrowed time with his successor in place.

What we needed on Saturday was some glimmer of hope, some ray of light, a performance or a result. We got neither.

The sense of optimism that was palpable on the walk through Bishops Park – with the arrival of Moussa Dembele to the first team squad, Berbatov correctly dropped as captain and Boateng starting in place of Sidwell – quickly dissipated as soon as Swansea woke up after the first ten minutes.

While Jol’s post-match comments touted Darren Bent’s trio of wasted chances as testament to Fulham being in the game, only his missed header was created as a systematic result of team play. The others, and particularly the shot that hit the post, were the result of freak breaks in play such as a miscued Chico Flores header. Swansea on the other hand created chance after chance as the game wore on. Three outstanding Stekelenburg saves and a Sidwell clearance were the only reason the scoreline looked so close come the end.

37% possession and being double-digit outshot at home say more than the scoreline. It would be unreasonable to expect much from Rene Meulensteen’s coaching in such a short space of time, it was a game too soon, but there was little for us to cling to in reality.

Any talk of the team carrying significantly more shape ignores the fact we had no width. Defensively there actually was more seeming solidity, in fact, Hughes and Amorebieta played pretty well for their first time together. It was possibly Fernando’s best game in a Fulham shirt. Yet with Richardson and Zverotic having to push forward and act as almost flying wingbacks with no midfield support out wide, the team became bloated and overstuffed in the middle like a thanksgiving turkey. Boateng as a sweeping midfielder worked until he got his seemingly obligatory booking. Kasami was pigeon-holed to the left of central midfield for the mostpart and could only get into the game in fits and starts. Parker was the lone emblem of solidarity. His goal capping a captain’s display.

Up front it was not the good, the bad and the ugly, but a case of ugly, fugly and grotesque. Bryan Ruiz was again lacking in substance, and struggled to get into the game in his role as conduit from midfield to attack. Berbatov got 90 minutes despite failing to have a shot and Darren Bent, only in the team to take the sparing chances he does get, spurned three gilt edged opportunities and showed the first touch of a steam locomotive.

The problem with this squad that Martin Jol has assembled of his own accord is that to get our best team on the field we’d need to play with thirteen men.

Maybe there were glimmers of hope. The more you think about it perhaps Rene will be able to have an impact. However, the main questions remain. Why not make the actual managerial change rather than a soft half measure? With Rene Meulensteen looking after coaching, it is Jol’s job to motivate and finesse the tactics (what tactics I hear you sarcastically cry)? How then can he be excused for sending Fulham out the dressing room after half time looking like a fearful deer in the headlights, while Swansea came out firing like hunters going for the kill.

For the first time a tuneful “We want Martin Out, say we want Martin Out” was audible coming from the Hammersmith End. It didn’t exactly turn into a chorus but it was clear and distinct even from a different stand. One fan had to be restrained by stewards for giving his opinion near the dugout in the Riverside. It could well be the case of a game too far for Martin’s Fulham career.

Swansea wanted and deserved the three points. Credit to them. Their passing was crisp and efficient, but without their leading attacker, Michu, and winger, Pablo Hernandez, they could be forgiven for taking their time in sealing the points. Fulham looked like losing, especially in the second half. Was Jonjo Shelvey’s goal a surprise? No.

The game at West Ham next weekend is crucial. Another week under the tutelage of Rene Meulensteen will hopefully give Fulham’s players more chances to improve.

The Swansea match provided more questions than answers. With each passing game those answers will get harder to find. If Meulensteen’s appointment signals that Jol’s end is nigh, why wait? If it signals that the previous coaching staff were failing, is one man enough to save a system and regime mired in negativity and failure? Who selects the team and who chooses the substitutions? If, as appeared on Saturday, one man does one and one does the other then there can be little hope.

After a decade slowly but legitimately raising expectations brick by brick it is painful seeing them being knocked down at once by management and board’s consistent stubbornness that eschews common logic . It’d be nice to begin to enjoy going to The Cottage again. Hopefully it won’t take being in the Championship for that the happen.

In hope, fear and desperation COYW

Have We Got Our Fulham Back?

Huzzah, the people have spoken.

Well…sort of.

Finally after days, weeks and months of lowering performances, absent tactics and unmotivated players, Fulham have reacted and sacked Martin Jol appointed Rene Meulensteen as Head Coach.

The move is as exciting as it is confusing. Jol seemingly stays on as Motivator-in-Chief, where the need to work weekdays becomes optional, while former Manchester United First team Coach Meulensteen, takes over the day to day coaching, tactical preparation and overall football based tomfoolery at Motspur Park.

The appointment of Meulensteen is definitely something of a coup for Fulham. Trusted aide-de-camp of Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford, Meulensteen also brings with him some managerial experience, such as a year at Brondby and a mere 16 days in the Dagestanian goulash pot that is the Anzhi Makhahkala hotseat.

Reportedly it was Jol who instigated the chase of his long-time acquaintance Meulensteen. His subsequent arrival is likely a significant show of support for the beleaguered manager. Having turned down an offer to run Qatarian football and after being linked with the managerial posts at Bundesliga side Nurnberg and Crystal Palace, Meulensteen is unlikely to have come on the cheap.

With Shahid Khan saying he would support those in charge and hold them accountable following the season, this move correlates strategically. Give the incumbent manager what he asks for, in this case a coach of vast experience, and should failure continue, then there are no excuses to fall back on come performance review time in June.

What is clear from the way Meulensteen’s arrival has been described is that this is more than a simple addition to the backroom staff working under Jol. Meulensteen has been appointed to “work with” Martin Jol not for him. Questions will need to be answered in due course; who picks the team? Who tells them what formation to play? Who determines set piece strategy? (That last one is of particular importance).

There are still many issues to be resolved, and, whilst the players clearly needed a coach of technical renown, the club remains somewhat rudderless to its fans. Should the football improve, efforts intensify and results turn, past deficiencies will be slowly erased from the collective memory. Martin Jol will unfortunately likely remain on press duty, so his procession of useless statements such as bemoaning our chances against difficult opponents must now stop with immediate effect.

What the change does signify is that the club has recognised there is a problem. In the long Michaelmas period between transfer windows, this was about as drastic a change the club could make whilst still supporting the existing manager and his collective group of assembled former players. Should there be truth in the statement that Jol identified Meulensteen as a target for the club, this would indeed be a great show of humility in recognising his own deficiencies. Perhaps having a coach taking over from him will allow Martin to spend more time scouting players who haven’t actually ever played for him before.

One thing is certain – without a change in attitude, effort and tactics we will find it very hard to stay in this league. A change of coaching is a start, but targeted recruitment in January and the flexibility to drop certain players must follow. Martin Jol stands on the precipice of a managerial cliff edge. His club do not trust him with enough faith to let him continue unaided, yet show him enough faith to keep him in their employ. Should results not come by Christmas, there will be no option but to label Jol’s position untenable and move Meulensteen one office door down the corridor.

Frankly, Martin Jol is lucky such a solution was found. Had Meulensteen said no, reasons to keep Jol would have extended to a list of none. Change for changes sake can take a team backwards, but a failure to embrace the moment when change is needed can set a team back years. For now, let’s hope this is enough of a change to turn things around. Let’s back the team and see if this is enough change to spark some renewed hope.

Have we got our Fulham back? We’ll have to wait and see.

COYWs