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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.


For Sale: One Premiership Place

Anything and everything in football is transferable these days. With a long contract or not players can move between clubs willy nilly, as long as the right amount of money is handed over. The same happens with managers and coaches. And we all know what happened to MK Dons. It usually boils down to the cash being offered, but not always.

But as so much is available to be exchanged between clubs (players, staff, fans…) why not everything?

I watched the highly entertaining Championship play off final the other Saturday afternoon and thoroughly enjoyed it. But after the celebrations had all died down (Who knew the Scotch were all massive Blackpool fans?) you can’t help but wonder about next season.

Before the match I heard an interview with Ian Holloway on the radio and he said the same again to the BBC this week. He said that if they won promotion they were not going to go all out to stay up, spending stupid money on players and wages as some clubs had. His preferred option was to get their stadium fully completed, get the training and youth facilities up to a high standard, bringing in just a couple of players to a largely unchanged squad. To me that sounds like he has pretty much raised the white flag on the relegation battle already, and accepted his fate. And that’s more than fair enough. No Blackpool fan would have imagined they’d be gaining promotion at the end of the season this time last year. And I imagine very few would expect them to still be there in another years time. Plenty of clubs have broke the bank trying to get to and stay in the Premier League and failed. They seem set to not do this, and seem almost resigned to dropping back down in a years time.

But what if they were able to transfer the promotion place they won?

Clubs with money to burn with a wealthy backer, such as QPR, would bite their hand off! Sell the opportunity of Premiership football for, say, £50m and pocket the cash. This would give Blackpool the money they require to finish the stadium, improve their training and youth facilities and probably still have a little spare for a player or two. It’d also save the fans from having to endure a season which will offer little joy in terms of victories. Yes it’ll be a great adventure, having the likes of Man Untied, Chelsea, Liverpool and us tip up at their place, but they style of football they play wont give them much joy in the Premiership. They try and pass the ball around, and the way newly promoted teams have managed to stay up recently has been to lump the ball forward and kick lumps out of the opposition (See Stoke City) By staying down in the Championship next season they would avoid this, and who knows, they may well get another crack next season with the club better positioned at staying up. Whoever bought the place would probably also make money as they estimate a club makes £90m, and if the club had deep pockets they would be able to make a far better stab at staying up than Blackpool.

Just a thought.