Like the Two Ronnies’ policemen whose toilet had been stolen, at this point we still have nothing to go on.
I wonder if part of this is candidates taking a realistic look at what Fulham are, what Fulham can be, and backing off. Yes, we’re a Premier League side, and yes we’ve recently made it to Europe, but is it that simple?
Let’s start with the squad. It’s a good squad, and Roy Hodgson had it purring along well, but what would a new man see?
Mark Schwarzer – Arsenal-bound, great goalkeeper at the end of his career
John Paintsil – good right back, at his peak
Brede Hangeland – good centre-back, at his peak
Aaron Hughes – good centre-back, at his peak
Paul Konchesky – good left-back, at his peak, may be leaving
Dickson Etuhu – functional holding midfielder, at his peak
Danny Murphy – good midfielder, on the downside of his career
Damien Duff – good midfielder, on the downside of his career but still with much to offer
Simon Davies – good midfielder, probably just about passing his peak
Zoltan Gera – good midfielder, at his peak
Bobby Zamora – mercurial forward, can he sustain last year’s levels?
Then you might throw in Clint Dempsey as a player on the up.
Having a squad of experienced players at their peaks is far from a problem, but where is a manager going to build? Put another way, even if he comes in and comes up with a decent approximation of stability, there is still a bit to do.
The league doesn’t stand still. Every season players are brought in, teams improve, someone else gets better. You have to keep moving. Arguably the new manager will have to find a new goalkeeper, a new left back, a new central midfield partnership, and someone to score goals.
Now, most managers seem to like building a team of their own players, so this isn’t a problem as such, but again, if we’re to be pessimistic, there’s not much in the squad that a new manager could look at and say “yes, this is what I’m building around”. Am I being unfair to the current squad here? Possibly. But as suggested in the past, this is Roy’s machine. What if nobody else can get it to work?
If you have to find a number of key players then you need money, and again, I wonder if this money is available? We don’t yet know whether MAF’s Harrod’s bonanza is going to help Fulham or not, but I think it’s safe to assume that we won’t suddenly see untold millions suddenly appearing, at least beyond the new manager’s requisite “let me bring in a couple of players” fund.
And if the new manager wants to raise money, what does he do? I’ve been negative about the whole concept of re-sale value in the past because re-sale is the future, and I always figured Roy would know what to do to evolve the squad the right way. But it’s not his team now, and the dynamics change if a new man has to shape things. Who could he sell to raise cash? Hangeland and Dempsey are the only players with reputations that might raise decent change, but would you sell your defensive lynchpin and one of the brighter flair players in the squad? Zamora might attract interest too. Where then?
The new man would be faced with a team that had just peaked, following a (then) beloved manager who had taken the side to a European final. The only way is down isn’t it? You’ll note that Harry Redknapp has made a name for himself taking on teams that are underachieving and whipping them into shape. He’s good at that, but it can lead to (I think) a slight over-estimation of his powers. What Redknapp would not do is take on a team that had been over-achieving, as the subsequent decline would do nothing for his reputation. True, we might not decline, but the chances of us improving dramatically on last season are slight. Is this the sort of situation a top manager would be interested in? Is the Premier League that attractive?
Not to me. The more I think about it, the more I believe we’ll get a manager “on the up”, or someone with a reputation to rebuild. Neither of which would be a bad thing, of course, but we must be realistic.