The recent brouhaha surrounding Clint Dempsey and the general bombast of the transfer market has made me reflect on the way the club is run.
Over the last five or so years there seems to have been a real maturation process within the club. Gone are the days of the big name star signings, the adrenaline fuelled rush through the leagues and ambitions of becoming the ‘Manchester United of the south’. Fulham have also weathered the more barren post-Tigana years , characterised by poor fitness, loose lips at the training ground and poor results on the pitch.
In recent years, things can not have been more different. Transfer business is low key and done behind closed doors. Mohammed Al Fayed and Alistair Mackintosh don’t feel the need to take to Twitter to reassure fans or declare statements of intent (although one shudders at the thought of Twitter existing in 1997 and MAF being computer literate). Even the playing staff seem to reflect this change – there seem to be, for want of a better phrase, no ‘billy big bollocks’ players and where they have reared their ugly heads they are swiftly and mercilessly dealt with.
So Fulham have become the quiet man in the premier league. A team that keeps to itself, does not court controversy and gets on with the job at hand. The results have followed and the transition between three managers has been performed superbly. Fulham feel like a club that is very comfortable in its own skin, looking for sustainable growth and one that is realistic in its short term targets. The complete reformation of the youth programme at Fulham has also been a huge success, giving Fulham a base from which to build with young players, some of whom are making their way into the first team already.
Whilst stability has been evident at Fulham in recent times, this summer has seen the biggest change of personnel in its recent history and the fans have been understandably uneasy with the change and the size of the squad. However, Fulham’s business has been suitably low key and – so far – encouraging. The fantastic Diarra has been signed up for the year, two astute free transfers have been made in the form of Mladen Petric and Hugo Rodellega and a dependable workhorse of a right back has been brought in on loan in the form of Sascha Reither.
Perhaps the only downside to being the quiet man of the premier league is the lack of respect it can sometimes engender. Despite being a consistent top 10 team over the last few years, we get little recognition from the media or other teams who still seem to view Fulham as a soft touch and a team that ‘we really should be beating’. However this often works in our favour – when Hodgson was in charge one journalist likened a trip to craven cottage as being prey to gentleman muggers who lure you in with the pleasant surroundings and send you on your way bereft of points.
Overall the current outlook at Fulham seems to be incredibly rosy. The loss of players and managers is adapted to with little fuss, the academy is producing some home grown talent and along with the new Riverside Stand in the works, sustainability is the way forward. As long as the football is good and the commitment from the players and manager evident the quiet man of the premier league will keep on chugging along nicely.
Alex is a Fulham fan based in SW London and has been trying to remain positive over the summer