I have some sympathy for the powers that be at Fulham. Here are a few reasons why:
1) We need a lot of improvements. Like five good players. You’re not going to find those players now at a price we can afford. Good players cost at least 10m and if we spend that we expect them to play like Ronaldo. And we need a few of them.
2) Finding the right player a bit down the scale isn’t easy. I mean, everyone knows who the superstars are. Everyone knows who the next big things are. When you’re shopping at our level nobody’s perfect and while of course good players are bought at <10m, I think it’s probably a bit harder to find consensus internally, find money, get a bid accepted, then get the deal done.
3) Because why’s this player going to come to Fulham? We’re threatened by relegation. The thing is money, of course, and I suspect that’s why we nearly landed Defour from Porto, who may have got a nice payrise despite leaving a Champions League club.
4) But there aren’t that many players who are young, better than what we have, clearly good players (e.g. not risks), and who are available. There just aren’t.
5) This probably goes a long way to explaining why we always do what we do. Low risk known quantities are available and cheaper so it’s what we end up with.
6) I doubt very much that these are Plan A, ever. But if we want a CM and have a list of 5, I bet often the option 5 is the safe, last resort player, and I bet we frequently get that player (over the years I mean).
7) I suspect they’re trying to be more careful than ever now, given how previous recruitment has gone.
8) This will probably be complicated by what appears to be a ‘several – not necessarily too many – cooks’ scenario.
9) Wilkins, Curbs and Rene all probably have different ideas. When you have committees it’s harder to please everyone.
10) It might very well lead to inertia.
11) Added to which, football is football. In the real world we all think “if I have to get something done in January I start in December so that there’s no silly rush at the deadline” but the way agents, players and clubs are all tied to this silly window means you can’t very well just say “we want Steve Striker, pay them 5m in December and sign him January 1st” because if it was that simple teams would do it. Contrary to the received wisdom our leadership team isn’t stupid – there’s a reason they spend hours on end working around the clock in January. As Morrissey said: these things take time.
12) Added to which, you’re not just trying to buy, you need to sell to clear wage money/squad places.
13) I bet lots of teams are desperate for Fulham players at the moment, eh?
14) So it’s tricky isn’t it?
15) Our best resource is still probably the youth team. Not just in terms of players but in terms of getting things done. If we want a Tom Cleverly (to name a stupid made up rumour) we have more chance of getting this done if we send Manchester United a coveted young player. We do have coveted young players at the moment and it’s arguable that they might be most useful to us in swap deals. This is very American in outlook – it doesn’t really happen here, does it? – but might be the key to getting the kind of talent we’re so desperate for. There is no tomorrow for a lot of Fulham’s staff: get 2014 wrong and they’re looking for a new job.