balls

Well who knows then?

I don’t mind Meulensteen going. I never warmed to him and thought he was a bit slick from the outset. It sounds like the Chief Executive had the same opinion and decided that enough was enough.

The trick here is that a season is finite. You have 38 games, no more, no less, to determine your future. It took 13 games to remove Martin Jol despite the fact that the team was very clearly in awful shape long before this. This might be an area where statistical analysis could have been useful: as I was pointing out week after week, we were being outshot by about 25 to 8 most weeks which was so calamitously bad that it shouldn’t have been allowed to carry on.

So what, we wasted how many games there? 5? Part of the problem was that Jol got the odd half decent result when he needed it: in retrospect the spectacular away win at Palace did more harm than good, with a crackling atmosphere and two world class goals convincing many that this team had the scope to get better, never mind that Palace were even worse than us at the time and had dominated spells of the game before Kasami’s intervention.

Meulensteen got the chance to try to turn things around but did pretty much what Jol did. It was Jol’s squad in the most part but as has been widely observed, Tony Pulis and Gus Poyet have organised their squads in much less time than Meulensteen took. And really, if we’re going to take two games against the top half in which we rarely saw the ball and jammed a point in total, well maybe we’re all going mad. 12 weeks might not be a long time but in that time span Lord Sugar has selected his Apprentice. Think of it that way! In any case, the 6-0 defeat in Hull could have spelled the end, the 4-1 home defeat to Sunderland should have done, but wins against Norwich and West Ham (since when are we using these as benchmarks for progress?) got him a bit longer, too. That and the nuisance of the January transfer window, in which a manager must be ‘backed’ if he is to then thrive.

If both managers had 5 matches too long then that’s 10 games wasted and that’s probably the season gone.

Some of this must be at the feet of the board. Not sacking Jol was in retrospect a huge blunder, but the ‘wait and see’ non-decision over Meulensteen and the embarrassment that has been Curbishley and Wilkins has perhaps even trumped it. As recently as the end of December, Fulham must have been buttering up these experience football men, telling them how their experience and know how could make the difference. Now, in mid February, the opposite is true. The club just wants them to go away.

This is football so usual rules of common sense don’t always apply, but goodness me. Is succession planning part of the board’s remit? Not by the looks of things.

This season has been a shambles from top to bottom. The sterling work with the youth sides should be a highlight but is being overshadowed by the carnage at first team level. The club needs to take a step back, have a look at what it wants to achieve and act sensibly to a 5 year plan that might include relegation or might not. If we act rationally then a talented squad can rebound quickly; if we act randomly and changing direction every three months we have no hope.

17 thoughts on “balls

  1. Good article and fair enough to everything. When it happened I was upset and I don’t quite know why. In hindsight it was probably the sheer tumultuous change that happened and the fact that I was defending RM probably out of relief on the results of the last 2 games. I think in the cold light of day it is the right thing to happen, but one more change in the summer could really put us in the Venkys realm of football clubs. A bunch of buffoons. But I think if there was another change, the current hierarchy would be stripped of their jobs. It’s a last chance saloon for a lot of people at the club I think.

    1. Midway through reading this on FoF I wondered who was writing with such sound common sense and reasoned analysis of this dreadful season in Fulham history. I should have guessed – the incomparable Rich Allen!
      Great stuff as always, and full marks for having reservations from the off over Rene. I must admit after the Spurs and Villa games I thought he would get the job done, especially if backed in the transfer window, which indeed he was. But now we shall never know. Meulensteen, Curbishley, Wilkins – all history.
      I had sympathy for Rene last Friday, but do accept recruiting Magath at this critical juncture shows a really hard boiled stance to the danger we’re in.
      I take issue on one point Rich. There were two results that badly fogged the board’s perception of Jol – that final day 3-0 win at Swansea and the win at Selhurst as you suggest. It is the 13 games endured with the abject Jol that got us into this mess, along with his poor clutch of signings over time dumped in Rene’s lap. What could he hope to achieve with the awful squad Jol left him?
      Jol HAD to go last summer. Those final 8 games a year ago after the QPR win – 6 defeats and one draw before Swansea were the wake up call for the board that Jol was shot. Lord knows, we banged on about his failings long enough on my ESPN blog.
      Tangled up perhaps in the Khan deal, the board got it badly wrong last summer and then compounded things with their risky gamble on Meulensteen in November.
      Now, as you say, games running out, and two thirds of the campaign squandered.

  2. I’ll stay out of the prediction stakes on the latest, patently a mess. The woeful cosmetics matter little, but what you say in your last paragraph is absolutely to the point and your last two sentences are perfectly put.

    The “shambles” of this season began when the tiny season-ticket card was wrapped in some much extraneous nonsense that it was unpostable through my and many other letter-boxes, and required an irritating trip to the sorting office to collect. In retrospect an omen.

  3. I’ve also come round to the view that we’re well rid of Muelensteen and his “assistants” but I’m not sure why. Probably the simple fact that for all the occasional hope there was no actual improvement.

    Last throw of the dice again and short of a miracle too late but is Magath the guy to get us promoted? What can he possibly know of the Championship. A well funded guy like Adkins or Mackay who’ve done it before make more sense but then are they right for a newly promoted club.

    It’s easy to blame Khan/Mackintosh but i wonder how much better any of us would have done faced with the same situation which starts with the fact that the experienced safe pair of hands that should have been Jol turned out to be an incompetent ****er. I suspect that most managers reach a sell by date. Jol could manage but reached a point where he no longer could. Which, I fear, brings us back to Felix.

    On a point of order Lord Sugar picks his two finalists in about 6 weeks of real time and then picks the winner a day or so before transmission.

      1. I think you’re suggesting that we start the season with a panel of 12 managers each boasting that they’re the best manager in the world EVER!!!!!!!!

        They pick one to manage game 1 and with each sub par performance that manager gets sacked and is replaced by another candidate.

        Start again in January.

        It’s only a slight variation from the way the club has handled matters this season.

  4. “Not sacking Jol was in retrospect a huge blunder, but the ‘wait and see’ non-decision over Meulensteen and the embarrassment that has been Curbishley and Wilkins has perhaps even trumped it.”

    Can you explain to me why people in the UK see having Curbishley and Wilkins on board as such an embarrassment? Is this just an issue of people not understanding the division of roles (i.e. technical director/head coach/assistant coach)? Because to me it seems like having an experienced supporting staff would be an advantage to a guy like Meulensteen without much experience as “manager” but this is clearly not the view of UK observers.

    To put it another way, this “we’ve got three managers” chant I heard seems to be mocking the club for having those guys on board, whereas to me it seems like having more experienced guys in different roles could only be a good thing.

    1. Logically you’re not wrong but we’re used to having an Alpha Male big boss who is unequivically in charge.

      There was a backlash against Wilkins although his role was perfectly obvious and this was mostly through his Chelsea connections but his touchline antics with Rene seemed inappropriate. Joking when we’re losing, palling up with the ManU subs – it didn’t feel like he cared a toss about us.

      Curbishly’s role was always a mystery – it was as if he was there for when Rene failed but that’s not of course how it panned out. Nobody explained to us what he did and post playing he’d only ever been a manager and quite a good one in truth.

      However Felix does there’s no doubt that things will be done his way and that’s what we’re used to.

      1. For me it is more that we hired them in December then by mid February we are getting rid of them. In the meantime we had no idea what they were really adding.

      1. I see. Yeah, the timing of all of this is baffling, but rather than focus on that detail I’m choosing just to be happy about the fact that we now have an experienced manager who’s been in (and thrived in) this situation before. It’s better for my sanity.

  5. If the club, press, and fans had all just been even remotely honest or demand legitimate answers as to who did what, then this wouldn’t even raise an eyebrow.

    It’s become clear that Rene was just an interim manger in everything but title. Yet this lack of clarification, coupled with the addition of Ray and Alan in nebulous roles, has us questioning everything. If we were attempting a Continental model where the manager “manages” for only 4-6 months but there’s a GM or Director of Football or Technical Director or whatever the hell it’s called, then say so. It’s not that hard!

    Look at Tottenham; they have Baldini behind the scenes. AVB and him did not get along, so AVB left; and now Sherwood is in charge until a) he screws up or b) they find a replacement. This is linear.

    I can only assume this was Curbishley’s job, but because the club, acting no different from the rest of the game, has its head so far up its own ass that any form of lucidity is akin to revealing state secrets, we’re left with this confusing mess.

    It’s hard to root for something when you know the future will never change, like it’s a flat circle. It’s even harder when the powers that be don’t bother telling you what the hell is going on.

  6. I don’t really know what to think. On the one hand, the lack of communication is frustrating and the whole situation incredibly opaque. On the other, I’m not sure how much I am bothered about the ins and outs of the termination packages and we now know that Magath is the manager and that is that.

    My problem with the whole situation is how overblown it all feels. The media have latched onto us as the ‘messy relegation club’ and whilst in a way it is hard to argue with that it also feels a lot like the insanity over Southampton,s recent change of CEO which was all bluster. The rest of the season will no doubt continue to be mess in terms of publicity and goings on behind the scenes, but I still have faith that the sanity of recent years is still around waiting for calmer waters. Ultimately, we are a debt free club with a rich owner and a very exciting youth academy. Our recent PR may have been terrible, but I am happy to bet on the fundamentals rather than the hysteria whipped up since Friday.

  7. “This is football so usual rules of common sense don’t always apply”

    I generally agree with the sentiment, but not here. Succession planning is a very difficult task, even for the largest and most sophisticated companies, and you often see quick changes as companies seek a good replacement for a founder or dominant CEO.

    And for us, the truth is, we have been doing this since Hodgson left. Chopping and changing and trying to find a solution. We thought Jol was it, but ultimately his managerial style was not a good fit. Here we seem to have gone back to the type of manager we have had success with (albeit an extreme version). Adams, Tigana and Hodgson were all noted (at their respective levels) for bringing greater organization and emphasis on fitness. It’s a formula that works for a club our size (any club?).

    The timing may seem odd at first glance, but I don’t think it is. Ruthless (in a good sense) but not odd. In giving Magath an 18 month contract, I suspect we’ve decided that Rene was not only unsuitable for the survival fight, but also for getting us right back up. But if we do want to bounce back up, how useful will it be to have given Magath these last few months of the season to get to know the squad? I suspect very.

      1. Agree. Lots of talk on TIFF about our PR. Have to agree it could have been handled A LOT better.

        Though this really has been the Fulham way. It was a long and winding road from Adams to Tigana, and another from Tigana to Hodgson. I’m hoping that Jol was Coleman and Rene Sanchez.

  8. Very good article. This season has been a bad one for Fulham, and the only thing that can make it worse would be for them to be taken over by a Venky’s type ownership! I was surprised to see Meulensteen do so bad, as he is well renowned all over the world for his work with young players. It is clear that he is clued in on the game, and is a master of developing young players, and it just goes to show the difference in youth soccer, and top level professional soccer. Although Meulensteen as unsuccessful as a Premier League head coach, he will always be welcome to come and coach for Pro Sports Pathways.

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