It was a massive occasion and the team played like it was a massive occasion. They played like a bad team playing a good one. They couldn’t compete. They couldn’t get the ball, couldn’t keep it. When Fulham had the ball it felt like Stoke had 15 players. When Stoke had the ball it felt like Fulham had 9. This was Fulham underlining why relegation is not a surprise, why relegation is entirely deserved.
Felix Magath surprised us all with the lineup.
Burn – Heitinga – Hangeland – Riise
Sidwell – Parker – Diarra
Holtby – Bent – Richardson
We must assume Magath was expecting Peter Crouch, who often drifts to the left flank. That or he didn’t want to break up the promising Heitinga/Hangeland partnership.
Sidwell, Parker, Diarra. All three of them have bags of ability, character, drive. 5 years ago that might have been the basis of a bloody good midfield. Now it’s just not enough.
Holtby looked fabulous under Meulensteen but has he played well under Magath?
Kieron Richardson is one of the few players who has looked worthy of the division.
Fact: Fulham’s three top goal creators this year are Bryan Ruiz, Damien Duff and Lewis Holtby with three each.
We had to beat Stoke, but how could that have happened with this lineup? Magath needs better players, I guess. The defence is so bad he needs three midfielders to protect it. But once those three midfielders get into the opposition half there’s no way back. They’re not quick enough for that. I don’t know. There’s not much to say that hasn’t been said already.
The single worst thing about relegation is that the club will almost certainly cut jobs. The players won’t want to have it on their CVs but for the most part are in positions where they’ll never have to work again if they don’t want to. Most, assuming Fulham prune aggressively, will find alternative employment somewhere. Most, to be honest, won’t be missed. For the fans it’s a bit of a downer – I moved from London last year so no longer have a S/T – might struggle to see games for a couple of years until we have a bit more time/money. I know the club has a lot of fans in the US who are now effectively cut off. It needn’t be the end of the world, not least because football is often more exciting over the radio, but clearly something is now going to be missing for a lot of fans.
I’m not one of those after the Chief Executive’s head. Fulham’s margin of error in the top division has always been incredibly fine, to the point where this arguably should have happened before now. I don’t think you can just say that because we’ve had an awful season heads must roll. We don’t know enough about the circumstances behind the scenes to be that bold. From the outside looking in, Martin Jol’s extended run this year seems odd, but the context there – and there is always context – is that we had a new owner who was probably quite keen to avoid being seen as a reckless no nothing owners going in with all guns blazing. The Meulensteen handover felt slightly botched, but this wasn’t what doomed us. The damage was already done.
Ah, not now. I’ll do more next week.