Fulham butchered by Stoke, relegated

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.

Stockdale

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.

Darren Bent….

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.

10 thoughts on “Fulham butchered by Stoke, relegated

  1. As you say, relegation is entirely deserved — to such an extent that the nucleus of a promotion-seeking outfit is not visible. Last time we dropped from this division we had a bit more seemingly going for us, but still suffered a further relegation.

    Charlton, Blackburn, Bolton are clubs we frequently played in the Premiership. Who is confident they’ll be back soon? Why expect us to be?

    There were half a dozen other dodgy teams in this season’s prem. To better three of them was not asking for all that much. Bettering 21 others is a tougher task.

    1. “There were half a dozen other dodgy teams in this season’s prem. To better three of them was not asking for all that much. Bettering 21 others is a tougher task.”

      I have been thinking the same thing for a while. We can comfortably be top half of the table, but to be in contention for the play-offs we need to win away consistently.

      “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.”

      And Bent & Hugo would have been a bloody good strike partnership 5 years ago as well :-(

  2. “As you say, relegation is entirely deserved — to such an extent that the nucleus of a promotion-seeking outfit is not visible.”

    :(

    Can you imagine how we might fare in the playoffs right now?

    We have so much work to do.

  3. I’ll come right out and say it: I didn’t have the stomach for a relegation fight. I’ve had a cold all week, and slept in until 7:35, at which point the first half was nearly over. I didn’t have the fight required to stay in the top flight.

    I’m gobsmacked that Sunderland — after consecutive seasons of horror — are likely to stay up, and that a couple teams that were garbage every time I watched them (West Ham, Newcastle) weren’t in more trouble. But I can’t argue that relegation wasn’t deserved.

    Silver lining: I think a Championship featuring Brentford, Fulham, and (cross your fingers) QPR will be amazing.

    It’s crushing that I won’t be able to watch most of the games next season, but unforgivable that Fulham fans who actually live in England won’t either (unless it’s in person). The FA is, as they say on “The Wire”, A Bunch Of Humps.

  4. *sigh*… Whether the fault lies with Ali Mac (as many people are saying), or with Jol, or Meulensteen, or MAF, or Khan, or, as I expect is most likely, some combination of all of the above, this squad is just not good enough and it shows all around. The midfield three have tons of heart, certainly, but the talent, in terms of holding the ball and creating opportunities for other players, just isn’t there (and to the extent that it is, it lies with Diarra, who just doesn’t have the legs anymore). The poor results just flow from there; it’s astonished me all year that, as bad results have continued despite constant changes everywhere else on the field, Parker and Sidwell were practically immune from criticism. Is it Berbatov’s fault that we couldn’t score enough goals in the second half? Amorebieta’s fault that we leaked goals when he was injured at the start of the year? Scapegoats have come and gone but in my opinion the blame has been misplaced to a large extent.

    1. By the way, if we accept that Magath went with Burn at right back based on the guess that Crouch would start and often drifts to the left, once we saw that Crouch wasn’t in the lineup, why on earth did Burn stay there rather than switching with Heitinga, who’s right footed and has at least a bit of experience playing there? I want to like Magath but he’s made some peculiar decisions.

  5. What a long, strange trip it’s been. Having seen Fulham play live in the Championship promotion winning season some 13 years back, I began following this “small” club with big aspirations after Al Fayed’s purchase of the club. It was an exciting day down by the Thames seeing Fulham triumph over Sheffield Wednesday and at that time, I just liked watching soccer. Didn’t have a club to follow back then (although even then I refused to support Chelsea), so I decided that I would pick up Fulham as my team the next season in the Prem. The fact that they had Eddie Lewis and I believe Marcus Hahnemann from the US at the time meant something to me…a connection if you will.

    A lot of players and coaches have come and gone from then till now but what I have always enjoyed is the survival…and the Europa League Final run was the pinnacle (which I think we all remarked at the time was most likely the zenith of this incarnation of Fulham in the Premier League). Fulham was never going to be a “big” club fighting for the Champions League but the constant US contingent on the squad and enjoyable cast of characters like Tigana, Coleman, Volzy, Malbranque, Boa Morte, McBride, Nevland, Bairdinho, Paintsil, Dempsey, Simon Davies, Zamora, Hodgson, Lewington, Gera, Dembele, Diarra and so on over the years is why I watched and paid attention from so far away.

    Sadly, I could see a team that was headed for worse things during and after Mark Hughes’ short-lived reign. He remarked that the club lacked ambition, had an ageing team and weren’t equipped to continue to succeed in the top flight. Maybe in the end, he was right…even though I hated him that instant for muttering such words. It seemed that there wasn’t enough there to bridge the gap between who was available to play now to the excellent youth setup that is slowly producing plenty of fringe starters, even at such young ages.

    I remarked a few months ago that relegation wouldn’t be the worst thing to happen for the club, so that the bloat could be severed and youth could then be ushered in. Now that time has come and although I probably won’t be able to watch many games here in the US next season (hopefully that is the only season that the Baltimore Fulham contingent and others across the states will have to endure), it is deserved of a club who played without conviction, cohesiveness and always seemingly lacked any kind of plan.

    I will miss the early Saturday mornings at whichever pub in the city we happened to meet up at Timmy, David and Mitch (and the rest of the crew who came and went over the years). Here’s hoping Fox Sports or NBCSN picks up some (or all…a fella can be greedy) Championship games next season and that we are able to cheer on the Whites for promotion back to the Prem.

    1. Colin–You may know this, but beIN has the rights to Championship in the US. They show a game a weekend so there’s at least that. We’ll get a few throughout the season, and maybe, hopefully more than other teams due to the US fanbase. They also do a highlights show each weekend so if nothing else we can follow that way. All of this assumes that beIN still has the rights next season.

      I watched every game this season (and almost every one the season before, and the season before, etc) except for Sat’s game. It was nice out and I had a invitation to do something and I didn’t have a good feeling about Stoke away. Next August will no doubt feel lonely and, as much as I like to be a neutral, the Premier League will lose most of its meaning for me. Fulham’s various youth teams all seem to be impressive so here’s to hoping those don’t get picked apart by the Chelsea’s of the world and we have the seeds of the next great Fulham team worthy of promotion.

  6. The Chief Exec knew how thin the ice was that our squad was walking on and there was little margin for error .

    I know that Khan was advised that with the Premier League it is statistically proven that you generally get what you pay for on terms of your position in the table compared with your wage bill and average age of your squad .

    Mc Intosh was compromised as he was selling the club for Fayed , so he had to keep his mouth shut and could hardly tell Khan the truth after he had laid out £140m but it was a very expensive gamble to take . The best thing he could have fine was urge Khan to sack Jol immediately after we lost at home to Cardiff but our squad was so poor that even that would probably have been too late .

    So I guess it’s a combination of circumstances which have conspired against us . The irony is that most if the supporters could see it coming as early as last April .

    We did indeed get what we deserved.

    Regards

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