I only stayed for the first half. Having brought Stanley, my 3 year old along to watch, it felt a bit cruel to keep him there for too long. At half time he very nicely said “Daddy, I want to go home now” and I looked at him and thought “yes, that’s probably not a bad idea at all.” So we stood up, gathered our things, said goodbye to our friends, and trudged up the steps, walked down them the other side, shoved through the masses, slipped out of the Hammersmith End turnstyle tent, and walked away from Premier League football at Craven Cottage without much of a backwards look.
On the way out a Palace fan was having a shouting match with his girlfriend. He had lost his cool and was going home, she was keeping hers and telling him what a prize pillock he was being.
Further down Stevenage Road a couple of Fulham fans shouted at him over the fence. He wasn’t having this, and leapt into the fence, about a foot away from Stanley, spewing like the half-bright twat he will always be. The act of frightening a three year old is not a noble one and I hope his girlfriend used this in the comprehensive character assassination he was surely due later that night. Once a gap in the fence had been found he apologised, having been told by a resident that she was phoning the police, but really.
On the pitch Fulham showed what an embarrassment they have become, with some of the least slick possession football you’ll ever see. It looked like a “football for beginners” training drill, all shaky first touches and wayward seconds. Misunderstandings, passes into touch, a lack of basic teamwork. Add in the familiar inability to close down people around our area and an ability to make decent but ordinary teams look pretty damn impressive and you have a first rate example of why this team absolutely deserved its relegation and why the players deserve not that much sympathy for their reported nonchalence about same: “We have an easy run-in,” Magath reported as a common sentiment at Motspur Park. There is no such thing as an easy run-in when you play football like this.
I saw the goals later and congratulations to Cauley Woodrow and Chris David for showing that results can be achieved by young unfamous people who don’t earn silly money. Chris David might not be the finished article, but when his competition in midfield has been so uniformly dismal, it’s borderline scandalous that he hasn’t had a chance until now. Veteran players are permitted to put in 4/10 performances week in week out, but youngsters are held back. It makes little sense when your options are this bad.
Of course good coaching can make ordinary players look competent, but our ordinary players did not become competent, so where that leaves us remains to be seen. We must give Magath the benefit of the doubt and hope that this leaves some room for achievement in next year’s Championship. This season has been a farce of the highest order, the denouement of years of neglect coupled with some entirely wrong-headed short-term decision making. Honestly, I thought we still had the talent to survive, but none of us could have known the ridiculousness that was occurring behind closed doors at Motspur Park.
It’s not clear why the players couldn’t retain some form of footballing intelligence beyond Mr Jol’s ‘methods’, nor why the club’s directors weren’t somehow alerted to the shambles occurring outside their windows, but for whatever reason it was allowed to persist and that will probably cost the club many millions of pounds and the people responsible their jobs.