The end of Brede Hangeland

This one’s a real shame.

Hangeland wasn’t like most footballers and it’s no surprise to me that he’s off.  He liked Fulham and all it stood for, until such a point as he didn’t like Fulham and all it stood for, and now he’s gone.

I suspect Hangeland was of the Moritz Volz school who appreciated football as a means to an end, a great way to earn a living and to earn money with which to cultivate interests, enjoy time with the family, travel the world, and so on.  Fulham was perfect for him in this sense: he earned super money, he wasn’t under any great pressure, and he was a big fish in a small pond.

The big clubs craned their necks over the Motspur Park fence I’m sure, but their scouts would probably have worried about a man who even on his best days was slightly giraffic in approach, who wasn’t great (and I mean that literally – he was really good at most of his job) on the turn and who couldn’t really be used in the high defensive lines that are increasingly becoming en vogue.

He was very good at what he was good at though, namely being part of a well drilled back four and dominating in the air when required.  It should also be added that he and Aaron Hughes were a wonderful combination and never really functioned apart.  A few years ago I’d have gone back and counted how often they played together but those days are gone.  I shall instead be happy to say that they played a lot, I saw almost all of their games, and they were great.  Hughes was quick in recovery and quick to spot danger, and very adept at sweeping up anything that Hangeland hadn’t dealt with first up.  They were simply perfect for Fulham, neither particularly liking the ball (I can well imagine Hangeland stepping out, looking up, then threading a pass 50 yards out for a goal kick), both particularly adept within the scheme Roy Hodgson concocted for them.

Hangeland had played for Hodgson before of course, sometimes as a defensive midfielder, and when Hodgson got the Fulham gig he took one look at Fulham’s team and realised he needed height, and badly.  Hangeland came in and Fulham were instantly better.  He also brought something that the team needed, and in retrospect became the model for the Hodgson team: character, intelligence.  Hangeland is a bright man who is not obviously quick to anger, and that’s more or less what Hodgson’s team was about.  They didn’t give away silly fouls, pick up silly cards; they played like grown-ups.  When I was researching the Roy book Erik Nevland told me that the team had absolutely been built like it was on purpose.  Hangeland embodied this spirit, this ethos.  People can say that he hasn’t shone as captain but his leadership was quieter, substantial no doubt, and I’m sure effective.  If you played for this Fulham team he’d have been one of the big presences; he’d have been the one you wanted to impress.

After Hodgson left the defenders got a little big less protection.  Mark Hughes found a decent balance and someone in that coaching staff got in Hangeland’s ear about attacking corners.  That season he was immense.  He didn’t achieve anything like the success afterwards but I can still see him powering through the air like a second row forward, ready to head home.

The Jol years will look even worse in retrospect and our centre-backs of the period will want to forget every moment. Hangeland and Hughes had aged slightly, but also had to make do with Sascha Riether and John Arne Riise beside them, both more wing-backs than full-backs. They lost the patio door that was Dickson Etuhu, and after a brief Diarra-Dembele explosion had to settle for the Sidwell/Parker axis of doom, with various undefending wide-men too.  When they defended for Hodgson it was part of a unit of 11; under Jol you were looking at whoever might be arsed to retreat, often 11 again but the wrong side of the ball this time.  It meant the centre-backs couldn’t now focus on building an inpenetrable line, but instead had to step out and meet onrushing players.  It was no way to defend, and I’m sure they were all miserable about it.

I doubt Hangeland will stick around in the UK now.  He has made serious money and I’d guess will see out a few years in Norway, before disappearing into normality.

When we look back on these glory years we’ll conjure up all kinds of mental pictures, and our giant centre-back will be in most of them.

Seeya, Brede, and thanks for everything.

17 thoughts on “The end of Brede Hangeland

  1. Nice piece, thank you – you’re right, it’s time for Brede to go but I feel bad at the way this has been handled, certainly no way to treat someone who has given so much enjoyment on and off the pitch.
    Thanks for the good times Brede – shame on you Fulham for another ham fisted piece of HR.

  2. Last of the Europa League run squad, no? While his departure is perfectly understandable, in many ways this saddens me more than the actual relegation. End of an era and all that. Agree that he seemed to embody the Roy ethos. I will miss him.

    1. Stockdale was with Fulham in 2009-10 (he signed summer 2008 and is now the longest-tenured senior player) and played in the first group stage match, the 1-1 draw at CSKA Sofia, as well as being on the bench for some of the other matches.

  3. Very good summary of what changed for him. Over my half century of watching Fulham, the competition for best centre half is relatively weak. At his best, Brede appeared in the running, but it does now seem that was partly contingent on circumstances, as you have described.

    The manner of his firing is dismaying and poignant. It may be disgraceful too; more background is needful. But while not somebody one would wish to part with on bad terms — so sad — both parties may be the better for it when the dust has settled. Every good luck to Brede in making a fresh start, but we did probably need one too.

  4. I have no idea what was in his contract but I am used to break clauses in leases. There will have been a limited window in which to exercise the break and a need to do so in writing. We have no way of knowing what was said in the lead up to that clause being exercised.

    Why was it there? Don’t know of course but it surprised me. May have been something wanted by Brede at point of signing his contract to enable him to take advantage of a future opportunity which the club wanted to make mutual.

    The message boards, which I’ve abandoned for now, are full of outrage at the evil acts of Mackintosh and/or the stupidity of Khan but this for me is Magath determined to end the complacency of a squad living well and within their comfort zones.

    Next season we need fit, hungry, ambitious players and not players seeing out their careers agreeably.

    Last season, let’s be honest, Brede was dreadful. I’m sure he did his best and fitness and the chaos around him would have been big factors but he couldn’t rise above that.

    We need a fresh start.

      1. If no-one senior at the club had the gumption to ring his mobile in the preceding days or hours, then that is truly terrible, whatever the technicalities. But I also agree with Tony’s implication that that is quite possibly the extent of the wrong.

        1. Incidentally, I have also de fact given up my messageboard of getting on for 20 yrs: TIFF. Or rather it has given up on me since it’s captcha images no longer even display for me — and by inference, a fair few other former regulars. Impossible even to report that to the moderators. Merciful release maybe.

      2. Maybe but was that e-mail out of the blue with no prior discussion or hint of what was coming? And is there actually a good way to sack someone?

        Whatever and however it was in accordance with a contract negotiated by Hangeland and his agent.

        My guess is that Magath has been horrified at what he’s found and has tried anyway he can to motivate the squad without success and ruthlessly removing those he can’t motivate is necessary.

        Jol had clearly given up and was going through the motions. Muelensteen appeared to want to be everybody’s friend and his jokey touchline manner no matter how badly we were doing grated with me.

        I think Magath is different and is determined to be successful and if that involves making a bonfire of the recent past then I’m OK with that. Provided, of course, that he succeeds.

      3. Robert Ordever has just left and this sort of communication may well have been within his remit. Cause or effect?

        1. Who knows? What I do know is that it’s a poor show if there is no-one senior in place who can use a telephone. And even if not out of human decency, there’d still be expediency to avert a PR disaster — those with that remit are maybe on vacation too. On the footballing aspect, no probs, agreed.

  5. A great servant to the club and one who I thought might have a chance retiring with us. The decline in form, the injury and the lack of tactical shape around him have all lead to his downfall and all of this is incredibly disappointing.

    That said, this is absolutely the right decision for Fulham. He was one of the bigger contracts at the club and had an immediate younger successor who has considerable championship experience nipping at his heels. Hopefully this is the sign of the thinking at Motspur Park – people not afraid to rock the boat and challenge the status quo which got us relegated.

    Whatever has gone on with the actual sacking, it seems needless and it is probable that both sides are at fault. Ultimately this will be forgotten by the time the new signings arrive and next season kicks off. The ‘scandal’ is little more than a footnote to a great career at Fulham.

  6. Was reading this earlier on FulhamWeb –

    Fulham claim Brede Hangeland knew his fate before they made their announcement that he had been released. Hangeland is also understood to have ignored requests to get in touch with manager Felix Magath and was reluctant to commit to a future in the Championship in meetings held last month.

    Also saw an email response from Ali Mac on Twitter last night
    where he said that ‘one thing we cannot have is players who are not committed to FFC’.

    It is sounding more like Brede wanting to keep his options open & maybe being a bit more up front about it than say Dembele. Magath has said a few times that he only wants players who want to play for Fulham. If it looked like he was going to spend the summer exploring offers and maybe falling back on Fulham if nothing else suited then Magath may have said you are in or out – make your mind up. It sounds like there may have been a meeting last week where he wouldn’t commit 100% and the club have then followed that up with a ‘following our meeting you will understand that we need to know what we are working with as we build for life in The Championship and as you don’t feel you can give us your commitment to playing for Fulham next season we will have to part ways’ email.

    Players have long used their value to clubs as a way of holding them to ransom and playing the long game only to turn round at the 11th hour and do the dirty on them. It sounds like Khan & Magath expect players to behave like paid employees and to show some respect for the money they are paid. What a pair of nutters eh?

  7. Perhaps I’m still so subconsciously frustrated from the prior campaign that I’ve emotionally moved on, or think this is actually a good move; but regardless I don’t have an opinion on this at all.

    Feels odd.

  8. I suspect the hand of agents in this little fiasco. If the sacking by email thing is really true, we have a little egg on face but t’will be short lived. All sorts of scenarios could be at work here and previous messages have covered most of these. End game is Hangeland was past his best and increasingly being caught out (along with the rest of the defence). So I say power to Felix’s elbow, get us a fresh squad for 14/15 Felix with hungy players who are up for a big season (another Saha wouldn’t go amiss either). Once he’s had the summer to knock a new squad into shape, we’ll come out fighting again in August, I’m sure. Any thoughts on a new skipper anyone?

    PS: World Cup is fab but I miss my fix of weekly results (yeah, even the bad ones – remember we had hope almost to the end) Roll on August.

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