Brede Hangeland and the decline of Fulham FC

After the fun and games with Riise and Kvist, Brede Hangeland has expanded on his beefs with Fulham, and Felix Magath in particular.

“He is very difficult to work with. He has a reputation of being a very strict manager, which he is. His main tool is to try and mentally and physically batter his players and then hopefully get some results out of that. Is that a right fit for English football? I don’t think so personally. Rather than help us try and avoid relegation, he made things worse and harder for us. I hope I’m wrong because I really love the club but, in a word, no – I don’t think he is the right man. I think things will get worse before they get better and I really think that what’s happening now at the top of Fulham is very disconnected, and very far from the Fulham that I know and from the Fulham fans.”

That’s pretty damning. People have been quick to write this off as sour grapes, but this is Brede Hangeland we’re talking about here. Of all the people to go mouthing off… well he wouldn’t be high on the list, would he?

Egil Østenstad, former Norway footballer of distinction, said on Twitter:

“There are few people I know posessing as much integrity as Brede. His opinions matter and should be taken seriously by Fulham.”

I’m inclined to agree.

Fulham moved quickly though:

“Mirror Sport understands, however, that before being released last month it was Hangeland himself who had lost support within the dressing room. The players are understood to have told CEO Alistair Mackintosh that they didn’t feel Hangeland was mentally strong enough to cope with the fight to keep the club in the Premier League.”

Yikes. That’s a bit below the belt. Can you actually imagine a Fulham player, having seen the chaos around the club, going to Alistair Mackintosh to complain about Hangeland’s mental strength?

Well maybe. Suppose it went something like this: Hangeland playing through back pain, increasingly fed up as his performances suffer. Withdraws from limelight to recuperate and get his back fixed. Maybe people got cross about that, felt he could have played on when they needed him most. Maybe he was fed up about the club’s absolute inability to play coherent football, absolutely exposing the centre-backs. Maybe he got into his own head a bit, withdrew, didn’t present the kind of leadership persona (what am I typing here?) that perhaps the players needed from their captain.

I don’t know. I do wonder why senior professionals weren’t able to restore some semblance of organisation to what became an absolute joke of a football team. They were two seasons removed from being organised like an army. Seeing the descent into shambles, couldn’t the senior professionals have organised something? Afternoon defensive work perhaps? “Look guys, we’re on track to concede 85 goals here. Shall we do some shape work?”

Who knows what goes on in the dank pond of a footballer’s mind. Maybe Hangeland tried all this. Maybe nobody was interested. Maybe they did it but Sascha Riether wouldn’t stop overlapping, even when the opposition had the ball.

One thing’s for sure: I’m more inclined to believe Brede Hangeland than the Fulham press office.

Having briefed the Mirror Fulham complete their rebuff by wheeling out captain du jour Scott Parker, who has nothing but good things to say about the club and the manager.

“Training’s been really good. It’s been intense but we wouldn’t expect it or want it any other way ahead of a new season. The gaffer is working us hard and the boys are looking sharp as a result. Everyone’s raring to go. There are a lot of young boys in the squad so they’re eager to impress and there are a few new signings as well who are looking to show what they can do. We want to hit the ground running. There are a lot of opportunities for everyone in the squad and that makes it a good environment for everyone.”

Well that’s alright then isn’t it?

 

13 thoughts on “Brede Hangeland and the decline of Fulham FC

  1. Four Danes and Norwegians agree with themselves (about a German) would be another slant on Brede and his backers-up here. Which is not to say their line isn’t plausible, but we are where we are, and as a fan powerless to effect the governance of our club, I’d prefer these ex-players just to have taken the money, kept quiet in public and got on with the rest of their lives. There is no upside to there having not. As for the upside to Brede? Don’t spot that either — which strengthens the impression of sincerity but also of someone losing it a bit. Meanwhile, the club’s response is indeed clunky. Roll on the football action.

  2. If it’s not axes to grind then maybe it’s perception.

    We don’t know the truth of any of this but do know how appallingly the team was run and the inept contributions of most of the players.

    Magath is obviously not responsible for how we were before 14th February – Hangeland has at least some share of the blame for that though.

    We can be fairly certain that Magath was deeply unimpressed by what he found and maybe the core problem was the players inability to appreciate just how far standards had fallen. If they had then you’d think they’d have appreciated a guy with a top class CV determined to shake things up.

    The “what a lovely club Fulham used to be” stuff may be related to the delightful life style the players enjoyed and the comparative lack of demands placed upon them.

    My perception is that too many players were living on Candy Mountain.

    Whether Magath is the solution remains to be seen of course. And whether Hangeland has any top class career left. My hunch is yes to the first and no to the second.

  3. My summary:

    – Hangeland has said the club has been in decline for years. Despite this he signed a new, lucrative, contract 16 months ago. He refused to commit to the club (fair enough if he was unhappy) and there was a contract clause allowing for early termination. Fulham invoked the clause and he wasn’t happy since he was not going to see anymore money until he found another club. Potentially there was a time limit on the clause which forced the invocation, potentially Magath said he wanted his squad formed early and so the deed was done. Not a very clean ending but it’s a business at the end of the day. If Hangeland got a last min opportunity to go back to the Prem on the same wages, would he really pass it up if he was unhappy?

    – Hangeland (amongst others) really didn’t get on with Magath. I don’t think this really relates to what had previously gone on at the club but Hangelands comments were lead there by the question he was asked. Despite this, he indicated he would have been willing to stay at Fulham, so could Magath be *that* bad?

    – I think most would agree that the club has been crap over the last 2 years or so. However, the direction the club is now taking (getting rid of old players, bringing through the youth, buying young players, spending money on proven Champ players) seems agreeable and a completely different direction to the one that was happening whilst Brede was at the club. Perhaps releasing Brede was a move needed to get the club back on track?

    Ultimately, the proof will be in the pudding. Magath may ruin Fulham but it seems to me more correct decisions are being made now than in the last 12 months. Proper recruitment, youth integration (lauded by yourself Rich) and money being spent. Even if Magath fails, I am happier about the state of the club now than I was even a few months ago. If Magath fails then we only have him until the end of the season so we can start afresh once again. I don’t think Hangeland is bitter, and his comments confirm much of what we initially thought, but the club finally seems to be heading in the correct direction for the first time in years.

    1. This seems a pretty reasonable summation. One thing that nobody, including Hangeland, has addressed yet is what happened before Magath’s arrival – in particular, between August and November, when we went from being, on paper at least, a mid-table side to (as Rich and others documented admirably at the time) one of the worst performing teams since the foundation of the Premer League. To me that’s the really interesting question, not whether a few players, even ones universally admired and undoubtedly committed to the club, like Hangeland, did or didn’t get on with Magath, who came in after it was basically too late. The absence of an answer is understandable, as nobody in the media is likely to ask a question about events that are almost a year old, but also frustrating, because the rapidity of Fulham’s descent into uselessness, and the scale of the uselessness we ‘achieved’, are still quite staggering, even now.

  4. The simple fact of the matter is if Brede hadn’t let Wba (home )Cardif(home ) Swansea away( to name but three ) score from set pieces we would have at the end of counting points had enough to stay up, despite the shambles and our worst season in the premiership ! Those were down to Brede and just needed heading away ( he was standing right there ) , so this had nothing to do with shape .

  5. No , but nonetheless he still didn’t jump ! …and it cost us …….the one thing we could demand from Brede was that he (at 6`7) he would at least jump with his man ,and his performances did deteriorate to such a degree that he didn’t even do that .

      1. No manager should pick a central defender whose back isn’t strong enough. If that was true of Brede then three managers made that mistake last season.

  6. Agreed, and also don’t forget that Brede had to play with Senderos for quite a few matches so its understandable that he was a bit fed up .
    All of which strengthens the case for the argument that he has lost the plot regarding his own role in our downfall with his comments on Sky.

  7. Let me unpack this cliche-ridden speech:

    He is very difficult to work with. He has a reputation of being a very strict manager, which he is.
    Yes, he is. Especially when his two predecessors were far too easy to work with. See, there’s a cycle to manager hiring’s dependant on who gets fired. If the prior losing coach was a “players manager”, he gets replaced with a task master. If the prior losing coach was a task master, he gets replaced with someone convivial. Time’s a flat circle; all that.

    His main tool is to try and mentally and physically batter his players and then hopefully get some results out of that. Is that a right fit for English football? I don’t think so personally.
    Quick, someone pull up quotes about how the English National Team sucks and footballers in general are horrible people because their egos get pampered at every turn.

    Rather than help us try and avoid relegation, he made things worse and harder for us.
    Such as? Go back to my first point. Jol and Rene were clearly “player’s managers” who got the team into their predicament. Magath was hired to change that. I think you’re confusing “harder for us” with “made us actually work and be accountable”. Sure, he made some horrible no go very bad decisions (Burn at RB…), but if anything I think he was making a point to the players: “we’re going down regardless, so do something to keep the shirt for next season.”

    I hope I’m wrong because I really love the club but, in a word, no – I don’t think he is the right man.
    Specifics, please.

    I think things will get worse before they get better
    Oh god stop it.

    and I really think that what’s happening now at the top of Fulham is very disconnected,
    A football team acting in a nebulous and secretive way? NO WAY!

    and very far from the Fulham that I know and from the Fulham fans.”
    The Times They Are a-Changin’, maaan.

    Brede does have some points, but they’re cliches wrapped up in bromides. I’m not expecting a footballer to give a TEDx talk, but yet again we’re seeing some rather nebulous, borderline vapid criticisms when there’s still little actual hard evidence available.

    Is Magath a hard coach because he brings *actual* discipline (having a well-structured operation, a la Roy); or just BS dinosaur old-school disciplinarian discipline (think Paul Ince)? This is factoid I’d really like to know.

    But hey it’s football and it’s all about passion and desire so who needs proof.

  8. Worst case scenario: we’re ‘on tilt’ (to borrow a poker term), Our panicked management team is repeating irrational behaviours that have already failed:
    We’ve done the following three times in a row now.

    1) Get a big name European manager who looks and sounds like a smart guy
    2) Extremely rapid transfer activity and squad rotation
    3) Sign a star £10m attacking player

    Maybe this time is different (we did get quite a lot better under Magath last season, after all), but Hangeland is a smart guy, and if he says it isn’t going to work, I’m going to start worrying.

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