… or the art of writing a match report for a game you haven’t seen.
Rewind back to last March. The squad is running laps of Motspur Park.
Ashkan Dejagah – who is slightly injured – sits in a director’s chair by the car park, ticking off each player’s name each time that player goes by.
Brede Hangeland is causing Dejagah problems, having now been lapped – twice – by the entire field. John-Arne Riise appears to be missing.
Confused by this, Dejagah’s accounting is awry, his paperwork a mess. He puts his head in his hands. But his paperwork is still a mess when he looks up again. He has lost count of who has run what. And now he checks, he realises hasn’t ticked off Scott Parker at all, but there is Parker chugging slowly around the corner. And who the fck are these young players anyway? They all look the same. He sighs. Why him?
Felix Magath, the new manager. Arms folded, he wanders silently behind Dejagah’s chair. Taps him on the right shoulder. SHOUTS in his left ear. “GET OUT!” Magath points not at the changing rooms, but at the entrance to the car park. Dejagah gets in his car and leaves, stopping at the Tesco Superstore in Raynes Park for a ploughman’s sandwich and a six pack of (two bar) kitkats on the way.
Dejagah would start only one more game for Fulham.
Stories like these are becoming increasingly common, but what if Magath’s attention to detail is a good thing? What if all our criticisms are unfounded? What if he has simply been chopping things around, trying to get a handle on what will work and what won’t? What if his eye for these things is much better than ours, and that he has now made some big decisions? What if we start winning now?
Against Brentford last night Fulham were victorious in what sounds like a good win. We’ve said that in the previous games, early goals have made all the difference, and this time we didn’t concede. I think that was crucial.
The other angle that resonates is that Magath generally stayed away from teenagers, save for Cauley Woodrow, far the most experienced of the young’ins anyway. It might be nothing but a few people have been murmuring about the missed generation, how Fulham seemed to have skipped a perfectly reasonable U21 group and plucked players straight from the U18s.
So the central defensive pairing of Hutchinson and Burn, both in their early 20s, is perhaps a better balance than a defence that contains the 18 year old Burgess. A midfield with Hoogland and Parker at its base probably has a bit going for it as some kind of organising engine room (a mainframe?).
All of this feels more like it. Magath’s crime has not just been to lose games, but to lose games while doing things the fans don’t agree with or particularly understand. It’s a dangerous combination and honestly probably something he could only do if he felt very safe in his job.
Beating Brentford away from home is not nothing. A clean sheet is not nothing. The performances of Burn – proven at this level, remember – and David, and probably of Woodrow and McCormack, too, leave plenty of scope for optimism. It will take a bit of time for the fans to trust Magath again, but it’s amazing what a few good results can do, and let’s face it, the team needed a boost. That win gave it to them (and what a nice goal it was, too. McCormack looked like Ian Rush slotting that one away).
The Cardiff game might go horribly wrong but it feels as if perhaps a team is evolving. As some fans have pointed out, it is a long season, and if heads aren’t lost early on then pretty much anything can happen between now and the end of the season.