Fulham’s Offensive Woes in One Chart

Perhaps Bryan Ruiz staying is a blessing in disguise, and Matt Smith returning at the end of the month might be the catalyst Fulham need, because currently they are extremely over-reliant on two players, and two players alone:


(image courtesy of @stats_snakeoil and his great http://statsandsnakeoil.wordpress.com/ blog)

Oy vey.

The “Emergency Loan Window” runs until mid-March right? Might need to do some dumpster diving…

Kit and Fulham’s Regression

In December I (timmy not rich) wrote about how Fulham were doing quite well under new manager Kit Symons. Naturally, things regressed almost immediately. Sorry.

The playoffs, which at the time seemed within reach but required the amazing run to continue, are gone. Relegation looks closer in comparison. Reality is midtable mediocrity.

Seven games have passed since my last post, which has allowed us to really analyze Kit’s reign as there are over four five-game blocks. And when collecting data on matches, five game blocks seem to offer the best sample size.

As Fulham have played 30 games, here is the raw data (courtesy of @owain_thomas and the extremely vital http://theonlystat.blogspot.co.uk/) broken down into five matchday blocks (n.b. Magath was fired after Matchday 7):

Matchdays Shots for Shots against Corsi/TSR SOT total SOT Against Total
Week 5 77 65 0.542 18 24
Week 10 133 125 0.516 44 44
Week 15 194 206 0.485 68 65
Week 20 272 282 0.491 92 94
Week 25 324 372 0.466 106 118
Week 30 380 470 0.447 127 151
Matchdays SOT share Shooting % For Save % PDO
Week 5 0.429 16.66 58.33 74.99
Week 10 0.5 27.27 54.55 81.82
Week 15 0.511 32.36 56.91 89.27
Week 20 0.495 32.61 58.51 91.12
Week 25 0.473 33.01 62.71 95.73
Week 30 0.457 33.85 64.91 98.76

Rather than charting all of these data points on a graph, I subtracted each row from the preceding row to display the changed between each five game set:

fulham stats2

The big takeaways are the gradual but noticeable decrease in Fulham’s TSR (i.e. we’re getting outshot, consistently), and the utter plateauing of our shooting % (i.e our shot selection and quality).

For TSR, just look at the shot charts from that past five games:

bolton

Oh my.

brum

Eh not so bad.

bburn

Dear. Lord.

forest

WE WON THIS GAME?!?!

reading

THIS ONE TOO?!? OKAY OKAY MAKE IT STOP

So as you can see we’re getting outshot significantly, something that doomed us last season when we had 5 managers and the likes of John Arne Riise in the squad (yet, at this point last season Fulham’s TSR was .371. It somehow wasn’t the worst in the EPL, yet, would be far, far worse than current Championship bottom-dwellers Blackpool. Shows how even this league can be…).

Although not dropping at worrying rates, regardless this is not a good omen and something that needs to be addressed in the coming games. I’m a bit unsure if it’s because our offense has seemingly dried up (more on that next), or if our defense is the liability. I defer to other more intelligent folks on that one.

Now onto our Shooting Percentage, which you can see has totally flat-lined since Matchday 16 (that 2-2 draw with Blackpool in early November).

Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 10.51.31 AM

A nugget of data I found interesting but did not post above is that our passing percentage is actually higher than our opponents in most games; we’re just not doing enough with our shot selection and quality. I need to watch some game tape to determine this, but happy to hear what others think.

Yet despite all this Fulham’s PDO is currently at 98.92 (100 is league average), and has dipped and risen within a few percentage points since Matchday 16. This means were aren’t terribly lucky, but also aren’t terribly unlucky. So we’re about where we should be (look at teams like Derby who have extremely high, or Brighton with extremely low, PDO. Their other numbers are a-okay, which mean their respective fortunes are bound to change soon).

Holistically, what are we to make of all this? My theory is that we’re a horribly unbalanced side and Kit is just a four months into a major rebuild. It may explain the very manic-depressive graph that the great Ben of @stats_snakeoil provided the other day:

Here we see the massive uptick once Magath was fired, followed by a gradual decline that has seen intermittent spikes. It will be fascinating to see if this keeps up for the remaining 15 games.

Speaking of, Fulham will need to somehow play worse (always possible!) in order to get relegated.

Despite the horrid results and performances of late, Fulham are still grinding out results when they need to. Take the total point haul over each matchday set:

Point Haul
Matchdays 1-5 1
Matchdays 6-10 6
Matchdays 11-15 8
Matchdays 16-20 7
Matchdays 21-25 6
Matchdays 26-30 7
35

For every five games Fulham are gaining about 5.83333 points (or, 1.16 PpG). If you add that average to their current total of 35, they’ll end up with about 53.66 points. In the past 5 seasons, 53 points would place you (in descending order): 16, 22, 18, 19, 20. We are currently 18th.

To allay any fears, the teams relegated in 2012-13 each had 54, 51, 41 points. Current relegation places have: 30, 22, 20. Yes miracles do happen, but I don’t see either Millwall, Wigan, or Blackpool earning anywhere from 20 to 30 points over the next 16 games (and read this about Millwall: https://statsandsnakeoil.wordpress.com/2015/02/08/visualising-the-championship-historical-context-charts/) to match the tallies of the 2012-13 season. But that doesn’t mean Fulham aren’t in for a rough ride if they don’t address the things I wrote about above.

Finally, to quote Ben of @stats_snakeoil again (https://statsandsnakeoil.wordpress.com/2015/01/02/visualising-the-championship-an-introduction/),

“While Fulham’s underlying numbers have remained fairly constant, it took a while for their results to catch up. Moreover, the rate at which their GR caught up with their TSR perhaps suggests that the rate at which they have accumulated points since game 10 is also slightly misleading; I would suggest that they are unlikely to continue to rack up points at near title pace throughout the rest of the season and are instead more likely to end up solidly mid-table.”

Feel free to speculate why this is all happening in the comments below. If I am totally misinterpreting the stats, please let me know.

Signing bonuses

Years ago when I was writing this thing daily and putting everything into it we stumbled upon an award. David Lloyd got one for TOOFIF at the same time, so we were duly summonsed to the club for a photo opportunity.  Hammersmith & Fulham Chronicle I think it was.  Anyway, we get there and this photographer chap gets up to speed, works out that I’m here because I do a blog and promptly sees if anyone in the cafe now known as Haynes Place (I think?) has a computer.  A computer?  Right – he wants to take a picture of me typing.

No.  I am under no illusions.  Writing a blog about football is not a cool thing to do in the wider world.  But I’m not posing for a local newspaper on some borrowed keyboard in a cafeteria while smiling and looking awkward.

But this is how photography works.

A similar trick is new signings.  If a club signs someone, said someone appears somewhere with a new shirt held backwards in front of him.  He does.  It’s the rules.

Thing is, different players interpret this opportunity differently.  What can we learn from their reactions?

riether
I’d say Sascha Riether just about nailed it. He’s smiling, but not too much (don’t want to act all desperate), looks affable, the kind of player you want in your team, the kind of player who’s going to make a good impression.  And I’d say he lived up to his photo: a nice photo, a nice player.

darren

This is why there are still con-men in the world.  Usually people smile, we think “hey, nice, a smile”, but we all know that not everything is as it seems, and here is Darren Bent smiling.  It’s an easy smile, too easy probably.  Too easy definitely.  This is the smile of a man playing a computer game and pretending to listen to his spouse recount the story of her day.

parker

“I’ve had my ups, I’ve had my downs, and I have no idea which this is to be honest.”

heit

The background gives this a kind of “apprehended at 4am” vibe but to be fair, Heitinga was magnificently professional in as bad a team as he can have ever stumbled upon.  He’s not delighted to be here and he’s not pretending he is, but he’s going to do his best.

kr1

“I used to play for Manchester United. My agent promised me something much better than this.  The offers never came.  Here I am.”

kr2

“Aston Villa!  YES!”

What are we supposed to think, hmm?

taraab

To be fair he looks like a lovely young man and actually I think maybe he really is.  To me there’s an air of “let’s get cracking” here, I think Taraabt really wanted this to work out.  The problem then, and every other time, is that Adel is not 16 and playing at school anymore, and so he can’t just dominate through the power of raw talent alone.  We all want the world to be like it was when we were small, and I think sometimes society tries to make us leave things behind that really should be retained – after all, the childhood us is still us, isn’t it?  We’re almost expected to treat that as a different person, as if being 8, 18, 28, 38 is not just a continuation of the same life.  Ironically enough we’re almost all much happier at 8 than at 28, so why are we encouraged down that path when we might be better off turning back towards made us who we are, rather than towards something we never have been.  Adel Taraabt was, is, and always will be a sensational footballer, and it would have been lovely for him if he’d found somewhere where he could have just got on with playing his way, which is not my way or your way or many other peoples’ way, but it worked for him and for anyone else prepared to let him carry on with his impressively juvenile skillz (Neil Warnock).  Martin Jol would have let him but we all got cross with Martin Jol’s approach, and rightly so: if you’re going to let Adel Taraabt and Dimitar Berbatov play like nine year olds you’d better have some grown ups on hand to compensate.

derek

Derek Boateng is proud.  That’s probably the best yet I think.  Upright, authoritative, maybe a bit narrow shouldered to be a midfield enforcer in retrospect, but he was told to stand for a photo and he couldn’t have done a better job of it.

lewis

If someone had told him “yes, and your old mate Felix Magath is coming too” that face would have changed, quickly.

kvist

“No idea who this is but he says he’s just signed for us.”
“It’s William Kvist, Rene.”
“Is it?  Hmmm.  Okay.”

“William, just for giggles, imagine that you are going to fry my ear for dinner tonight… right… and stare through my head as if you want more of my ear.   Yep.  And like you haven’t slept for a month.  Perfect.”

mitro

“And this one?”
“Konstantinos Mitroglou”
“Oh. And he’s a player too is he?”
“Nobody knows to be fair.”

Fulham are doing very well under Kit Symons but you probably already knew that

It’s probably not a coincidence this website hasn’t been updated since: “Kit Symons: the right appointment”.

In all seriousness, what else needs to be said?

Fulham find themselves comfortably (as comfortable as one can be in the Championship) mid-table: almost away from the relegation quagmire, almost within touching distance of the playoffs. Yet Kit’s 15 games in charge is more than each of last year’s 3 managers.

Fortunes could continue improving or regress, so why not investigate the club’s fortunes under Kit’s reign to date and look at some fancy numbers (courtesy of Owain Thomas)

When Kit took over on September 18, Fulham were 24th with just 1 point, 0-1-6, a -12GD, and scored 6 goals in 7 games.

The club’s TSR (Total Shots Ratio; often has strong correlation to points and goal difference) was .503, which despite the terrible record was good enough for 13th overall (context: last season in the EPL Fulham had an awful TSR with .392). Yet their PDO (go here) and Save% were both atrocious, a league-worse 72.2 PDO (100 is the mean) and 49.98 Sv%.

In layman terms, and within the statistical prism, Fulham were not getting horribly outplayed and outshot under Magath (as they were a year prior under Jol). They were simply terribly coached from a tactical standpoint.

Attributing Sv% is tricky, but in my opinion conceding 18 goals in 7 games and having a Sv% under 50% basically means that our opponents had time to “pick their spots” per se. Just take this: in Felix’s final game, Nottingham Forest scored its first 5 goals via their first 5 shots on target. That’s not just absurd, it’s an indictment of the defense.

As these things tend to happen (and something statistician Owain Thomas suggested when Felix was sacked) , Kit Symons saw an immediate reversal in the team’s fortune (what pundits call “new manager bounce”).

As of last week, sans the Sheffield Wednesday game, Fulham posted a slightly decreased 0.485 TSR; but saw improvements in their PDO and Sv%: 92.09 and 59.79 respectively. [Update: as of 12/23 TSR: 0.482; PDO: 94.94 and Sv%: 60.61%]

Translation: the team is about the same in terms of overall shots for/against but has shored up the defense immensely.

Which has then translated to Fulham’s current standing of 13th with 28 points, 8-4-10, -4 GD and 35 goals in 22 games.

Overall Kit as posted a 8-3-4 record in his 15 games as caretaker and official manager of the club. This equates to an amazing 1.8 PpG, which is better than all but 3 teams entire season’s PpG to date. Further context: Magath posted a .142 PpG in the Championship. (Yes, that’s a decimal before the 1.)

If Fulham can maintain this streak over their remaining 24 games, they should end up with about 71 points; not a sure thing for the playoffs but certainly within touching distance.

Kit has also settled on an established 11, with a majority of the subs coming in defense due to the numerous amounts of injuries there. Whereas Magath was making an average of 3+ changes per game, Symons is making a just a hair over 2 per game (and just exactly 2 per game in last 5 games; with a defender involved in 3 of the 5 games).

Intriguingly, the likes of Woodrow, Roberts, David, Hyndman, and Eisfeld, aka the promising youngsters that were the only panacea to Magath’s reign, have barely featured under Symons. Roberts’ late substitute appearance last week was his first action since November 5. Woodrow scored a goal last week from the penalty spot, but hasn’t started since late October and logged just 54 minutes total since then (about 10mins per appearance). David has made the bench once under Kit.

Conversely the reintroductions of Hugo, Burn, and Ruiz have come to define Kit’s stint as repairing the damage done by Magath (and to some extent Rene and Jol).

But if there is one feather to Kit’s cap, it surely must be the emergence of Lasse Vigen Christensen, who has started all 15 matches under Kit and scored 5 times—as many as Ross McCormack.

Kit’s tenure has been thrilling. We should look back and really enjoy what he’s done, and hope it can continue.

Kit Symons: the right appointment

Fulham get their man. Kit Symons made sense as a caretaker manager and the club’s form since he took over has made his promotion to the permanent role all but inevitable. He may or may not be the right choice long-term, but his work so far meant that Khan’s headhunters were left with a tricky job: either come up with someone very, very good, or the decision makes itself. Ultimately, you couldn’t replace Symons with a nothing manager.

And this is where Fulham realised that the only choice was to make no choice. It’s very likely that the club has sounded out various highish profile names in the preceding months, but, with last season’s chaos fresh in the memory, been met with polite “thanks but no thanks” emails back.

So in lowering their sights a little they moved into the realms of the not quites, the ne’er do wells, the once did wells. Aidy Boothroyd, Craig Brown, Lee Clark, Steve Clarke, John Collins, Owen Coyle, Billy Davies, Roberto Di Matteo, Dougie Freedman, Chris Hughton, Paul Ince, Paul Jewell, Brian McDermott, Mark McGhee, Tony Mowbray, Sean O’Driscoll, David O’Leary, Martin O’Neill, Tim Sherwood, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Gordon Strachan… you see the problem?

Even then, for all we know some of the above said no. And this largely omits international appointments, which might have offered the possibility of bringing in a recognised winner but also of another horrible mess.

It’s to Symons’ eternal credit that he made this decision into a non-decision. For this moment in time Kit Symons is the right man for this football club. No question. Whether he remains the right man in six months or a year we’ll just have to see – I remain suspicious that there’s a slight “anyone but Magath” halo effect going on here – but he has absolutely, unquestionable, earned the right to prove himself one way or another. It’s the right appointment.

Bill James

If ever you’ve tried to wonder why I seem to talk about stats more than most, this is the answer:

“Bullshit has tremendous advantages over knowledge. Bullshit can be created as needed, on demand, without limit. Anything that happens, you can make up an explanation for why it happened.

“There was a Kansas football game a year ago; some Texas-based football team, much better than Kansas, came to Lawrence and struggled through the first quarter — KU with, like, a 7-3 lead at the end of the first quarter. The rest of the game, KU lost, like, 37-0, or something. The announcer had an immediate explanation for it: The Texas team flew in the day before, they spent the night sleeping in a strange hotel; it takes them a while to get their feet on the ground.

“It’s pure bullshit, of course, but he was paid to say that … if it had happened the other way, and KU had lost the first quarter, 24-0, and then ‘won’ the rest of the game 17-14 (thus losing 38-17) … if that had happened, we both know that the announcer would have had an immediate explanation for why THAT had happened. … Bullshit is without limit.”

Then:

“As I saw it, baseball had two distinct mountains of material. One the one hand, there was a mountain of traditional wisdom, things that people said over and over again. On the other hand, there was a mountain of statistics. My work was to build a bridge between those two mountains. A statistician is concerned what baseball statistics ARE. I had no concern with what they are. I didn’t care, and I don’t care, whether Mike Schmidt hit .306 or .296 against left-handed pitching. I was concerned with what the statistics MEAN.

“Sportswriters, in my opinion, almost never use baseball statistics to try to understand baseball. They use statistics to decorate their articles. They use statistics as a club in the battle for what they believe intuitively to be correct. That is why sportswriters often believe that you can prove anything with statistics, an obscene and ludicrous position, but one which is the natural outgrowth of the way that they themselves use statistics. What I wanted to do was teach people instead to use statistics as a sword to cut toward the truth.”

Until very recently I was of the same mind.  (not the teaching bit, but the general point of using available data to get to the bottom of things).  I felt that there was an awful lot of bullshit talked about football, a lot of it from people who seemed far more certain in their views than it felt like they ought to be.  Now I don’t know why, but I was keen to offer alternative perspectives.   To get closer to a truth.  It wasn’t good enough that people could say “I don’t need stats to tell me that.  I’ve been watching football for 50 years and I trust my eyes”…. opinions really are like arseholes, we do all have one.  Having read Bill James for years I felt that bringing evidence, no matter how foggy, into discussions, would help.  So people would slate Bobby Zamora for not scoring goals, or Dickson Etuhu for not looking like the most technically accomplished footballer, or Clint Dempsey for whatever beef they had with him, or Chris Baird for various sins, or Bryan Ruiz for not trying, and these thoughts just felt lazy to me so I challenged them however I could.  I don’t quite know why I bothered but I was watching Fulham every week then and writing about them every day and, dammit, it felt important.  Sometimes this challenging (as with Ruiz) has been wishful thinking, sometimes I think that trying to look at things from other angles has been instructive.

However this little crusade might have seen, I wasn’t remotely arrogant enough to suppose that I had all the answers, but I did feel that there were ways of getting at truths that might advance discussions (certainly the comments in CCN over the years have taught me enormous amounts, more than anything else I suspect).

Why though?  Well who knows why?  Ultimately none of this matters, and lord knows nobody likes being lectured/hectored about their hobby, but you know how it is: people can and will discuss football in great depth, over and over and over.   Like Bill James, I wasn’t obsessed with stats, but I was, and am, interested in another perspective.

The Secret Footballer has a new book out and in its introduction he rails against the new wave of armchair experts, noting that the only way you can really understand is to be involved, or have been involved, in the game.  Now, he has books to sell, and of course he has a point, but they thought this in baseball until very recently, too, until it became obvious that ignoring different approaches to learning about the game was literally self-defeating.

But he is right. We’re all on the outside of the game and so there’s a limit to what we can really understand.  So we do our best to get at a truth by whatever means we can.

Sorry if this seems a bit self-serving – it isn’t meant to – but many of you have been kind enough to read this website for 8 years or so, and this article seemed very relevant to whatever underlying ethos you might find in the words I’ve written down the years.  (Bill James self-published his books for five years too, which directly inspired me to do the Fulham Review).  Anyway, thanks. As you were.

Barney Ronay downloads my brain

Barney Ronay downloads my brain.

Not that my brain is nearly so eloquent.

I feel quite torn on all this but in deciding to largely switch off from football I don’t find that life is much worse.  It would be different if I were still in London, didn’t have kids and did have money – I watched the Charlton game on TV and even just seeing the colour of the evening Sky reminded me of being at Craven Cottage (it’s a much underestimated phenomenon this, the colour of the sky and how this varies geographically), but still.  I don’t live in London, I do have kids and I don’t have money.  So football is quite easy to avoid, particularly with our family’s ongoing TV wars.

Does it fill a gap in lives? I think it’s more a case that something we loved as children has sort of mushroomed as we’ve reached adulthood. It’s a bit like when your other half’s been shopping and bought lots of chocolate: something deep within you knows that something you really like is there, and available, and available now, so just get in and eat three fun-sized bags of Maltesers.

And some of us have brains that are wired in a certain way, and that means that if we are interested in something we are very, very interested in something, so we dive in. And football’s extreme *thereness* means we can just keep digging. We will never run out of things about football to read. Think about that for a moment.

Fulham 3-0 Charlton

That’s the way to do it.

For Scott – captain fantastic – Parker, a man in motion with a pair of metaphorical wings that he doesn’t need as others in the team can manage the aerial stuff.

Fulham dominated the first half to the extent that the second was under control, if frightening.  Symons’ continuing reliance on an attacking three of Ruiz McCormack and Rodallega meant that Charlton were always nervous, and with Parker and Christensen patrolling and controlling behind Fulham were able to dominate the ball and territory.

The goals were terrific: Parker’s early strike coming after he won the ball, surged into the area and converted a cross that was behind him in off the bar.  Rodallega’s first was a study in anticipation, calmness and technique (from him and McCormack) and the third was worthy of far more celebrated names.

The whole thing clicked perfectly.  It’s a fine reflection on the manager that Fulham continue to thrive and surge up the table.  Full reflection later.

Why Kit Symons isn’t necessarily the man to lead Fulham forward

PAY-Brian-and-Shirley-Burnie
Brian Burnie with his then wife.

There was a programme on TV recently in which comedian Jon Richardson looked to get to the bottom of some heavy life issues. One of the three programmes was about money and our attitudes towards having or not having it. In this programme he met a man named Brian Burnie who had amassed a fortune, then essentially gave it away to start his own charity. His wife wasn’t very happy about this and didn’t appear. But his daughter did. Richardson asked her how she felt, the angle being that she would have been in line to inherit this vast fortune, but now was not.

The daughter, a teacher, was fine. She said that at this point in her own life she feels quite content. She is made happy by life’s little things. An example: when you are cycling in the rain and get wet socks. (If you have cycled at all you know what she’s getting at: wet socks can be horrible.) The feeling you get when you get indoors into the warm and take off the wet socks is briefly a magnificent one. In itself the feeling of changing socks isn’t much, but actually, in this context, it’s a good example of a small victory.

I think of Felix Magath’s time at Fulham as a pair of increasingly wet socks. We’ve taken them off and feel better.

The trick here is whether the socks we’re now wearing are what we need.

Here’s why. If you take the old rule of thumb for what Fulham ought to achieve we were clearly not there under Magath. This rule of thumb? That in home games we can expect to beat all but the very best teams in the division, and in away games we will lose to the very best opponents and draw with the rest. This is clearly not *right* in that these things are never so predictable, but if we consider the top six teams the “top teams” that would give us 17 home wins, 6 home draws, 6 away draws and 17 away defeats. Again, it’s not supposed to be a prediction but it works for us here.

FMKS

So by this reckoning we dropped 8 points under Magath and are exactly break even under Symons. We weren’t doing what we should have done then; we are now.

An added wrinkle here is a new-fangled statistic called TSR, or total shots ratio. I’m not going to make any claims for this above and beyond the following from the man who invented it:

http://jameswgrayson.wordpress.com/2012/12/02/introducing-tsr2-4/

http://jameswgrayson.wordpress.com/2011/10/31/predicting-future-performance-revisited/

http://jameswgrayson.wordpress.com/2013/10/30/the-relationship-between-tsr-and-points-over-9-games/

This isn’t me going all weird with stats, it’s someone who has looked at something and established various facts.  You can dismiss these things or you can buy into them – your choice – but for those of us who are even less certain than we were in the past, objectivity can be helpful.

TSR, is short for total shots ratio and in short is the proportion of shots in a game that a team takes. James has tested various things and found it to be the best predictor of future performance he’s come across.

So? Well here’s the thing: Fulham’s TSR under Magath and under Symons hasn’t changed at all. Fulham under Magath were massively under-performing their TSR, which might be bad luck but was probably a function of, well, everything. But the underlying indicators told us that this team wasn’t nearly as bad as it looked. We knew that – those of us who weren’t screeching at the internet about wanting our football team back anyway – but it’s still instructive. Magath would argue that this is evidence that the team would have improved in time, and the sensible conclusion is that he’s probably right, or he would be if the aforementioned “everything” wasn’t in the way. (is seven games too small a sample? Yes, perhaps, but James shows here that TSR works quite well in limited datasets too.)

Symons’ team has done what it should. Fulham have taken off their wet socks and are enjoying a welcome cup of tea on the sofa.

So has Symons taken Fulham forward? Yes, in the sense that it was in a very bad place when he arrived. Honestly, I’d probably argue that almost any manager could have achieved the same, but Symons had the advantage (of his own making) of knowing the squad and particularly its young players, so he was able to stabilise the ship almost instantly. That’s to his immense credit. We also have to acknowledge that he’s working with another man’s squad. Magath did a very thorough job of refurbishing the losing squad from last season but got carried away to the point where we didn’t have a lot left. Enough, sure, but not a great deal. This derailed our early season form (to a degree: TSR still thinks we were an alright team getting bad results) and Symons has had to work with the same issue. Again: it looks to all the world as if he’s got Fulham back to exactly where they should be. Well done him.

This is different to taking the club on a level, though, and here lies the problem for Khan’s Headhunters. They have two choices really:

a) the easy way out is to say “give the job to Kit Symons, a Fulham man who the fans like.”
b) the hard choice is to say “Kit’s been brilliant but we think we’ve found someone who can take Fulham to another level.”

I think really they have to take a combination of the two. They identify candidates who would work under scenario B but recommend that Symons keeps his job until at least the end of the season. If Fulham continue to improve steadily Symons is given the job on a permanent basis. If Fulham drop below the current baseline then you thank Kit and move to plan B, which has been teed up for this very purpose.

Kit Symons has done everything right. He has brought a stability to selection; the team is playing in a sensible fashion; the team is selecting its best players; the team is playing quite well. The job of the committee is to look at these achievements and try to value them and establish what they mean in a slightly longer term context.  I don’t think it’s as easy as it sounds.