Fulham Football Club got a new owner at the beginning of this current season in the form of Shahid Khan, a Pakistan born American billionaire. Many expected Fulham to get the much needed resources which previous owner Al-Fayed couldn’t provide. Many thought Fulham would be the next Manchester City. Many thought that Fulham had finally started to make its presence felt in the Premier League. Fast forward to March 2014, and looking back at the 2013-14 Barclays Premier League season gone so far, what has happened to Fulham, is quite opposite to what one had expected when Shahid Khan took over as the Chairman of Fulham FC.
Immediately after his takeover, Shahid Khan reposed his faith in Martin Jol, the then Fulham manager. Fulham’s games under a new owner were a complete disaster and speculation was rife that Jol had fallen out with Khan. The autocratic functioning of the club, took its toll on the players. The club was literally invisible in the transfer market, with the only major signings being Maarten Stekelenburg from AS Roma and Darren Bent (on loan) from Aston Villa. Veteran midfielder Scott Parker too made a move to Craven Cottage from White Hart Lane.
Although Stekelenburg was much criticized for having chosen a club like Fulham after Roma, he had a belief in his new team-mates and manager. Now, it’s obvious that a player of his quality repents this decision.
Shahid Khan has always played an active role in the functioning of his club. It is rumored that he has a say even in the starting eleven of the club. He is known to drop by the training grounds and observe the players keenly, something which is unprecedented of a club chairman to do. Although the friction between Jol and Khan had increased after some lackluster performances by the team, he publically admitted that the board was behind Jol in these difficult times.
He brought on former Manchester United coach Rene Meulensteen, whom he appointed as ‘First Team Coach’, while Jol continued as ‘Head Coach’. Why he didn’t replace Jol completely with Rene is still a mystery to everyone. However, for a few games Jol and Rene worked together with the team, just as Khan’s press statement had stated. Martin Jol soon resigned from his post in all capacities, probably due to creative differences, thus making Rene Meulensteen the ‘boss’ of Fulham FC. Martin Jol left the club after 13 matches of the Premier League season, with Fulham 18th in the table having acquired only three wins and 10 points.
When the January transfer window arrived, the most remarkable and last ditch signing that Shahid Khan made was that of Lewis Holtby, on loan from Tottenham. However, his transfer policy turned out to be a disaster for football fans of Fulham and alike, when he ended up sending Bryan Ruiz on loan to PSV Eindhoven and Dimitar Berbatov on loan to AS Monaco. Without any doubt, Ruiz and Berbatov were two of the best players Fulham had, prior to the January transfer window. Although many believed that Berbatov had been signed on loan by Monaco, Fulham later revealed that he was ‘released’ by the club.
Rene Meulensteen could not make much of an impact at Fulham, with the club going the same direction as it did under Jol. Frustration started to creep in, and Shahid Khan replaced Rene Meulensteen with Felix Magath on 14th Feburary. Felix Magath is reputed for pushing teams out of the relegation zone. However, he is also known to be a tyrant among his players and known for his strict discipline and inhuman training methods. So much so, there are various reports that state that players threw a party and celebrated every time Magath left a club. So far, he has not been able to make an impact either, with Fulham standing at the bottom of the table and staring relegation in the face.
So, what actually has gone wrong with Fulham FC? Replacing 2 managers in an ongoing season? Selling the wrong players? Employing wrong tactics? Shahid Khan probably believes that ensuring strictest of training on the players would yield him good results, but that might turn back on him someday, as a football club is all about the players and not about the management. Fulham, after 29 games, has 21 points as of now, and are 20th in the Barclays Premier League charts. Unless an immediate effort to revive the club to ensure it reaches 17th on the table is made, Fulham FC might as well prepare itself to play in the Championship next season.Published 13 Mar 2014, 19:41 IST