By George Rinaldi.
Shouts of 'sort it out!' and 'you're out of your depth!' have been commonplace at Craven Cottage this season. Three defeats from three before travelling to Pride Park at the weekend saw the Lilywhites arrive with not a point on the board. What ensued was a true humbling, as Steve McClaren's Derby dispatched another mix-match line-up from Felix Magath 5-1.
Fulham sit bottom of the Championship; what’s next for the west London club?
Arguably, it could soon be the end of the road for Magath. He has opted for four different teams in each of their Championship matches so far without any success. Admittedly, the teams he has fielded have been young, but that’s no excuse. It’s poor management and organisation by the manager that’s the problem.
A gluttony of youth talent including Patrick Roberts, George Williams, Thomas Eisfeld, Emerson Hyndman, Chris David, and Jesse Joronen, to name just a few, have the ability to perform at Championship level. They can’t be expected to do so without guidance from experienced players though, and an unsettled line-up that’s different week-in, week-out won’t aid their development either. Magath must find a starting XI that will stick and one that will work together effectively in training and on the pitch every week.
It seems as though the German expects his crop of young players to come good instantly; he’s expecting players such as Roberts and Williams to take on the beefy centre-halves in the Championship and get the job done. Experience is at a premium; the cottagers are heavily reliant on Scott Parker and new £11m man Ross McCormack. Releasing David Stockdale and Brede Hangeland without having experienced players ready and waiting to replace them has proven to be a problem and spending £11m on McCormack was perhaps misguided, not because he isn’t a quality player but because of the price tag. It would probably have been wiser to invest across all departments, ensuring experience and know-how in key positions.
Even so, Magath hasn’t been utilising his key men. McCormack has been moved onto the left wing on more than one occasion and Parker seems to be getting bypassed in matches. Watching Parker during the Wolves game, it was clear the Englishman still has the ability which has seen him play for the likes of Chelsea and Tottenham. Magath’s ‘tactics’ seem to prevent Parker from playing his natural game though, which has resulted in the former Charlton man being dominated rather than being the midfield dominator everyone knows he can be.
Magath’s experimental play is not working. Fulham have been a sinking ship for the past two seasons, since long-term owner Mohamed Al-Fayed had sold the club to Shahid Khan. Martin Jol and Rene Meulensteen tried and ultimately failed to guide the ship to safety and of Khan isn’t careful, Fulham may find themselves in a similar position to that of their opponents last Wednesday. Wolves amassed four managers over the course of two seasons as they went hurtling toward League One following relegation from the Premier League in 2012.
It is unlikely that Magath will step down – the German believes Fulham are ‘heading in the right direction’… so it could come down to another sacking. The problem here is that there might not be a name lined up. A sacking without a plan would spell real trouble.
Who could replace Magath? There are a number of vastly experienced managers who could do well at Craven Cottage, namely former Crystal Palace boss Tony Pulis who transformed both Stoke and Palace during his time in charge. Tim Sherwood is also a possibility.
Current MOTD2 pundit and former Fulham man Danny Murphy has been hailed by many – mostly fans – as the man for the job. Managerial experience obviously is a problem, but Murphy knows and loves the Lilywhites and would arguably bring a feel good factor back to the club. The job is not one to be taken lightly though – the club enjoyed 12 years in the top flight and believe it is where they belong. The Fulham faithful would forgo instant success to allow time for Murphy to get good, slick football being played at the Cottage. As one Fulham fan said, it is really only ‘a dream’ to be thinking about such a scenario. But we all know anything is possible in football.
Will Felix Magath last the season as Fulham boss? Is there any chance of an immediate return to the Premier League for Fulham?
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