by Mike Forrest
Fulham is a club synonymous with being a friendly and well run club. Events in the past few days has led to a lot of vitriol spewing in the direction of the Cottagers from irate football fans. Their moral high-horse anger is misplaced however. As a result of putting themselves on the saddle of the high horse, football fans vision and rationality has become obscured by their own self-righteousness.
“Foreign owners are a disgrace” they scream, “they know nothing about English football!” Except they do. In Fulham’s case, Shahid Khan realises that his investment of £150,000,000 to buy Fulham will significantly decrease if Fulham are relegated, his costs will significantly increase and he doesn’t want his debut season as Fulham owner to end in relegation. It’s not because he is American and has no understanding of football that he has replaced Rene Meulensteen. It is because he is a business man making a rational decision, no matter how cold the decision may be perceived.
Rene Meulensteen had 13 premier league games in charge. During this time he has overseen a 6-0 loss against Hull, conceded 34 goals which so nearly averages at 3 goals conceded a game, brought Fulham’s image into disrepute over his claims about Ravel Morrison and has overseen one of the worst performances played by a professional football team against League One struggles Sheffield Utd.
Rene appears to be an amiable chap. In his pre-match interviews with Fulham’s director of communications he would have his legs crossed and a laidback demeanour with a grin always on the precipice of emerging into a smile. He spoke a lot of sense. But so did Martin Jol. This verbal sense rarely translated itself into physical sense on the pitch.
Furthermore Rene has given a big insight into his character by giving a multitude of interviews to various national broadcasters. Instead of keeping schtum he leapt at the chance to get his digs in. Rene had built a big reputation for himself as a coach such as getting endorsements from Robin Van Persie among others.
This image that Rene had cultivated for himself had wooed football fans. Football fans are a unique entity who romanticise the game to such an extent that they lose all reason. So when one of their darlings fall victim to the harsh realities of the business of football of course they will be up in arms. Yes 13 games is a very short period of time, but to lose 6-0 at Hull, 3-0 at home to Southampton and 4-1 at home to Sunderland are not signs that an improvement is coming. 10 points from 13 games speak for itself.
This is of course not to apportion all blame for Fulham’s position as Rene’s fault. But the decision is not a panic decision. It is a calculated decision. With 12 games left Fulham have nothing to lose by appointing a man with a history of saving teams from relegation. Sure they’ll now be disliked for their treatment of Rene but if they stay up they won’t care an ounce.
Look at Norwich, should they be held in awe for sticking by Chris Hughton even though he has his Norwich side perilously close to the relegation places? If Norwich go down and Fulham stay up I wonder if the perception of Fulham having “a clueless foreign owner” and the respect for Norwich for sticking with an underperforming manager change? I doubt it will for at least Norwich have English owners and understand the English game. Even though they would have been relegated.