A recent article in the The Mirror has sent Fulham fans into a tizzy. The article suggests Martin Jol lacks financial backing by the Fulham front office for the coming transfer window, and as a result both he and Dimitar Berbatov could leave this summer.
Obviously there is much speculation involved in this news story, but in such circumstances, where there is smoke, there must be fire, and this is a bit too serious to simply discard as complete rubbish.
Contrary to the obvious concern about this story however, the issue isn’t the lack of Dimitar Berbatov on next season’s squad, or a change in manager. Martin Jol had a difficult year putting together a squad. He gets a pass this season due to the forced departures of Clint Dempsey and Moussa Dembele in the final days of last sumer, his tactics and approach left a bit for fans to question. No, this isn’t about whether the club will do well with someone other than Martin Jol in charge.
The biggest issue looming with this potential situation suggested by the Mirror would be the aftermath of a second straight managerial departure due to financial reasons. The self-destruction and fall of Mark Hughes began when he shocked Fulham by leaving, without another job secured, partly for the same reasons being suggested this time around. The Mark Hughes departure was also partly due to his egotistical issues, and we all saw how that has gone for him. But there’s no question that the lack of financial backing by Fulham had at least something to do with his decision to leave the club high and dry.
When he left, Hughes’ agent Kia Joorbachian was quoted with saying, “One of the things he looked for at the end of the season was to see if there was an ambition for Fulham to go to the next level.” He continued by saying Mark Hughes’ ambitions were above the club, blah blah blah, confirming his egotistical mindset. However, that quote suggests there was a part the Fulham board played as well in his departure, lacking either the means or the will to give Hughes what he wanted to transform Fulham into a contender at the “next level.”
If Martin Jol were to follow the same route, it would leave the club in a dire situation. Not that it wouldn’t have Martin Jol on the touchline, but the message sent out to the footballing community about the financial stance of the front office would doom the club in a manner that would be irrecoverable in the near future. What half-decent manager would want to take over the club and begin anew? This isn’t about hiring a well-traveled manager with a full resume and a big name. Not even a young, aspiring manager would want to take a club that now all of a sudden would become a bookie’s delight to be relegated in the next year or two. The patchwork squad that Martin Jol pieced together with free transfers and loan players, with hopes of replacing them with younger, more long-term solutions down the road, would now become the long-term solutions.
There would only be one ending to what would become a messy situation. Relegation.
Whether it would take just one year or maybe two, the lack of support by the front office would be met with the ruthless axe of the Premier League’s bottom three, the one that had no mercy and took no prisoners at Loftus Road this season. The quickest road from the Premier League to the lower divisions runs through the city of Bad Management.
Therefore, it only follows that something many Fulham fans believed last summer again becomes the mantra for the next few months – this summer may be the most important in Fulham’s Premier League history.
And the first step of the summer is to make sure the beloved club residing in Craven Cottage isn’t slapped with the dark mark of a parsimonious front office, or it will surely doom them to Championship obscurity in the coming years. While Fulham fans bask in the misfortune and mismanagement of their bitter rivals, one cannot help but be somewhat worried that, if things don’t pan out this summer, it will be themselves faced with the same disastrous result.
This is not an attack on the wonderful services Alistair Mackintosh and Mohammed Al Fayed have provided Craven Cottage over the years. If not for the generous gifts of our chairman and the long and hard hours the Chief Executive has graced the club with, they’d be nowhere near the levels it’s reached in the last decade. Mackintosh has always been known for finding diamonds in the rough, for discovering cheaper but effective options that don’t necessarily write headlines. The club’s stance against bidding wars has kept the wage and transfer bill down to a more than manageable level, even posting a surplus a year and a half ago, something which has become an endangered species in the footballing world.
This is not a condemnation of the path from which Fulham have traveled. This is a plea for the club to not veer into the thicket marred by excessive stinginess. Obviously the club doesn’t have access to the most extensive of resources. But where has some of the recent influx of funds gone? The sales of Moussa Dembele and Clint Dempsey netted the club approximately £21 million. The club also sold Bobby Zamora for £4 million. Fulham have finished in the top 10 of the Premier League in multiple seasons recently, garnering additional Premier League prize funds. The Europa League finals run plus an additional year in the European competition surely garnered a fantastic amount of profit. The Premier League has secured multiple new TV deals which surely has distributed new wealth to each participant. For a club that posted a profit as recently as 2 seasons ago, one cannot believe operating costs plus a new stand has eaten up all this additional influx of wealth. Obviously in this business it’s not as simple as money in, money out. However, this is not the financial blueprint of a club that relies on free transfers and loan deals year in and year out to piece together 11 players on the pitch. One year marred by unforeseen circumstances is forgivable, but multiple seasons with this makeup will lead to more failure than success.
The road to reestablished Premier League consistency begins with a stop at a gas station where the Fulham board must refuel, not buy a cheaper car. They must reasonably back Martin Jol to not only convince him to stay, but allow him to carry out his new plan for Fulham’s future that was so ruthlessly torn to pieces by a last-minute White Hart Lane raid at this same juncture a year ago. That, or face the possibilities that lie ahead of his departure.