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Fulham: what can be learned fr...

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Fulham: what can be learned from having a shit season?

Ciaran Bradley
Ciaran Bradley

06:16 2 Apr 2019


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Fulham are on course to complete their season of abject mediocrity, to the resignation of wearied supporters. The Whites had been looking to the Promised Land, but all has turned to ashes in their mouths.

Vaguely-terrifying biblical imagery aside, the situation in west London in particular is instructive for teams coming up. Having become likeable mainstays of the league between 2001 and and 2014, their fans will now look back to a season that slid, and was watched, through their fingers. The model of building slowly but surely was avoided in favour of spending to secure their status; an understandable by-product of the largesse of the Premier League.

So what can be learned from having a shit season? There are plenty of lessons, in this case: if you're wearied by a defensiphobic manager like Slavisa Jokanovic, make sure you appoint someone that is able to teach that skill, or you'll end up on course to concede 83 goals in 38 games. No-one likes that, unless you're Derby.

As has been done to death, it was Fulham's transfer trolley dash that caught the eye last summer. With all the decorum of a ten-pint-deep adulterer, they spent £100m getting the likes of Sergio Rico and Andre-Franck Zambo Anguissa into the cab, when they had the perfectly lovely (though injured) Marcus Bettinelli and Tom Cairney at home. The middle ground is something to be hailed here. The likes of Leeds United would be well-advised to ban Peter Ridsdale from Elland Road should they succeed this summer, and place their faith in the team that got them where they need to be. Reinforcements are, of course, needed - but clubs have the networks and contacts to identify players early, sound them out and put them in place well before the start of the season.

Shahid Khan's ownership of Fulham has been a qualified success; he is in the decreasing number of football owners held in high regard by the majority of the fanbase. But while Khan's unsuccessful bid to buy Wembley is easily seen as an attempt to increase the club's financial future and international standing, it is surely a blessing that an outlandish bid fell through. One only has to look at the 'most successful stadium migration in history'at the Olympic Park to know how difficult that transition can be; and that is still being able to charge north of £50 a ticket to Premier League games. A ground of that size quickly becomes a mausoleum to riches past once in the Championship.

What is more, Fulham's charm is its familiarity. From an outsider's perspective, fans seem to genuinely feel included; their voices form part of the club's past, present and future. One cannot help feeling that more than a few of those voices would be lost in the chasm of Wembley, a stadium best left to days out like their play-off final success last year. As Liverpool might soon be able to attest, there is greater weight to growing organically, year-on-year, to renew even the slightest sense that football is actually for the masses.

With a lighter hand on the tiller, and less heed paid to the existential screams of the likes of Villa, Sunderland and Bolton from the briney depths below, teams like Fulham and those after her can dare to dream. European tours don't have to be a thing of the past.

Oh, and don't sign Ryan Babel.

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