Kit Symons will be offered the Fulham’s manager job on a full-time basis if he can steer his side to victory over fellow strugglers Bolton Wanderers at Craven Cottage on Wednesday, according to the Daily Telegraph.
The paper reports that the current caretaker manager has the support of the key members of Fulham’s board after winning two of his first three matches in charge, including recording the club’s first win in a traumatic Championship campaign at Birmingham on Saturday. Shahid Khan could be close to calling off what he had previously described as a ‘thorough search’ for a replacement for the sacked Felix Magath as Symons’ has impressed club officials with the way he has boosted morale during his short time in charge.
Already having regarded at Motspur Park for his impressive work with the club’s Under 18 and Under 21 sides, Symons also has three years as a player – including two promotions – at Craven Cottage and was the fans’ favourite to take over from Magath, even prior to the German coach’s dismissal after the 5-3 defeat at Nottingham Forest. His closeness to the club’s Academy set-up is seen as crucial given Fulham’s current reliance on young players.
Although Fulham were beaten 1-0 at home by Blackburn Rovers in Symons’ first game in charge, the 43 year-old former centre back guided the Whites into the fourth round of the Capital One Cup with a win over Doncaster Rovers and inspired a comeback at St. Andrew’s on Saturday to lift the Londoners off the foot of the league table.
Scott Parker believes Fulham’s battling victory at Birmingham on Saturday could be the spark that ignites their season and he has called on his team-mates to follow up their first league win with three more points against Bolton on Wednesday.
The Fulham captain was encouraged by his side’s resilience as they fought back from a goal down to move off the bottom of the Championship table thanks to goals from Tim Hoogland and Hugo Rodallega at St. Andrew’s. The relief at a first win in nine games was tangible.
It’s a very important win, obviously. We’ve been searching for this win for some time now so it’s often been quite disappointing on a Saturday. I didn’t think we played very well in the first half but then we showed a lot of character in the second half. When we went 2-1 up we always felt we were going to see out the game.
I think when you get to this point, it was always about the result, that’s the key thing. We’ve got our first win away from home and we’ve got another game coming up really quick so we’we’ve got to try and get back-to-back wins so we can start pushing up the table.
The 33 year-old is expecting a tough battle when Bolton, another of the early season strugglers, come to Craven Cottage in midweek.
You look at Bolton’s side and the players they’ve got – they’re a good side on paper. They’ve got some good players so it’ll be another tough game – although in this league I think we’ve all come to realise there are no easy games – but we’re looking forward to it.
We said at the start of the season that we have got a very young squad. Even the boys who aren’t young have never played in this league, but I’m certainly seeing massive improvements and I think the lads are slowly getting to realise what this league’s all about, and what some of the main ingredients you need are.
Technically, I think we’re probably one of the best teams in the league but there’s the other side to the game, especially in the Championship, which you need, and certainly on Saturday in the second half we showed that. It was a massive win and the changing room was bouncing – obviously we haven’t had a win all season so it was very pleasing. Hopefully now we can go into the Bolton game and win again.
Hugo Rodallega has revealed that caretaker manager Kit Symons has completely transformed the atmosphere since taking over at Fulham.
Symons’ relaxed demeanour contrasts sharply with the sacked Felix Magath, whose disciplined approach to training was rumoured to have alienated a number of players. Several former Fulham players heavily criticised the German coach after the club’s relegation from the Premier League last season – and the German coach was once again in the news recently after recommending Brede Hangeland, who was released in the summer, should attempt to cure a persistent injury with a block of cheese.
Rodallega, who scored the winner as Fulham recorded their first league win at Birmingham on Saturday, credits Symons with almost immediately repairing the damage from Magath’s disastrous reign.
Everything has changed inside the group. I’m happier now, the guys are happier and everyone is enjoying their training sessions. This is important because in the last two or three months we don’t feel good.
Now Kit Symons has come in and we are doing better and will try and win the next game. He wants the team happy, he wants us to enjoy training sessions. He wants us to enjoy playing every game for Fulham.
Two wins in the space of five days will have boosted Symons’ chances of securing the managerial position on a permanent basis. Fulham move out of the bottom three with a win against fellow strugglers Bolton at Craven Cottage on Wednesday night.
During his decorated career, Kit Symons has been a part of Fulham Football Club for a total of nine years, three as a player and six in a number of different roles within the academy. We fast forward to 2014 and Kit Symons is (temporarily, for now) sitting in the hot seat as a caretaker manager following the sacking of Felix Magath. Kit has left nobody in any doubt that he wants to be Magath’s permanent successor, seeing himself as the man to both stabilise and take the football club forward. It’s an audition he’s passing comfortably so far; two wins from three games, as well as a much improved spirit around the club, the former Wales international is putting himself in a very good position indeed to take the metaphorical ball and run with it.
Symons has steered Fulham to their first back-to-back wins since April, and a first league success of the season, but he still sees room for improvement – a trait that no doubt comes from his years of playing and coaching, “If we could actually start playing well for 90 minutes of football, it’d be a doddle this job but unfortunately it’s not quite as simple as that.” Our first league win may have been a bit of a squeeze, but the momentum of Championship games mean that two wins in a row (albeit one against a League One side) means the two wins are vital, and with Bolton at home coming up midweek, the momentum will hopefully continue and Fulham, with Kit at the helm, could make it three wins in their last three.
A cloud has been lifted at Craven Cottage, and whilst the league table isn’t how we’d all like, it feels everyone at the club is united and, finally, everyone is happy. Kit, part of the Fulham squad that took Fulham to the Premier League in the first place, is a man that every supporter can relate. He’s a coach who has served his apprenticeship seeking a break, and Fulham, a club that he openly claims to love, could be his big break. Those that have watched Kit’s Under-21s in the past few years will know that Symons has them playing some wonderful football; whilst we obviously have some of the more talented youngsters in the country, it takes good coaching to get them together and playing with the suave nature that they do.
Lest we forget, Kit Symons has worked with the likes of Dan Burn, Marcus Bettinelli, Lasse Vigen Christensen and Cauley Woodrow over the past few years; he won’t only know them on a professional level, but there’s a personal affection there also. He knows what these players can offer, how much they can give, and they know that he was part of their journey to full-time professional football. All you have to do is look at the Fulham Under-21s page on the Fulham website, and Kit Symons has worked with every single one of them. Who better to have in charge than the man that helped them in the final stages of their development before going to first team football, either at Fulham or elsewhere on loan or permanently?
We’ve already seen at times in the first three games, some of the football has been absolutely delightful; including his new front three of Bryan Ruiz, Ross McCormack and Hugo Rodallega, a forward line that should, on song,really decimate the Championship. Lasse Vigen Christensen, who when given game time under Magath, previously looked out of his depth, but his performance against Birmingham was impressive; and you’ve got to look at the effect that Symons is having on the 20 year old Danish midfielder. Marcus Bettinelli gave us the opportunity to win the game yesterday, making some top-draw saves; whilst vice-captain Dan Burn has taken his second chance in the Fulham side with aplomb.
It’s only been eight days to date and things have gone from very gloomy to rays of sunshine, imagine what Kit could do with weeks, months and maybe a transfer window? Does anybody know our players like he does? Does anybody know our young players like he does? Does anybody else offer the same connection to the football club, as well as that knowledge of our playing staff? Kit Symons is the right man, at the right time and Shahid Khan should appoint him on a full-time basis. I don’t think anybody suits our football club more, and he may be “unproven,” but I believe that he will prove doubters wrong, and prove them wrong in style.
Hugo Rodallega was delighted to cap Fulham’s crucial comeback at Birmingham with the winner yesterday, but insists that the first three points of the season are only the start on the road to recovery.
The Colombian striker’s clever finish from close range gave the Whites their first league victory in some six months and lifted Kit Symons’ men off the foot of the Championship table and Rodallega was savouring that long-missed winning feeling after the final whistle.
It was very important. Our first three points is very important for the group. Everyone is thinking positively now and this is the start for us. The first win of the season is very important for our confidence and everyone is happy after the game.
The feeling is perfect inside of the group and that’s what we need. That’s what we need, to keep this feeling, and we’ll take this feeling into the next game.
Rodallega’s whole-hearted display typified Fulham’s desire to get back into a game that appeared beyond them once David Cotterill curled Birmigham into a first-half lead, which the Blues threatened to extend. The striker’s hunger was typified by the manner in which decisively won the battle for the loose ball with goalkeeper Darren Rudolph prior to finishing so impressively from an acute angle.
I’m so happy to get the winning goal, it’s very important for me to keep scoring. I am a striker and I need to score goals. I’m always fighting to score and this goal was a very important one. There were some other chances when the goal didn’t happen, it’s not great but it happens in football.
It’s important to keep going and eventually the goal came my way. I’m very happy for myself, for the group, for my family and for the fans.
Hugo Rodallega’s expertly taken finish might have grabbed all the headlines this morning, but Fulham owe a debt of gratitude to the brilliance of their goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli for keeping them in the contest at Birmingham yesterday. Whilst their second half recovery, which featured two goals in eight second half minutes knocked the stuffing out of the home side, the fact that the Blues had merely a slender advantage was down a string of fine saves from the youngster who must now have firmly established himself as Fulham’s number one.
Bettinelli’s meteoric rise to first-team football in the Championship might well have been a surprise to many, but Fulham have always had high hopes for their vocal goalkeeper who has been with the club since he was fourteen. He was a star of the 2010 Under-18 side that reached the FA Youth Cup quarter finals – which was the first time this correspondent considered his credentials as a potential number one - but injuries prevented him from kicking on after winning the battle for a professional contract with Wes Fotheringham. A year-long absence from regular football might have adversely affected weaker characters, but it only served to spur on Bettinelli, who was outstanding during loan spells at both Dartford and Accrington Stanley, where he was named Young Player of the Year last season after having a defining impact on their successful fight against the drop.
The 22 year-old’s excellent agility and existing league record made Felix Magath’s choice of Jesse Joronen as the first-team goalkeeper after the departure of David Stockdale something of eyebrow raiser. But far from be deflated, Bettinelli continued his diligent work down at Motspur Park, determined to make the most of his chance should it materialise. And how he did. An excellent display in the Capital One Cup win at Brentford highlighted both his potential and his maturity, delivering a first clean sheet of the season. One save in particular, narrowing the angle before turning aside a drive from Jota in the first half, proved crucial.
Magath harshly consigned Bettinelli to the substitutes bench despite a creditable display in the draw against Cardiff, accommodating new arrival Gabor Kiraly, but the German’s coach departure left Kit Symons – a long-term admirer of Bettinelli’s – in charge of first-team affairs. His return to the number one spot came against Blackburn, where he was only beaten by a clinical Jordan Rhodes strike, and his penalty save against Doncaster Rovers on Tuesday was pivotal, as Fulham were just beginning to show signs of collapsing short of the winning line.
For a team not used to grinding out results, having confidence in the goalkeeper is absolutely essential. When the visitors were well and truly under the cosh at St. Andrew’s yesterday, Bettinelli stood tall. Lee Clark’s side should certainly have been well clear by half-time – and the fact that they weren’t owed much to a super save from the rampaging Jonathan Grounds before the half-time whistle. There was even better to come after the break as Brek Shea burst through on goal. The American’s fierce drive seemed destined for the top corner before the diving Bettinelli intervened to turn it over the bar. On such moments do matches then.
Encouragingly, there’s far more to Bettinelli’s game than reaction stops. His leadership qualities are impressive in one so young as is his ability to organise a defence that still looks alarmingly shaky at times. Bettinelli’s distribution can also aid a swift counter-attack as we first witnessed that night at Griffin Park and, an almost nonchalant throw-out, found an unmarked team-mate towards the half way line in the second half yesterday. It’s been a long wait – but Bettinelli’s patience and persistence has certainly paid off.
Kit Symons praised his side’s spirit after they battled back from a goal down at Birmingham to record Fulham’s first win of the season this afternoon.
Second half strikes from Tim Hoogland and Hugo Rodallega secured a 2-1 victory at St. Andrew’s and helped lift the Whites off the bottom of the Championship table. Symons saluted his players self-belief and determination after they produced a much-improved second half display to turn the match on its head.
I’m absolutely delighted for the players, for the fans and for the whole football club. Winning breeds confidence and gives you momentum. That’s what we’ve got now, two wins on the spin, and we need to build on it.
It’s a start, and that’s all it is. But it’s a great start to have. Belief was the word we spoke about before the game, and at half-time, because I don’t think we really showed the belief in the first half but in the second half we showed it in abundance. We’ve got really quality in this group but we’ve got real character as well, and when you get the two together, you’ve got a chance.
Symons admitted he had to tell a few home truths in the dressing room at half time after a lacklustre and disappointing display was punished by David Cotterill’s fine strike seven minutes before the break.
[I told them to] liven up a bit because we didn’t get going at all. Our defending was a little bit loose and our passing was absolutely awful. We were overplaying in the wrong areas and it was a poor first-half performance. Birmingham were the better side and they deserved their lead.
But the players took on board what we told them at half-time, what we asked them to do differently, and they came out and did it fantastically well. We got two goals and then we could have got a couple more. Although they were pushing for the equaliser, our goal looked pretty solid, pretty safe and we looked more likely to score the next goal as well.
In the three games since I’ve taken over, we seem to do either very well first half and drop off in the second half or the other way. If we could actually start playing well for 90 minutes of football, it’d be a doddle this job but unfortunately it’s not quite as simple as that.
Symons saved special praise for the performance of Fulham goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli who kept the Cottagers’ in the contest with a string of fine saves.
Marcus is an excellent keeper, we’ve known that for a long, long time. He been thrown in the first team maybe earlier than he would have imagined, and maybe we imagined. But he’s been given an opportunity and he’s taken it, and sometimes that’s the way things work out.
He can’t do a lot more than that, a penalty save to win us the cup game on Tuesday night and an inspired performance today. He’ll be very pleased, and I’m very pleased with him.
Hugo Rodallega must like Birmingham. Six months ago, on a rare first team appearance he breathed new life into Fulham’s ultimately doomed relegation battle with a late winner at Villa Park. This afternoon, on the other side of the second city, his cool close range finish from the tightest of angles completed a spirited comeback against Birmingham City, sealing Fulham’s first league win in 168 days and lifting the Londoners off the foot of the table. This gutsy display – following on from Tuesday’s Capital One Cup win over Doncaster Rovers – might also just strengthen caretaker Kit Symons’ claims to take over from Felix Magath on a permanent basis.
Certainly, Symons should receive plenty of plaudits for Fulham’s much improved second half performance at St. Andrew’s. Lifeless and lacking both bite and creativity in the first half, the visitors were much more tigerish after the break, with half-time substitute Kostas Stafylidis typifying the extra vitality in his own whole-hearted performance. Symons’ gamble to replace the talented Bryan Ruiz with a third striker in the form of England under-21 international, Cauley Woodrow, in search of a winner was also pivotal and richly rewarded with Rodallega’s clever finish.
For a while, it looked as if Birmingham’s wretched home run of just one league win in their last 22 matches might be coming to an end. The Blues had created the better chances in a first half that was short on quality with Welsh international David Cotterill the most likely source of a goal. His two dangerous crosses provided chances that were passed up by Clayton Donaldson and Jonathan Grounds, although he had been guilty of missing the best opportunity, dragging a shot wide of the far post from ten yards after Fulham were sliced open far too easily.
If Symons, who assists his former Fulham team-mate Chris Coleman as Wales manager, had warned his side about Cotterill’s ability, they failed to heed his words. His first goal since a summer move from Doncaster arrived nine minutes before the break in majestic fashion, when he was afforded the time and space to cut in from the left and curl a splendid effort into the top corner beyond the helpless Marcus Bettinelli. Fulham, for whom Rodallega spurned the best chance when he miscued an acrobatic volley from seven yards out, should have been further behind before the half-time whistle but for a smart reaction save from Bettinelli when Grounds broke clear in added time.
The visitors were indebted to Bettinelli, who saved a penalty to ensure progress past Doncaster in the Capital One Cup in midweek, again just before the hour when a swift Birmingham break saw Demerai Gray send Brek Shea through on goal with a perfectly weighted pass, but the Stoke City loanee’s fierce shot was superbly parried by Bettinelli at full-stretch. That save proved crucial as Fulham broke from the Birmingham corner with Rodallega’s pace and persistence winning the away side a corner of their own. The ball broke to Nikolay Bodurov from Ross McCormack’s flag-kick and, although the Bulgarian’s speculative shot from fully thirty yards was weak, it eventually found its way to Tim Hoogland, whose own scuffed effort beat Darren Randolph after a deflection off David Edgar.
The scrappy nature of the goal was immaterial – it galvanised Symons’ side. They should have taken the lead just four minutes later but, after being found by Rodallega, McCormack placed his shot too close to Randolph and the keeper saved with his feet. The momentum was with Fulham now and they grabbed a second in the 71st minute. A horrible mistake from Darren Spector diverted McCormack’s pass away from Randolph and into the path of Rodallega, who toed it away from the goalkeeper and calmly hooked the loose ball into the net from an acute angle – sparking delirious celebrations in front of more than 900 visiting fans.
Birmingham’s confidence had deserted them and Fulham, without a win in the league since a narrow home victory over Norwich last April also secured by Rodallega, might have made a nervy last quarter of an hour far more comfortable had McCormack finished another presentable chance put on a plate for him by Rodallega. The Scottish striker snatched at his finish and Randolph was again able to save, but Fulham clung on for a crucial victory.
BIRMINGHAM CITY (4-2-3-1): Randolph; Spector, Grounds, Robinson, Edgar; Reilly, Davis; Duffy (Shea 45), Gray (Thomas 72), Donaldson; Cotterill. Subs (not used): Doyle, Gleeson, Hall, Johnstone.
GOAL: Cotterill (38).
FULHAM (4-1-2-1-2): Bettinelli; Hoogland, Amorebieta, Bodurov, Burn; Parker; Hyndman (Stafylidis 45), Christensen; Ruiz (Woodrow 66); McCormack, Rodallega. Subs (not used): Kiraly, Kavanagh, G. Williams, Smith.
GOALS: Hoogland (63), Rodallega (71).
REFEREE: Simon Hooper (Wiltshire).
Fulham secured just their second win in ten matches thanks to first-half goals from Bryan Ruiz and skipper Dan Burn but caretaker manager Kit Symons was relieved to be in the hat for the fourth round after a second half Doncaster Rovers revival was only halted by a late penalty save from goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli.
Symons, whose hopes of succeeding Felix Magath on a permanent basis will have been boosted by this victory, saw his side take a two g0al lead after imposing themselves on their League One opponents from the outset. Bryan Ruiz, making only his second start of the season following an outstanding World Cup with Costa Rica, opened the scoring with a touch of international class. The Fulham playmaker arrived just inside the box to expertly drive home Hugo Rodallega’s inviting knock down from Fernando Amorebieta’s crossfield pass to put Fulham in front midway through the first half.
The home side had already spurned two glorious chances to go ahead in the first couple of minutes. Ross McCormack was denied the dream start inside thirty seconds by a superb reaction save from Jed Steer after the Scottish international striker had skipped effortlessly past two challenges to create enough space for a shot. Rodallega wasted an even better opening five minutes later when he brought down Emerson Hydnman’s fine through ball expertly but the former Wigan forward contrived to send his shot wide of the far post as he raced in on goal.
Doncaster served notice of their intentions and made have gone in front when themselves had Marcus Bettinelli not handled the ball outside his penalty area after Paul Keegan had beaten Dan Burn to a long ball and threatened to run through on goal. The referee deemed that Bettinelli’s slip that took him out of the area was accidental and that he was not denying a goalscoring opportunity given that Keegan was running away from goal. Dean Furman then went close with two long shots – the first deflecting off Burn and landing on the roof of Bettinelli’s net – and the second dragged wide from a cleverly worked corner.
Fulham were pressing forward themselves and Kostas Stafylidis, deployed on the left of three central midfielders, almost doubled the lead in emphatic style but Steer was able to fist away his powerful shot from twenty yards. The Whites didn’t have to wait long for a second goal, however, after a quickly-taken corner and a one-two between Ruiz and McCormack saw the captain head home his first goal for the club from McCormack’s flighted cross to the back post.
If the home fans were then expecting a comfortable cruise into the next post, it didn’t materialise. Doncaster manager Paul Dickov threw on striker Theo Robinson and former Brentford midfielder Harry Forrester at half-time in an attempt to galvanise his troops and it worked as Rovers battled their way back into the contest. First, experienced winger Jamie Coppinger burst into the box and cut inside Dan Burn before curling a superb finish into the far corner with his right foot from an acute angle. Then, Forrester escaped a couple of challenges before bringing a fine low save out of Bettinelli, before referee Kevin Friend harshly adjudged that Tim Hoogland had handled a header from Robinson, despite being barely two yards away. The substitute took the spot-kick himself but perhaps justice was done as Bettinelli sprung to his right and saved a tame penalty.
McCormack might have made the game safe in the closing stages but for a brilliant save from Steer who somehow got his fingertips to a curling free-kick that seemed destined to find the top corner and Fulham were undoubtedly relieved to hear the final whistle.
FULHAM (4-3-2-1): Bettinelli; Hoogland, Bodurov, Burn, Amorebieta (Kavanagh 69); Christensen, Hyndman, Stafylidis (Parker 72); Ruiz (G. Williams 81), McCormack; Rodallega. Subs (not used): Kiraly, Roberts, David, Woodrow.
BOOKED: Bettinelli, Bodurov,
GOALS: Ruiz (16), Burn (32).
DONCASTER ROVERS (4-2-3-1): Steer; Wakefield (McCombe 89), Evina, Warbara, McCullough; Wellens (Robinson 45), Keegan; Coppinger, Furman, Bennett (Forrester 45); Tyson. Subs (not used): Marosi, Askins, De Val, Ferguson.
GOAL: Coppinger (60).
REFEREE: Kevin Friend (Leicester).
The season starts here. After the chaos of the last… well it seems like forever, doesn’t it, we can start to think about games on their merits. Birmingham away becomes Birmingham away, not another episode in Mike Gregg’s Felix Bingo, not another excruciating exercise in demonstrating how far we’ve fallen. No, it feels like games are about to get winnable.
Birmingham’s a nice fixture in this sense. They opened up with a defeat at Middlesbrough, beat Brighton 1-0 at home, drew 2-2 with Ipswich, then at Brentford (1-1), before being thumped 3-0 by Sunderland in the League Cup and 4-0 at Wigan in the league.
In September they’ve drawn with Leeds, lost at home to Sheffield Wednesday (Blues manager and friend of Fulham, Lee Clark: “We were the dominant team in the first half and then the second half things changed too dramatically for us.”) and drawn away at Norwich, surrendering a 2-0 lead in the process (Clark: “there so many positives to take from this – we look a good team when we do things right. Today a mad five minutes cost us a win – but not many teams will come here and getting any sort of positive result.”)
It kinds of sounds familiar: a biggish team that somehow less than itself at the moment and trying to draw optimism from a tricky situation. (It should be a good game, and if you are travelling to the match and need overnight accommodation in Birmingham, ibis hotels has a few affordable options.)
I’m expecting a tight encounter as Fulham move to solidify. Hopefully Kit Symons gets a few weeks to show what he can do.
Filed under: General
From Felix Magath’s facebook page:
Dear Facebook friends and fans, incorrect messages deal with my work. For you the clarification. I put this on your judgment and objectivity. This “cheese story” of the player’s Hangeland is cheese like nonsense. I would never prescribe a physician but, what he has to do. I told only the player with an inflammation in the knee, in addition with the old recipe Quark to To try it. Unfortunately, misrepresentation of hillside lands of media in its distorted portrayal is applied. It is however different. Compliment the work of the German press agency, work carefully and ask directly, before they put something in the public domain.
Often, footballers, reached no more attention with their services via verbal appearance to give a public. I have never experienced such behavior by world-class people such as Michael Ballack and Raul. Regarding alleged hard in the Club, I would like the Assistant Coach of Nottingham Forest, Steve Wigley, quote, worked with me in Fulham and publicly expressed a few days ago: “I like Felix, he was Very good to me during this time.”
I would like to be judged objectively in the profession after my work. Otherwise you don’t see it safely in your everyday also. Against criticism, I have absolutely nothing to argue against unprofessional controversy and Backbiting, mixed with stories of alleged “insiders” I keep myself. However, Me too will proceed.
If your questions for me, just to the attached email address, I will answer then this soon on my website. Thank you for your attention and support.
Greetings and See you.
Your Felix Magath
Filed under: General
So no, Brede Hangeland wasn’t just bitter. Read this. I’ll post it all actually, as it’s important. Good work, Daniel Taylor.
You might be aware of that scene from I’m Alan Partridge and the little piece of comedy gold when he is informed he isn’t getting another series of his chat show and, one by one, all the ideas he pitches as alternatives – potential classics such as “Monkey Tennis” or “Arm Wrestling with Chas and Dave” – are rejected until he finally snaps, jabs a fork into a block of Stilton and thrusts it into the face of Tony Hayers, the BBC’s head of commissioning.
That little sketch – “D’ya want some cheese?” – comes to mind now Felix Magath has left Fulham and one of the stories that suggests he, too, had some strange ideas of his own before everything unravelled. Again, it involves a large mound of cheese and, much like Alan, it is difficult to know where it leaves him professionally.
It goes back to last season when Brede Hangeland, then the Fulham captain, was diagnosed with a slight thigh injury and the club’s doctor, Stephen Lewis, with more than a decade of working in elite sport, put together a recovery programme to try to get him fit for the weekend. Except Magath thought he knew better. There was another way to treat the problem, he said. So he sent the kit-man to the Tesco in New Malden, a short drive along the A3 from Fulham’s training ground, to buy a large block of cheese.
Hangeland was then told to perch on the end of a massage table and spend the afternoon in that position with a slab of cheese carefully positioned on the sore spot. The cheese, according to Magath, would have soothing effects. Hangeland was a sceptical patient and, funnily enough, Lewis decided a few months later he would rather stick to more orthodox practices and left to join Brighton and Hove Albion. Hangeland could not wait to get away either and has been a frequent critic of Magath ever since. Others, I suspect, will start to be more forthcoming now he is gone because it is clear, speaking to some of the people who have now left Fulham, that his regime was even more bewildering and unpleasant than previously thought.
It is certainly difficult sometimes to remember that the man Fulham sacked on Thursday, bottom of the Championship and dropping like a stone in a well, had won two Bundesliga titles with Bayern Munich and another with Wolfsburg in the previous decade.
The Strange Case of the (Craven) Cottage Cheese is one thing but the stories about Magath are multiple and it would not be any surprise here if Fulham, despite losing their first game with Kit Symons as caretaker manager, begin climbing the league once a bit of common sense returns to the club and now they have started to bring back some of the ostracised players.
The list of outcasts featured Bryan Ruiz, who you may recall featured in many people’s World Cup XIs because of his performances for Costa Rica, and previously included the club’s £11m record signing, Kostas Mitroglou, now on loan at Olympiakos, and Fernando Amorebieta, formerly of Athletic Bilbao. Every day they would be left to mundane exercises on the next pitch to where the first-team squad were going through their sprints. Maarten Stekelenburg used to be with them, too, until he moved to Monaco on loan, and the Magath way was very much to close them off as if they did not exist. Another player was seen talking to Stekelenburg and one of Magath’s coaches ran over to tell him it was not permitted.
Perhaps none of this would have mattered too much had Magath shown he was a brilliant tactician or motivator. Yet this was the man who played Dan Burn, a 6ft 6in centre-half, at right-back in the 4-1 defeat against Stoke City last season that tagged their toes for the relegation morgue. Burn found out on the day of the match and the poor bloke put in a performance that can be accurately measured by the Stoke Sentinel’s post-match interview with Oussama Assaidi. “I felt very sorry for their defender,” the winger said. “He was a nice guy. He asked me to change sides, he didn’t want to play against me any more.” After that game, Magath turned on Burn in the dressing room. When Burn pointed out he had never played that position in his life he, too, was sent into a form of isolation (though, unlike others, he was eventually brought back).
As for Magath’s training methods, the stories are alarming. After one defeat, the German cancelled a day off and brought in everyone to play a full 90-minute match. At other times there have reputedly been three sessions in one day, some purely devoted to running the players until they were close to dropping. It was punishing and primitive and, slowly but surely, the Fulham players came to realise why Magath was known behind his back as “Saddam” at one of his former clubs.
Fulham can hardly say they were unaware of what he was like when his other nickname from Germany was Quälix, a mix of Felix and the verbquälen (to torture). Magath does have a record of achievement behind him but it is an outmoded style and now Fulham probably have a better idea now why Lewis Holtby, on loan from Tottenham, immediately asked to return to White Hart Lane when he found out that Magath, formerly his coach at Schalke, was taking over. In Germany, the joke is that Magath stopped winning matches because the opposition always included some of his former players – who disliked him so much they would give everything to beat him.
Magath had not been in work for 18 months when Fulham’s owner, Shahid Khan, offered him a way back in February and the only conclusion to draw is that his old-school style of boot camp management just does not work in modern-day football. Players don’t want to run until they fall or operate in an environment where they hardly dare utter a word. When they have been made to run through woods for 45 minutes, they don’t want to find the manager has emptied their water bottles for reasons only he knows.
One story has emerged of Magath calling players into his office and then just staring at them for two or three minutes without saying a word. Another comes from this season when two of Fulham’s first-year pros turned up late for training and Magath fined them so heavily it led to a meeting of the club’s senior players to decide how to take him on.
Eventually, the captain, Scott Parker, went to see him and tried to argue that the amount of money involved was not really fair for two teenagers on relatively low salaries. Parker explained there was a legitimate reason why they had been late and did his polite best to make it clear the punishment was disproportionate to the crime. Magath refused to budge. “They need to be taught a lesson,” he said. Parker – a class act – ended up paying the fines.
The theory here is that Magath brought through so many of Fulham’s academy-produced players because it better suited his control-freakishness, on the basis they were less likely to argue and more likely to fall in line, like Daleks. There is a difference, though, between being a manager who wants power and rule and one who is unreasonable and dictatorial to the point that it alienates everyone. Magath, to put it bluntly, was an unpleasant man and the trail of ill feeling he has left behind him brings to mind what Jefferson Farfán of Schalke once said about his former manager. “All the managers at Schalke in the last few years gave something to the club,” Farfán said. “The only coach who didn’t leave anything positive behind was Magath. All he left behind were fines.”
For Fulham, it could take some while to repair the damage. Yet Symons, I’m reliably informed, is one of football’s good guys and already working to make Craven Cottage a happy place again behind the scenes. The chalk to Magath’s cheese.
Filed under: General
Kit Symons has left nobody in any doubt that he would love to become Felix Magath’s permanent successor at Fulham. The former Fulham centre back has been in a key figure in the rise of the club’s much-heralded Academy since he retired from playing and took up part-time scouting duties with his old club, coaching both the club’s Under 18s and Under 21s with significant success. In his third role as a caretaker, Symons has designs on the top job but his first audition for the main role was spoiled by the sending off of defender Sean Hutchinson for a wild tackle shortly before half-time and the predatory instincts of Jordan Rhodes, which denied a spirited Fulham side the point their gutsy performance might have merited.
There was plenty to like about Symons’ first game in charge, especially as it come less than 48 hours after the departure of Felix Magath following the 5-3 reverse at Nottingham Forest on Wednesday night. There was a return for World Cup star Bryan Ruiz, among several players seemingly frozen out towards the end of Magath’s 217 days in charge, although the Costa Rican captain clearly needs game time before we can see the skills that carried his unfancied nation all the way to the last eight in Brazil. Fulham were well-drilled and well-organised but lacking the killer instinct that a poacher like Rhodes, with whom they were heavily linked last season, provides in the opposition penalty box.
For all their organisation and desire, Fulham fashioned few clear-cut chances in a first half that was high on endeavour but low on real quality. Hugo Rodallega, whose partnership with Ross McCormack prompted a brief second half revival at Forest in midweek, fluffed the best opportunity, sending a low shot inches wide when he perhaps should have done better after a fine Fulham seized on a mistake by Tom Cairney. The game turned on the sending off when Hutchinson tried to atone for a heavy touch having carried the ball out of defence by lunging in. His two-footed tackle left a nasty mark – and thankfully nothing more – on Blackburn’s Lee Williamson and there could no complaints after the distraught defender, who had conceded a controversial penalty at the City Ground, was sent off.
Without a centre back and a man down for the remainder of the contest, Fulham were always vulnerable to the sucker punch as they pressed on regardless. The winner – a scrappy goal – arrived just before the hour. The home side failed to properly clear a Blackburn corner and Corry Evans’ deflected shot fell kindly for Rhodes, who finished with aplomb. There was plenty of fight from the ten man, but no equaliser despite their best efforts. A quick counter-attack created a chance for Ross McCormack but Jason Steele got his angles right to produce a smart save and Tim Hoogland’s late swivel and shot flashed just wide of the near post.
Owner Shahid Khan will be hoping this managerial change will produce a greater impact than the two in Fulham’s last calamitous campaign as another relegation is a distinct possibility for a side – short on quality – that have now lost seven of their first even games.
FULHAM (4-3-2-1): Bettinelli; Hoogland, Hutchinson, Burn, Amorebieta; Christensen, Parker, Stafylidis (Roberts 83); Ruiz (G. Williams 73), McCormack; Rodallega. Subs (not used): Kiraly, Bodurov, Kavanagh, Hyndman, Dembele.
BOOKED: McCormack, Hoogland, Amorebieta.
SENT OFF: Hutchinson (45).
BLACKBURN ROVERS (4-4-1-1): Steele; Baptiste, Olsson, Hanley, Duffy; Williamson (Taylor 45), Evans, Cairney (Conway 50), Marshall; Gestede (Varney 78); Rhodes. Subs (not used): Eastwood, Kilgannon, Henley, King.
BOOKED: Taylor, Evans.
REFEREE: Andy D’Urso (Billericay).
One by-product of poor man management is players feeling on edge. Take Shaun Hutchinson. On his Fulham debut he had a rough time of it. The right move then, I’m sure, was to play him the next week and let him play through his mistake. But no, he was frozen out. What happens in that time? Hutchinson, at a new club, presumably starts to fret. He wants to impress his new teammates, the fans, and instead all anyone’s seen of him is a bad hour at Ipswich.
His luck didn’t change in midweek when what looked like a really good tackle was punished with a penalty kick. By now Hutchinson, keeping score in his head, is really feeling it. He’s clearly desperate to do well but so far the move hasn’t been panning out.
He gets another go against Blackburn and seems to be playing quite well, then, as half-time approaches, he sees a chance. He surges forwards, but his touch is heavy. He’s trying so hard though, he thinks he can impose himself on the loose ball. He gets it horribly wrong, his opponent goes off on a stretcher and Hutchinson sees the red card that only underlines what a nightmare his Fulham career has been. He stands in disbelief. He buries his head in his hands. As he walks off he holds his hands up to the crowd in apology. He knows he’s blown it. He knows that this fiasco of a season is going to keep being a fiasco for another week.
(symons: Shaun was distraught in the changing room at half-time,” stated Symons. “It was a straight red, there was no doubt about it. The one good thing is that Williamson is okay as it was a poor tackle; a typical centre-half trying to come out and play, makes a poor touch and tries to make amends but compounds the situation. He knew it was a bad tackle but there’s no malice in Shaun at all and he’s upset and disappointed.) (which is how to deal with these things, right? Don’t throw him under the proverbial bus)
But that aside, today was as good as Fulham have been this season. There was some sense of team play there, and while it was true the Blackburn ‘keeper hadn’t been unduly troubled, he certainly would have been worrying when Hugo Rodallega’s screamer flew just wide. The team seemed composed on the ball, more coherent certainly, and if it didn’t all come together then, well, I guess we can’t expect too much too soon, given everything that’s gone before.
The signs are good though. Scott Parker, who I feel is now getting excessively criticised, had a huge game in the middle of the park. He looks fitter and hungrier, and is starting to play the leader’s role we’ve all been expecting. Parker deserved his criticism last year but in the Championship he’s a huge asset. Well done, him. well done the team in general, really.
Kit Symons wasn’t afraid to use his best players so we saw Amorebieta and Ruiz in the same team for the first time this season, and clearly this is a good thing. If Ruiz didn’t carve out anything special he showed some nice touches in the middle of the pitch, and as he gets games under his belt he seems destined to shine. Rodallega and McCormack, likewise, will I’m sure develop into one of the division’s top pairings, and both are starting to show their class. McCormack probably isn’t getting the volume of chances he needs just yet but the team’s been awful, hasn’t it? As things improve – and I have never been more certain that they will – so too will the goalscoring opportunities for our forwards.
Sometimes you have to look beyond the result. And even a bit beyond the performance. For the second time in three games the team’s been down to 10 men, so that’s either a sign of ill-discipline or one of those things. The Forest penalty was extremely harsh, and while we can hardly claim bad luck in conceding five goals in that game, it’s fair to say that the rub of the green isn’t going Fulham’s way just yet. Even today’s concession was slightly unfortunate.
It’ll get better. Honestly, it will. We’re more likely to go up than down.
Filed under: General
At last, Magath has gone. While most people were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt after the first 3-4 games (particularly considering the integration of youth in to the team and squad) but understandably, patience was quickly lost. There were too many baffling decisions that on no fundamental level, or at least not one that I could see, could be termed rational. Our possession play was okay, but our defending woefully, woefully inept, our team structure arbitrary (Scott Parker as a false 9?), players – very good players at that – frozen out at a whim, no consistency in team selection, an overhaul in the summer which, in my opinion, was far too radical (and I will never forgive Magath for selling Stockdale). There was a huge departure from the Fulham ethos.
Anyway, that’s that. It has been destructive, and almost certainly means that we will be in the Championship beyond next summer, but order is born out of chaos. Kit Symons si the man charged with bringing about that order for now in his role as caretaker manager, but there are many reasons why he should stay.
1. He’s sensible.
This is almost trivial, but the last sensible man we had was Roy Hodgson, a long four years ago now. We need someone to restore order and structure to the first team at least, something that Kit has demonstrated he can do with the youth teams he’s managed. No more leaving Bryan Ruiz out of match day squads, no more lineups that feature 6 defenders, no more Ross McCormack at left wing (hopefully). I think professionalism is the word. His presser today is worth watching (go to FulhamFC.com to catch up on everything). We have players here good enough to get results on the pitch without the most spectacular tactical mind, it’s just a case of organising them in to a cohesive system.
2. He’s Fulham.
In his presser today, Kit has already alluded to the fact that he is a Fulham man, having firstly played a large role in our rise up to the Premier League and then in the background structure of the club since 2009, and right off the bat there will be a ‘feel-good factor’ around the team, a nice contrast to the cloud that had been hanging over the club for a few weeks now. At least he won’t have to wait for results for fervent support from the fans, and his appointment won’t be received with the degree of scepticism appointments usually do.
3. He’s worked with the U21s.
There is not much to be proud of about Fulham at the moment, but one of them is the integration of young players in to our first team squad. We’ve seen some real quality from the likes of Chris David and Emerson Hyndman (the latter of which looks like he’s been playing first team football for years), and Burgess has also made an impression. Symons has worked with the younger players for coming up to five years now, and is familiar with him as well as having partial responsibility for their development. I would also assume they have an affinity with him, which is no bad thing between a boss and a player. It should also be remarked he got some good results as well.
4. He has conviction.
Kit seems to have a lot of good characteristics and elements that means he will be a successful boss, but most importantly is that he wants it. He stated as bluntly as one could his ambition to become manager full-time, and that conviction and resolve will carry him through to success.
This season is effectively a write-off, although we could still push for a play-off place. Why not let Kit develop as first team manager?
If you forget the voices he talks a lot like Roy did, nothing outlandish, very straightforward, common sense. Encouraging start to the Kit regime.
Filed under: General
A few pieces come to mind when thinking of Magath. The fact they’re about American football and their titles and the specifics don’t really matter as much as their essence.
Piece #1, from a former football player who spent one week at a certain team with a hated coach:
The psychology goes like this: Players used to love the game. They enjoyed their talent and had high self-esteem. If a coach comes along who makes them feel insecure and paranoid, they begin to hate the game. Then they begin to hate the man who made them hate the game. When they hate the man, they hate his agenda. His agenda, in this case, is an impersonal obsession with winning a football game, with (the perception is) little respect for the players who are doing the winning. The result: a player who doesn’t care whether his team wins or loses. And it happens constantly.
The good coaches are malleable, open-minded, humble. The good coaches make it feel like it’s our team, not his team. The good coaches understand that there is a fine line between being prepared and being confounded. The good coaches adjust their approach when they see 53 grown men ready to cry on a daily basis. These are the best athletes in the world. You don’t have to run them into the ground and call them pussies. You simply have to turn them loose. Sure, you must do so intelligently, with the opposing team’s strengths and weaknesses in mind. But you can’t project your own pedantic, inactive analysis of the game onto the athletes who actually have todo it.
In the 21st century, NFL players are smart enough to distinguish between actual discipline (having a well-structured operation) and the bullshit old-school disciplinarian discipline. They know that a guy like Schiano is being a hardass because a) he gets off on it and b) he doesn’t really know what the fuck he’s doing. If you know what you’re doing, you usually don’t have to be a cock. If you haven’t, read former NFL tight end Nate Jackson’s account of Eric Mangini’s reign of terror in Cleveland for a good idea of just how far these nutjobs can take it.
Study after study has proven there are many good substitutes for Schiano’s redassed brand of leadership, and that it should be phased out of all aspects of American society entirely—in coaching, parenting, teaching, business management, etc. And now most NFL teams are doing just that. You can’t separate head coaches into “player’s coaches” and “disciplinarians” the way you used to. A good NFL head coach wins his players’ confidence by being detailed and having an answer for everything, not by being some stern daddy figure who demands you fight for his grudging approval. He doesn’t demand discipline. He inspires it.
Filed under: General
The other day Hade and I were watching Peter Kay. I always think I don’t really like Peter Kay, then I see him and can’t stop laughing. This time he was on some regional news programme and interrupted the weather by crawling along then appearing in front of the map from the bottom of the screen. In itself this wasn’t that funny, but in Kay’s hands we chuckled away. Now, if David Cameron or Adrian Chiles or even Jimmy Carr had done this very same thing we’d have thought “no.” But Kay made us laugh. I don’t know why.
It feels like ties to a club should make no difference. Whenever I see another team hire a former player to an important role I do think “hmm”. Is that really the best qualified person for the job? Sometimes it might be though. It does feel though that the fans are quite fed up with the stinking sinking ship we’ve seen, and let’s face it, the ‘pick the best manager you can find’ approach isn’t exactly working for Fulham’s crack team of head-hunters.
Point is, we’re in a bit of a mess. Yes, the team will surely improve and at some point give the Championship a good hiding, but that might not be for a while. We might lose a few games. We might take a while to integrate the kids. There might not be a goalkeeper on sale in January!
So having some ‘untouchables’ at the helm for a rebuild might not be the worst idea. Take this season. If Danny Murphy had presided over this start fans would be disappointed but not furious. It would be acknowledged that things take time, that Murphy was working out his best team, etc. Any anger would be aimed at the, er, suits, which increasingly feels about right. A Murphy/Symons combination would have enough goodwill in the bank to withstand much that fans would otherwise get angry about.
I think you have to assume that this isn’t going to be some jetpack/trampoline promotion situation just yet, and while I’m convinced the team will get better, maybe the time is right to go into a holding mode. Stop buying in randoms and think about the next good Fulham team and who’s going to be in it. And while we move from A to B, have Symons and Murphy steering.
Filed under: General
Well there we go, it happened.
It’s pointless trying to defend the undefendable – clearly Magath was not fit for purpose – but as with most recent Fulham decisions, the timing is iffy.
Honestly, you decide after an away defeat to the top of the table team that enough is enough?
Never mind. It’s a long season and there’s plenty of petrol left in the tank.
Whatever the manager’s merits, at some point you have to take supporter sentiment into account. Tension, anger and frustration have a way of finding their way onto the pitch. The players needed room to breathe. Magath had to go, for every reason.
In some ways the next manager walks into a reasonable position. Magath has done a lot of the dirty work in overhauling the relegation squad. Now, we might not like what he did after he’d overhauled it, but it was a big job and he ploughed through it with some (too much?) gusto.
The new manager also inherits a team that is, if not in a false position, then at least in a position from which we might reasonably expect a significant rebound. It’s the sort of role Harry Redknapp would have loved, jumping into a superficially sinking ship and saving it through the power of regression to the mean.
The players are okay, too. If not all of them are to the new man’s liking, at least there aren’t that many of them and they are mainly quite young. The only glaring personnel problem Magath has left behind is the absence of a goalkeeper, with two kids and Gabor Kiraly fighting for the no.1 jersey. It’s a battle in which nobody wins really, and the folly of letting David Stockdale go seems even worse with hindsight. We don’t know the details but it feels like an idiotic thing to have done, a transaction that might have been vetoed in a less dysfunctional organisation.
Those players that remain are hard to judge, looking fairly bewildered at their predicament. If the new manager picks the first team on merit then he has some dazzling attacking talent to draw on. If he can organise the defence, too, Fulham should be a reasonably good team quite quickly.
Magath feels like the closing of a particularly ridiculous phase in Fulham’s history. The ineptness of the Jol era, the Meulensteen/Curbishley/Wilkins fiasco, then Felix Magath… a long-running comedy of cock-ups. We could say that the next appointment is crucial, but it’s not just that. Looking back, the club’s approach to recruitment has veered all over the place in recent years, with each manager emphasising different types from different regions. Where is the overall direction here? Have the board ceded too much control to too many people?
It feels that way. And for an industry where so much money is flying around, the decision making has often been bewildering. We’ve mentioned Stockdale, but seeing Kasami and Mitroglou having some Champions League success more or less sums up what an absolute shambles Fulham have become. Good enough for the highest level of football, but not for Fulham? And our friend Bryan Ruiz, who had such a fine World Cup, can’t get a game in the Championship. Riiight. These are not the decisions of a club working effectively.
The other stuff – the bewildering team selections, the harsh substitutions, the dropping of players, these might not be optimal management but they’re all things that a manager can reasonably do. The big decisions though, there should be some sort of high level control here. You can’t just walk into a club and act with a free hand; it shouldn’t work that way. Everyone here has a lot of questions to answer. If this were English cricket there’d be an enquiry into prolonged poor performance. I’m sure Mr Khan’s businesses would do the same if one went badly wrong over a sustained period of time, made a series of bad decisions. It’s time for Fulham FC to have a good look in the mirror and decide what it wants to be. Are we blitzing the Championship on the back of mega-spending? Are we coaxing the youth team into a machine for the future? Whatever is decided the fans need to understand the message and need to be on-board with it. The latter is easier said than done, but fans will respond to things being done in what might be called “the right way.” This was always Magath’s problem: he did things badly and unconventionally, and fans never did quite work him out. Fulham can’t afford a repeat of this, so while a track record of some sort is obviously important, the intangibles are not to be overlooked either. Danny Murphy joining the existing temporary setup might make more sense than we think.
We won’t go down. We probably won’t go up. But at least now we can look forward to some kind of coherence about the club. This ought to have been a terrific season, where the kids got their chances and where we didn’t just turn up against the super-rich teams for a hiding. It’s not too late, though. Fulham have done the right thing for the first time in a long time. Let’s see what happens next.
Filed under: General
Fulham have sacked Felix Magath following their dreadful start to the season and replaced the German coach with former defender Kit Symons as a caretaker manager.
Magath, who replaced Rene Meulensteen at Craven Cottage in February, was unable to prevent the club from slipping out of the Premier League after thirteen seasons in the top flight, and had managed just one point from the first seven Championship fixtures. Fulham are rooted to the bottom of the Championship table and the decision comes after they were beaten 5-3 by league leaders Nottingham Forest at the City Ground last night.
Fulham chairman Shahid Khan said in a statement:
This is an unfortunate but necessary change. I am doing what I feel is right and needed for Fulham, for today as well as tomorrow. I thank our supporters for standing by us during these most difficult of times on the pitch, and promise better days ahead.
Khan has pledged to personally lead ‘an immediate and thorough search’ for Magath’s long-term replacement and immediate responsibility for the first team will be handed to former Fulham centre back Kit Symons, who has been coach of the club’s Under 21 and Under 18s and is credited with the rise of Fulham’s successful Academy. Symons, who scored 14 goals in 129 appearances in a three year spell at Craven Cottage as a player, is also assistant to former Fulham manager Chris Coleman, who is currently in charge of the Welsh national side.