By Morgan Phillips
In December 2015, Fulham approached Christmas without a manager while having secured just four points from their last eight matches.
A 2-0 Boxing Day defeat at Derby County left the club in 18th position – just three points above the relegation zone. Shortly afterwards Fulham announced the appointment of Slavisa Jokanovic. My blog greeted him with these words: “Mr Jokanovic is inheriting a talented and committed squad who should be higher in the table.”
Despite the contributions of Ross McCormack, Mousa Dembele and Scott Parker, Slavisa achieved only two league victories in his first three months, and Fulham ended the season even lower in the rankings (albeit a comfortable number of points ahead of the relegated teams).
It was inevitable that McCormack and Dembele would sign lucrative contracts elsewhere, and Scott Parker was nearing the end of his playing career. In 2016-17 with a reorganised squad, Jokanovic not only produced a more entertaining brand of football but actually took Fulham to the playoffs. After that turnaround, this season has been disheartening but supporters continue to hope.
Having watched Fulham for nearly 70 years I still find the team unfathomable. True, there are certain trends. Sunderland had not won a league match at home for 364 days. The club had a new manager, a man once dismissed by Mohammed Al Fayed. Would any team be more likely to bring joy to the north east than Fulham FC?
To make matters worse, Josh Maya, sent on as substitute by Chris Coleman to score the only goal of the match, was once on Fulham’s books. As pleased as I am for our former manager and his protégé, I am more concerned that Fulham should give their own supporters some seasonal joy in the home match against Barnsley on Saturday (23 December).
The next transfer window may change the picture for better if we sign a genuine striker – and play him regularly! Or perhaps worse if we lose Ryan Sessegnon.
I fear that Slavisa relies excessively on midfielders even though the tactics that almost brought success last season are now looking stale and predictable. Of course, my judgment may be flawed. In the blog written two years ago when Jokanovic arrived I mentioned seven Fulham players, mostly in a positive way. Not one is still with the club.
So I’ll take this opportunity to wish a Merry Christmas to the players, administrators and supporters of Fulham FC. Here’s to a successful 2018!
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not necessarily those of Hammersmith & Fulham Council.
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