Jeff Stelling
Football Presenter & Columnist

Jeff Stelling: Fulham need three points not three managers

Felix Magath: the right man to save Fulham?

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Fulham have always had the reputation as lovely, homely, friendly club that everyone likes to go to as opposing fans.

A lot of people have followed their rise through the divisions looking at them as Chelsea's less wealthy and smaller neighbours, but I just wonder whether the way they've acted over the last couple of months means they're losing the hearts and minds of people.

Martin Jol had a decent run at the club and people could see the end coming for him but I think we were all surprised with the way Rene Meulensteen was put in as his right-hand man and then immediately given the job when Jol was dismissed. It was as if they'd lined up his successor before he left and the same thing has happened to Meulensteen.

Felix Magath - who has not worked since October 2012 - was broadly tipped to be the new Hamburg manager but negotiations broke down last Thursday and by Friday night he was the Fulham boss.

They brought in Alan Curbishley and Ray Wilkins and in my view they've humiliated two outstanding individuals and given them no chance whatsoever to show they can do anything.

"The nearest example to compare it to is Paulo Di Canio going in at Sunderland at the end of last season; authoritarian rule, had an instant impact and kept them up but for the long term?"

Jeff Stelling

Frankly, if you are going to get rid of Meulensteen you've got two really experienced men already there who know the Premier League inside out. In what I can only think is a knee jerk reaction, they've gone for Magath, who I'll be honest I don't know too much about. I only know what I've read and that is that he's a massive disciplinarian who has had success in Germany. But how much he knows about the Premier League I don't know. In the short term might work.

The nearest example to compare it to is Paulo Di Canio going in at Sunderland at the end of last season. His authoritarian rule had an instant impact and he kept them up. But what will happen in the long term? It certainly didn't work at Sunderland and that might be the fate that faces Fulham as well.

Meulensteen and Wilkins: heaps of Premier League experience but not a lot of time.

Their owner Shahid Khan said about three or four months ago that he didn't believe in short-term change, his priority was "to ensure the club and Craven Cottage each have a viable and sustainable Premier League future". He said that there would be no knee jerk reactions. But since then both Jol and Meulensteen have gone. It was pretty disingenuous to say they hadn't sacked Meulensteen and that he'd still have to work under the new manager - that was never going to be an option was it?

It's all been a horrible mess.

Ageing

They have an ageing squad and they let Meulensteen use the transfer window. He brought in the £11m Greek striker Kostas Mitroglou and never got the chance to play him. The timing was just completely barmy to let him spend the money and bring in players and then not give it the chance to take effect.

Fulham managers this season

  • Martin Jol - Jun '11- Dec '13
  • Rene Meulensteen - Dec '13- Feb '14
  • Felix Magath - Feb '14

The players will react in different ways to Magath's ways, but one thing is for sure he's not going to come in and find a vibrant, athletic young squad. Although it's probably just as well that Dimitar Bebatov and Adel Taarabt aren't there anymore because I'm pretty sure both of them would find it hard work.

This weekend will be a fascinating game because there's West Brom, without a win under Pepe Mel, against Fulham, who are desperate to win with a brand new manager.

I don't want to be the little Englander once again but are West Brom going to regret the fact that they got rid of British coach in Steve Clarke, who was doing a really good job? And are Fulham going to regret the fact that haven't given someone who knew more about the Premier League the opportunity to get them out of trouble? They've got 12 games to save themselves.

Both these clubs were at the recent best under the tutelage of now England manager, Roy Hodgson, and to be fair to West Brom chairman Jeremy Peace, their track record of managerial appointments has been really great. Roberto Di Matteo did well there, Hodgson did really well and Clarke did better than anyone anticipated - and he might be right with Mel in the end but we shall see.

As far as Fulham are concerned they don't have anything like that good a track record of appointments. But three managers in a season generally only means one thing - you want three points not three managers and the bottom three looms because you can't chop and change the way they have done and expect to succeed.

I remember Fulham when they were down in the bottom level of English football playing against the likes of Hartlepool and with one of the smaller fan bases. You just fear if they were relegated from the Premier League that they would find it darn hard to clamber back.

JEFF'S GEM OF THE WEEK

Rosler: doing the business with Wigan.

I was close to going for Sheffield United win over Nottingham Forest but I think I have to go for Wigan's victory over Cardiff in the FA Cup.

We have to give a moment or two to Uwe Rosler, who has done a fantastic job, as he did at Brentford where Mark Warbuton is carrying on that work. But make no mistake, the foundations were firmly laid down by Rosler, who brought in the right calibre of player there and has quickly found his feet at Wigan.

The Lactics are now just outside the play-off places despite the fact they've played something like 43 games this season - which is a huge work load - and they go to Cardiff last weekend with a couple of cup-tied players and come away with a well-deserved victory.

This is fantastic reward for Uwe, who gets to go back to his old club Manchester City in the next round which will be a fantastic occasion.