The penultimate weekend of the Premier League season has come to a close, and two teams have seen their seasons end in disaster. Fulham and Cardiff have both now been sent down into the Championship. For both teams it has been a season to forget. Troubled by owners and management changes it is not a surprise that relegation has found them.
Fulham started the season with optimism, having a new owner in Shahid Khan who promised to back Martin Jol, the then Fulham manager, with transfers to progress the team. That promise however was not to be met and with only a few relatively low key players brought in during the summer, it was evident from the start that Jol did not have the backing he needed.
From here Fulham’s season really started to take shape, only five wins going into December saw Martin Jol out the door, but it was the manner in which he left that amplified a club that had become very lost under its new ownership. René Meulensteen was brought in as an assistant to Jol which in itself seemed unusual at the time, and as many reports suggested he then was put in charge from December.
Once again a bizarre situation to sack a manager who has so much experience and success both in this league and aboard to replace him with Meulensteen who has not got the required level of first team management to turn Fulham back into a force.
Meulensteen only notched up four wins before suffering the same fate as his fellow countryman Jol. The thought process from Fulham has to be questioned again. Added to this fiasco, Alan Curbishley and Ray Wilkins were both brought in as technical and assistant roles in the new management structure, only to be sacked along with Meulensteen. Their appointments showed little faith in the Dutchman anyway and just created a ‘too many cooks’ scenario.
Transfer dealings were also subject to debate during the mid-season. The signing of £11 million pound Konstantinos Mitroglou from Champions League Olympiacos came as a major surprise, but it soon became evident that Fulham had been flogged a dead horse, with the big Greek striker out injured for the majority of the season since his arrival.
Felix Magath was then drafted in to guide Fulham to safety from mid-February; unfortunately he inherited a poisoned chalice. Players already disillusioned by constant changes and a real lack of fight, Magath never really had long enough to work any magic. He himself has only managed three wins, which is once again worse off than what Jol had managed earlier in the season. In hindsight, if you ask Fulham supporters if they would have stuck with Jol I am sure the majority would say yes.
Cardiff City unlike Fulham have not had the manger merry go round but the one change they made was a pivotal one. Like Jol, Malky Mackay had only won five of his games when he received his marching orders. It was the manner of the sacking that annoyed the fans. Owner Vincent Tan did not back Mackay in the transfer market but ironically then flashed the cash once his successor was appointed.
The problem was the uncertainty around the club – when or if Mackay was going to go. If Tan did not want Mackay he should have just sacked him early on, and saved the bad taste. The fans clearly backed the Scotsman which you could see by the banners on display in the game at Anfield. The owner did not help himself with changing the club’s colours but that is a different story.
Ole Gunner Solskjær replaced Mackay, but has barely done any more than his predecessor. The lesson needs to be learned by Fulham and Cardiff. Crystal Palace replaced their manager this season – but with Tony Pulis, a proven Premier League manager, not a shot in the dark. You cannot afford to gamble in such a competitive league.
Both teams need to take a good look at themselves, and going into next season keep the faith with the management team they have selected. Solskjær and Magath deserve a summer to build a team capable of returning to the elite. That being said they both have to be willing to stick with their respective clubs.