Kostas Mitroglou (right) in a file photo. Fulham fans were overjoyed when they got Greek striker Mitroglou during the January transfer window. – EPA Photo
Can we give up? When is the right time to give up? As I am tapping away on my computer at 5.30am in the morning, my spirit has waived a little, probably from the lack of sleep but mainly because my favourite football team Fulham FC have lost, yet again.
Although not a global club, Fulham have gained recognition for their outstanding performance in 2001 when their objective of being a Premiership club was achieved a year ahead of schedule. Since then, they have worked hard and sustained their status.
This season has not been kind to the Cottagers. New owner Shahid Khan, who took over in June last year, fired manager Martin Jol in December after witnessing five consecutive heart-wrenching losses. Head coach Rene Meulensteen was put in charge and even though there has been some positive transformation, the team’s performance has not soared.
Alan Curbishley and Ray Wilkins, both gentlemen with a wealth of experience, were appointed technical director and assistant head coach respectively. Despite these constructive changes, Fulham’s executions were poor. From the total 24 matches played, Fulham have conceded 53 goals.
Football connoisseurs and fans, after analysing these devastating results concluded that new players are needed to beef up the team. Fulham desperately need a crafty central midfielder to create scoring opportunities and powerful leftback players to fix the goal leakages.
So when the transfer window concluded in January, fans were delighted to see Fulham beef up their midfield with Ryan Tunnicliffe and Larnell Cole from Manchester United and Tottenham’s Lewis Holtby and Stuttgart’s William Kvist on loan for the rest of the season.
But the transfer news that made headlines for Fulham was the battle with West Ham for Greek striker Kostas Mitroglou, nicknamed El Pistolero and Mitrogoal for his goalscoring skills.
Fans were on the edge of their seats, praying that new owner Khan would approve a higher bid than the Hammers to land this much-needed forward. There are also rumours that since West Ham already have Andy Carroll as their prized striker, they are only getting into the action to ensure that Fulham doesn’t have a chance to sign Mitroglou.
At the 11th hour when Fulham’s official website finally announced the successful signing of El Pistolero, hope was reinstalled for Fulham fans across the globe.
The new team were immediately assembled against Southampton the very next day (without Mitroglou for fitness reasons). The Cottagers managed to hold on until half-time when The Saints went marching in and scored three goals, sinking Fulham once again and sending them to the bottom of the table.
The question on everyone's mind, everyone who cares about Fulham that is, is: What went wrong?
We had an unmovable manager who was replaced with a positive Rene. We’ve strengthened the identified problematic areas in performance with new talents and skills. Fulham’s CEO Alistair Mackintosh has worked hard to convince and ensure funds are granted to build the team. Khan is 100% committed to turning this team around and keeping them in the Premier League.
So why are Fulham not winning? Is this the sign that confirms former Liverpool playmaker Steve McManaman was right in urging Fulham to forget the Premier League and go all out for FA Cup glory?
Rene openly admits that keeping Fulham up is one of his biggest challenges. The boys are constantly beaten by opponents and bruised. Fans are repeatedly let down.
There are 14 more matches left. Fulham need seven wins to avoid relegation. Their next match is this Sunday against the Red Devils at Old Trafford. By statistics and crude deduction, I’d have to bid my Fulham a teary Premiership farewell. The saddest part about this is that everything the former chairman Mohamed Al-Fayed did and worked for since 1997 will have been for nothing.
So, with the odds against us, should we give up now?
My head says yes, but my heart says no.
Fulham have a supportive owner, a great managerial team and young potential players whom many fans will follow right into the Championship if it comes down to that. Giving up without a fight however is not an option. This is just another bumpy road – a challenge thrown to the new team during such trying times.
Come on Fulham! We shall not lose hope!