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Mar 14, 2014

Last chance saloon

The Fulham players themselves say only a miracle can save the Whites from the drop. I would estimate 50 percent of the support is resigned to the inevitable, and manager Felix Magath himself is being less bullish in his statements. - Report: Cardiff City 3-1 Fulham Fulham are attempting to find a win at the 10th time of asking at home to Newcastle this week. Even three points will not be enough to lift the side off the bottom, and in a week's time they travel to Manchester City. Six points coming up for the Cottagers? You might find yourself being looked at incredulously for suggesting such an outcome, but it's just the kind of sporting absurdity only an infuriating side like Fulham could pull out of the hat. The darkest hour just before dawn and all that. Are there grounds for optimism against a Newcastle side with little to play for, missing both key players like Hatem Ben Arfa and Loic Remy along with their rather "headstrong" manager Alan Pardew? Fulham have trumped the Toon Army on their past four visits to the Cottage. A secret Fulham fan, Londoner Pardew says he's considering anger management courses during his seven match ban for losing his cool at Hull. Why not join the queue here in SW6 while down with the side, where around 20,000 local fans have already signed up since last August? I find it impossible to visit the club's official site these days. It is too galling to see who the latest first team sap is, being cajoled to issue the trite and hollow rallying cry, apology, excuse or plea for backing. No doubt Saturday's crowd will be willing the boys on in the spring sunshine with all their might. Even I have been known to scream and sing along with the mob. On paper this is one game Fulham actually have a chance of winning, especially if they get the rub of the green. How three points would have supporters "believing" again. What undermines my confidence in that happening is the ridiculous nature of Magath's team selections to date. One cannot second guess the German on the evidence so far, or begin to surmise what is being worked on in the week. Magath is seeking an entirely new mindset from a shell-shocked unit that has been drastically churned and we are in the middle of March. Following the meltdown at Cardiff last week, Magath told the press that Fulham would be concentrating on defending this week at Motspur. Former manager Martin Jol told the press precisely the same thing six months ago -- adding the hilarious rider, "We don't concede headed goals like that in practice matches." Poor Jol, he stumbled out the door in December still oblivious to the fact that Fulham, among all their shortcomings, had become the league's most timid team around the opponent's box when the ball is in the air. Nothing then to trouble Newcastle keeper Tim Krul and defenders Saturday, unless Fulham's Kostas Mitroglou has morphed into the fabled Hermes. Magath maintains Fulham can stay up by winning their last five home games. In any other season you would look at the visiting teams and say that was possible. Not in 2014. The Whites have the worst home record in the league. Winning five on the bounce is beyond a side that constantly changes personnel -- and managers at that. A side that has conceded 39 goals in the past 14 matches. A side that has no leaders, a top scorer who plays in midfield, and not one winger among the ranks who can turn defenders. When such recidivist under-achievers as Adel Taarabt, Dimitar Berbatov and even Bryan Ruiz swan off and start scoring elsewhere around Europe, you know management at Craven Cottage has become rotten to the core; the kind of club that hands a 32-year-old Tottenham cast-off a fat three year deal and puts players like Darren Bent on a pedestal. Fulham fans may still believe, but this was the season the squad saw what Jol had reduced Fulham to last May and stopped believing themselves. Do yourself a favour by picking up David Lloyd's latest fanzine (what a read that promises to be!) and also the latest Fultime FFC magazine from the club shop (for my long article on former great John Dempsey). "A very interesting read," as David Hamilton kindly posted. twitter@fulhamphil COYW!