End of season review: Fulham
By any criteria, this season has been disastrous. Relegation is entirely merited due to the worst defence in the top flight -- truly horrific. Roy Hodgson spun a far greater return from inferior players four years ago thanks to rigid tactical discipline and clever man management. Mark Hughes had the good sense not to meddle with that blueprint, until Martin Jol pitched up in 2011 with his own ideas.
Star pupil: No merit badges have been issued this year. Silver stars only for the following effort: Goal of the season: Pajtim Kasami vs. Crystal Palace (No. 1 in numerous other polls) Most improved player: Ashkan Dejagah Player of the Season: Steve Sidwell -- for both his goals and his heart (the best of a poor bunch) One for the future: Moussa Dembele Detention: This must be a class detention as the Fulham board stand accused of backing Jol too long, then panicking into implementing two further managers midseason. Consequently, the side lacked heart and had no continuity; confusion reigned and a losing mentality set in. Senior players must take a 1,000-line punishment for lack of application, with Bryan Ruiz and Dimitar Berbatov rightly expelled for their shameful lack of effort. From boardroom to dugout, and with an absentee American owner, the perfect storm had blown in by autumn. Teacher’s Notes: Tailing off disastrously the previous season set more than a few alarm bells ringing after Fulham managed just one win from their final eight games through a dismal April and May. Martin Jol clung on over the summer, but many were fearful ahead of the new campaign. Defeat in the final preseason friendly to Parma showed the side lacked quality defensively and in midfield, while nothing was done to reduce the average age of the squad. Supporters were mollified when Scott Parker and Darren Bent were added to the roster, while Adel Taarabt was taken on loan from QPR. Bent and Berbatov up front? Goals would come from these two and allow the Whites to hold station outside the bottom three, surely?
Fulham fans were accustomed to settling for a berth just below midtable, and I was confident there was enough in the locker to finish ahead of Cardiff, Palace, WBA, Hull, Sunderland and Norwich. The reality saw Jol began the season with a poor and old side that quickly got worse. He principally is culpable for Fulham's relegation. Jol's reign eroded all the good work as muddled tactics, destructive man management, lax attention to detail and fitness, and poor judgment in the transfer market set Fulham on the slippery slope. Final grade: F-minus and expulsion to the Championship, where I expect Fulham to languish for at least two seasons until the fourth formers are old enough to become prefects.