Lawrie Sanchez Faces a Huge Mountain to Climb

Northern Ireland manager and Fulham caretaker manager Lawrie Sanchez faces a difficult job the next few weeks on many different levels.

First, he has to somehow instill confidence in a Fulham side that hasn’t won in seven matches. With only five matches to go until the end of the season, Sanchez has little time to make a dramatic difference. Ironically, his first match is against Reading at the Majeski Stadium this Saturday. For six years, Sanchez was a player at Reading where he started his football career.

Fulham’s remaining schedule is Blackburn (h), Arsenal (a), Liverpool (h) and Middlesbrough (a). Out of those matches, Middlesbrough is the only team Fulham can beat based on the track record of the west London side.

Fulham currently has 35 points. If they win against Middlesbrough, those 38 points will probably not be enough to escape relegation, so Sanchez will need to work wonders to get points against Arsenal, Liverpool, Blackburn and Reading — all very difficult opponents.

Second, if Sanchez starts to get points from these matches, the question he’s going to get repeatedly asked by the press is whether he’ll be staying as Fulham manager and leaving Northern Ireland. The national squad doesn’t play until August, so the timing for Sanchez and Fulham is extremely convenient right now (imagine Steve McClaren temporarily managing a Premiership side, god forbid; and who would even take him if McClaren was interested).

Hopefully the anticipated antagonism by the press won’t provide Fulham and Sanchez with any unneeded pressure.

Sanchez has a huge mountain to climb in the space of five weeks. However, all Fulham needs is two wins out of their last five. If he can accomplish that, Fulham and Northern Ireland will be thankful. If he fails to do so, he’ll probably return to Northern Ireland with his tail between his legs, and the Northern Irish fans will hope that this then doesn’t have a negative impact on the country’s performance trying to qualify for Euro 2008.

Between August and November 21st when Northern Ireland plays its last Euro 2008 qualifying match, the country plays six matches — which is probably too much to ask for Sanchez to manage both Fulham and Northern Ireland. However, I’m sure Fulham is focused on the short-term right now and trying to avoid relegation. Best of luck to Sanchez in a difficult situation.

Should Chris Coleman have been sacked? If Sanchez can keep Fulham up, I think the answer is yes despite Coleman’s achievements in recent years. At the end of the day, Fulham has to stay up this season to receive the bundle of TV revenue that Premiership sides will get starting next season. Financially, Coleman’s departure may have been necessary.

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  1. Anonymous April 11, 2007
  2. Allen April 11, 2007
  3. Anonymous April 11, 2007

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