London (AFP) – Fulham owner Shahid Khan must have looked at Tuesday night’s Premier League results and wondered where he went wrong and how fellow promoted club Wolves got it so right.
Khan’s gamble on investing over £100 million ($131m, 117m euros) in new players ended in relegation after an abject defeat by Watford on the same night Wolves, who also spent heavily after coming up from the Championship, beat Manchester United to consolidate their place in the top 10.
The ‘Cottagers’ dire campaign rounded off an awful year for Ali — also owner of the NFL franchise Jacksonville Jaguars — as his bid to buy Wembley Stadium also bit the dust.
Wolves Chinese owners meanwhile have been helped by a talented manager in Nuno Espirito Santo, who adapted well from the second tier Championship to the stiffer challenges of English football’s elite.
The former Porto goalkeeper has also been aided by a close relationship with his countryman and super agent Jorge Mendes, who was able to secure highly-rated players like Diogo Jota and the vastly-experienced Joao Moutinho.
Fulham’s recruitment policy by contrast looked incoherent, and it did not help that one of the more talented purchases — Ivory Coast international Jean-Michael Seri — had hoped to go to Barcelona instead.
Manager Slavisa Jokanvoic was unable to blend the new arrivals with the mainstays of the promotion side, and just as Jokanovic’s star dimmed so did that of teenager Ryan Sessegnon, who largely failed to meet the huge expectations which had seen him linked with a move to one of the big six after a sensational campaign in the second tier.
Jokanovic’s successor Claudio Ranieri fared little better, with the amiable Italian unable to conjure up a miracle escape before he too was replaced by interim manager Scott Parker.
Although he said he was looking for leaders to sign in the January transfer window — Chelsea’s veteran central defender Gary Cahill was a prime target — all he came up with was much-travelled Dutchman Ryan Babel and Liverpool flop Lazar Markovic, who has played just 45 minutes since he joined.
– ‘We let you down’ –
“When a club gets relegated you know there are some serious issues,” said Parker tellingly after the Watford defeat.
“I have ideas, but it’s not the time to broadcast it.”
Whether the former England and Fulham midfielder will be entrusted with the job full-time rests with Khan, who issued his own mea culpa to the fans.
“I am sorry that we let you down,” he wrote.
“Our goal this season was to build on what we achieved in promotion and deliver on our pledge to invest heavily in the squad, ensuring that Fulham would always compete in the Premier League and, no matter the result, never disappoint.
“That didn’t occur and, for that, we hold ourselves accountable. We will reflect, plan thoroughly and respond accordingly.”
A clear out will probably be top of the fans list.
Several players who came on loan, such as German World Cup winner Andre Schurrle, will leave automatically under the terms of their contracts.
Parker will hope he doesn’t lose Sessegnon — who has a year left on his present contract but is wanted by Tottenham — and West Ham target Tom Cairney and isn’t lumbered with the expensive flops.
“When you get relegated, clubs change,” Parker said prior to the Watford game.
“In the next few weeks we will all sit down and work out a way forward and the dynamics of the squad.
“That is not just (about the) players, it is the whole place. That is the devastating thing about getting relegated.”
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