FourFourDrew: The Only Way is Up

Drew Heatley 15th November 2018

It was a whirlwind day for Fulham yesterday as we said goodbye to Slavisa Jokanovic. Drew Heatley looks at what happens now with Claudio Ranieri at the helm.

News yesterday that Slav’s been fired and has been replaced by Claudio Ranieri was the ultimate jab/uppercut combo. We were all left on the deck seeing stars.

Our start’s been awful. Let’s not try and dress it up. But yesterday’s revelations still left us numb. And that’s due to the impact Slav made in a little more than three years at the club. He was our longest serving manager since Cookie a decade earlier, which tells you all you need to know about the lifespan of a modern manager.

What a journey – characterised by 23 games unbeaten and culminating in a Wembley victory that will never fade from the memory banks. So, thank you from the bottom of my heart, Slavisa.

And now, to the future. Ranieri’s in. Shad Khan has described him as “risk-free and ready-made for the Premier League”. I agree with the latter point – not so much the former. But despite the risks associated with any managerial change, the thought process from Khan and the board seems far more logical this time around than in 2013/14, when a series of panic-fuelled appointments sent us spinning down to the Championship.

And it’s far more cohesive than the seven-week gap between Kit Symons exit and Slav’s eventual arrival at the end of December 2015. If we were going to make a change – now was always the best time to do it. The fact that Shad and Tony were talking to candidates all last week shows any result at Anfield on Sunday wouldn’t have made a difference. I guess that doesn’t shock anyone and while it might appear harsh, it’s really is the most sensible way of doing things.

There’s a third of the season left to go – and we’re not out of touch by any stretch of the imagination. Say what you like about the quality of the lower half of the Premier League, but the fact we’re still only 12 points off 10th let alone three from safety works completely in our favour. Our season starts now.

Roy Hodgson assumed control at the end of December 2007. We were 17th at that point, level on points with Sunderland in 18th. And we’d just come off a 5-1 tanking from Spurs at White Hart Lane. I’d argue we have far more quality than we had back then – as our performance against Liverpool indicates – and I back us to have more than the 14 points we had then come the end of this year.

That’s because we have some crucial – and winnable – home games between now and 2019. I’d argue we need no fewer than 10 points against Southampton, Claudio’s old club Leicester, West Ham, Wolves and Huddersfield.

Ranieri’s backroom staff and all that housekeeping will presumably be sorted in the coming days (he’s reportedly bringing in six Italians while Scott Parker looks to have avoided the axe). Everything should be in place for the (now huge) game against the Saints on 24 November. If ever a side needed the fabled “new manager bounce”, it’s now.

It’s not often that a manager leaves a football club with so much credit left in the bank with fans. And I think, overall, Slav has that with us. But we’ve spent the first 12 games of this season trying to get our house in order while travelling 100 miles per hour in the Premier League. So, for now, there’s no time to look back – we must look forward. We must look up.