Points, Perspective and Protests

Sammy James 13th March 2019

The gaffer has a column! After much reluctance to put pen to paper, the first edition of Sammy James‘ new column is here. Today, he takes a look at the recent Tony Khan debate, and an update on the #StopTheGreed ticket price campaign, which continues to grow momentum.

It’s been a really grim season hasn’t it? I thought I’d seen some bad Fulham times, particularly the stewardship of Felix Magath, but this just has been another level. A team of which we expected so much, has delivered spectacularly little. Like everything in modern times, we’re all searching for a culprit.

You may have seen this clip on 5 Live Sport last week. Ian Wright, Chris Sutton and Dion Dublin discussing the situation at Fulham, and Ian Wright took particular aim at Tony Khan.

I felt uneasy at this, not because I necessarily agreed or disagreed – just because this was so clearly an uninformed opinion. Phrases such as “he clearly hasn’t got a clue what he’s doing” just did not sit right with me.

Does Ian Wright really understand the inner workings of Fulham’s transfer setup? Does he understand that Fulham was a team that got promoted with numerous holes due to returning loanees, injuries and players not fully at Premier League level? Maybe this is also an assumption, but I’m pretty certain he doesn’t.

I tweeted about this particular clip, and said that anybody looking to hear an informed, balanced opinion on the subject should read Sam Wallace’s insightful article in the Telegraph (you can read for free, you just need to register for an account). It isn’t club propaganda, it acknowledges that the Khans have made serious mistakes in the transfer market, but that the situation is far more complicated and nuanced.

Perspective

For me, there’s factors this season that could and couldn’t have been foreseen. Major injuries to Tim Ream, Joe Bryan, Tom Cairney, Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Alfie Mawson obviously fall into the second camp. The lack of consistent form from star-signing Jean-Michael Seri also falls into that bracket. However, the lack of priority investment in our defence, particularly at full-back, was pretty negligent in my opinion.

It just seems though, that the torrent of abuse being sent Tony’s way is very indicative of modern life in the media. Somebody does a bad job and they should be instantly FIRED for it. It’s become part of the course for football managers, but it seems to transcend to all professions now. Politicians can work tirelessly for 40/50 years, only to fall on their sword due to a careless slip of the tongue in the company of Andrew Marr on a Sunday morning.

Don’t get me wrong, Tony Khan and the powers that be at Fulham have done a spectacularly bad job this season, and I’m sure they’d reluctantly agree, as quite frankly the table doesn’t lie. Sport is ruthless in that sense, it exposes failure and success quite unlike any other business.

Does it warrant quite the reaction we saw above though from Ian and his comrades on 5 Live? For me, no. If we want to look at the facts, then let’s judge Tony on his entire stint. This is the end of his third season, two of which were very successful, the other has been a disaster. I personally believe that there has to be a case that this year is partially cancelled out by the first two.

We are going back to the Championship in a much stronger place than our last relegation 2013/14. We have a young, asset-heavy squad with plenty of Championship experience. Clubs will try and tempt us into selling a few crown jewels, but hopefully given the length of contracts on most key players (Mitro and Cairney both contracted until 2023 for example), the club would receive hefty fees that can be reinvested in the side.

In reality, I think a lot of the negative feeling from fans comes from the nepotism of the situation. It’s something I can understand; positions of power should always be truly earnt. Is Tony fully accountable for what he does? Surely not in a way that others would be. However, keeping a business in the family isn’t always a terrible idea, and I’m sure Tony would argue that having a direct line to his father (one would assume, an extremely busy man) is in Fulham’s best interest.

Ultimately, I’m not critical of those who want a change at the top. My opinion is that we should wait and see what next season brings, but your opinion may differ from that. Differing of view points is good, and I don’t think there’s a clear right answer here. All I would ask is that people really consider the complexity of everything going on at Fulham before drawing their conclusion.

Protests

As I’ve made abundantly clear through the #StopTheGreed campaign, is that whilst I can personally live with terrible performances on the pitch, the ticket prices off it have been nothing short of shambolic. The reaction to the article a few weeks ago has been incredible, and the contributions to the GoFundMe page of over £1000 showed just how strong the feeling is on this issue.

Today the Fulham Supporters Trust launched their ticket price survey, one of their most ambitious fan research initiatives to date. Its aim is to provide real data to Fulham about how we as fans feel about the pricing strategy that we are seeing at Craven Cottage. It’s about showing that this feeling isn’t just of those who use Twitter hashtags, run podcasts and attend supporters trust AGMs, but real every-day fans who feel priced out.

I’ve been really grateful for the FST’s advice to our #StopTheGreed campaign, and this survey in conjunction with the visible protests that we are organising hopefully should send a really strong message to the club. The survey only has real meaning if the volume of participants is there, so please take the 10 or so minutes that it will take to fill it in.

Finally, we have decided that Manchester City on March 30th will be the #StopTheGreed game of action. More details to be announced, but we are working hard to conjure up a really noticeable presence that can draw the issue of ticket pricing into the spotlight of both Fulham and the wider football community.

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