Five Thoughts: Fulhamish Meets Tony Khan

Cameron Ramsey 3rd July 2019
Tony Khan on Fulhamish

It’s been a week since Fulhamish released the exclusive interview with Tony Khan. Now that we’ve digested all that was divulged between Sammy, JC and TK, it’s now about time an article was tapped up accordingly. Khan, for many avid social media users, sporadically has his say on various pressing matters and ruthlessly orders disbelievers and sceptics to “go to hell”. But, until now, sitting him down in front of a microphone to justify his actions and intentions had proved to be a very arduous task indeed.

But, to our delight, the enigmatic American figurehead agreed to pull up a chair and talk all things Fulham. No better scenario, we know, but with two inquisitive beings sat before him, the pod was billed to be an intriguing hit and that’s exactly what it was. What can we truly take away from the show, though? What does it mean for the club moving forward and where does Khan stand in our estimations now? We all have individual opinions, but one thing’s for certain, the Whites are in safe, attentive hands, and brighter horizons are undoubtedly ahead of our journey as a collective.

Invaluable Lessons Learned

Preserving key pieces will be crucial to our progression next season, and whilst everyone associated with Fulham absolutely loathed our disastrous return to the big time, Khan is using previous summers as a blueprint moving forward. An immediate return is an objective on his extensive checklist, but in order to bounce back, liaising with the entire backbone of the club, from Scott Parker to department coaches, will only aid our growth and success.

The last time we were relegated from the Premier League our set-up was completely shambolic. Mismatched line-ups with endless alterations plagued our opening two season in the Championship. Now, having sipped from that particular poisoned chalice before, Khan understands that a strong, spirited core of players will be the saving antidote to sooth our weeping wounds. This means keeping Aleksandar Mitrovic and co. on our books at all costs, given the Serb is more than adequately versed at this level. We’ve already buttoned Tom Cairney down to an extended deal and Stefan Johansen is also staying put, so who’s to say that we can’t persuade others to follow suit ahead of the imminent 2019-20 onslaught.

Champagne, accompanied by a customary prawn and salmon sandwich, would have been flowing for weeks following Fulham’s glorious Play-Off Final triumph, but the hangover never subsided. Next term, if we’re to gain promotion once more, they’ll be plenty of time for partying but it won’t hinder preparations. Sticking and staying true to one formation will also be pivotal, so TK’s fully expecting Parker to reinstate and entrust a 4-3-3 composition, as it allows those on the pitch to express themselves freely, without being constrained. 23 games unbeaten speaks for itself in that regard.

Ratios, Ratings, Recruitment

Collaboration in the board room from all components steadies the ship. Media speculation and drivel will also factor into any proposed transfer link, and at times it’s difficult to decipher fact from fiction (trust me, I know this too well). Nevertheless, TK is painstakingly scouring the market to ensure that our collective is amongst the hardiest in the second-division. Tying into the first thought of the article, “keeping our own house in order” is just as crucial as spending, so the nub of this summer’s transfer window is evidently centred around retention.

During last summer’s transfer period, Khan reacted to RSC Anderlecht’s failed move for Mitro and Alistair Mackintosh somehow persuaded the Belgian superpower to do the striker’s medical. Shrewd operating. Going down to the wire is also an approach that TK trusts as chasing prime targets right until the very last minute can pay off in many respects. Joe Bryan’s sensational u-turn whilst travelling to Villa Park being a prime example. This summer, however, Khan wishes to see which current representatives will remain at the club before venturing into the market for replacements, so patience is undoubtedly key to negotiations.

Statistics and scout reports, as we know, weigh heavily on Fulham’s defining decision whilst tailing potential acquisitions. Variable calculations, mean averages, fresh-hold grading, they all contribute towards a player’s underlying value. Every player purchased since 2016, barring the odd exception, has been tracked and evaluated by the same rigorous system and that process of scrutiny is seemingly set to stay in place for the foreseeable future. It’s not seamless, but it has its telling advantages.

Utility Tony’s Tasks

Vice chairman, Director of Football, scouting and statistics extraordinaire, Khan has a hefty portion of responsibility on his plate in SW6, and there’s a lot that goes into his day-to-day obligations. Databasing is staple and that incorporates live video meetings, metrics, gathering feedback with coaches, reviewing the squad, gauging performances and crafting resolutions. Khan also hosts weekly phone calls to pinpoint new targets with scouting experts, so there’s no room for short measures or inadequate insights.

Khan has to ensure that enterprise under his command is cost effective. Governing financial expectations is paramount and the established entrepreneur enlightened us with a fascinating anecdote involving Manchester United’s Andreas Pereira, and how he lured two players in StefJo and Lucas Piazon instead as they were considerably cheaper than the young Brazilian. TK has his opinions and preferences, but he doesn’t get involved with matchday line ups and strategics.

Other than projects on English soil, Khan is the leading executive figure behind All Elite Wrestling, which was launched in January 2019. A life-long wrestling fanatic, Khan is aiming to take that particular art-form by storm. Jacksonville Jaguars demand his time and attention, too. Being the Senior Vice President of Football Technology & Analytics at the Jags, Khan has to focus on all ventures equally, wherever he is. Nevertheless, he’s fully invested in Fulham’s prosperity and growth.

Talking Youth Prospectus

Recent academy exits including Jón Dagur Þorsteinsson have troubled Fulham fans and the need for budding Fulham stars to make their mark has never been greater. When pressed to whether we’ll witness the likes of Matt O’Riley, Marlon Fossey and Steven Sessegnon in a first-team jersey next season, Khan conveyed that he’s fully committed to blooding youngsters in the Championship, and is also planning to loan a few players out to League 1 and League 2 in order to learn more about their development.

Ryan Sessegnon, of course, embodies all that is present at Mostpur Park currently. We’ve a rich plethora of glistening gems that deserve credible game time and exposure, none more so than Ryan’s twin brother, and the Championship will prove to be the ideal platform for their introduction to the senior game. One other exciting prospect, Marek Rodak, is certainly set to ruffle feathers in the goalkeeping department.

Spending two seasons on loan at Rotherham United, the 22-year-old’s skill set has been finely-tuned at this level and Khan foresees a wholesome battle for supremacy between the Slovakian and Marcus Bettinelli. Betts was an unsung hero during the second-half of the 2017-18 campaign but Rodak will be gunning to snatch a starting spot, and that should inspire a new generation of Fulham favourites to announce themselves on the next big stage in their careers.

Sparse Spare Time

Truth is, TK barely has any real down time where he’s able to crack open a cold one in front of the TV. His hobby is his work and he feels a great sense of pride in his accomplishments, so he’s your typically tireless workaholic. Khan is constantly jetting across the pond to maintain and bolster his reputations with all of his affiliations. He rarely meets with friends or family, and if he does, it’s usually at a corporate function or event that he’s attending.

In essence, Khan is extremely passionate about his professional life, but that sometimes comes with tremendously testing compromises. He spoke of how he’s had to snub weddings and social occasions for football or NFL meetings, but that’s what’s expected of him entirely. Khan’s grinding nonstop, but he doesn’t appear aloof, arrogant or agitated by any stretch, but rather cool, calm and collected, which is a credit to his family’s core ethics.

Khan, bizarrely, is close friends with Jack Whitehall and he’s gradually moulding the Arsenal supporter into a Fulham fan. Whilst in America, the pair watched the Gunners play Chelsea and that was almost the final straw that broke the camel’s back for Whitehall’s Arsenal fandom. So, we already have Hugh Grant, Hugh Lauri, Example, Margot Robbie and The Maccabees as famous fans and all that’s missing is a renowned comedian to join the ranks. Well, I guess Dom Betts will do for now, right?