FourFourDrew: Let’s Get Ready To Rumble

Drew Heatley 19th November 2019

What does Tony Khan’s latest Twitter grapple say about his role and our club? And does it matter? Drew Heatley enters the ring to have his say.

Making his way to the ring, from St. Louis, Missouri, weighing 250lbs, he is the Viper – Randy Orton!

And his opponent, from Champaign, Illinois, weighing 150lbs, he is the Fulham FC Director of Football – Tony Khan!

Just another Tuesday, then.

The Twitter beef between our Tone and the 13-time world champion and purveyor of the RKO is the maddest off-pitch Fulham story since Craig Kline was reported as allegedly mooting the idea of him against Slav in a sumo wrestling match.

Khan took on WWE superstar Randy Orton this week.

It’s the perfect tonic for the final few days of another long international break, but it’s bound to get many of the fans up in arms. So many are already sceptical of TK’s ability to juggle his role as Director of Football Operations at our club with his position as Senior Vice President, Football Technology & Analytics at the Jacksonville Jaguars and his latest project – founder and president of US wrestling promotion AEW.

And it’s not difficult to understand why. These are three key roles at three huge organisations – and there are only 24 hours in a day. TK defended his position to us during the summer.

“Even when I’m not in England I’m constantly looking at players for Fulham, the wage bill and deals that could be made. Even if I’m in Jacksonville or at an AEW show, please know I’m always thinking about Fulham, I’m constantly looking for ways to make this club better.”

Khan gave an interview to Fulhamish during the summer.

The crux of the argument around TK’s time really comes down to how much work he actually does at the club on a daily basis. The official site says he “liaises across all aspects of the Club in order to build, recruit and retain a strong and competitive squad”. And from what he said to us during the summer, he’s backed by fairly extensive teams (“I’m in charge of the scouting department and the statistics department – I oversee them both”). I find it very hard to believe that our entire transfer strategy is left in his hands alone, be he the owner’s son or not. Shad Khan didn’t earn his billions by being careless.

There’s also the broader question of how his relationship with the world of wrestling reflects on us, a football club flirting with the Premier League. Professional wrestling is a divisive industry. It’s scripted; the match results and feuds are pre-determined, but it presents itself as a legitimate sport. It’s hard for some to reconcile with that. In reality, it’s no different to a soap opera – an EastEnders, or in US terms, a The Young and the Restless.

Khan’s AEW is the latest company to challenge WWE in the wrestling world.

TK’s Twitter spat today, however, isn’t pre-planned or scripted. And one fan described it as “not exactly the professionalism expected of a Fulham official”.

For me, it’s all just showbiz. We look back on the 1970s as a Hollywood era on the banks of the Thames. The larger-than-life Tommy Trinder; George Best, Rodney Marsh and Bobby Moore all plying their trade at the Cottage. It’s part of the fabric of our club. The era of Al Fayed was similar; bringing Michael Jackson to the Cottage to brighten up a Division Two fixture against Wigan Athletic – not to mention the subsequent statue. Fulham FC has always been synonymous with some of the ol’ razzle dazzle.  

Rodney Marsh (Right, with Booby Moore, left and George Best, centre) described Fulham in the 1970s as “the Harlem Globetrotters”.

But we as football fans generally don’t like our club being sent up as a figure of fun. The MJ statue boiled a lot of piss. I can’t help but look at it from a different perspective. It’s funny, it’s quirky, in a way – it’s Fulham.

The MJ statue was contentious to say the least.

Interestingly, on TK’s bio on the official site, there’s no mention of AEW. We have the Roar of the Jaguars strut their stuff on the pitch, but it’s unlikely we’ll see Chris Jericho sink a little bit of the bubbly on the Cottage balcony any time soon. Is that a conscious decision from those upstairs? Who can say.

For now, TK’s tweets only serve to reignite the debate over how he divides his time. And it’ll do him no favours in bringing some of the more sceptical FFC fans onto his side – particularly with the January transfer window looming.

But in an era where the country’s going down the pan and the long, dark nights are here, it might be a good idea to learn to be able to laugh at ourselves. Otherwise life will become quite the struggle.

If ya smell what the Padre’s cookin’.