Tim dons his tin hat and puts forward some things the younger Khan is doing well.
There are three things in life that are inevitable: Death, taxes, and blaming Tony Khan, but an easy target isn’t always the right one…
Any article about our enigmatic American owners is bound to be divisive. The poll of Premier League fans’ approval of ownership was released last month, and I would love to know where the Khans would finish given our last few transfer windows. A certain subsection of Fulham Twitter would have them dead bottom. Like, 07/08 Derby bottom. Others, dazzled by the Riverside Stand, might have them vying for European football.
As usual, the truth isn’t so black and white.
On many occasions, Tony has kooked it; Vanishing during losing spells, and tweeting about carpet after Fulham lost both engines and went into free fall last year. One man can only wear so many hats; you can be a great Director of Football, or a great promoter of wraaaslin’. But it’s probably not possible to be both. And the thought of some dude in spandex piledriving some other spandexed dude off the Cottage balcony? Well, the less said about that, the better.
Having said that, if we’re looking for tangible KPIs, it’s worth thinking about Tony’s improvement in the last two years (let me pre-empt the howls of derision about how we’re now a yo-yo club with two relegations notched into the bedpost. I get it, but stay with me).
It’s probably worth distinguishing that there is a difference between liking Tony Khan, and liking decisions he has made. Here are four likeable decisions which are worth recognising.
You may well say that this has more to do with Shahid than Tony. However, it’s looking more and more like they are a package deal, so let’s include it here anyway. The money that’s been sunk into the Riverside project cements Craven Cottage as the home of Fulham FC for the foreseeable future, a fact that Fulham fans definitely haven’t always taken for granted (Hello, Fulham Park Rangers).
Similarly, upgrading facilities at Motspur Park makes the academy a more enticing option for the prospective juniors, and the fruits of that are starting to ripen in the likes of Fab, Stansfield, Francois etc. Or consider the Khan’s dissolving £151m of debt into shares. It’s fairly likely Tony is in his dad’s ear about where this money goes, and I’m not one for looking the gift horse in the mouth.
2. Early business (for a change)Embed from Getty Images
One of the great failings of our brief resurfacing into the Premier League was how late we left all of our signings to try and get the best price. Before the team even had time to gel, we were adrift. This season, Gazzaniga and Wilson were announced (much less scouted and rumoured) a full five weeks before the end of the window. The signing of Muniz (although slightly later) had legs from the get-go. We didn’t waste time, and the team looks oiled and well drilled. Again, it’s difficult to fault Tony this summer.
3. Smart businessEmbed from Getty Images
Tosin at £1.8 million. Tete at £3.2 million. Gazzaniga and Chabolah on free transfers. Criminal. Consider also the way Fulham navigated FFP in paying for Wilson in instalments, causing many tears from the Second Tier podcast. It’s a far cry from the scattergun approach in 18/19 when we had more money than sense (admittedly, Cav and Knockaert are a hangover of that strategy).
But since then, relegation clauses in contracts means that the ‘overpaid squad’ trope might not be as valid as Fulham’s detractors may lead you to believe. Again, good decisions starting to emerge, even if from the ashes of many failures. Silva’s burgeoning renaissance at Fulham does make me wonder whether a better manager than Parker keeps last year’s Fulham squad in the Prem. But for many, Tony Khan will always be the architect of our demise.
4. Checking his ego (a bit)Embed from Getty Images
OK, so here you might say “why would I praise him for not being an egomanic?”, and you’d be right. But I’m positioning this one as TK learning from past mistakes.
Muniz, Chalobah and Quina. These are all unashamedly Marco Silva players, and they feel like Marco Silva signings. We don’t know all the goings on behind the scenes, but it feels like Silva is getting control over players that no manager before has had. Slavisa was a big part behind the Mitrovic signing (disputed by Tony – but the jury is out for sure), but other than that, everyone’s been brought in by Khan, his recruitment team, and the infamous ‘two boxes ticked’ stats-based system.
The arrival of this trio shows Khan is relaxing his previously rigid attachment to this system, and trusting his manager. I think I speak for most of us when I say that this new approach is a breath of fresh air, no matter how you might think it came about.
In seasons past, genuine mistakes have been made. Fingers were rightly pointed at Tony as the Director of Football. But each window seems to get more clinical. And whether that’s Tony reflecting and growing personally or whether he has stepped back and allowed someone with more nous to take the wheel, either way he deserves credit. When you see videos of him getting involved in some AEW narrative, yeah, it is pretty cringey. It has ‘he can play because it’s his ball’ vibes to it. But that’s OK. You can find it a bit awkward, and still recognise that he has made some good calls in the last few windows.
There, I’ve said it. Please be kind.