Despite a record layout of something in excess of £100million on transfers, Fulham joined Huddersfield Town recently as two of the earliest relegation teams in the history of the EPL.
And sacking two managers in a season didn’t help, either.
To be fair to the Yorkshire club, their budget was always going to be their undoing. Chairman Dean Hoyle always knew, at some point, the funds would run out to sustain membership of the world’s richest league.
Previous coach David Wagner took the club as far as he could and his replacement, Jan Siewert, always knew his brief to keep them up was akin to stopping the Titanic sinking.
Off the field they are in what some have termed ‘rude health’ posting a record profit of £23.2m for the 2017-18 financial year.
But that is not enough these days to sustain top flight football.
The sale of Aaron Moy and a few others over the summer will cushion the blow and EPL parachute payment will also assist. For a club like Huddersfield, the dream is over. Two exciting years.
Now they will look for a chance to rebuild in the Championship, and, if Siewert stays, may be a good bet to bounce back in 12 months time.
But Fulham is a different story.
They failed to maintain some element of continuity, with Serbian coach Slavisa Jokanovic under constant pressure from the ownership.
He was gone by November. Claudio Ranieri was next through the Craven Cottage revolving door.
Rumours persisted that he had no say in players or transfers and it often showed; it didn’t look like ‘his’ team. In February he went and Scott Parker was left holding the baby.
Three managers, 24 losses and £100million later, they now return to the lower leagues after a season that can only be seen as extremely disappointing.
It was the first time in history that a newly promoted side had spent in excess of £100m.
They broke their transfer record three times. The £30m for midfielder Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa from Marseille eventually the final number.
But cash was also splashed on Jean Michael Seri, Alfie Mawson and Aleksandar Mitrovic.
At the time of writing Fulham, with just 17 points from 33 games, has a goal difference of minus 46 – the worst in any of the so-called big five European leagues.
Questions have to be asked about the players they brought in after winning promotion in a dramatic playoff at Wembley last may.
There was no team spirit, even though both Jokanovic and Ranieri tried to install a ’togetherness’.
Ranieri even insisted no player left the club canteen until the last had finished eating.
And the differences between the two were clear for all to see,
Under Jokanovic, there was a more free-flowing attacking style – even though the defence leaked lie a sieve.
Ranieri was more defensively minded as he looked to his experienced players to steady the ship.
Billionaire owner Shahid Khan wanted to build a sporting dynasty, he also owns the Jacksonville Jaguars, but his ’risk-free’ appointment of Ranieri backfired.
Maybe Ranieri dreamed of re-living that Leicester City rollercoaster.
The simple fact was Fulham were no Leicester – no team spirit in the same sense, and clearly not the right mental attitude for a relegation dogfight.
For Parker, it was all too late as they crashed 4-1 at Watford to confirm their relegation.
The club’s sixth manager in just 56 Premier League games.
He didn’t hold back after the Watford defeat.
‘We just can’t weather a storm,” he said. “In the Championship, you get away with it. In this division, you ain’t getting away with it.
‘I’m sure there’s a mental issue. When you’re bottom of the league, everything becomes a bit harder. There’s some naivety.”
Naivety on and off the field.
For one more team it may also be too late as five others battle to avoid the drop.
Cardiff look favourites, but never write off Neil Warnock’s combative style of play.
Burnley are another team who won’t give up. Coach Sean Dyche is made of similar never-say-die material to Warnock.
Southampton have steadied under new coach Ralph Hassenhutl and look as if they are positive about their future.
Brighton’s recent run of form has been poor – relegation poor – they may well end up in that last spot battle with the Welsh club.
And don’t discount the Toon – only two wins off above the trapdoor of relegation.
With 5-6 games left, it’s going to be a nail-biting run-in.
Southgate Success Reflects in World Rankings
ENGLAND’S resurgence under Gareth Southgate has seen then back in the top five in the latest Fifa rankings, but Belgium remain top.
Two wins in European Championship qualifying games means England swaps places with
Croatia, which lost against Hungary last month and is No. 5.
Belgium edge World Cup winners France for the top spot and Brazil remains at No. 3.
Uruguay and European champion Portugal trade places at 6 and 7. Switzerland, Spain and
Denmark complete the top 10.
Germany has risen three places to No. 13 (yes, they have dropped that far) after scoring a late goal to beat the Netherlands, who have dropped two to No. 16.
Mexico leads CONCACAF teams at 18 and the USA is up one place at 24.
Iran leads the Asian contingent at No. 21, and No. 23 Senegal is Africa’s best.
Asian champions Qatar, the 2022 World Cup host, stays at No. 55.
1. Belgium (1)
2. France (2)
3. Brazil (3)
4. England (5)
5. Croatia (4)
6. Uruguay (7)
7. Portugal (6)
8. Switzerland (8)
9. Spain (9)
10. Denmark (10)
11. Argentina (11)
12. Colombia (12)
13. Germany (16)
14. Sweden (14)
15. Chile (13)
16. Netherlands (14)
17. Italy (18)
18. Mexico (17)
19. Wales (19)
20. Poland (20)
Storm Rages in Victoria
MELBOURNE Storm’s unbeaten start to the 2019 rugby league season Down Under shows how coach Craig Bellamy continues to deliver.
After the opening month, the Storm remain the only 4-0 side in the competition, with South Sydney and the Sydney Roosters just behind.
The Storm have gone unbeaten in their opening four games on six occasions – in 2017, 2013, 2012, 2010, 2007 and 1998 but Bellamy is urging caution – this is a marathon not a 100 metre dash.
“I know there’s been a lot of experts saying because Billy Slater went, Ryan Hoffman and Tim Glasby went we lost a lot of experience so it was going to be a real tough year for us,” Bellamy said.
“They will might be proven right but we’re off to a good start.
“We just want to make sure we’re doing the things we’re doing well. But there’s some areas we want to improve.”
Melbourne once again look the team to beat, but Canberra are surprise early contenders with former Wigan star John Bateman proving to be a quality recruit.
The Yorkshireman has settled in well in the nation’s capital, adding another ‘pom’ to the ranks of what iOS considered the best league competition in the world.
Can they keep it up? So-called experts say ‘no’, citing the Rosters and the Rabbitohs as the other contenders, but coach Ricky Stuart will have the Green Machine fired up – if they can relatively injury free, they will have a shot come September.
At the other end of the ladder (yes, they call tables ladders here in Oz) the usually prominent Queensland sides are all struggling.
No surprise to see Gold Coast near the bottom, but Brisbane under new coach Anthony Siebold (former London Bronco) are finding it tough to adjust to a new system. It may take some time. And North Queensland Cowboys are nothing like the team led by mercurial halfback Jonathan Thurston.
With no Thurston, they look like spending then season batting to avoid a wooden spoon, rather than a playoff spot.
Early Season Surprises in AFL
AUSSIE Rules – that peculiarly distinct Down Under pastime that no on e outside the country understands, has also got ff to a flyer in 2019.
And the usual colours are up there at the top of thew ladder after the first few rounds.
Reigning premiers West Coast Eagles lost their opening round game but have bounced back since, but the surprise early round leader is Brisbane.
Along with Geelong, they are the early season pace-setters, while at the foot of the ladder, Melbourne and North Melbourne are struggling.
It’s far too early to predict who will end up at the MCG in Melbourne on September 28. Hawthorn and traditional heavyweights Collingwood can never be discounted and neither can Richmond, who must certainly be the bookies’ favourites.
If you’re looking teams to bet on to make the top eight , here’s four: West Coast, Collingwood, Richmond and Adelaide.
Pre-season tip Melbourne would have been there, but their poor start has seen them drift in the betting. The Demons must come good at some stage and coach Simon Goodwin knows he has a tale ted squad that will come good at some stage.
“We’ve got to try to find ourselves in some really good form … it’s as simple as that,” he said after a high-scoring loss to Essendon.
“Nothing will turn it around but hard work and continually looking at how we can get better … that’s me as a coach, the players, everyone.
“It’s pretty simple.”
If only it were that simple.
Glorious Days in Perth
PERTH Glory are on course for their first ever ‘Premiers Plate’ as they close in on the 2019 finals of the A League – something 12 months ago no soccer fan in Australia would ever have predicted.
Under former Crystal Palace defender Tony Popovic, the Glory have notched up ten clean sheets this season and have only lost two games out of 24 played (as we go to press).
The Premiers Plate is an award for finishing top at the end of the regular season – unlike Britain where top means top, in Australia playoffs loom, so there’s still some work to be done before the purge-clad Glory side can claim to be champions.
That said, they have been the dominant side all year – rebuilt by the astute Popovic into a defensively solid side, with quality in midfield through 37-year-old Spaniard Diego Castro and former Leeds United and Birmingham City’s Neil Kilkenny, and a strike force that includes Irish attacker Andy Keogh.
Sydney FC will join them in the finals, along with Melbourne Victory, surprise package Wellington Phoenix, Adelaide United and probably Manchester City-owned Melbourne City.
Then it becomes a lottery.
For Glory owner Tony Sage, this labour of love (plus a few million) looks at long last to bearing fruit.
His long-held dream to play Asian Champions League football now looms large on the horizon.