Fulham play the waiting game

Posted by Phil Mison

Carl Court/AFP/Getty ImagesMark Schwarzer's tenure at Craven Cottage is at an end

Six months of the year have ticked by already. I was on the ski slopes the day West Brom got to munch on a BK Double [Berbatov and Kacaniklic] as Fulham dropped in with an order of 'three points to go'. The weather ever since has been remorselessly grim and with every new day of grey cloud and chill wind here in London I have been opening up the news wires seeking a ray of sunshine on the Fulham front. So far in vain.

We are still awaiting signs of the British summer along with tangible signs of the Whites rebuilding strategy for the new season. One by one, those hot transfer targets kite-flown by a media floundering for any kind of decent lead have fallen by the wayside.

We were surely never seriously in the running for Andy Carroll, simply on wages alone. Still, that's not stopped West Ham from going deep. Did they not come up to the top flight a year ago? Is their operational budget that dissimilar to ours? I don't know the answers, but I do recognise ambition when I see it.

Talking of the need to splash the cash as newcomers to the top flight, I noted Cardiff’s bids last week to add £10 million plus of attacking talent to the ranks. Southampton, surely another who may feature on a few bookies short lists in the relegation scrap, have only been waving their big cheque book around down in Brazil. Wilfried Bony for £10 million now seems a straight fight between Swansea and the Hammers. Norwich City had sealed Ricky van Wolfswinkel's signature even before the season had ended – for a club record fee of £8.5 million. Nathan Redmond’s on his way to the Premier League, but not to SW6.

Fulham meanwhile continue to make 'enquiries', often with a loan being the preferred option. They clearly don’t want Darren Bent (29) for anything over £3 million, while their one ambitious bid, to Wigan, did not match their valuation of midfielder James McCarthy.

The cynic in me feels the three deals quickly wrapped up in May (though only after much stalling) were mere window dressing to drive up season ticket renewals before supporters drift away for three months. Be honest, has anyone been swayed to rush out and pledge their cash for another 19 home games like last season on the back of our three new recruits to date?

Nobody has the faintest idea what board strategy or the size of the kitty is. The manager gives hints as to where he wants to strengthen, but for the whole of June Fulham have barely merited a mention, even during the most barren of days on the rumour mill. Only on the Bakary Sako front do I sense a deal is close, and that comes mainly on the back of quotes from the Wolves camp. The fee has been agreed and it’s now being discussed at the ‘highest level.’

But do we actually need another left-winger? Just as with the news the Riverside development process has barely begun, Fulham we all know like to keep their cards close to their chest.

Later in the week I will offer my own thoughts on where we need to strengthen and who might we realistically move for. Before we set that ball rolling however, let us pay tribute to some genuine Fulham legends whose careers at Fulham have ended.

Simon Davies: I recall asking an Evertonian for his opinion when we first went in for the Welshman under Chris Coleman. He was ecstatic to see him off the payroll at Goodison. I feared the worst. But Digger came good. He was a shining light in a shambolic team when he arrived, but went on to be our Player of the Season, genuinely added to the team’s development, and earned our eternal gratitude for the salad days under Hodgson with goals that carried us to Hamburg and 7th in the league.

Mark Schwarzer: The best bit of business Fulham have done possibly since the days of Ray Houghton. Legendary status, and for my money still capable of holding his place in the Premier League. Very sad to see the big Aussie squeezed out. Fittingly the Man of the Match in his final game for us.

Chris Baird: I watched him in a pre-season friendly at QPR when he signed in 2007. He was playing centre-half and I just did not get it. That first six months for Chrissie under Sanchez must have been traumatic, but by sheer application Chris found a role among varying formations under different managers. He rarely let Fulham down, and of course started on that famous night in May 2010. He seemed to carry the can for some of Jol’s inept set-ups over the winter – particularly the debacle at QPR, and got frozen out from Christmas on. Another who may yet get to play another season in the Premier League like Mark for another club.

Before we close, don’t be surprised if the next Fulham transfer news concerns a player going out, not coming in. Kerim Frei does not seem to have the manager’s backing, so off to Turkey for you young man!


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