Think before speaking

Posted by Phil Mison

A winter weekend without a full fixture list is a sobering thing for all football fans. With Fulham idle there really are no excuses for not sweeping up all those dead leaves down at the bottom of the garden, fixing that loose cabinet or giving the motor a full wax, polish and internal vacuum. Beware the ultimate curse -- being dragged round the shops by the missus.

I sidestepped all of the above, and my new girlfriend (shock horror) has the flu so cannot come out to play. With only my geetar for company, it's been a slow weekend. But now one of my faithful lieutenants rings me up with news of how things at Fulham might be changing with the arrival of Rene Meulensteen.

- Report: Muelensteen appointed Fulham coach

Check out his big statement of the last 48 hours. "I'm the man to restore Dimitar Berbatov back to top form." How very refreshing is that? When you consider all the double speak nonsense we have endured from Martin Jol's lips over the past 12 months, one simple message speaks volumes and cheers the heart.

Straight off the bat, it states what supporters to a man have been wailing since the season started. Berbatov has been in a sulk: Hugely disappointing, de-motivated, lethargic and counter-productive for team morale. A natural fit then in Jol's eyes for the captain's armband! No wonder Fulham languish in the bottom three.

Here are clear signals Meulensteen is his own man and quotes from inside the camp no longer need to go through the gaffer. As a consequence, my confidential sources confide Jol has been furnished with a club manual with guidelines for future press conferences. The dossier shows Jol's quotes to date and what the new versions should be. Here are some samples:

"Clint Dempsey back to Fulham in January? Unbelievable speculation but I don't think so."

New version: "He's a legend here, the captain of his country. He's going to the World Cup. He has qualities we have never replaced in the team. I will do everything in my power to attract him back. If we don't land him, I want the fans to know it won't be for want of trying."

"We try to get points from the seven or so clubs around us. The fans must lower their expectations."

New version: "We go into every game looking for a result, whoever the opposition. The players are well rewarded, we compete in this league to finish as high as possible. The fans deserve nothing less."

"I have other offers always. I am well respected. Fulham are lucky to have me."

New version: "It is an honour to be the manager of this great club. I owe it to all the people here, and especially our former owner who brought me over from Holland to preserve their Premiership status. I have not done well enough recently and want to put that right."

"It's frustrating we could not play our game. And to concede from set plays. We never do that in training."

New version: "We will go over all these issues with the staff on the training ground. I have called the players in for extra training on Sunday. This is unacceptable. We will work tirelessly to eradicate mistakes and raise fitness levels."

"I put my arm around Bryan and told him he's my best player."

New version: "There are no sacred cows at Fulham. I have no favourites. Each player is picked on merit. Mickey Adams put some graffiti in the dressing room back in 1997 and it is still there. There is no 'I' in TEAM."

Simple this P.R. stuff isn't it? Let us all hope Jol manages to implement it. Otherwise, we will have the unedifying spectacle of reporters jostling the old buffer aside to shove their microphones in Meulensteen's face first.

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