New chapter for beleaguered Whites

Posted by Phil Mison

VI Images/Getty ImagesFormer Manchester United coach Rene Meulensteen has been added to Martin Jol's staff at Fulham.

League action returns with Fulham on a mission: To get out of the bottom three as quickly as possible. The table does not make for pretty reading, but now the club looks for fresh impetus with the addition of Rene Meulensteen to the coaching staff.

- Heneage: Meulensteen may remedy malaise

Avoiding relegation is hardly mission impossible. We've not yet had a third of the season, but the long-suffering fans are desperate to see genuine signs of a revival. However, as we prepare to welcome Swansea to the Cottage, let's bear in mind Gus Poyet began his reign at Sunderland with a 4-0 defeat.

The international break will not have left that much quality time for Meulensteen to impart his magic on the training ground. Over-riding any result Fulham achieve in this fixture, the attitude of the players themselves is perhaps more important.

Neither team comes into the game with any kind of form. Fulham of course hit rock-bottom with their pitiful display at Anfield -- the Whites having conceded nine from their last three while scoring just once (and that a deflected goal). Swansea are without a win themselves in over a month and are only two points better off than Fulham in mid-table.

The visitors will also have to do without danger man Michu -- what a bonus that is for a home defence that simply cannot stop leaking goals. On their two previous trips to the Cottage since promotion, the Welshmen have gone away with the points each time. I have a feeling Saturday might be different.

The big news on the team front for the Cottagers is the inclusion in the squad of Moussa Dembele. The 18-year-old, I'm certain, will be starting from the bench. But reward for his 15 goals already this season, and surely the Meulensteen factor in play from the word go? How intriguing might it be to see the kid up there alongside the strolling troubadour that is Dimitar Berbatov?

I blogged it from the moment I first saw the 'new' Dembele in action for myself -- this kid is going to the top. I do hope Fulham ease him gently into the big time. There's a salutary lesson from Merseyside in the way Raheem Sterling burnt himself out last season in a side that struggled.

Brede Hangeland remains a major doubt, Sasha Riether is still banned of course, and Hugo Rodallega won't be back till Christmas. I will be watching two players closely -- one from either side. Wilfried Bony has to assume more of an attacking role for the Swans with Michu absent. Just how good is the man Fulham missed out on?

While for the Whites, Kieran Richardson has come out saying his injury woes are behind him and he's desperate to repay the manager's faith in him. Well, Richardson said the same thing a year ago, and against Liverpool he was our worst player. The left-back slot remains a priority for strengthening come January.

Any likelihood of Moussa Dembele (the 'old') returning to the fold? None whatsoever. Why come back to join a struggling club like Fulham when you have set your sights on Real Madrid? But good luck to Neil Etheridge in his loan spell at Crewe.

Here we go again boys. Four of the next six games are at home. By the end of December we should know a whole lot more about this Fulham team, and whether relegation is still on the cards. Tickets still available for home supporters as I type. Now why does that not surprise me? COYW!



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