Tigers feast on feeble Fulham

Posted by Phil Mison

Richard Sellers/Getty ImagesIt was a long day at the office for Fulham goalkeeper David Stockdale at Hull City on Saturday.

It was the Cottagers' most embarrassing 45 minutes in two decades of professional football across all four divisions. Ineptitude on a grand scale. So have the wheels come off already for new boss Rene Meulensteen after Fulham ship six at the KC Stadium? Is 2014 the year we fall back through the relegation trap door? With our horrendous goal difference are we really one of the three weakest teams in the league? The answer to all the above is no.

- Report: Hull City 6-0 Fulham

The boss took a massive gamble in team selection for our second game in 48 hours and got it spectacularly wrong. While his motives were sound, team selection was bizarre to say the least. Forty minutes before kick-off, I sent an alert to some of my American followers shocked to the core to see Bryan Ruiz given a start.

Were you drafting the pre-match team talk for taking on Hull, you need only have referenced the last blog where we pointed up how vital it was to defend corners with vigour and not allow Tom Huddlestone the freedom of the park.

Incident report a major traffic accident or catastrophe and you will fill pages. I have no stomach for doing the same after witnessing our surrender on Saturday. Had we sent up the U-21 side to represent the colours, they could not have done a worse job. Six changes made to the side meant a return to the chaos I hoped had been left behind with the sacking of Martin Jol. I will say only this -- I am not alone in saying Ruiz must never pull on the shirt again.

Pat Nevin on the BBC called our display "amateurish beyond belief", so we'll leave it at that. Not one man in red emerged from the game with any credit. Meulensteen must use this defeat to ruthlessly draw a line under so many in the ranks who do not come up to the mark.

If he can galvanize the side to pick themselves up enough to take out West Ham next Wednesday, all will be forgiven. Restoring Scott Parker and Adel Taarabt to the side along with the potential of pitching Clint Dempsey and Dimitar Berbatov into the fray will see a vastly different Fulham side take on the Hammers. It is vital we go into this six pointer without fear -- a huge game against a true bottom three team.

From January, to stave off relegation, we have to stop leaking goals -- that means three new faces across the back four at the very least.

As a leitmotif for how desperate the past 12 months have been in Fulham's decline, being so comprehensively outplayed by promoted Hull City for our final game of 2013 summed up perfectly the annus horribilis. The warning bells were ringing loud and clear last January when Blackpool came within a whisker of dumping us out of the FA Cup at the first hurdle.

Jol has been our whipping boy for months now, and nobody has been more relentlessly on his case than this blogger, but the board must take responsibility for granting Jol no leeway on signings a year ago to strengthen what was a clearly fading squad. To compound that folly, while Mohamed al-Fayed was secretly planning his exit strategy, Jol was kept on despite a dreadful run-in. He should have gone in May. But as we now know, the focus was on a far bigger figure at Craven Cottage clearing his desk.

As we go into January, we find a football club that badly needs to re-invent itself. We have a new owner. Not much is known of our new benefactor, but in the next four weeks we are going to need to see his money. We have a new captain, and at present (thank the Lord) he is leading by example. And we have a new backroom staff. Meulensteen is untested at this level in management. Certainly, he's never been in a relegation fight before, but the early signs are that he's no fool and has clearly been able to inject some verve.

This football club, from chairman down to the guy who mows the grass, all now have a duty to the fans to start getting things right. Otherwise, that great little academy we have so assiduously nurtured will count for nothing, and Fulham fans can start preparing for two derbies next season with Brentford. We began this piece listing three "no's" to questions posed. Here is one more -- excuse my shouting by using block capitals. A role for Ray Wilkins at Fulham? Categorically NO!

Here's to six points from the next two league games and eradicating memories of "Black Saturday" as quickly as possible. Keep the faith!



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