All that is left is an act of faith

Posted by Phil Mison

Brede Hangeland sent off v SunderlandPA PhotosIs Brede Hangeland on his way out of Fulham?

As I search for a fresh way to start up another Fulham blog with nothing more to work on than rumour, speculation and increasing uneasiness among supporters, let me begin by going way out on a limb here with this. My clock on the wall has just ticked past midnight into the 25th of January. Come February 1st, Brede Hangeland will no longer be at Fulham.

This is the Clint Dempsey saga all over again. The club's offer to our captain has been on the table for months. Entering the final week of the transfer window, both parties have yet to conclude a deal. What does that tell you? What little clauses and sub sections still need to be clarified? Is Brede too busy to pop down to HR and pen his signature? This has gone past the point of no return now.

The Norwegian colossus has given us four years of commendable service. He never gets injured and his discipline on the pitch is second to none. He's unfailingly done all the photo shoots, signings, school visits and meet the fans events the club lined him up with. He's smiled his way through the lot with patience, politeness and humility. And now his agent has told him it is time to move on.

By what logic should he not seek a new challenge before he gets too old, in the way Deuce has done? Do you think for a nano-second Dempsey has any regrets? Can anyone supporting Fulham deny Clint's move to Spurs proved the smartest thing the Texan could do? More money, a bigger club, competing for the game's glittering prizes, surrounded by top players and cheered every fortnight by crowds a third bigger than Fulham's.

There's a crushing inevitability to my mind that says Hangeland is on his way out. In the modern era, players of course have the clubs over a barrel. The agent only earns his big fat commission when a player moves, so his motivation is obvious. The player being bartered can expect a juicy signing-on fee if he has not put in a transfer request (which Brede of course has not) and the selling club, when dealing with a 30+-year-old within six months of running down his contract, know full well this is their only chance to claw back some value from their asset. With Fulham being well known as a 'selling club', the vultures are already sitting on the roof of Craven Cottage. And from here, just to add one final embellishment to this hellish landscape, the biggest bird of the lot looks remarkably like Harry Redknapp.

In the fullness of time, once Martin Jol is safely ensconced in his next job at Schalke or wherever, he may well come out and tell us how his plans for Fulham got torpedoed. His latest remarks from Thursday's press conference do nothing to dispel the dark clouds - and I suspect he's as frustrated as the rest of us with the board's reluctance to spend.

"We need a few players in (so true) but this is not a good time, you only get offered those playing badly for their clubs, those playing well are priced too high for us. We will try to do something," he said.

Wherever we end up laying the blame for this crisis - board or manager - you have to say none of it smacks of a well-run club fancying its chances of moving up in the Premier League. Newcastle, QPR, Reading and Southampton are all making decisive moves in the market to save their skin. Earlier this week Fulham saw their bid for Greek defender Torossidis trumped by Roma. That has left Jol saying Fulham have to be 'adventurous' over the coming week, whatever that is meant to imply. Scouting Blackpool's midfielder because he happened to score against us? You could not make it up, especially after I had lampooned Fulham's recruitment and scouting network for just this kind of lazy approach two weeks ago! What kind of message is that sending to the likes of Berbatov and Ruiz? Were they not 'sold' on Jol's vision to take Fulham into the top six when signing? You can bet those two are already planning their exit strategy should our season implode.

The Fulham board have less than a week to prove us all wrong, but I tend to think we'll see little or no activity of note. Jol may make a case for saying their parsimony cut the ground from beneath his feet. But the counter argument that will prove to be Martin's legacy is that he fatally squandered what funds he was given to rebuild the side over 18 months. He's the man picking the team after all, not the members of the board.

We have come to a somewhat depressing state of affairs, echoed by the very lively debate on this blog over the past week. Here we are building up to what should be a thrilling occasion for Fulham followers, a 4th round cup tie at Manchester United, and we have barely got round to mentioning it. Let's say I'm not overly looking forward to it. Even should the Reds give their reserve eleven a run out, I would not be over-confident of a Fulham win. We have been quite awful in our last two league games, barely making it into our opponent's box at all, so it would be entirely Fulhamish for us to claim our first FA Cup win over Manchester United since 1908 on Saturday.

Of course you will be following all the action this weekend no doubt with ESPN. There's a Fulham thread for all three televised games. Glory in the Whites' humbling of the league leaders and cup favourites at Old Trafford, check out young Trotta's credentials when Brentford take on Chelsea (though he was only on the bench Tuesday night) and of course we can all remind ourselves of what we're missing when Clint's new high-riding outfit go to Leeds.

I'll knock out a preview of our cup game tomorrow and try to work up some enthusiasm for the tie, but dealing with transfer matters here has left me, like many I suspect, feeling rather deflated. And it's now 3 a.m.

Twitter: @fulhamphil

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