With play off places achieved in the previous two seasons, the highest gates in the division and a stadium fit for the premier, we did not expect to struggle at the other end. True our best players over the last two years -Bridcutt, Bridge, Barnes, Buckley, Ulloa and Upson – all went but we hoped Sami Hyppia would do better. Poor buys and a system the players did not understand – fullbacks went forward and midfielders were expected to drop back and cover – had us struggling. Hyppia, to his credit , resigned which managers rarely do and in came Chris Hughton. By improving the defence an a succession of goalless draws, we moved out of danger. It was not pretty to watch. The real problem is scoring goals which our forwards cannot do. Top scorer was a midfielder Teixeira with 6, followed by my player of the year Lewis Dunk, a defender. One of the strange things was that Dunk and Rohan Ince, a power house in midfield, both played well but were dropped. There is not much wrong with our midfield or defence but in the absence of a 15 goals striker I think next season we will continue to struggle.
Our season was defined by three managerial periods: Magath, Kit the temp and Kit the perm. After one point in the first seven games it was realised that Magath was no miracle worker but unable to arrest, indeed contributed to, Fulham’s decline. Kit did well as caretaker and the momentum to make that permanent was irresistible. However it should have been resisted as once in the seat permanently we began to decline. Our problem was defence which shipped goals. We never seemed to defend free kicks and corners properly. Up front the most expensive player in the championship Ross MaCormack was initially deployed in midfield. Eventually he played in his true position and scored 16 goals. His former strike partner Matt Smith was recruited frorm Leeds but spent most of the season out on loan. Once he returned from Bristol City he scored 5 in 12. Another selection surprise was, given Kit had worked so well with a successful academy, he was not selecting his charges but got in a series of loan players- Richards, Fofana, Guthre, Husband, Turner. I will be sad if Ruiz goes but my player of the season Christensen is more than capable of replacing him. I doubt if Kit will be in charge at the start of the season and hopefully Khan’s requirements to recoup his massive investment, the parachute payment and a new manager who addresses our defensive frailties mean we are at the other end of the table next season .
Our season is not over as we still play Chievo. We should finish fifth and achieve a Europa League place. We reached the semi-finals of the Coppa and Europa League too. So it’s good season though some fans were critical of Montella for the way he deployed his playing resources at the end competing in these 3 competitions. Selling Caudrado for €30m and the owners Dalle Valle always ready to invest, should mean we have the resources to buy a goalkeeper, central defender and young creative midfielder. This position known as regista (literally film director but in reality the creative playmaker often wearing the 10 shirt) is a hallowed one at Fiorentina – one thinks of Giancarlo Antognoni and Roberto Baggio.
So I’m hopeful for next season as you English say it will be “onwards and upwards”.