Although I was asked, as a window man, to set out my views on the transfer window, I thought it best to see whom we got in and, as important, whom we shipped out. We did good business: most of us are as pleased to say goodbye to Berbatov and Taarabt as we are sad that Aaron Hughes has left. Aaron was one of our unsung heroes, the other half, with Brede Hangeland, of the Thames Barrier that Roy Hodgson assembled and were as good a defensive pairing as existed in the Premier. Oh those were the days that Fulham did not concede 3, 4 or 5. It’s too early to judge the new intake, two of whom – Heitzinga and Mitroglou – were not available.
You could see the imprint of Ray Wilkins in the way the team was set up, with 3 defensive midfielders and a big gap between them and Darren Bent, as the lone and rather ineffectual striker. This was not a team that would create many chances.
In the now familiar pattern, we held the opposition for the first 45 minutes. Indeed I could not see any qualitative difference between one of the success stories of the season and one of the failures. In the second half Southampton’s pressing game, whereby the opposition are under pressure all over the pitch, discomfited us and possession was lost. Now fatigue in ageing limbs kicked in, as did loss of collective morale and, before we knew what happened, we were 3 down in 11 minutes.
Travelling back with a fan, we were resigned now to relegation. One mutual friend had asked before the game whether relegation would be so bad. We could regroup, play the youngsters, plenty of London and southern games. We might look down the table from up top, not have to target to 40 points each season. To this we added that, having made such a substantial investment, the new chairman would be motivated in getting us back quickly as Newcastle and West Ham did andas QPR might well do.
At least Dennis Turner who, to use one of his words, would have described the performance as “appalling”, had a moving tribute both in the programme and a minute’s appreciation. Had he been around, I am sure he would supply some statistical data, based on our form and the mean survival threshold, to show why relegation is certainty. In the absence of this, I simply cannot see anything in our coaching team off the pitch, or our player performance on it, to indicate survival.