Here is a fact. At roughly the same time that Bournemouth, with 17 points docked for going into administration and in the bottom division, Fulham were a Premier side about to launch a Europa League campaign that saw us overcome Juventus, Shaktar Donetsk and Hamburg. So why – seven years on – are Bournemouth all but promoted whereas Fulham are only recently safe from relegation?
The obvious difference is that throughout that period Bournemouth, except for one short and unsuccessful stint at Burnley, had Eddie Howe whereas Fulham had Roy Hodgson, Mark Hughes, Martin Jol, Rene Meulensteen, Felix Magath and now Kit Symons. Fulham have had 2 owners. Although Russian businessman Maxim Demin has invested heavily and is the owner, chairman Jeff Mostyn has been a constant presence. Bournmeouth has continuity and vision. In their canteen there is a mural of the Bournemouth Journey which players and fans have embraced. At Fulham the whirligig of managers must have created confusion amongst the players whilst us fans do not feel part of any vision such as there was when Mr al Fayed took over and promised and delivered premier football within 4 years.
I watched Bournemouth play Fulham home and away. They were the best football side I saw. At Craven Cottage we were overwhelmed by 5 goals. They have fast wide-men that you see in the best Dutch teams and midfielders that ran on and attack. Goals, though mainly supplied by Callum Wilson, are scored from all over the pitch. Winger Matt Ritchie, who made the championship PFA side, chipped in with 11. It’s a sad reflection that perhaps not one Fulham player would improve the team they have, notwithstanding their mainly Premier provenance whilst 7 of the Bournemouth side played in division one. One of the reasons why Kit Symons was preferred to Chris Hughton was ths reputation the latter had from his Norwich days for unattractive football. Even Kit has admitted good football has been sacrificed to the necessity of garnering points to survive.
In wishing Bournemouth well, I hope they do not do a Blackpool and are financially seduced by the Premier. Their turnover is £5m and they will receive 12 times that for their status amongst the big boys. As for Fulham we could learn something from identifying and implementing a vision that embraces player and fan alike instead of slick but disingenuous PR trying to convince all is rosy in planet Fulham to boost sagging season ticket sales. I don’t hold out much hope.