THERE are two approaches for a football manager to take when relegation starts to look inevitable. One is to acknowledge the fact, and start planning for next season’s promotion campaign. The other is to keep talking up your team’s chances of survival even as your fans start to wonder aloud if season-ticket prices might be reduced when you drop a division.
Watford were a classic example of the ‘plan for relegation’ approach last season, with Aidy Boothroyd refusing to spend fortunes following promotion to the Premier League. When he did buy players during the January transfer window 12 months ago, he did so with an eye on a Championship promotion campaign. Give or take the odd stutter, it seems to be working.
Derby boss Paul Jewell has taken that approach one step further this season, by making a point of stating in every television interview he gives that he knows Derby are going down, and that he’s planning for the long-term future. He’s said this so many times, that it’s a wonder the highlights of their games aren’t already popping up on The Championship on ITV on Sunday mornings.
Most managers, though, tend to insist that where there’s life, there’s hope. And that’s the tack Roy Hodgson has taken at Fulham, even though their future in the Premier League can probably now be counted in weeks.
Last night’s final match: Bolton 0 Fulham 0
Reporter: Ivan Gaskell
Tuesday night’s dire goalless draw at the Reebok Stadium was officially Hodgson’s sixth match in charge of Fulham. The previous five had brought three league defeats and an FA Cup exit (after a replay) at the hands of League One side Bristol Rovers.
So after that little run, anything would seem like an improvement. And Fulham’s first league point under Hodgson certainly felt like an improvement.
“We have to be satisfied with the performance, and one point is good,” said Hodgson in his post-match interview, glossing over the fact that a point is not much good at all when you’re four adrift of safety.
If feverish mid-season transfer window activity is the sign of a club in trouble – and more than one Premier League manager will tell you that it is – then Fulham are in dire straits. Brede Hangeland, Eddie Johnson and Leon Andreasen – plus any other arrivals – may yet earn their place in Fulham folklore. But they will probably have to do it from the Championship.
Incidentally, this was the first Last on MOTD double of the season; as the reverse fixture was also the final game on Match of the Day back in August. I did toy with the idea of just copying out the blog entry I wrote on that game, but I just couldn’t bring myself to cheat you in that way. Aren’t I great?
1. Derby: 7 (Gubba difference: +1)
2=. Wigan: 6 (GD: +1)
2=. Fulham: 6 (GD: +1)
4. Reading: 5 (GD: +1)
5. Bolton: 4 (GD: +1)
6. Birmingham: 4 (GD: 0)
7. Gubba: 3
8=. Aston Villa: 3 (GD: 0)
8=. Chelsea: 3 (GD: 0)
8=. West Ham: 3 (GD: 0)
11. Portsmouth: 2 (GD: +1)
12=. Sunderland: 2 (GD: 0)
12=. Millwall: 2 (GD: 0)
12=. Walsall: 2 (GD: 0)
15=. Everton: 1
15=. Middlesbrough: 1
15=. Newcastle: 1
15=. Bury: 1
15=. Workington: 1
15=. Huddersfield: 1
15=. Grimsby: 1
(NB. Where teams are level, positions are decided by Gubba Difference; the number of times a team is on Match of the Day last with Tony Gubba commentating.)