New horizons for Fulham

Mike Hewitt

A busy summer is ahead for the club, with decisions being made early over player - and staff - recruitment

This isn't normally the time to start dreaming of new dawns for your football club. Usually it comes at the end of the season, or with the acquisition of a new manager.

Neither of those are upon us as we speak, however, though the latter is, of course, circulating the rumour mill. Some say Martin Jol wants out, some say he'll be sacked, others say we've already lined up his replacement. Few really believe the club will progress with any of this.

Jol, apparently, wants more funds - something Mohammed Al Fayed is understandably cautious about. He's loosened the purse strings many times before, often to good effect but sometimes not so. Steve Marlet was the ultimate failure and, as much as he is adored, Bryan Ruiz has yet to justify his hefty price tag. Add our newly improved stadium into the mix and frugality is beyond understandable - it's encouraged.

So yes, Jol may well have funding concerns but is he really worrying about ambition? I think the stadium tells its own story on that front. This is a club on the up.

As for Jol being let go, it's another strange one to comprehend. We've had a quite abysmal run of form, having failed to pick up points for five games in a row, and Jol must take sole responsibility. If he cannot motivate the players, cannot set them out to win, then he is not doing his job properly.

But is it a sackable offence? No, relegation would be sackable. Five straight defeats to inferior opposition would be sackable. But losing to the likes of Arsenal, Everton, Chelsea and Liverpool merely makes for a perturbing few months. It's certainly no excuse for the immediate reflexes usually reserved for the likes of Chelsea and Blackburn Rovers.

There could, it must be said, be something in the rumours that continue to link Gus Poyet with the Fulham hotseat. His odds on becoming FFC boss, in some quarters, have been reduced to 2-5 on and have shown no signs of stagnating. The current Brighton and Hove Albion boss has been suspended by his club and is more than likely to leave within a matter of days.

Poyet also has admirers on the Fulham board, which could well dictate the path the club takes yet, on the whole, the consensus seems that Jol should be allowed time to shape his own squad, in his own vision. Sane, if you ask me.

But it doesn't just end with staff. There is a playing staff overhaul to oversee too and the signs, so far at least, are especially positive.

Mark Schwarzer's refusal to renew his contract is something of a blow, but it is the only bad news to come out of Jol's latest press conference, held on Friday. He will be replaced by Maarten Stekelenburg, a ready-made number one suitor with a fantastic pedigree. As much as it pains me to say it, thanks to Schwarzer's invaluable role at the club over recent years, this is just the start of the revolution of an ageing squad.

We have a fresh centre back lined up in Fernando Amorebieta, who will likely team up with Brede Hangeland, now tied down to a new deal. Bakary Sako may arrive too, with one of him, Amorebieta and Stekelenburg to be confirmed as early as next week. Early transfer dealings usually signify two things - an admittance that things need to be changed quickly, and a busy summer.

Jol has said that he expects "seven, eight [or] nine" players to leave this summer, with "five or six new players in". Given the right purchases, six players could easily fill the gaps which have been exposed to such damning effect this season.

Players like Alexander Kacaniklic and Kerim Frei, who have been on the periphery for much of this campaign, may well become established first team members and that will easily make up the numbers. It looks like Dimitar Berbatov will stay too, with the big Bulgarian loving life in his small, West London pond.

In fact, given these early indications, we could well have a 25-man squad next season that is easily capable of top ten football, if not more. As much as we have been let down this season, we know that this club is beyond relegation fodder, and we know that Jol is too.

Next year is our chance to prove it and our chance to make the leap that we've been waiting for for so long.

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