The Mark Hughes era at Fulham is about to begin. He will be in the dugout at Craven Cottage this Saturday when the club plays Werder Bremen in the last friendly match before the new season begins. I feel very good about the appointment of Mark Hughes as Fulham manager. I think he is the right man for the job. With that said, Fulham are at the crossroads right now. It is a fragile time for the club. Will they be able to move forward, stay at the same level, or move backwards? Which direction will Fulham go in the future under Mark Hughes?
In advance, I apologize for any fans who don't like my references to the New England Patriots. I use them as an example because I would love Fulham, to have the type of success that the Pats have had in the NFL. Also, for this post, the experiences I went through with the Patriots helps me explain the current situation with Fulham.
Mark Hughes takes over a club that has a strong nucleus of players. He probably only needs to add a few real good players to the existing team. His job will be to try to take the club forward. The question is will he succeed? Will his tenure with the club be like Pete Carroll or more like Bill Belichick during their coaching careers with the New England Patriots?
Pete Carroll took over a Patriots team that also had a strong nucleus in 1997. He had the ingredients he needed to succeed. Unfortunately for Pats fans his tenure of being "pumped and jacked"did not work. He tried too hard being the player's friend rather than their head coach. The result was a slow decline over the course of three seasons. I saw a club I love slowly go to the bottom of the NFL. In three seasons the Patriots were 10 - 6, 9 - 7, and finally 8 - 8. In the end he lost his players and control of the club. I certainly hope this does not happen to Fulham.
Bill Belichick took over for Pete Carroll in 2000 for the New England Patriots. He had a different approach for the club. He stressed "team" instead of glorifying individual players. The Patriots played a disciplined style of football. They didn't beat themselves. In his first season the Patriots took a step backwards. The Pats went 5 -11. However, sometimes you need to take a step backwards to make a giant leap forwards.
In his second year he brought in more players who were willing to buy into what he was selling. The club ended the season 11 - 5. The dramatic change in records from year one to year two was fantastic. But, the result was much better. In 2001 the New England Patriots won the their first of three Super Bowls. Belichick had completely changed the history of the New England Patriots. He was able to build on what was established in 1996 and moved the team forward. He figured out how to succeed where Carroll failed. Can Mark Hughes do the same at Fulham?
Mark Hughes is coming to Fulham and has many ingredients already in place to move the team forward. He already has many good players that have bought into the "team concept" established by Roy Hodgson. Many pieces to the pie are already at Fulham. Based on what I have been reading he will be given funds to upgrade the club with more good players. It sounds like he will have the support from the chairman to help push the Cottagers up the table.
It is now up to Mark Hughes to get the job done. As I stated earlier, I think he is the right man for the job. He has proven this based on his success at Blackburn. Let's hope he learns from his mistakes at Manchester City and can move the Cottagers forward. Will the Mark Hughes era in the end be compared to Bill Belichick or Pete Carroll? I am hoping for the former. Only time will tell which direction Fulham will go in the future under Mark Hughes.