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Magath ready for mission impossible

last updated Thursday 20th February 2014, 11:31 PM

Fulham manager Felix Magath
Fulham manager
Felix Magath
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Felix Magath
Fulham manager Felix Magath could be the first dictator who needs a revolution. As he eases himself in at Craven Cottage as Fulham's third manager of the season, stories of his uncompromising approach are aplenty. Sending players on energy-sapping runs through the Bavarian wilderness and allegedly hiding their water bottles, handing out mammoth fines for missed headers and back passes, the tales are myriad. Magath simply smiled and said: "I am a nice guy, very nice . no one died."

Some solace then for Fulham's players, who were called in for extra training last weekend after the German's surprise appointment on Friday. They can expect more of the same between now and May, with Magath given just 12 games to salvage a dire season that has left Fulham rooted to the bottom of the Premier League and four points from safety.

His task begins in earnest on Saturday away against West Bromwich Albion, a side struggling in 17th place. Yet the three-times Bundesliga winner first held talks about taking over two weeks ago, before the matches against Manchester United and Liverpool, René Meulensteen's last in charge.

Fulham insist that Meulensteen was not a dead man walking, saying they still harboured hopes of a turnaround during those two games - a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford and a 3-2 home defeat - which coincidentally provided some of the club's best performances in recent months. Magath's four-hour meeting in London 9 days ago with the owner, Shahid Khan, and chief executive, Alistair Mackintosh, suggest a plan C was already in motion.

Either way, Khan and Mackintosh have opted for one final throw of the dice in a desperate bid to avoid relegation. In doing so, they have turned to a man with a fierce reputation.

"Why I should change my training? I am the most successful coach of Germany," said Magath. "Until now everyone has lived [through] my training. No one died. Ask Raúl about my work. Ask the good players and you will get the right answers. I am a nice guy.

"The most important thing for me is to begin to work as fast as we can. I called them into work on Sunday to give us time to get to know each other. The players have to know me and they have to try to understand what I want.

"We have to work, to stay together and fight against relegation. That is all [we have to do] in the next few weeks. I have worked with some clubs who were on the bottom and I was never relegated. I am sure we will avoid relegation.

"I don't care about the past and I have no influence in the past. I have seen where we are in the table and I have to see where it can be improved. I don't care about other managers, I have my way of playing."

Magath has a fine coaching record in the Bundesliga, with successful periods at Bayern, Wolfsburg and Schalke. He has targeted six victories from the remaining fixtures if Fulham are to remain in the top-flight, and will probably not care if he ruffles a few feathers along the way.

The former striker Jan Aage Fjortoft, who played under Magath at Eintracht Frankfurt, recounts tales of colleagues collapsing on training runs, while the Bayern president, Uli Hoeness, recently said: "I would never want to treat human beings like he does."

Magath has already acted swiftly in severing the club's ties with its previous coaching staff. Meulensteen, Alan Curbishley and Ray Wilkins have departed and, while he did not speak with Meulensteen directly, he did have a conversation with Curbishley, the former technical director.

"For Fulham to avoid relegation it [their departures] was a must," Magath said. "If you give the players a sign that [they are] starting from the beginning then you have also to send somebody away. I think it's best for Fulham."

On his meeting with Khan, Magath added: "He's a very impressive person and I'm sure that he is the right man for Fulham. He's not satisfied. He told me he has given the managers all they want from the beginning of the season. He was totally surprised he [the club] was in last place."

Waving his arms, gesticulating and inadvertently knocking over microphones, Magath claimed that he hoped to sprinkle some Bundesliga magic on the Premier League's bottom side. If he can steer Fulham clear of the drop zone it would arguably rank alongside some of his best achievements during an impressive 20-year managerial career.

He said: "I hope I can show you that being a little bit German, it's not so bad for the players."

Methods aside, the first German manager in Premier League history is sure to make an impression.

Source James Riach at The Guardian
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