0 users online

Stoke 4-1 Fulham Prem 37 1314 The Guardian

last updated Tuesday 06th May 2014, 11:07 AM

Guardian Logo
Ian Baker at The Guardian

Stoke (1) 4-1 (0) Fulham

Felix Magath is not used to failure. He has two World Cup runners-up medals from his playing time, an unused substitute in West Germany's 1982 final defeat to Italy and fully involved four years later in the loss to Argentina, but he had no relegation on his CV - until last Saturday anyway.

As the Fulham manager surveyed the wreckage from a desperate season for the club, ended on a sunny afternoon in Stoke-on-Trent, he could reflect on the lowest point of his career. "This is worse than losing in two World Cup finals - being the second best team in the world is not as bad as being at the bottom of the Premier League," Magath said. "The only good thing to come out of this is that we know where we will be playing next season and we can start to make plans for it."

The German arrived in February - after Martin Jol and René Meulensteen had failed in the job - with a big reputation, but he has not lived up to his dictatorial reputation. This horrific 4-1 defeat at a side for whom Premier League survival was assured many moons ago lacked the characteristics of Magath's hardline background in his home country.

Fulham displayed a lack of passion during the game that left the 3,000 travelling fans astonished at the meek surrender of their 13-year status as a top-flight club.

Magath knew that Saturday was no such time for a thorough inquest but he will surely realise he needs to dispense with high-earning underachievers and focus on youth. The highly regarded forwards Patrick Roberts and Cauley Woodrow have helped their side reach the final of the FA Youth Cup - they visit Chelsea on Monday night in the second leg at Stamford Bridge, having won the first leg 3-2 at Craven Cottage.

"It is a good sign for the future that Fulham are in the FA Youth Cup final because I have always enjoyed watching the development of young players and I have always picked young players in my teams," said Magath, who will be at Stamford Bridge on Monday night. "To make it work next season we need to build our team with young players from our academy. We need to change some things about the club if we want to become part of the Premier League again."

Names such as John Arne Riise face uncertain summers. The former Liverpool and Roma defender is out of contract and is already fearing what may happen over the coming months. "It has not helped that we have had three different managers but at the end of the day, that happens," the 33-year-old Norwegian said. "I fully believe Magath will turn it round next season. He can build his own team and get it how he wants it to look and I am sure Fulham will be back in the Premier League after next season.

"A mix of experienced players and young players, with Felix working in pre-season, will work. My contract is up. I have spoken to the club and we have to play the last game and see what happens. My heart belongs to Fulham.

"I have always thought about winning titles so this is a different feeling. I never for one second believed we would go down. It's hit me like a brick wall. There are a lot of sad players, we are really gutted. There are tears. This is a family club, a traditional club and a very sad day for the players, the club, the supporters - everybody."

As for Stoke, the future is rosy. The attacking trio of Peter Odemwingie, Marko Arnautovic and Oussama Assaidi excelled on Saturday, all scoring, as did Jonathan Walters. The Potters had led at the interval through Odemwingie's scrambled goal on 39 minutes but Arnautovic and Assaidi added fine efforts, emphasising the team's new attacking threat. Kieran Richardson scored for Fulham before Walters registered the late fourth.

Steven Nzonzi also played his part and Stoke will hope to wrap up a first top-10 Premier League finish when they travel to West Bromwich Albion on Sunday. "We played with power, with pace and we hit them quickly and we have shown real improvement," said the French midfielder who has relished the opportunity to get forward more this year. "It takes time to change the way you play football but we are showing improvement between the first part of the season and the second part."

Source .
Since 1998
"It's been updated!"