In an article in the Independent on line (15th May Edition) Adam Szreter
writes under the heading "Fulham's Future Looks Bright". His second paragraph starts:
"Their £8m team is the envy of every other club in their division, and a
good many others besides, but Al Fayed is not the first of English
football's new generation of mega-rich proprietors to discover that money
does not buy you instant success."
How does he reach the first of his assumptions ? Are Watford, Bristol City,
Northampton and Grimsby envious of Fulham? Come to think of it, are Man
City fans ? Most fans in Division 2 are loyal enough supporters of a
club not to harbour feelings of envy towards another club.
I suspect that most fans are actually annoyed at the arrogance of the
situation. Firstly Micky Adams is given a "golden handshake" to leave
the team he successfully guided to promotion. Vast sums of money are
then poured into the club to provide an all-star management team and some big
name players. When Wilkins and co. took charge, Fulham were 16 points
behind Watford. By the end the gap had hardly shifted. In fact, the only
reason it was constant was the poor run of form that Watford had in mid
season - not because Fulham played particularly well to keep pace.
The second statement about money buying success is indeed true, although
long term it usually pays off as a strategy. But this is a shocking
trend within football at the moment and the reason that
our game sits on a very sharp knife edge. The continued perception that
money buys success and that to win anything you must a) have a
continental manager, b) sign lots of foreign playes and c) pay them
stupid wages will ruin football in this country.
The reason Fulham failed was because lots of big money signings, whilst
bringing in the crowds, failed to work effectively as a unit. Individual
talent is not an issue, it is how the team plays. The failure of
Newcastle, Spurs and Everton this season suggests something more is an
issue - it is not just a question of players. Rather the passion and
commitment shown by teams like Barnsley wins many more admirers than the
big money clubs. Again the delight at seeing the big clubs struggle is
because of the perceived arrogance of these clubs, who equate money with
divine right for success.
Arsenal were popular this year because they played as team. Yes, Bergkamp
stood out but he was not immortalised in the same way Beckham, Scholes,
Cole and company were. He was just part of the team and his frequent
absence through injury and suspension showed as Arsenal still got the
So the starting argument that money makes fans envious is flawed. A lot
of clubs could do with money but for what purpose ? To buy players or to
keep the club afloat ? I'm sure Doncaster would welcome a fraction of
that money to buy "average" players to give them a fighting chance and
not the humilation they suffered this season. There is a need for money
in the game but transfer fees and players' wages are not where that money
should be going. Clubs like Fulham are choosing the first option and
must live with all the risks that brings. The price of failure suddenly
becomes financial rather than emotional.
I would guess that a lot of Division 2 clubs, if anything, would be envious of
financial security and a manager like GT that
knows how to achieve success through a team of 11 players, not a few big
names who are driven by their wallets and not by their hearts. Football
today is as much a game of money as it is of 22 players on a Saturday
afternoon and for too many clubs that is a game they cannot play.