Good afternoon! I’m pleased to welcome you to Craven Cottage for what promises to be an eventful afternoon. As if the West London derby versus Chelsea wasn’t enough to create a spark at Craven Cottage, today also marks the first home match for Felix Magath, our new First Team Manager.
We announced the arrival of Felix just more than two weeks ago. Since then, there has been quite a bit of chatter focused on our appointment of Felix and his staff, both in the media and among our supporters. And that’s to be expected, particularly given that the news clearly took everyone by surprise - something that rarely happens in the world of football.
In the meantime, it appears that much of the shock has given way to understanding and optimism. At least I certainly hope so. Personally, I was filled with confidence the moment we were able to finalise our agreement with Felix. Why? Because for our journey ahead, there’s no manager better suited to achieve our goal of remaining in the Barclays Premier League than Felix Magath, whose late-season accomplishments with clubs facing challenges similar to ours are impressive and well-known to all who follow football.
It wasn’t lost on me that introducing a third manager in a season would appear, let’s say, unconventional or unpopular - or both. I expected the scrutiny and know there will be more ahead. I accept this and welcome the responsibility, because the alternative was risking a non-stop slide in the table in the hope that better results would occur in time to save our season. I saw that as too dangerous for everyone - our Club, players, partners and supporters. When weighing this against the fact Felix was available and - most importantly - bold and passionate about the opportunity to lead Fulham, it was clear we had to make a change and, for the moment, let the headlines fall where they may.
I was happy to see Felix gain a 1-1 draw in his first game as Fulham Manager last weekend at West Bromwich Albion. While we just missed out on securing all three points, it was important for Felix, the players and everyone who loves Fulham to get off to a promising start. We did, and that bodes well for us this afternoon against Chelsea and for the final 10 matches of the season that will follow.
I want to close with a word of congratulations and thanks. First, on behalf of everyone at Fulham
Football Club, my sincere congratulations go to Brian McBride, who was elected this week to the United States Soccer Hall of Fame. I have long been familiar with Brian’s career in the US, where he starred for our men’s national team in three World Cup tournaments. And because Brian grew up in Chicago and played college football (or soccer) in St Louis, two Midwestern US cities near my hometown, I took a special interest in his career, including when he left Major League Soccer to join Fulham in 2004.
It wasn’t until I was introduced as Chairman of Fulham last summer that I fully appreciated his impact here at Craven Cottage. Club employees, members of the media and supporters alike were quick to note how much Brian meant to Fulham, and I’ve been reminded of his positive influence many times since. Brian will always be a friend of Fulham Football Club, and I salute him for his well-deserved recognition as one of the best footballers ever from the United States.
And finally, I cannot say thank you enough to the thousands of supporters who travelled to West Brom last weekend to faithfully stand behind our squad. I won’t pretend that I understood every word to every song and chant, but to those of you who attended, please know that your enthusiasm and energy over 90-plus minutes was heard and felt by everyone. It was the best performance on the road of the season by the Fulham faithful, and I anticipate that we’ll match that effort and more this afternoon at Craven Cottage.
Come On You Whites!
Shahid Khan, Chairman