Welcome to Craven Cottage for our final home match of the Sky Bet Championship season. While the game may seem meaningless to some, Middlesbrough have much to play for this afternoon. I know our visitors will encounter an honest test and effort from Fulham, and our wonderful supporters will be in strong voice as we bring a vexing 2014/15 campaign to a close.
With that, I would like to take this opportunity to speak for a moment on the past campaign. It’s not the reflection I anticipated back in August, but as Chairman of your Club, it’s important to take responsibility for our results and then set a course for the future. So, let’s do that.
With 46 fixtures, combined with various cup ties, the Championship is a long, long campaign. The toll it takes on a club cannot be measured in the total of matches played alone. With more to gain as well as lose in terms of both promotion and relegation, a lot is asked of players - on and off the pitch - over the course of about 10 months. This may be especially true of clubs that have suffered the drop from the Barclays Premier League, as they often experience severe growing pains in their Championship debut.
Under our manager at the time, Felix Magath, we felt Fulham was built to withstand the challenges that came with the new setting of the Championship. We were mistaken, unfortunately, and made a managerial change less than six weeks into the season. While it was a decisive move to replace Felix only midway through September, we’d already spent seven matches with only one point to show for the effort. To borrow loosely from Yogi Berra, a legendary and quotable baseball player in the U.S., it was getting late early. We had to move.
From there, Kit Symons did a wonderful job as our Caretaker Manager to book some victories and create a warmer and more collegial environment at Motspur Park. Based on his early work, combined with his strong interview with me as well as the search committee we assembled in the fall, Kit clearly earned my trust to take the position full-time. Through the balance of the season, we simply were unable to keep up the impressive pace set by Kit and his team in late 2014. I believe this wasn’t the result of a shortage of talent and I know it wasn’t due to a lack of resolve and effort. Nonetheless, we spent a number of anxious weeks near the bottom of the relegation line, and only this week can we say with 100 per cent certainty that Fulham are safe. Whether you celebrated this week or merely breathed a sigh of relief, what’s important today is we’re safe. And now we move on.
Be assured that safety cannot be the ultimate goal at the end of every season, and I pledge to you that it won’t be. I have higher aspirations and you have higher expectations, and there is no reason we cannot meet both. With Mike Rigg in place as our Chief Football Officer and the benefit of a full off-season with him in charge, I do believe we’ll enter the 2015/16 season as a club that will be built for immediate and long-term success. It would be easy to say I wish the start of next season were tomorrow, but the truth is I’m looking forward to the summer. We have a lot of work to do on our squad and overall football operation, and all of us at Fulham are ready to get down to business.
The early response to Season Ticket renewals is better than promising. In fact, the return rate has been the best we’ve ever experienced, and that serves as a reminder of the remarkable resiliency and loyalty of our supporters and why we must deliver for you, and that includes off the pitch as well. I know that a lot of you are curious as to the progress on the plans for the Riverside Stand, and I can tell you we’re on track to provide a comprehensive update later this year. On this and other matters of understandable interest to you, I will be in touch.
So, as we get set to play our final 90 minutes at home this season, I thank you for your patience, loyalty and support. You’re the best supporters in the game. And I encourage you to join me in looking ahead rather than at what’s happened in the recent past. You have my word that my commitment to the future of Fulham Football Club is unqualified, as I want the same thing you do - a return to the Premier League. We can do it.
Come On You Whites!
Shahid Khan, Chairman