Greetings to the Fulham family from Motspur Park, where I have spent time this week to further get to know Slaviša Jokanović and his staff, as well as to measure the effect his arrival has had on our First Team and throughout your Club. To get to the point, this is by far the most impressive operation I’ve seen at Fulham since becoming Chairman in the summer of 2013, and I anticipate that you’ll sense the continuing transformation today when the Whites welcome a very accomplished Middlesbrough side to Craven Cottage.
In short, Slaviša has changed the environment and earned the respect of everyone at the Club - from football to the front office - in the process. I saw it personally on Tuesday at Leeds United, where we played well enough to win, and I hope you’ll agree that our performances overall have been markedly better over the past month, even if the results at times didn’t reveal it.
This isn’t to say that Slaviša is running Motspur Park in a militaristic fashion. It’s not that at all. But, it’s also far from being cosy and comfortable, as many observers have described our Club in recent campaigns. From what I’ve seen this week during training, accountability is demanded. Details are important. And effort is expected. In summary, our standards, finally, are where they should be for a club with our reputation and history, and in the end there are two clear winners - any player who takes seriously his obligation to represent Fulham, as they’re getting the playing time they deserve and, of course, our fans, who flat-out deserve a better brand of football than we’ve produced over the past several years.
A final thought on Slaviša’s impact: I attended our match on Tuesday at Leeds and, first, I want to thank the many supporters who made the long trek and treated me so well at Elland Road. No surprise there - Fulham fans are first class in good times and bad, and I’m happy they were able to at least leave Leeds with a point and witness first-hand the progress we’re making. Before the match, I visited Slaviša and the team, and in the dressing room I saw a fighting spirit in your squad that I feel had been missing too frequently. My takeaway - Slav has laid down the law to perform, tackle and maybe take a stitch or two, or go somewhere else.
So, full credit to Slaviša and his staff for attacking this challenge with urgency and the belief that this season can yet be rewarding. And thank you to Slaviša and the football operations team for an effective, if not impressive, January transfer window despite the embargo that we understood long ago would be in play. The loan arrivals of Zakaria Labyad, Rohan Ince and Michael Madl, and the recall of Fernando Amorebieta, have contributed to making us better. Add to that keeping intact the explosive pairing of Moussa Dembélé and Ross McCormack, and we probably could not have emerged from January in better condition. I’m particularly pleased that we have reached a new contract agreement with Ross, our top goalscorer who is as determined as all of us to see Fulham’s return to the Premier League.
And I want to salute both Ross and Moussa for earning nominations at the London Football Awards 2016 taking place on Thursday. The London Football Awards celebrates the very best of football in the Capital and it’s a great honour for both our players to receive this recognition. I congratulate them and we wish them the best of luck!
Looking ahead, we have 13 matches remaining and only one loss in our last five outings. While three of our next five matches will come against clubs in promotion or Play-Off contention, I’m optimistic that a top-half finish is possible. I know that’s the expectation of Slaviša, and we share the view that a nice run for Fulham through to May will be important, not so much for momentum into next season, but for the mindset of everyone who aspires to suit up for the First Team. In that respect, next season begins today!
I’d like to leave you with one thought off the pitch. First, very soon we will be sharing news on plans to honour the legendary George Cohen. I know you’ll be delighted to learn what’s in store and how you can take part in celebrating the career and life of such a wonderful servant of Fulham and the game of football in England. I’ll personally take part in the effort and I encourage everyone who loves George Cohen and Fulham Football Club to join me. You’ll be happy and proud that you did.
As always, thanks for your faith, enthusiasm and support. There’s no better place to be in football than Craven Cottage, and no better club to rally behind than Fulham. We have it all, but we do want more.
Come On You Whites!
Shahid Khan, Chairman