Fulham is a hot mess. For all that’s gone on over the last few days, weeks, months at Craven Cottage — that’s all you really need to know.
For those of you trying to get all the recent Fulham drama straight – we’ve got you covered:
On December 1st, Martin Jol was sacked by Fulham after two-and-a-half years in charge and immediately replaced by long time Manchester United assistant coach, Rene Meulensteen.
On December 24th, Fulham appointed Alan Curbishley as first team technical director. Six days later, the Cottagers appointed Ray Wilkins as assistant head coach.
How the balance of power at Fulham would pan out under these three was anyone’s guess, until last Friday when things got really weird and the club appointed Felix Magath as first team manager.
Most presumed the Magath hiring meant Meulensteen had been fired. Indeed, even the Dutch manager believed this to be the case as he took to the radio to explain that chief executive Alistair Mackintosh had told him that he had been “released.”
Fulham, however, have since come forward to claim that Meulensteen has not been sacked. He’s merely been “relieved” (thanks?) of his first-team duties after only 75 days at the helm. What role Meulensteen currently occupies at the Cottage, no one seems to know and the fact that he faces a fight to secure a pay-off from the club (he’s on a contract until 2015) only complicates things further.
Just when you thought things couldn’t get any more bizarre they did on Monday when Curbishley and Wilkins were reportedly sacked the club.
So there you have it. New Fulham owner Shahid Khan is not hitting the panic button, he’s positively smashing it. Guess that’s what happens when you suddenly realize the club you paid $300 million is four points adrift of safety with 12 league matches to play.
Goals from Bakary Sako and Luka Milivojevic spearheaded Crystal Palace’s 2-0 win over West Bromwich Albion in the PL Asia Trophy third place game, and now Liverpool and Leicester City tangle for the title.
The final will be staged at 8:30 a.m. ET, when Liverpool will hope to build on a 2-0 semifinal win paced by Divock Origi and Dominic Solanke goals.
The club, the city, the fans, name it: The relentless 27-year-old has renewed his commitment to AS Roma with a new contract, and understands how players like Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi devote their entire careers to i Lupi.
“It’s Rome,” Strootman exclaims, speaking ahead of the club’s second Stateside match of the International Champions Cup.
“You’re not going to leave easy. This is Rome. We all have the ambition to win something here, and to celebrate with the fans. Totti told us when he won the scudetto in 2001, there were parties for three months. If you win something here, it’s going to be really special. About the city you don’t even have to talk, it’s so beautiful you cannot compare it with anything else.”
Yeah, the Eternal City is pretty nice, but it’s most celebrated football club is growing in magnitude, too. Roma’s finished second in Serie A three of the past four seasons, and last season came within four points of its first scudetto since the aforementioned win earlier this century.
Strootman was a massive part of the campaign, returning to the elite form displayed in his first season at the club and in previous campaigns with PSV Eindhoven. He scored six times with seven assists between Serie A and the UEFA Europa League, averaging 2.7 tackles per game, 1.7 interceptions, and 1.4 dribbles per Serie A contest.
That his reclamation of that status came after knee surgeries limited him to 18 matches over the previous two seasons was sweet (if nervy).
“For me it was like such a relief, especially in the beginning you’d play a game and you’d be happy to play,” Strootman said. “If you won everyone was happy with the win, but I was just happy that I didn’t get injured again. The fitness coaches and technical staff did a great job. I played 50 games, we made the Champions League, and I signed a new contract. I was happy to pay them back on the pitch. I feel good.”
Payback is a theme in our talk with Strootman, who speaks glowingly of club chairman James Pallotta, the American businessman who stood by the midfielder during his injury struggles (NOTE: PST profiled Pallotta in depth last summer).
“He brought me here when he started the project, and he’s always supported me even during my injuries,” Strootman said. “He would call me, and was always there for me. I always told him, when I’m fit I want to pay you back with my play on the pitch. He’s like a president should be.”
It’ll be different from Strootman this season, and not just because of the changes to the Roma roster. Gone are Mohamed Salah, Antonio Rudiger, Leandro Paredes, and retiring Francesco Totti. Arriving are Maxime Gonalons, Hector Moreno, and reports of bids for Riyad Mahrez and the impending arrival of Aleksandar Kolarov excite the fan base.
I Lupi are a club which has been on the precipice of greatness for some time. Now with the Champions League group stage and battles with not just Juve and Napoli but surging AC Milan and Inter Milan, Strootman says it’s time to stop talking big and start acting it out.
“The last couple years we talked in the preseason about winning the scudetto, winning cups, but we have to show it on the pitch,” he said. “We still need some time, that’s normal, but we need to show on the pitch that we are hungry. We’re a young team with some experienced players. It’s a good mix. We have to show it from the first competition and game by game.”
Strootman also admitted, as many have, that American soccer continues to grow in renown around the Netherlands and Europe in general.
“I think it’s rising,” he said. “A lot more players from Holland are going over to MLS. I don’t see a lot of the games because they don’t show them in Italy. But when you’re here and see the friendly games against the big teams, the level is going up. MLS is getting higher and higher.”
Roma faces Spurs at Red Bull Arena on Tuesday before a July 30 battle with Juventus at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.