Sometime earlier this decade, the death knell of Fulhamerica rang out in the American media. Gone from the English side were players like Brian McBride, Carlos Bocanegra and Clint Dempsey, and that American Player in London vibe was left to Deuce at his new digs at White Hart Lane.
Maybe the American vibe never went away, but it’s blossoming again under owner Shahid “Shad” Khan. The Pakistani businessman bought the team in 2013, and there’s been a Fulhamerica revitalization under Khan (who also owns the Jacksonville Jaguars of the National Football League).
And the next time either of those players nets a goal for the Cottagers, you’ll see the Southern Sun beaming off their chests (in a sense, scroll down for image). Visit Florida is the new Fulham shirt sponsor, to the tune of “high six figures”.
“I love Fulham and I love Florida, so naturally it brings me a lot of satisfaction to see two of my personal passions become one,” Khan, a supporter of Gov. Rick Scott, said in a prepared statement. “One of my stated goals has long been the expansion and development of Fulham as an international brand, particularly in the U.S. Visit Florida has a great tourism and leisure story to tell in the competitive London and UK market, and I don’t think there can be a better way of communicating all Florida has to offer than through the power and following of Fulham Football Club.”
The one-year deal, which Paul Phipps, Visit Florida’s chief marketing officer, said is “high six-figures,” is expected to generate a $3 return in Florida for each $1 spent.
“We think this sport ties into a very passionate fan base, and Florida can become the destination of choice,” Phipps said. “You have to find new and different ways to communicate your brand.”
That could be worth close to $200 million to Florida in tourism, Phipps says in the article. It’s little surprise that big American dollars would look into the value of Visit Malaysia’s deal with Cardiff City and similar deals.
Whether de la Torre becomes a force for Fulham or the USMNT — he also holds a Spanish passport — the returning Fulhamerica vibe is sure to bring back warm memories for many American fans. Now can it help bring back Premier League football to Craven Cottage?
American midfielder Emerson Hyndman is currently playing fairly regularly for the Cottagers, and a report says Khan has reached into the Fulhamerica files to help him sort out the position. Current caretaker manager Kit Symons considered a candidate.
David Daly, Huw Jenkins, Brian McBride, Danny Murphy and Niall Quinn have all been named on the committee to review the contenders to take over at Craven Cottage.
All five committee members spoke last week with Khan, and all but McBride met in London within the past few days with Mark Lamping, the president of the Jacksonville Jaguars of the National Football League and a non executive director on the Fulham Board of Directors.
Khan met with Daly last month in London, and Khan and Lamping met with McBride during the summer at a United States men’s national team match in Jacksonville.
“I’ve got the right five men to help us find the right man for Fulham,” Khan said. “They each bring something similar, and yet unique, to the search.”
Khan says he’ll be the one to ultimately choose the manager, which is at least somewhat-obvious. Wonder if McBride could toss a name like Stabaek boss Bob Bradley into consideration?
Fulham has hired former manager Ray Wilkins as the Cottagers new assistant head coach.
“I am delighted that the chairman and the CEO have, again, backed my desire for further experience and support within the backroom staff,” manager Rene Meulensteen said.
“Retaining our status of being a Barclays Premier League club next season is vitally important to our long-term plans, and I know that Ray’s own experience and his knowledge of the game will be a vital component in our success.”
The acquisition of Wilkins is the latest high profile move that new owner Shahid Khan has made over the last two months.
First, Khan introduced Meulensteen as head coach under Martin Jol and, once Jol was fired, as manager.
Then last week the American businessman brought in former Charlton and West Ham manager Alan Curbishley as first team technical director. Now, he’s padded his staff of notable professionals even further by adding Wilkins, who managed the club between 1997 and 1998 when it was in the third tier.
The 57-year-old Wilkins began his managing career at QPR as a player-manager from 1994 and 1996 and later had spells as assistant manager at both Millwall and Chelsea, where he last coached until November 2010. Wilkins has since worked as a television pundit.
With Meulensteen, Curbishley and Wilkins now in tote, Khan will hope his side can turn around what has been a disappointing first half of the season. Despite notable talent throughout the squad, the Cottagers have failed to find their rhythm and currently sit 18th following the 6-0 hammering at Hull City.
Fulham will look to find their way out of the drop zone on Wednesday when they host West Ham United at 10:00am ET on NBC’s Live Extra.
Rene Meulensteen, who served as Head Coach under Sir Alex Ferguson for seven years, has been officially appointed to the same position under fellow Dutchman Martin Jol at Fulham.
Thought to be headed back to Qatar where he began his managerial career, Meulensteen was instead convinced by Fulham to join ranks with the Southwest London club which is toiling in the relegation zone.
He’s also recently been linked with open managerial jobs at Middlesborough and Crystal Palace.
The question becomes, is Meulensteen being lined up as Martin Jol’s replacement, or is the addition of a player motivator and tactical sidekick actually a move to back their current manager?
Martin Jol has been one of the favorites to be next up on the managerial chopping block in the Premier League, and as Fulham continues to struggle the pressure rises on new owner Shahid Khan to make some sort of decision.
However, don’t see this as the appointment of Jol’s successor just yet. It’s quite possible that the move instead is a realization by Fulham that, despite Martin Jol’s tactical weaknesses on gameday, he has value in his connections and personality. There’s a chance Meulensteen takes over the reigns for most of the operations on matchday, while Jol assumes more of a technical director’s role.
The two also have a history. Rumors flew this summer that when Jol lost his first-team coach Ray Lewington to the England national team that Meulensteen was his first choice replacement. Instead Meulensteen went to Russia to manage at Anzhi Makhachkala. That didn’t go so well, and Meulensteen was out in just 16 days as the owner found himself in financial shambles and the club looked to cut ties with everyone who had a decent salary.
It remains to be seen what will happen at Craven Cottage in the coming months. Will Jol be out and Meulensteen the manager by Christmas? Or will Khan stick with his man and provide as much assistance to him as possible to get the club away from the bottom three?
It’s an intriguing move that initially raises more questions than it answers about the management status at Fulham, but time must be given to this side to respond to the new appointment.