Response to Baldwin’s Breakdown

Following the somewhat controversial article put out earlier today from Matt Baldwin about the future of Slav. It’s only fair that we give someone the right to respond with an alternative view. Mike Gregg is that man…

Having read Matthew Baldwin’s blog this morning I felt impelled to first reply on Twitter and then also put my thoughts down for a longer comment.

The article by Matthew seems more a plea to get Benitez rather than move Slav on at this time but is written in such a way that from the start it seems he wants Slav gone, in fact, in his first paragraph he writes “I think Slavisa has taken us as far as he can”, basing that in part on “number of changes to the back four”.

How you can come to that conclusion 6 games into our first season back in the Premier League? With a summer where we had an incoming transfer list of 12 players, I find difficult to fathom.

Yes, it’s been frustrating to see the chopping and changing at the back as we try to find the right combination. But that has been required partly through to the new players coming in, injuries, and let’s be honest, mistakes by individuals that quite rightly the manager has considered when selecting players.

We have had a rocky start losing the first two games but since then we have picked up 5 points in 4 games with the only defeat against the Premier League Champions. The signs hanging up at Motspur Park are ‘Work in Progress’ and will continue to be up for a while yet. As we have seen in last couple of seasons its very much the Slavisa way and when he finds that group of 15 or 16 players he feels at ease with he sticks with it.

To make assumptions that he is not a winning manager, someone who can help Fulham push on are badly mistaken. Slav is a winner, someone who pushes all involved to be and do better. Many of the ideas both he and his coaching team have implemented at the club since they arrived go on without any fanfare. It’s the little things they look at, from the music during the warmup, colour of the training kits and to what time a rescheduled game should be played. It’s all about winning.

I see nothing that says he (or the club) want to be a Stoke and stick around in the lower middle of the table. Long term, the aspirations of both parties go far beyond that. We will never be the Man Utd of the south as quoted in the article, but we certainly can aspire to be better and more consistent than we were last time round in the Premier League.

My hope is that he gets his contract extension sooner rather than later to end any speculation on his future, which will rise the longer it is delayed.

Moving on to Matthews comments on Benitez. If Slav was to leave either through his own decision or the club then I have faith that the owner and board have a process in place to find a replacement who fits us. In fact, just as the club have the player recruitment process in place where they have a continually changing list of players for each position, I would wager they have something similar on the managerial position… with fewer names of course.

Similar to how many other clubs have worked, the Khans have tried to implement a style of football at the club. Any manager or coach coming in would have to work within that remit. Benitez would not fit that bill in any way I can see. I’m not going to name anyone because quite frankly if and when something happens you need to see who’s available and how are they doing.

With regards to taking Rafa on as manager, it falls down with Mitrovic. Here is a striker who currently is recognised as one of the hottest strikers in Europe, and a player Benitez could not get the best out of. Straightaway, if Rafa replaced Slav we would have a problem.

Matthew’s blog quite clearly (even if Matthew disputes it in his replies to it) is more of a plea to employ a new manager in Rafa Benitez than one to urge the club to give Slavisa a new contract.

There is a time to possibly talk about making a change, but today, six games in, after reaching last 16 of the League Cup this week, is not that time.

Fulham fans have learnt to be patient over these last couple of years, it seems in Matthew’s case he doesn’t have any.