It’s probably fair to say that Shahid Khan has made himself pretty much universally popular as the club chairman since taking over in 2013. On the downside we’ve been relegated three times under his reign but this has been countered by two promotions with hopefully a third on the way. His credit balance has further been enhanced by the clear commitment he’s made to our future at Craven Cottage with the development of a new Riverside Stand.
By contrast his son Tony generally triggers the opposite reaction amongst supporters and a number of injudicious tweets have done him no favours. One in particular at the start of last season implying we should be grateful to be a yo-yo club went down like a lead balloon; especially in view of the fact that prior to the Khan’s takeover we’d enjoyed 13 successive seasons in the Premier League under Mohamed Al Fayed’s stewardship.
Although it was not a wise move to make the statement public, I can accept that from a business point of view he’s got a point. Our recent stays in the Premier League have been short and far from sweet but every season spent up top gets us a share of the TV riches doled out and in going down we get a parachute payment to keep the wolf from the door. I’m no expert on the Financial Fair Play rules but it does seem this gives us an advantage when comparing our budget with other Championship clubs. From viewing social media this season it’s clear that this has triggered a good deal of envy. There was a curious post from a Forest fan after our win at the City Ground that criticised us for everything from having a neutral end to being a money laundering front for the Tory Party. We also seem to be a regular target of the Second Tier Podcast on Twitter who’re always fishing for a bite from Fulham fans with various barbs about the club. It’s probably best to ignore these provocations or alternatively respond with humour. The finest example was the post by a fan of a cheeseboard being shared on the train going to Peterborough the other week. The funniest part was seeing the indignant responses of some for whom the joke clearly went over their heads.
With the team in such fine form there does seem to be every chance of a third Championship promotion season out of three. If that proves the case then it’s clear the yo-yo term aptly applies to us at the moment whether we like the term or not.
It would be nice to think that next time we go up we’ll get the chance to stick around for a while and re-establish ourselves in the Premier League and remove that tag. For my part as much as the recent relegation campaigns have hurt and disappointed me, I’m never that upset by the thought of Championship football.
When I became a regular supporter in the 1971/72 season the Championship was the level we were at – although in those days it was just called Division 2. We stayed in the Division until relegation in 1980 so in my formative years I just sort of accepted that this was where we belonged. Our overall history in the Football League tends to back that theory up.
We joined the Football League in 1907 at Division Two level. In those days there were only two divisions with the League only being expanded in the 1920’s. However, we did remain at that level for 17 seasons until our first relegation in 1928. We then spent four seasons in Division 3 South before our first Football League promotion campaign in 1931/32. We then settled back in to Division 2 for 11 seasons that straddled the Second World War before finally reaching the top flight in 1949. Our first stay was a brief 3 years but another promotion in 1959 was the prelude to a nine season stay at the top. Successive relegations followed before promotion back to Division 2 in 1971.
The relegation in 1980 was my first as a fan and although I was gutted, I didn’t have to wait long for my first promotion with Malcolm MacDonald piloting us up in 1982 and so nearly getting us up again the following season. That great side was swiftly broken up though and by 1986 we were back in the Third Division and almost out of business completely with the new owners looking to cash in on the real estate of the Cottage and merge us with QPR. It was a reality check that the level we were playing mattered less when the very survival of the club we love so much was at stake. Since that time we’ve plumbed the very depths of the Football League before bouncing back under first Micky Adams and then catapulting upwards with Mohamed Al Fayed’s backing.
We are now in our 105th League season and have spent 27 of them at the top, 18 in the third tier and 3 at the very bottom. It means the current Championship season is our 57th campaign at that level which constitutes over half of our League existence. That is why relegation to the Championship never phases me. We’re pretty well adjusted to being at that level and our recent experiences in this Division have only been positive ones. The Jokanovic years were very entertaining and although the Parker promotion season was far more functional, who couldn’t enjoy the way it ended with that victory over Brentford. This season is shaping up to to be the best of the bunch with Silva’s brand of football bearing comparison with the finest promotion team of all – Tigana’s cavaliers of 2001. This season is definitely turning into one to savour especially with the knowledge that if we do go up, the Premier League is unlikely to be anywhere near as much fun. I don’t think I’d be alone in thinking that it would actually be quite acceptable to turn promotion down and win the Championship every year if that was permitted.
That scenario is out of the question so it looks like another ride up Tony Khan’s yo-yo is in the offing… Let’s just hope that if we do get back up this season he gives Silva the chance to recruit properly. With the new stand opening, the best way to ensure it’s full capacity is to be playing and staying in the Premier League and putting the yo-yo back in the toy box for a while.