By Charles Jones
Ask any Fulham fan who the worst manager in the club’s history is and 99% will say Felix Magath. Felix Magath took charge of Fulham on Valentines day in 2014 but his relationship with fans was anything but a loving one.
“The Cat” arrived in West London filling the entire fan base with optimism, a manager who had managed Bayern Munich only seven years prior, had never been relegated in his career and took a Wolfsburg side to the Bundesliga title in 2009 after being relegation threatened only two years before.
From a fans point of view Magath was an awful manager with Fulham fan and host of the Cottage Talk podcast Russ Goldman saying:
“I guess ownership saw Magath as someone who could save them as he had done it before in Germany. Well, the rest of the season was a disaster and for me, bringing in a manager from the outside in Germany that late in the season was a mistake.
As a manager he was highly unpredictable with his lineups, many supporters called it “Felix Bingo”. There was no consistency to what he was trying to do and ultimately he failed in the next season.
Having him return for that next season was a mistake; as he had no clue what it took to win in the Championship. His inexperience and arrogance I feel was his ultimate downfall at Fulham.”
In many Fulham fans opinions Magath was clueless and not cut out to manage in English football. It is clear to see why as he took the club down from the Premier League and then to the bottom of the Championship just a few months later. However, from certain personnel inside the club Magath was not seen as all that bad. Former Fulham midfielder and scorer of The Whites’ last Premier League goal Chris David was full of praise for the German saying “He is one of the best managers I have had up until now.” Adding
“I think he was a good manager. Direct and honest with the players. I enjoyed working with him.”
Chris David says that he had the best time of his career under Magath getting a good run in the Fulham first team. However, as Russ Goldman said the inclusion of the likes of Chris David began a time of unpredictability known as “Felix bingo.” Where players who were relative unknowns were signed and played in games they were not ready for.
Magath had inherited a poor aging squad in the Premier League with Fulham bottom of the league and 5 points adrift from safety when he was appointed. Dubbed “The last dictator in Europe.” Due to his rigorous training regimes which included running up mountains during his time at Wolfsburg. There are even stories of players collapsing with Brazillian striker Grafite having to be carried down a mountain on a stretcher. Say what you will about forcing a player to collapse in training, Grafite scored 28 goals in 25 league games that season finishing as the leagues’ top scorer ahead of his striker partner Edin Dzeko who was in second.
Why didn’t his techniques work in England, according to Chris David he applied a similar training technique he says “The training was hard, but good. There was a lot of running to make us fit. And tactical training as well. It was a different type of training than what all the players were used to.” Whereas Steve Sidwell has conflicting stories saying that the training was awful and that he would make them stand still for 40 minutes during sessions.
Perhaps the regime didn’t work at Fulham as the squad were too experienced. They had all worked under a plethora of managers who did things in a set way. Magath was unorthodox and the players didn’t buy into it as they were either lazy players such as Darren Bent and Kostas Mitroglou or experienced players who couldn’t buy into the philosophy such as John Arne Riise, Brede Hangelaand and Giorgios Karagounis.
The results speak for themselves and Felix Magath was maybe the worst fit for Fulham at the time of his arrival, but to call him a terrible manager with the track record he has would be ludicrous. When asked why it didn’t work out Chris David said: “I’m not sure. Maybe it’s because he didn’t have a lot of time to build up the process he had in mind with us. In the Championship you saw that we had a very young talented team, but we needed a bit more time. Our pre-season was good, and in most of our games we played good football but we just didn’t get the results.”
Clearly Chris David bought into Magath’s style thus he played the best football of his career under his tutelage. The squad was young and talented as shown by players such as Moussa Dembele and Emerson Hyndman being huge successes since departing Craven Cottage. Would Magath have benefitted with some more time at Fulham as Chris David suggests? It’s hard to see a case for it, as he was such an abject failure picking up just one point in his seven games in charge in The Championship.