How quickly the world of football can sweep you up. Lucky for those at the top and in demand, be they players or managers. Why are wages so high when your star is shining bright? The rug gets ruthlessly pulled the minute you're on the way down. Who wants to be registering at the job centre, re-training at 40 for manual work, or learning the Knowledge when it seems only yesterday you were a somebody, staying in hotels, travelling first class and collecting in expenses what most of us consider a reasonable monthly wage packet? Let's face it, they can't all be TV pundits, another rosy revenue stream of money for old rope.
Heading into FA Cup weekend at the start of the month what was afoot in the Hughes household I wonder? In a particularly bespoke part of Cheshire, and having sold his previous sumptuous pile up there to Freddie Flintoff for £6 million (7 bedrooms all en-suite), perhaps the wife was pestering Mark for a little shopping break to Dubai, or some spa pampering in the Indian Ocean? Was Mark even himself a little bored with the festive diet of live football fare on the wide screen? It must be hard watching so many different club sides in action grinding nuts between your teeth while muttering, "I could be doing that job a damn sight better..."
Lo and behold, out of the blue and 24 hours after the mighty Queens Park Rangers manage to scramble a replay from their match with the MK Dons only through a flukey last minute leveller, that nice Mr. Tony Fernandes comes on the phone wondering if the Welshman was free? With one call Sparky's domestic semi-retirement is turned upside down. A cursory glance at Rangers modest 'stadium' and a stroll over the White City Estate is enough to convince our boyo (late of FFC) that here is a club (current status 18th in the league) that indeed matches his own vaulting ambition. Best of all, before he's even had time to cast Neil Warnock's coffee mug into the bin at Rangers outdated training ground by Heathrow, "Ten years past its sell-by date." was the new gaffer's diplomatic observation on motoring down, that nice Malaysian chappy drops by again with a brown bag full of used fifity pound notes. £30 million in total. Now won't Kia be pleased to hear that!
Thus in the course of 10 days Mark goes from watering the window boxes to making all the running in the transfer window! Only trouble, to date nobody wants to go to QPR. Certainly neither Samba nor Andy Johnson see the merit in swopping one relegation dog fight for another. As for linking the club to figures like Tevez, Defoe and Drogba...
Still, if Rangers do take a massive punt on Sao Paulo youngster Henrique he should feel right at home. In 2006 Rangers chairman Paladini was hustled into writing out his resignation letter by a gang of heavies before a game with Sheffield United, having a gun allegedly waved in his face. Armed police stormed into the director's box just after half-time. Let's hope Henrique, and all new signings, are given a crash course in the reality of wandering around Shepherds Bush unawares after dark. Meanwhile the new man is forced to go on with what he's got. Blanks fired on Tyneside and squeezing out MK Dons by the skin of their teeth this week in the Cup suggest any climb out of the relegation mire won't be easy.
Returning to the one club of pedigree and class in the borough, posters have been lining up this week to condemn the Shame of Ewood. I haven't been drawn into the 'Jol out' camp yet because the club needs a period of stability after losing the services of Roy and Mark over two successive summers. Running a football club as if it were a soap opera is a recipe for disaster. Most businesses thrive on routine and order. It's the Victorian principles - sadly - that govern education even into the 21st century. We are mostly taught to a timetable that promotes conformity and clockwork efficiency as a prelude to becoming cogs in the industrial machine. Sorry to go all Orwellian there - but it's a fact.
One very bad result does not have Fulham folk behind the scenes climbing the walls. Especially with 17 games still to play. However, the board cannot be unaware of the apprehension out there. This week sees a fresh story surfacing, critical of how Jol's number two is splitting up the first team squad at training. There can be no doubt Jol got his team set-up spectacularly wrong at Blackburn. It was a similar story at Swansea six weeks ago. Which begs the question, can Martin not bring himself to accept where we are failing? Baird, Sidwell, Hughes, Simon Davies, Etuhu would all have offered a more disciplined and resilient approach to Blackburn away. We treated it like a game of beach football.
Notice from the above list of names I've looked to the 'old sweats.' It's time after half a season to start asking questions of Jol's summer signings. We've all seen cameos from Kasami and Gecov, yet neither seems quite to measure up to a first-team start. When you can say the same for the mercurial Bryan Ruiz, what has in fact been our return from these three summer buys in terms of gathering points?. Virtually none. No wonder we are treading water.
What else have we had to bite on this week? Jol filing a puff piece for the official board in praise of Danny. He could go on 'for years' and Fulham are 'lucky to have him.' No words necessary. This is a recipe for further decline and maybe relegation. Was he forced to write it I wonder? Mark extends his contract for another two years...ambivalent on this as I have nothing but admiration for the big man's dedication, but how does Stockdale react to this?
On the transfer front we've shied away from paying big money for Maxi Lopez, yet continue to gamble on youngsters to provide a payback in the future. That's fine if they come through and achieve the step up. All the best to the boy from Aberdeen, but from my vantage point we need new blood on the pitch NOW, starting with two must win home games next up. I would not be in the least surprised to see Trotta on the bench for Newcastle. If he steps out and shows he can hit the net in the Prem as he did for Wycombe, then Fulham have the perfect scenario for the transfer window. Save money on a striker, and keep plugging away with what we've got. Never mind that we're exhibiting weakness at fullback, central defence and midfield, and all across the front line. Every supporter knows it. If home form drops off, there's nothing more to be done for the squad we have come Feb 1st.
Dare I suggest the players response to last Saturday's debacle makes Newcastle on Saturday one of our biggest games of the season. Both players and manager have a lot to do to win back the fans. Twitter@fulhamphil