As Fulham’s search for a new manager reaches the capable feet of Gary Rowett, are the Cottagers setting their bar too high?
Birmingham manager Rowett yesterday became the new favourite to take the reigns at Craven Cottage, whether he takes charge is an entirely different matter.
Fulham owner Shahid Khan has lost out on all three of his previous managerial targets with former Leicester manager Nigel Pearson, Chelsea number two Steve Holland and Reading chief Steve Clarke all turning down the role.
Khan sacked Kit Symons after Fulham lost 5-2 at home to Birmingham City 18 days ago leaving them 12th in the Championship table and eight points adrift of a play-off place.
Nigel Pearson refused the role citing his frustration at a lack of action in the recruitment process whilst Steve Clarke was refused a higher pay after terms were already agreed last week. Holland flatly refused to be considered.
With Rowett now the fourth candidate for the job currently in charge at sixth placed Birmingham City, themselves chasing promotion, the search is in danger of becoming desperate.
Upon the sacking of Symons, Khan stated his desire to increase the club’s stature;
“It is now time to take Fulham to the higher level of success that we expect from our manager and our players”.
Whilst there is no doubting that Fulham, having only been a Premier League club themselves just two seasons ago, will be a draw for any manager with Football League history, there is a view that they could be looking to recruit managers who are simply too hard to snare for a club who finished just 17th in England’s second-tier last season.
Holland is undoubtedly happy in his role at Chelsea, likewise, with the up most of respect to Fulham, Rowett probably is at Birmingham, whilst Pearson and Clarke consider themselves highly sought after coaches.
Fulham do possess a top quality squad with Moussa Dembele and £11 million signing Ross McCormack holding 17 goals between them this season.
But their current league position of 12th and the second highest conceders in the league shows big problems elsewhere on the pitch that means they can only be seen as a project for any prospective manager in the meantime.
Stuart Pearce is a candidate with an impressive record with England’s Under 21s and has already expressed his interest in the role, and despite his poor time at Nottingham Forest could be looking at Fulham as an opportunity to get his career back on track.
Milton Keynes Dons’ Karl Robinson is another name that should be worth consideration after guiding the club to the Championship for the first time last season and despite the Dons’ lowly league position is certainly an up-and-coming manager.
Neil Lennon is another man worth a look-in, once again despite Bolton’s horrible start to the season, he has a shoestring budget and after his time at Celtic deserves his chance at a club with a higher financial arm.
Aside from these there are out of work managers like Nigel Clough, Ian Holloway, Paul Dickov, Malky Mackay and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, all of whom with the potential to turn Fulham’s fortunes around.
One thing is for sure, Khan needs a manager soon, otherwise Fulham’s aims of the return of Premier League football to Craven Cottage next season will be fast evaporating.