Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Fulham hit the panic button and sack Coleman

Fulham hit the panic button and sack Coleman.
Fulham waited until shortly before midnight GMT on Tuesday before pulling a real surprise by announcing they had sacked manager Chris Coleman with five games of the season remaining.

Northern Ireland coach Lawrie Sanchez will step in in his place, which suggests the club had already sounded him out as a replacement before Easter Monday's 3-1 home defeat by Manchester City.

Sanchez has worked wonders in sending the Ulstermen to the top of their Euro 2008 qualification group, following wins over Spain and Sweden.

The Cottagers sit 15th in the Premier League, four points above the relegation places, but have not won in their last eight games and were beaten 4-1 and 3-1 over Easter.

For a club three places above the drop zone to fire their manager at this late stage in the season seems drastic, but undoubtedly the prospect of missing out on next season's TV payday, which will net Premier League clubs a minimum £30 million each, was decisive. The resurgence of Charlton and West Ham in recent weeks will have added to their anxiety.

The announcement caps a miserable week for Coleman, who had to endure tabloid revelations that his wife had bugged his car earlier in the week. The former Welsh international has been at Craven Cottage for a decade, firstly as player, then captain, and finally coach at the age of 32, guiding the West Londoners to ninth in the top flight in his first season in charge.

Last season Fulham finished 12th but in the close season lost two of their most creative players in Luis Boa Morte and Steed Malbranque, who left acrimoniously wanting bigger clubs.

Coleman left the field on Monday following the 3-1 defeat by Manchester City to a handful of boos, but many more claps of support. At the post-match press conference he was clearly stressed and after today's news must have realised his job was in jeopardy, but still spoke of his plans for next Saturday's visit to Reading. The news of his dismissal might not have surprised all the Fulham fans but certainly took most people, including the entire press pack by surprise.

After Fulham had taken a risk on Coleman as a very young manager following a car crash that ended his playing days, he established himself and maintained good relations with the dressing room as well as with chairman Mohamed Al-Fayed up to the point of his dismissal, a fact he repeated only the week before.

The Harrods owner is more of a hands-off owner than most, and the decision to fire Coleman was likely to have come from the board of directors.

Coleman always talked earnestly and came across as a serious and hard worker, his Welsh baritone voice painting an dramatic picture of every game in charge. The day before he was fired he spoke of his players having to "fight like dogs" and that "you don't bring a knife to a gun fight."

After ten years at Craven Cottage, he has lost his last battle and now walks the plank.

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