Rene Meulensteen: Fulham have freaked out and hit panic button
Published 14/02/2014 | 22:03
Fulham have taken drastic action in a bid to avoid relegation by appointing Felix Magath as first-team manager - a shock decision that saw the deposed Rene Meulensteen accuse owner Shahid Khan of "freaking out" and hitting the "panic button" too early.
This has been a tumultuous season on the banks of the Thames and one which will end in relegation as things stand, with the west Londoners bottom of the Barclays Premier League and four points adrift of safety.
There have been improvements of late but with just 12 matches remaining owner Khan has controversially made Magath the third man at the Craven Cottage helm in just 10 weeks.
Having sacked Martin Jol after a poor run of form, former Manchester United coach Meulensteen, appointed head coach under his countryman just weeks earlier, took control of first-team duties on December 1.
But, after just 75 days in charge, he too has been given the boot, with Magath handed the position as first-team manager on an 18-month deal.
It is a move that has shocked the football community as well as Meulensteen himself, especially given Fulham's impressive 2-2 draw at Manchester United and last-gasp 3-2 defeat to Liverpool this past week.
"I am very, very surprised, very disappointed, very frustrated as well, because the job that I stepped into was one that took me by surprise from the start, because that was not anticipated with Martin Jol leaving and obviously you then have to step into situation which is not the best," he told BBC Radio 5 Live.
"You need to try and make things better as soon as you can, but you're playing with a deck of cards that are not yours.
"I haven't really been given any time to make that work. I thought the performance against Manchester United and Liverpool were very, very good and it was unfortunate that we did not pick up the points that we deserved.
"Twelve games to go, plenty of points to play for and I'm sure we would have turned it around.
"I've not been told anything. I knew the owners were freaking out and panicking about the fact that Fulham could get relegated, but they've had that sort of attitude already 10 games back.
"They've hit the panic button on emotions of fear, but hey-ho, that's what happens in football. It's not always fair."
Meulensteen said the knee-jerk reaction is "the problem with owners who don't really understand the Premier League" and questioned the wisdom of backing him during the January window if his position was so precarious.
The Dutchman, who was not mentioned in the club statement announcing Magath's arrival, is unsure what will happen to assistant manager Ray Wilkins and first-team technical director Alan Curbishley, before confirming he had not spoken to Khan about the decision.
Meulensteen was told the news by chief executive Alistair Mackintosh, although Khan said in an official club statement that "action was required".
"Our club has shown promise in recent matches, but the fact is we have not won a league match since January 1," Khan, who bought out Mohamed Al Fayed last summer, said.
"Given our form, we can no longer merely hope that our fortunes will finally turn. And with 12 matches remaining and at least four points separating us from safety, we certainly can no longer post empty results. Action was required.
"Alistair Mackintosh did a wonderful job during the January transfer window to improve our club.
"This week, Alistair recommended Felix, with his history of producing results for clubs with similar challenges as ours, as the new manager of Fulham.
"Alistair's recommendation received my complete approval and Felix has my unequivocal support."
Magath led Bayern Munich to the Bundesliga in 2005 and 2006 before achieving the same feat with Wolfsburg in 2009.
The job is the 60-year-old's first in club management since leaving Wolfsburg in 2012 and comes at the end of a week in which he had been strongly linked with a return to former club Hamburg.
"Here we go again, I'm coming back into football," Magath said via his Facebook account. "I am manager of Fulham with immediate effect. It's a fantastic working environment for any coach and footballer.
"This amazing club, steeped in tradition, and its owner Shahid Khan have totally convinced me and given me the managerial responsibility."