Sport Soccer

Friday 22 August 2014

Magath looks to youth as Fulham plan rebuilding job

Stoke City 4 Fulham 1

Si Hughes

Published 05/05/2014 | 02:30

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STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - MAY 03:  (L-R) Steve Sidwell, Darren Bent and Konstantinos Mitroglou of Fulham react as their side concedes a third goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Fulham at the Britannia Stadium on May 3, 2014 in Stoke on Trent, England.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
(L-R) Steve Sidwell, Darren Bent and Konstantinos Mitroglou of Fulham react as their side concedes a third goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Fulham at the Britannia Stadium in Stoke on Trent, England. (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - MAY 03:  Charlie Adam (R) of Stoke City is challenged by Scott Parker (L) of Fulham during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Fulham at the Britannia Stadium on May 3, 2014 in Stoke on Trent, England.  (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)
Charlie Adam (R) of Stoke City is challenged by Scott Parker (L) of Fulham during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Fulham at the Britannia Stadium in Stoke on Trent, England. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)
STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - MAY 03:  Oussama Assaidi (L) of Stoke City curls a shot round Dan Burn (C) and John Heitinga (R) of Fulham during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Fulham at the Britannia Stadium on May 3, 2014 in Stoke on Trent, England.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
Oussama Assaidi (L) of Stoke City curls a shot round Dan Burn (C) and John Heitinga (R) of Fulham during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Fulham at the Britannia Stadium on May 3, 2014 in Stoke on Trent, England. (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)

Fulham will hope that the path to recovery begins immediately. This evening the club's U-18s will attempt to win the FA Youth Cup for the first time when they take on Chelsea in the final with a 3-2 lead from the first leg.

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Felix Magath will attend the match at Stamford Bridge, his eye already on next season. "It is a pleasure for me to work with young players," he said. "The first thing is to look at our academy and look for ones which can join us."

Magath surely knows a major restructuring of his squad is needed. The loanees who started here will be the first to leave.

Darren Bent had not started a game in two months and was ineffective, his efforts mocked by the visiting crowd. Lewis Holtby, meanwhile, was substituted in the 34th minute in an attempt by Magath to "give a push" that was needed so desperately.

"Today, it was not one player," Magath continued. "It was a whole team. I tried a change before half-time. Normally you never do that. But it was not enough. Maybe I had to take three players out."

There was no fight from Fulham, who seemed to drift subconsciously towards relegation. Kieran Richardson's goal was barely deserved. It was the saddest way to go down.

GIRAFFE

Although Dan Burn at right-back had a tormenting afternoon before he too was withdrawn – like a giraffe chasing a Jack Russell, he was twisted this way and that by Oussama Assaidi – the defender is worth keeping. As are goalkeeper David Stockdale and captain Brede Hangeland.

Everywhere else, there are only question marks. Magath has experience of creating a vibrant, energetic team. At VfB Stuttgart, he introduced Timo Hildebrand, Andreas Hinkel and Kevin Kuryani, a trio who became known as die jungen Wilden (wild youth). It led to Stuttgart finishing second in the Bundesliga.

At Fulham the brightest prospects are Patrick Roberts, a local boy originally with AFC Wimbledon, whom Magath offered a first-team debut to in March, and Moussa Dembele, the French striker whose goals this season have also helped Fulham finish fifth in the U-21 Premier League, only below Chelsea, Liverpool and both Manchester clubs.

Owner Shahid Khan was not even present in Stoke to witness Fulham's exit from the top flight after 13 years, but he is thought to be willing to stick with Magath in charge, having sacked two other managers in the last six months

Magath faces a huge job – of the 30 teams to be relegated from the Premier League in the last decade only four have managed promotion at the first attempt. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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