Sunday 25 February 2018

Fulham buying into 'dictator' Magath's regime

Fulham 1 Norwich City 0

Hugo Rodallega celebrates with Pajtim Kasami after his strike gave Fulham a vital three points in their basement battle with Norwich City
Hugo Rodallega celebrates with Pajtim Kasami after his strike gave Fulham a vital three points in their basement battle with Norwich City
Hugo Rodallega turns in Lewis Holtby's delivery to score the only goal of the game for Fulham
Norwich City's Michael Turner and Fulham frontman Hugo Rodallega clash as they challenge for the ball

Jonathan Liew

So much for Saddam Hussein, then.

For those not intimately familiar with the work of Felix Magath before he came to England, those horror stories of brutal early morning runs in the snow, of double-weight medicine balls and emptied water bottles, will have established his reputation before he had a chance to make his own.

Now, for the second straight week, he has rewarded his winning side with two days off.

It is a luxury that few relegation-threatened managers would even think to offer. But if Fulham's win over Norwich showed anything, it was that the stomach for the fight is certainly there. Hugo Rodallega's goal proved the difference in a game that Norwich controlled for large periods.

Few gave Fulham a chance of survival when Magath took over two months ago with a reputation of being the "last dictator in Europe". But little by little, his ideas appear to be gaining traction.

Magath has always been more than a disciplinarian. His aim is not to crush spirit, but to build it.

There is a reason he orders his players to report in at the club's training ground in time for breakfast. They all have to eat together. Building a collective ethos at a club who have used 41 different players in the first team this season is some effort.

"We've tried many different ways to come together as a team and fight together," Magath said, "and it works better from day to day. We are all close, and everybody develops as a team. Now I am a manager in England, and I have to – was wird wieder 'einpassen'?" "'Adapt,'?" his translator replied.

"To adapt to here. It not only works how I like it, it works how the people like it. Two days off, it's a mental thing."

How Norwich must envy Magath's easy-going manner. They remain two points clear of the relegation zone, but with a fixture list dreamed up by the Marquis de Sade: Liverpool, then Manchester United, then Chelsea, then Arsenal.

This time last weekend, youth team coach Neil Adams was sitting next to Chris Hughton in the dugout for Norwich's 1-0 defeat to West Bromwich Albion. Now he is in charge. "Slightly bigger office," he said with a hint of a smile, "but plenty more work."

Adams has no senior management experience, but he is a smart fellow. Tactically, he is not afraid to make big decisions, and on Saturday he sent his side out in a midfield diamond, dominating possession and creating a number of chances that a striker far better than Ricky van Wolfswinkel would surely have put away.

And yet perhaps the template for Norwich's escape lies in Adams' recent past. Last season he masterminded an unlikely triumph against Chelsea in the FA Youth Cup final, a victory based on a well-organised defence, high pressing, and lightning counter-attacks. (©Daily Telegraph, London)

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