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Monday Fulham Stuff (24/02/14)...

Started by WhiteJC, February 23, 2014, 08:15:30 PM

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Plucky Felix Magath still convinced Fulham will stay up

You certainly have to like Felix Magath's optimism, which can be more easily swallowed after a good result today. Yes, it would have been much better for the debuting manager had Fulham held on and took all three points at the Hawthorns.

Still, a point at West Brom (in a 1-1 draw) isn't an awful outcome for Fulham's increasingly desperate doings.

Magath says he is certain the last-place Cottagers – a team so close to so many American hearts due to all the U.S. internationals who have passed happily through Craven Cottage over the last 10 or so years – will remain in the Premier League.

He said so before Saturday's match and refused to come off that stance afterward.

"I was sure before the game and I am sure now," he said after Saturday's draw. "We were close to winning against West Brom and the next game we will win. It is only against Chelsea!"

Plucky fellow, eh?

Here's the issue: Magath will have to instill that kind of genuine, unbending confidence in his charges, because the schedule gets harder before it starts softening a bit. The Cottagers finish with matches at home in the last five weeks against Norwich, Hull and Crystal Palace – all contests in which supporters of the West London side can arrive with realistic hopes of Ws.

But the toughies are lined up ahead of what will surely be a late, gripping dash to the wire; there are plenty of matches that would ring the bell of "big upset" if Fulham can take a point or three.

Here is what Fulham's final 11 matches look like:

vs. Chelsea
at Cardiff
vs. Newcastle
at Manchester City
vs. Everton
at Aston Villa
vs. Norwich
at Tottenham
vs. Hull
at Stoke City
vs. Crystal Palace


Eredivisie Wrap: Ruiz on target again for PSV

On-loan Bryan Ruiz grabbed his second goal in as many games to earn PSV a 2-0 win over NEC that closed the gap on the Eredivisie's top four.

Ruiz, who moved to the Eindhoven outfit in January from Fulham, netted his first goal for the club when hitting the winner in a 2-1 victory over Heracles last week.

And he produced a decisive strike once more on Saturday, his low effort being followed up by a fine 82nd-minute goal from Memphis Depay to earn PSV all three points.

A power outage did not ignite proceedings at the Abe Lenstra Stadion as Heerenveen and NAC Breda played out a drab goalless draw.

The home side went into the game aiming to enhance their hopes of UEFA Europa League qualification, but that did not materialise.

Bilal Basacikoglu spurned a golden opportunity just before the end of a match that had earlier seen the first half cut short by floodlight failure.

By contrast, Cambuur's Paco van Moorsel made no such mistake when he was handed an opportunity to earn his side all three points late on against nine-man Roda.

Bottom-of-the-table Roda were derailed during two minutes of madness just before the end as Kees Luijckx and Guy Ramos were both sent off for second yellow cards.

That paved the way for Cambuur to snatch a win when Van Moorsel fired home in the closing moments.

In the day's other game, Furdjel Narsingh's 92nd-minute equaliser earned Zwolle a draw against Heracles.

It appeared that the hosts would take the points when Jeroen Veldmate headed home Simon Cziommer's cross in the 40th minute.

But Narsingh had other ideas and his smart finish secured a share of the spoils.


What have friendly old Fulham done to deserve such a pitiless fate?
Now on their third manager of the season, will Fulham erect a statue of Felix Magath come May?
Ruthless, pragmatic, uncompromising methods may go down well in certain Premier League boardrooms. But that is not Fulham's way

Once upon a time, when telegrams were a popular means of communication, Fulham Football Club boasted their own telegraphic address: 'Fulhamish —  London SW6'.

The years passed and telegrams fell from favour, yet still they clung to the same distinctive title. It seemed a snug fit for that raffish enclave on the Thames; a haven in which success was relished, failure was tolerated and laughter was guaranteed. Not so much an address, more a state of mind. 

Fulham is the place where they erected a preposterous statue to Michael Jackson because he was a chum of the last chairman.

Down by the river: Craven Cottage has seen its fair share of drama throughout the years

Bad: Former owner Mohamed Al Fayed poses in front of the statue of Michael Jackson

It is the club where, long ago, a blissfully under-talented winger named Tosh Chamberlain was booked for swearing at his captain, the great Johnny Haynes. Tosh was not happy. 'But he's on my side!' he complained. 'I can call him anything I bleeding like!'

Quite recently, a fans' forum was asked to define 'Fulhamish'. One contributor suggested: 'The ability to mock one's own and to find humour in shameful circumstances.' Another offered: 'In the Hammersmith Road End at Craven Cottage, singing "Let's all cheer for Torquay" because they'd only brought 20 fans. Then, naturally, Torquay scored. Fulhamish.'

Famous faces: Fulham old boys Johnny Hayens (top left), Tosh Chamberlain (top right), Rodney Marsh (below (left) and George Best (below right)

But one fan expressed his fears with considerable candour: 'Perhaps we have drifted from being Fulhamish to rubbish-ish,' he said.

What Felix Magath makes of it all, I really cannot imagine. Herr Magath is the third manager Fulham have tried this season, the last one, Rene Meulensteen, having lasted 75 days and 17 games.

The new man came wading through carnage at the Cottage, following the dismissals of the coaches Alan Curbishley, Ray Wilkins, Mick Priest and Jonathan Hill.

Show of emotion: Felix Magath was put through the mill on his first match as Fulham boss
The chairman, Shahid Khan, owns an American Football team called the Jacksonville Jaguars. He paid tribute to the departed quintet in these words: 'I'm very grateful to Rene, Alan and Ray, as well as Mick and Jonathan, for their commitment to Fulham. Their efforts were admirable and appreciated and I wish them the best.' It was a classic of effortless insincerity.

The appointment of Magath, who has not worked in management since October 2012, represents Khan's final shot at getting it right. The mass sackings, and consequent compensation bills, were gestures which only a billionaire could afford. Some of his surviving senior employees may have privately  queried the wisdom of allowing Meulensteen to buy five players on deadline day, including an £11million Greek striker, then firing the manager three weeks later. But, since Khan pays the bills, they never raised their voices.

And anyway, the future belongs to Felix. This is a man who, in the course of a substantial managerial career, has acquired a reputation for being a pitiless trainer; drive them hard, success through sweat. It is a notion he does not discourage. A few of Fulham's underachievers will have winced at his much-quoted justification: 'Until now, everyone has lived through my training. No one died.'

Pedigree: Magath won the German cup during his stint with Bayern

Tough taskmaster: Magath leads Bayern players in training before defeat to Chelsea in the 2005 Champions League quarter-final

He is doubtless aware that such an attitude will win him public favour, since the public perceives footballers as being both overpaid and underworked.

And yet Magath needs to be much more than a martinet if Fulham's survival is to be achieved. Just about every gym in the country contains people capable of pushing athletes to their limits; it takes the talents of a teacher, an educator, an innovative coach to improve the skills which deliver results.

Soon, we shall discover if Magath possesses those qualities, or if his hard-driving reputation represents the real man. The evidence is conflicting. 'I'm a nice guy. I'm very nice,' he insisted, with the smirk of a pantomime villain.

Stephane Henchoz, one of his former players, said: 'I understand where his critics are coming from but to call him Saddam Hussein is a bit strong,' which is possibly not quite the compliment he intended.

But the recent remark of Uli Hoeness, the renowned German international forward and current president of Bayern Munich, remains curiously disturbing. Hoeness, who once worked with Magath at Bayern, said: 'I would never want to treat human beings the way he does.'

Time will tell. By the middle of May, they could be raising a statue to Felix in the place where Jacko once stood. Or the chap from the Jacksonville Jaguars could be forming a new firing squad.

Because of what the club have been and what they have meant to the English game, we must wish them well. But we must also be forgiven a small shudder at the behaviour of those who are in control.

Ruthless, pragmatic, uncompromising methods may go down well in certain Premier League boardrooms. But they are neither humane nor admirable. And they are certainly not Fulhamish.

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West Bromwich Albion 1 - 1 Fulham: Matej Vydra's late strike denies Felix Magath from a winning start

West Bromwich Albion hosted Fulham in a relegation six pointer in the first match of Felix Magath as the manager of the London team. With Pepe Mel still waiting for his first win as the manager of West Bromwich Albion, the game had the potential to have a severe impact on the season of both teams, not to mention that it was very interesting to take a look at what kind of strategy and tactics Felix Magath was going to employ.

he formations

West Bromwich Albion started in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Thievy Bifouma started as the striker with Berahino playing behind him. Mulumbu and Morrison started in central midfield, as Claudio Yacob was injured.

Fulham started in a 4-4-1-1 formation. The ex-Wolfsburg pair of Sascha Riether and Ashkan Dejagah started on the right wing. Hugo Rodallega started as the lone striker, interestingly neither Darren Bent, nor Clint Dempsey was named amongst the substitutions. Fernando Amorebieta started at left-back, with Heitinga and Hangeland playing together for the first time in the Premier League.

Fulham's aggressive first half display

Fulham started the game very differently compared to what they were used to under the previous two managers. The most visible difference in their defending was the way they pressured the ball right away when they have lost it. Under the previous two managers they were more keen to stand back and invite the opponent onto themselves.

In attack the biggest difference was the inclusion and effect of Rodallega and Dejagah. They searched for Rodallega with long balls straight away when the ball was won.  However the Ecuadorian have won only 29% of his aerial duels - 4 out of 14. He was more successful when he could get the ball in front of the defence, but behind the West Brom midfield. He put Richardson through before the first goal, and let go of a powerful shot from such a position.

Rodallega made runs towards the goal right away when Fulham have won the ball, the West Brom central defenders dropped deep with him. It is fair to say that Fulham were transitioning into attack quickly. Their first goal was scored after winning the ball, quickly transitioning and finishing the attack in the 29th minute.

Most of Fulham's attacks involved Dejagah and Riether on the right. In fact 48% of Fulham's attacks in the first half came from the right side. The Iranian winger beat Ridgewell with ease to put in crosses from the right. Sidwell missed a chance only yards out from a Dejagah cross.

The Fulham FC Miscellany
Fulham struggle with playing out of the back

Fulham were struggling when it came to organic, short passing build-up play. Richardson often came to the middle, to play as a third midfielder, so Amorebieta pushed pretty high up, but playing forward is not his strongest feature, as he is a centre-back by trade. He was forced to play the ball backwards, or if he tried to play it forward, most of the time the ball didn't reach its intended target.

Fulham found it hard to involve Holtby in their attacks. They were looking to play it long to Rodallega right away when they have won the ball, but Rodallega couldn't head those balls back to Holtby running into space.

The aerial duels Hugo Rodallega was involved in. He won only 4 out of 14 duels, a success rate of 29%.
Image from

Bifouma's runs

Fulham's defenders pushed pretty high in possession. West Brom's best chances came from through balls played to Thievy Bifouma, who made runs between the full-back and the central defender. However there was no presence inside the Fulham box, so there was no one to play a final ball to, who could finish the attack.

It didn't help Fulham that the defence struggled to keep a straight line. The Fulham defence have never played with this personnel before. In fact, this was the 14th different combination that the Fulham defence have played in this season. It is no wonder that the team lacks the defensive solidity and discipline needed to keep clean sheets.

Anichebe's introduction

West Bromwich added a central figure to their attacks when Anichebe came on for the injured Billy Jones a minute before half-time. Gera came on for Thievy at half-time. Amalfitano moved to right-back, while Gera played ahead of him on the right wing.

Early in the second half Felix Magath made a change as well. Riise came on for Amorebieta. Thanks to West Brom's changes, they had a very active right wing in the second half, with two wingers combining on that wing in Gera and Amalfitano.

Fulham's lack of presence in front of their own box

Sidwell and Parker were drifting towards the sides when West Brom had possession near the byline, to form three against two situations on the wings.  West Brom have clearly moved to a crossing game instead of the through ball game that was dominant in their play in the first half. West Brom played only 9 crosses (2 successful) in the first half, whereas they attempted 27 crosses in the second half (7 successful).

Fulham were playing deeper and deeper, with the defenders forced to defend very deep. This combined with the drifting of their central midfielders towards the wings meant that West Brom had shots outside of the area if they could collect clearances, or receive the ball in the hole between the midfield and defence.

Anichebe's movement to the right wing, and the late changes

Anichebe could get on the ball more and more on the right side. Gera moved a bit deeper, forcing Riise to step up as well. Anichebe was alone against Hangeland first, then Burn after the introduction of the young centre-back. Anichebe relished the one-on-one physical battle against Burn. When the ball was played to him, he turned towards the wing - the space behind Riise - and played the ball into the box. Matej Vydra equalised after Anichebe made one of these moves in the 86th minute

Felix Magath took off Kieran Richardson and put on Dan Burn. Fulham switched to a 4-5-1 formation, with Lewis Holtby moving to the left wing. Interestingly Sascha Riether played as a third midfielder alongside Steve Sidwell and Scott Parker. Johnny Heitinga played in the right full-back position, which meant that Fulham played with three centre-backs once again, and in a combination they have never used before.

Matej Vydra came on with fifteen minutes to go in place of Berahino. This meant that West Brom had another striker in the box, even when Anichebe moved towards the right wing in the scenario mentioned above – playing on the shoulder of the centre-back, and drifting into the space behind Riise.

Anichebe's passes. He drifted towards the right side, playing off the shoulder of Hangeland first, then Dan Burn. Image from


West Bromwich Albion have been poor in the first half. They lacked presence in the final third, while they could not deal with Fulham's quick transitions into attack. Dejagah won most of his duels - two out of two - against Liam Ridgewell in the final third. The introduction of Anichebe gave them presence in the final third, which enabled West Brom to play crosses from the right through the partnership of Gera and Amalfitano.

Fulham had a very different strategy compared to how they have played in previous weeks. They counter-attacked through long balls, and failed to involve Lewis Holtby in their attacks, whereas in previous weeks everything went through Holtby. The backline of Fulham have looked shaky, however they have played in a new combination once again.

All in all this was a relegation six pointer, that both teams would have wanted to win. A point is certainly better than nothing, however the weaknesses of the teams were visible, and with Pepe Mel still awaiting his first win with the Baggies, and Fulham coming into the end of a roller coaster season, both have a real chance of finding themselves in the Championship next season.


Felix Magath: How new Fulham boss came through his first test
By Chris Bevan
BBC Sport at The Hawthorns

We were promised the Demon Headmaster, but new Fulham head coach Felix Magath spent most of Saturday acting more like a supply teacher trying to make a good impression at his new school.

The 60-year-old German is known as a tough guy and a tyrant, but, despite being denied a debut victory by a late West Brom equaliser, he responded by mixing polite smiles with whispered words of encouragement to his players and then the press.

It is true he yelled so hard at one point during the game that his chewing gum flew out of his mouth, but Magath's entrance into English football was generally much quieter than expected.

If this maverick coach was angry with his team for letting two points slip from their grasp, he certainly did not show it in public.

But perhaps the "dictator" was just being diplomatic, and Magath merely chooses when, where and how he does his shouting.

After all, he had made plenty of noise when he talked up this clash with one of his side's chief relegation rivals before kick-off, calling it "the biggest game in Fulham's history".

And he also showed he meant business as he marched off the team bus upon his arrival at The Hawthorns.

Maybe because time, or the lack of it, is so important to a man whose team were bottom of the table with 12 games of the season remaining when he took over, he was clearly in a hurry to get his day going.

First off the bus, at almost the instant that the doors opened, he acknowledged the cheers of a small group of Fulham fans who had waited patiently for his arrival but had no time for autographs or any niceties as he strode into the stadium, eventually followed by his players.

Without speaking a word, the message was clear: he may be Fulham's third manager of the season but this is his team now, and he is leading from the front.

But would there be a similar sort of statement when the game got going? Nobody knew for sure. We have read much of Magath's methods - but what of his tactics?

West Brom manager Pepe Mel had admitted before kick-off he did not know what to expect either. After all, Magath had only been in charge since Valentine's Day.

Yes, he had called extra training last weekend - of course he had. But what effect could any man - even Magath - have on the worst team, not to mention leakiest defence, in the top flight in just eight days in the job?

As it turns out, the effect was instant, but limited. Fulham were impressive in the first half and took the game to their hosts.

Backed up by Scott Parker and Steve Sidwell in the centre of midfield, Lewis Holtby, in a roaming role, and Ashkan Dejagah, on the right, saw lots of the ball, teased the Baggies defence and supplied plenty of crosses into the box.

Magath seldom rose from his seat but, when he did, it was Holtby, who played under him at Schalke between 2009 and 2013, who he sought out.

Again, the primary purpose seemed to be to communicate with his team. Holtby speaks German and English fluently, and was frequently used by his manager to pass on instructions to his team-mates.

The most telling time he did that was during the mass celebrations in the Fulham technical area following Dejagah's goal, when Magath all but ignored the scorer and went straight to Holtby, to talk more into his ear.

But was Magath also trying to get more out of that particular player?

He did not really clear it up when he spoke about the on-loan Tottenham star at the final whistle but, if former Liverpool striker Sean Dundee was right when he said Magath only picked on players that he cared about, then he must love Holtby - he hardly left him alone all game.

It was the 23-year-old's tenacity and skill on the ball that stood out when Fulham were in the ascendancy but, perhaps unsurprisingly, Magath picked out another aspect of his play to praise.

"Lewis was busy," Magath explained. "He was running a lot, running over the whole field."

On this evidence, there is a lot more to Holtby and to Fulham than just the ability to run. At The Hawthorns they created enough opportunities to be further ahead at half-time, and it is their attacking ability that gives them genuine hope of staying up.

But is also clear that Magath, a lover of hard work from his players, has much of that to do himself to turn Fulham's season around, especially at the back.

After half-time, their energy faded and they fell back into old habits. With Fulham defending deep and not particularly well, it was a surprise that it took until the 86th minute for the Baggies to equalise.

Magath was offered plenty of bait by the media in his post-match press conference but refused to blame either his keeper Maarten Stekelenburg for the error that led to the goal - "it can happen" was his reaction - or goal-line technology for the fact it was given. "It makes it easier to accept," he said.

Instead he kept smiling and chose to focus on the positives from his first game, boldly adding he was certain he would keep the Cottagers up despite having to revise his survival target of six wins from 12 games to six from 11.

Overall, it was not the reaction most people anticipated from a man with his fearsome reputation but, after the many tales that have followed him to these shores, it is possible that was the entire point.

Whether he will be so forgiving of any future mistakes remains to be seen. But then we are sure to learn a lot more about Magath over the next 11 weeks as Fulham's Premier League fate is decided.


Riether: We Deserved More

German defender Sascha Riether believes Fulham deserved more from their positive display at The Hawthorns, where a late leveller snatched a point for West Bromwich Albion.

Riether: We Deserved More


Back The Boys!

The team needs your support more than ever as we enter the final stretch of the season. You got behind Felix Magath and the boys in huge numbers at West Bromwich Albion, and we want the same again for our next trip to the Midlands on Saturday 5th April.

The noise that you made at The Hawthorns was magnificent, and it truly does make a difference. After the game, Steve Sidwell took to Twitter to praise the fans' contributions, while John Heitinga described the away support as 'immense.'

Your support is so important, and that's why the Club will be heavily subsidising tickets for our match at Aston Villa in April. We want as many of you to make the trip as possible.

To make it as convenient and affordable for Fulham supporters, we are offering fans £10 tickets – a £29 saving on the regular price – for our crucial clash with Villa, which includes your match ticket and coach travel to the game. Concessions (over-65s, under-21s, students, armed forces) can attend the game for £8, while under-16s' tickets are priced at just £5.

Please be aware, though, that coach places are strictly based on a first come, first served basis, and bookings must be made when the match ticket is purchased. Additionally, as with all away matches this season, Junior Season Ticket Holders and Members can attend for free, provided their ticket is bought in conjunction with an adult ticket.

Of course, there are alternative travel arrangements to get to Villa Park. Train tickets from London Euston to Birmingham New Street can be purchased from for as little £6 each way if bought far enough in advance. Witton (Villa Park's nearest train station) is then just a 10-minute connection away.

Fans preferring to get a coach from London Victoria can travel with Megabus for approximately £9 for the round-trip, while National Express can offer shorter travel times but for around double the price.

We're keen to see as many of the travelling Fulham faithful at the game as possible as the 12th man really can make a huge difference. In his first interview with Fulham TV, Magath said: "If the fans support us 100 per cent, the players will give 100 per cent." So get behind the boys and snap up one of the significantly subsidised tickets before they sell out!

Tickets will go on sale to Season Ticket Holders from 10am on Monday and will be available for Members to purchase on Thursday 27th February. Any remaining tickets will go on General Sale on Tuesday 4th March.



Chelsea Tickets

Make sure you're at Craven Cottage this coming Saturday 1st March (3pm) when we face Chelsea in the SW6 derby.

Tickets for this match are currently on sale to Season Ticket Holders and Members (maximum two per person), with prices starting from £49 adults and £25 juniors.

Season Ticket Holders and Members can secure tickets by calling 0843 208 1234, in person (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm) or buy online at now.


Felix Magath warns Fulham of gruelling week but Lewis Holtby says boss doesn't deserve 'Saddam' moniker
Known as 'The Torturer' and 'Saddam' Felix Magath promises a tough week of training for his Fulham squad.

Watch out: Felix Magath comes to Fulham with a fearsome reputation for his tough training regime and has promised a gruelling first week for his players ahead of their derby with Chelsea 
Photo: EPA

When the subject of Felix Magath's notorious training regime was brought up on Saturday evening, Fulham's latest manager produced a chilling response.

Magath's squad had already been warned what to expect by the players accustomed to his ultra-tough disciplinarian approach. But it seems this week, ahead of Saturday's visit of Chelsea, could be when the real hard work begins for the Premier League's bottom club.

"In the next few days I think we will be changing some things," said Magath. "We will have some time on the training field. How close is the fitness to what I'm used to? It is hard to say but I think we can improve."

It was a reply certain to fill his players with a sense of foreboding but Magath is under pressure to get his ideas across quickly, with only 11 games left to navigate a route to survival. The league's flimsiest defence conceded yet another late goal to add to their growing collection and remain four points adrift of 17th place after a result both teams could have done without.

Lewis Holtby, the midfielder on loan from Tottenham Hotspur, is acutely aware of Magath's methods after making his debut as a teenager under him at Schalke and made a vigorous defence of the 60-year-old after this draw at the Hawthorns.

"I'm not saying we didn't suffer, but I'm not complaining," said Holtby. "You have to be happy that he makes you fit and mentally very strong."

What about Magath's many nicknames, which include 'The Torturer' and 'Saddam'? "I read he has been called Saddam," said Holtby. "It's over the top, he didn't kill anyone, he's not a murderer, but if you compare him to Saddam it's not very generous and it's not very nice."

While Fulham are preparing for a week of toil, West Bromwich Albion could be in the relegation zone by the time they play their next game.

After six games and four creditable draws new manager Pepe Mel is still searching for the victory he believes will transform the club's season. Matej Vydra's shot squirming over the line four minutes from time enabled Mel to escape a more severe post-match inquest, but he urgently needs to find the formula for his players to start games how they finish them.

He said: "For me it is a big problem. The first half every weekend is a problem and then the second half is good – I don't understand.

"The job is more difficult now after six games without a win. I am still confident I can keep West Brom up, of course."


Fulham's Lewis Holtby gives backing to Felix Magath's hardline methods
• Loanee hits out at critics who called Magath 'Saddam Hussein'
• Coach thinks players could be fitter despite draw at West Brom

The new Fulham coach, Felix Magath, right, offers some advice to Lewis Holtby.
Photograph: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Lewis Holtby, having worked under Felix Magath before and survived to tell the tale, is advising his team-mates that running through the pain barrier is the best way to help Fulham avoid relegation as he warned the manager's critics to stop calling him Saddam Hussein.

"It's over the top, he didn't kill anyone," Holtby said. "He's not a murderer, but if you compare him to Saddam it's not very generous and it's not very nice. I think it's a bit of a disgrace if you called someone Saddam."

The German attributes his resilience to Magath's "character-building" training regime when a teenager at Schalke and, having seemingly been chosen to act as his compatriot's conduit on the field now that they are reunited at Fulham, is suggesting that his new team-mates knuckle down and accept that the physical and mental ordeals ahead will aid their mission to remain in the Premier League.

"We all talked about what could maybe happen and that training is going to be very hard," Holtby, on loan from Tottenham, said. "You have to be honest about that. But the most important thing is to be physically and mentally on the top level.

"Of course he trains hard but everyone has his own philosophy. He won a couple of titles in Germany [two with Bayern Munich and one with Wolfsburg], you always have to respect that. For me as a player, it was really hard back in the day. I'm not saying we didn't suffer, but I'm not complaining. The thing is you have to graft through it. You have to be happy that he makes you fit and mentally very strong."

The signs were ominous for Fulham's players with Magath indicating, after this promising 1-1 draw at West Bromwich Albion, that he believes his new players could be fitter. "We get goals-against in the last quarter of the game. I think in the past they have done a lot of work but we have to change a bit the style of work," the 60-year-old said. "I think we can improve."

Magath saw his new team continue the improvement they had shown in drawing with Manchester United and losing only at the last to Liverpool at the end of René Meulensteen's short reign, but concede another late goal, when Matej Vydra's shot was mishandled by Maarten Stekelenburg and confirmed as over the line by the goal decision system.

They had been far the better side in the first half, with Holtby pulling the strings from his favoured No10 position, and went ahead when Ashkan Dejagah, who also played for Magath at Wolfsburg, struck midway through the first half.

Yet Fulham tired, perhaps after their first week training under Magath, and were blown apart by West Brom's improvement after the interval. Credit to Pepe Mel, still seeking his first win in English football after six games, for his tactical tinkering that hinged around Victor Anichebe's introduction as the attacking pivot in a 4-3-3 shape. The Albion coach deserved the fourth consecutive home draw from Vydra's equaliser.

On a day when Sunderland and Cardiff City both suffered heavy defeats, this almost felt like a victory for West Brom, considering that Fulham lost two points as they gained one with that equaliser.

"Before the game we needed three points, but we only got one," Vydra said. "But if we'd lost, Fulham would have got the three points and moved closer to us. So it's a good point."

Man of the match Victor Anichebe (WBA)


Selling Kostas Mitroglou Has Weakened Olympiacos Believes David Moyes

Manchester United manager David Moyes believes the club's Champions League Round of 16 opponents Olympiacos are now weaker for the loss of Kostas Mitroglou.

The Greece international striker joined Fulham during last month's transfer window, bringing to an end what had been a prolific campaign both with Olympiacos and his country.

Now the Greek champions will try to shoot down Manchester United without Mitroglou and Moyes feels they have harmed their chances by selling the hitman.

"Mitroglou was a really good goalscorer for them and a main player. Does it weaken them? I think they'd rather have him than not but probably felt the offer was so good they had to take it", he told his club's site.

Mitroglou's departure also leaves a question mark in Moyes' mind over just who Olympiacos will field against his team.

"Since then, they've brought in two or three other players as well and I couldn't be sure who will and won't play", Moyes said.

The striker's sale has not dented Olympiacos' form domestically however, with the club sitting top of the Super League with 74 points from 26 games, unbeaten and having only drawn twice.

They warmed up for their clash against Manchester United by beating OFI 4-0 on Saturday.



West Ham, Spurs, Fulham and Newcastle target will be free in the summer

Manchester City defender Joleon Lescott admits his days at the Etihad Stadium are numbered.

Lescott's contract expires in the summer and he is aware that his future lies elsewhere.

The former Everton man was wanted by West Ham, Tottenham Fulham and Newcastle in January and he admits he is playing in a "shop window" at the moment.

"My days at City are numbered but there is no bad feeling. I've known for a while but there is no resentment," he said in The People.

"I know my contract won't be renewed, so every performance I've put in this season has been like being in the shop window.

"Hopefully someone is watching and wants to sign me.

"I wouldn't rule out a move a move abroad. I need to weigh up my options and see what is best for me and my family."


Transfer News: Fulham's Ryan Tunnicliffe set for loan talks

Ryan Tunnicliffe: Set for loan talks

Fulham have given Ryan Tunnicliffe permission to talk with Ipswich Town and Wigan Athletic about a possible loan deal until the end of the season.

Tunnicliffe, along with Larnell Cole, signed for Fulham on deadline day from Manchester United.

He had previously spent the first part of the season on loan at Ipswich, and was hugely impressive for Mick McCarthy's men.

Sky Sports now understands that McCarthy is hoping to lure the England youth international back to Portman Road.

However, fellow promotion chasers Wigan are also keen to talk to the 21-year-old.

Wigan have just lost Ben Watson to a broken leg and Tunnicliffe has been targeted by Uwe Rosler as the man he wants to bolster his midfield.

Tunnicliffe has featured twice for Fulham since signing, starting the loss at Liverpool and also playing at former club United and helping the Cottagers to a 2-2 draw.

But since Rene Meulensteen left the club he has not been involved and although he is believed to figure in Fulham's long-term plans, they are happy for him to gain more playing time in the remainder of the season.


Premier League: Lewis Holtby believes in new Fulham boss Felix Magath

Lewis Holtby: Feels criticism of Felix Magath has been overly harsh

Fulham loan star Lewis Holtby says new Cottagers boss Felix Magath has been unfairly labelled as a managerial tyrant.

The German tactician has arrived in English football with a reputation for punishing training ground regimes which push his players to their limit.

Spells at the likes of Schalke and Bayern Munich in his homeland earned him unfavourable nicknames such as 'The Torturer' and 'Saddam Hussein'.

Holtby has now hit out at those critics, claiming that Magath is merely a man who likes to win and calls on all of those at his disposal to give their absolute all for the good of the collective cause.

The Germany international said of his fellow countryman after his Fulham reign began with a 1-1 draw at West Bromwich Albion on Saturday: "Some things that have been said about him are over the top - he's not a murderer.

"But if you compare him to Saddam, it's not very generous or very nice. It's not like he killed anyone. I think it's a disgrace if you call someone Saddam.

"Of course he trains hard, but everyone has their own philosophy. He won a couple of titles in Germany, you have to respect that."

Holtby also credits Magath with having helped to shape his own career, with a hard-line approach at Schalke offering him an early indication of what is required to reach the top.

The 23-year-old midfielder added: "It was really hard. I'm not saying we didn't suffer, but I'm not complaining. For me, it was very important to have him as a manager.

"He toughened me up physically and mentally, when you're 18 you grow pretty quickly. That's stayed with me until now."