Fayed unmoved as Fulham fans round on under-fire Hughes

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The Independent Online

The Fulham manager Mark Hughes has been given no assurances from owner Mohamed al-Fayed about the security of his job.

Hughes's side dropped into the relegation zone with the 3-1 home defeat to West Ham United on Boxing Day that ended with some fans chanting "Hughes out". Fayed was not at the ground to witness Hughes's humiliation, which also included a chorus of "You don't know what you're doing" at his decision to replace Clint Dempsey with Eddie Johnson early in the second half, but the former Harrods owner did watch the game on TV.

Club sources say Fayed was relatively satisfied with the performance, if not the result, and is expecting to see great improvements in the team's next three games, which are away games at Stoke today and Tottenham Hotspur on New Year's Day, and West Bromwich Albion at home on 4 January.

If Fulham do not win one of those three games, then Fayed may have to reconsider the position of Hughes, who was brought in as Roy Hodgson's replacement in the summer. The situation is considered to be very different to that of three years ago, when Lawrie Sanchez was sacked in December when Fulham slipped into the relegation places.

It is much tighter at the bottom of the Premier League this season, so a couple of wins will quickly improve the situation, while Hughes also retains the support of the dressing room. However the slide from a team that contested the Europa League final in May is an alarming one, with just four points won from their last eight Premier League games.

Hughes, who was sacked by Manchester City last December, is six months into a two-year contract, which means it would not cost the earth to terminate the agreement, although he did bring with him three assistants Mark Bowen, Eddie Niedzwiecki and Kevin Hitchcock, who would also have to be paid off.

The available alternatives should he be dismissed include the former Tottenham Hotspur manager Martin Jol, who turned down the Fulham job in the summer preferring to stay with Ajax, and Sam Allardyce, who was sacked by Blackburn Rover recently and is keen for a swift return to a Premier League job.

Fulham will press ahead with their recruitment plans in January regardless of who is in charge. The club are considering moves for the Paraguayan striker Roque Santa Cruz from Manchester City and the Aston Villa midfielder Stephen Ireland, while they are also very interested in Dembe Cisse, a 25-year-old striker from Senegal who has scored 21 goals in 31 appearances for German side Freiburg.

Hughes's assistant Bowen said yesterday the Fulham manager is not bitter about the reception he received from the fans. "Mark has broad shoulders. You take stick as a player, and it's the same as a manager. It's the other part of the game and you accept that."

The dressing room also came out in support of the manager. The defender Aaron Hughes said: "The most important thing for us is that we don't start pointing the finger and saying we're not scoring goals at one end and conceding at the other and start picking holes in our team.

"The most important thing is we stick together. The confidence hasn't drained out of the side, we still believe in each other and still know we can put a lot of things right," he continued. "We know what got us success over the past couple of years so we've just got to keep working hard and not let the belief and confidence go because if that goes then we really are in trouble. We've still got a lot of togetherness and confidence in the dressing room that we can turn it around."

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