Fulham 'believer' Shahid Khan has tough act to follow

 

craven cottage

It's the hardest act in football to follow. So forget David Moyes and pity Shahid Khan, who has taken over from Mohamed Al-Fayed as owner of Fulham. By comparison with this self-inflicted role, Moyes's task in keeping Manchester United at the forefront of English and European football should be a gentle breeze.

Appropriately, rain lashed Craven Cottage yesterday and no time was wasted in showing Khan how unkind football can be, even on the lovely riverside ground where, as the American billionaire recalled in a schmaltzy programme article, he saw Fulham beat Liverpool through a Clint Dempsey goal in the spring of 2007 and became a "believer" in the club.

Six weeks ago he bought it from Al-Fayed and, having watched the 1-0 victory at Sunderland last weekend online at home in Florida with his wife Ann, he was at the Cottage with his impressive moustache to receive the pre-match applause of the fans. Then, within the space of 27 first-half minutes, a lesson in how swiftly a fall can follow pride.

Not that Khan is unacquainted with sporting disappointment: his Jacksonville Jaguars, in their only NFL season since he acquired the franchise, lost 14 games out of 16 before parting from their coach.

Such form would, of course, get Fulham relegated and Martin Jol's new employer must be hoping this display was a misleading sign of things to come – and so must Jol.

The outcome was settled before the end of the first half. Two goals down, Fulham lost hope of building on the Wearside win and Lukas Podolski's second goal, in both its making and taking, served to emphasise the gulf in class between the sides, as did almost everything Santi Cazorla did on the sodden pitch.

Fulham had no-one capable of threatening the Spaniard's command and disturbingly, while Arsenal grafted, some home players displayed a tendency to argue with each other. Nor was it a coincidence that they had more of the play after the withdrawal of Adel Taarabt, however hard he had tried to impose his skills on the match. There may not be room for both his ego and Dimitar Berbatov's in matches as testing as this.

Even after making allowances for how well Arsenal did so soon after their flight home from Istanbul, it would have to be deemed untypical of Fulham's displays since they became a familiar part of the Premier League furniture. The next two fixtures will place yesterday in context – away to Newcastle and at home to West Bromwich, Jol's men will be looking for points and the customary air of mid-table respectability.

We sometimes forget that it is not the club's birthright. Fulham were at English football's third level when Al-Fayed took over. He promised the Premier League within five years and, thanks to relatively high spending and the management of first Kevin Keegan and then Jean Tigana, achieved it a year ahead of schedule.

He continued to make some excellent appointments, above all, Roy Hodgson, under whom the club attained their highest League position – seventh – in 2009 before reaching the Europa League final the next season, along the way beating Juventus 5-4 on aggregate with four consecutive goals at home. Dempsey got the winner with a divine lob and even those old enough to recall Johnny Haynes, one of the greatest creative players England ever produced, would have struggled to nominate a finer moment at the Cottage.

Athough often magical, none of this came from the tooth-fairy. Al-Fayed put an estimated £200 million into the club. So no wonder he is revered. At the Cottage, where his surname has been sung to the tune of Volare – "he wants to be a Brit… and QPR are shit" – it will resound for many years and this is the challenge facing Khan.

What can the Fulham support expect from this sporting rookie? Surely not a start as dismal as his Jacksonville regime's. But there are the beginnings of a pattern among American owners of English football clubs. Perhaps because they are unaccustomed to relegation, they tend not to spend urgently. If the example of Stan Kroenke at Arsenal is considered extreme, take John W. Henry, whose Liverpool declined to increase their bid for Willian. Khan will eventually have to ponder, as Al Fayed so lightly did, the price of survival.

Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick