In January Steve Bruce spent £14m on Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long, two strikers who had a track record in the British game. Fulham, as part of a seven-man transfer window splurge, spent £12m on Kostas Mitroglou, a regular scorer in Greece, but new to the Premier League.
Two months later it is clear who made the better decision. After Jelavic and Long both scored at Craven Cottage on Saturday Hull City are all but safe, Fulham are staring into the abyss of relegation.
Hull’s new strikers have scored four goals apiece at a rate that would bring them a dozen each over a season. This is decent rather than prolific, but it has done the job for Hull, keeping them above the choppy waters of the drop zone.
Mitroglou has not only not scored for Fulham, he has only played 119 minutes for them with his last goal coming for Greece in November. He has been hampered by injuries, but also by the apparent belief of manager Felix Magath (who inherited Mitroglu) that he lacks the fitness required to play in England.
“For me the two strikers we brought in at the right time have made the difference,” said Bruce. “We were in comfortable position in January and the chairman spent a lot of money. The two of them are a handful. You are only as good as your strikers, and they are as good a pair as any in the bottom half of the division.”
When Fulham signed Jelavic and Long they were four points ahead of Fulham. Had Fulham held on to the 2-0 lead Ashkan Dejegah and Fernando Amorebieta gave them on Saturday the gap between the clubs would have been three points. Without the goals of Long and Jelavic this spring the clubs would probably be level.
Instead, while Bruce can forward to enjoying Hull’s first FA Cup final, Magath has to pick his players up. “The players were very disappointed in the dressing room,” he said. “It seemed like it was the end of the season. They don’t talk. I told them: ‘it’s too late now, we have to let it go’. We cannot do anything about this now. We have to stand up and try to win at Stoke next week.
“We had chances to score after the second goal so the performance was all right. If we had played this game in September, nobody would care about it, everybody would be fine and the fans would be looking forward. But as the situation is for us now, then no.”