MARK FOTHERINGHAM has accused Fulham’s prima donnas of being unwilling to put in the hard graft demanded by Felix Magath.
And he is adamant the German coaching ‘legend’ could be the man to break Glasgow’s stranglehold on Scottish football if he is handed the reins at Hearts.
Fotheringham played under the former Bayern Munich manager at Craven Cottage and relished every moment of learning from the vastly experienced tactician – unlike many of his teammates as Magath’s reputation took a battering in London.
He was appointed in February 2014 but proved unable to save the club from relegation before being dismissed in September with the club toiling in the Championship.
He was also ridiculed for suggesting Norwegian defender Brede Hangeland place a block of cheese on his knee to ease inflammation, with the likes of Steve Sidwell and Danny Murphy later strongly criticising his methods.
However, Fotheringham believes it is ludicrous that one seven-month spell of Magath’s expansive managerial life appears to hold more weight than the swathe of silverware on his CV. Especially when he contends that there were mitigating circumstances at play.
“Why did Felix get so much criticism from players?” said Fotheringham. “I’ll tell you exactly why it was: because they didn’t want to do a double session on a Sunday. They want their day off with the family, driving their Ferraris around London, sipping lattes all day.
“That’s not what Felix is about. He wants to win and he wants to be successful.
“Who is listening to Stevie Sidwell? I’m not here to criticise folk, but it’s embarrassing the way some of those boys slagged him.
“If you give Felix time and buy into what he is telling you, he will bring success. He’s a top coach, was an iconic player and has had one blip in his career, yet people in Britain want to judge him on that. Give me a break.
Fotheringham added: “They give it the whole ‘he put cheese on Hangeland’s knee’ and all that. It was an old German wives tale – just something a bit different – and an entire country won’t stop going on about it. Never mind all those titles and that World Cup as a player, eh.”
Prior to his ill-fated stint at Fulham, Magath guided Stuttgart to the Champions League – where he faced Rangers in 2003 – won the Bundesliga with unfancied Wolfsburg and claimed league titles and two German Cups at Bayern Munich.
Even after leaving England, he rehabilitated his reputation by guiding struggling Shandong Luneng from the foot of the cash-rich, star-studded Chinese Superleague to a safe sixth-place finish in 2017.
And Fotheringham reckons that, even at 66 years of age, Magath still has plenty more to give.
“The man is a legend,” he lauded. “For Felix to be linked with Hearts is absolutely massive and I know for a fact he has applied and would love the opportunity.
“Forget about hearsay, Felix is a fantastic manager to work under. He brought on boys like Moussa Dembele, Patrick Roberts and Dan Burns a massive amount at Fulham.
“He brought their fitness levels up and was training them like Champions League players – because that’s the level he demands.
“His CV is astonishing. He has won the league with Bayern Munich, he took a Wolfsburg – a village club compared to Bayern and Dortmund – to the Bundesliga title. He has developed [Mario] Mandzukic, [Edin] Dzeko, [Bastian] Schweinsteiger, [Philip] Lahm, [Manuel] Neuer.
“He got Raul back fit and hitting his best form at Schalke; qualified for the Champions League with Stuttgart and played Rangers in the Champions League.
“And people are asking whether he’s the right man for Hearts? With the greatest of respect, are you kidding me? How short are the memories?”
Fotheringham sees no reason why Magath could not replicate his miracle campaign with Wolfsburg in 2008/09 if he was to be handed the reins at Tynecastle, insisting they have the infrastructure in place to challenge Celtic and Rangers’ dominance.
He also believes it would be a welcome shot in the arm for Scottish football.
“Felix is what Scotland needs. We’ve not done anything for the last ten years!” he added. “It’s the same guys getting the same jobs all the time. And what are they changing? Nothing.
“What right have we got to turn our noses up at bringing a guy like that to Scotland?
“Hearts have got everything in place to make a push for it [titles] and there is no-one with more experience, confidence and ability to promote and develop youth than Felix.”