In the wake of Martin Jol’s sacking by Fulham, Online Editor Liam Trim offers his thoughts on the wisdom of the decision and what lies ahead at Craven Cottage.
The moment ex-Manchester United coach Rene Meulensteen joined the staff at Fulham, it was clear Martin Jol’s days at the club were numbered. It was therefore no great surprise last weekend when the former Tottenham and Hamburg manager was sacked by new owner Shahid Khan.
It was also not a surprise that his team succumbed to another timid defeat against London rivals West Ham. Fulham have always been notoriously shaky on their travels, but this year, they have acquired the unhelpful habit of also rolling out the welcome mat at Craven Cottage for their opponents.
Under Roy Hodgson, and at times under Jol, the Cottage had been a fortress capable of frustrating the best (in the past, they have deservedly beaten Arsenal, drawn with Chelsea and thrashed the mighty Blackpool). The less said about the disloyal Mark Hughes the better.
Martin Jol has always been loyal and he’s always been honest. That’s the thing – Fulham fans liked and still like him as a man. But given his pedigree on the continent in the Dutch and German leagues, and even with Spurs, they justifiably expected more of him, both tactically and in the transfer market.
In recent weeks, as a friend pointed out to me, he has simply been too honest. Great managers, like Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger and José Mourinho, often lie through their teeth. You know the kind of thing:
“Yes, of course we played well… I did not see the penalty decision but if the referee gave it to us it probably was a penalty… I don’t think we were lucky to have 10 extra minutes… the lads were great hanging in there like that…the mark of champions is to win when you play badly.”
Jol has looked miserable and passionless as of late. His answers in interviews have been matter of fact and delivered in a low murmur, lacking in confidence. He had not been giving any impression that he had new ideas to get Fulham out of trouble.
As Meulensteen has already pointed out, some of Jol’s troubles are beyond his control, as he had an ageing squad lacking in pace, creativity and fight, which sorely required investment. But even his starting XIs failed to use the wild cards at his disposal. In a losing run this bad, he may as well have taken a punt on youth in a bid to turn the tide.
There’s much to be said for giving managers time. The sacking of Owen Coyle at Wigan seems premature after a strong start to the Championship which faded, while the sacking of Dave Jones at Sheffield Wednesday seems harsh given that he steered the team back to the Championship in 2012.
But, whatever the rights and wrongs of it, that’s the reality of modern football. And in the case of Jol and Fulham, there is no doubt that a fresh face was needed to add impetus to what can only be described so far as a dreary campaign. Sometimes change is necessary to break the habit of defeat, and Jol certainly seemed resigned to losing week after week.
Meulensteen may or may not be the right man to succeed Jol. Robin Van Persie rates him as a world class coach – but does that mean he’ll excel as a manger? Only time will tell. There were certainly safer candidates and perhaps more exciting ones (Roberto Di Matteo would have been an intriguing prospect, for example).
One thing Meulensteen and Fulham fans must remember through the struggle ahead though, above all else, is that no one is too good to go down. No one. Not even Dimitar Berbatov.bookmark me