Was sacking Jol Fulham’s only chance?

Martin Jol comes across as a very likeable man. The softly-spoken Dutchman has often been portrayed as a gentle giant of sorts, one of football’s good men.

However, sad as it might be to see him departing the Premier League, the only surprising thing about his sacking is that it took so long for Fulham to bring themselves to hand the former Spurs and Ajaz manager.

The Cottagers sit perilously in 18th place, safety and the bottom spot equally distant and have suffered five consecutive league defeats, culminating in Saturday’s 3-0 humbling against fellow strugglers West Ham.

It was the manner in which the defeat arrived, rather than its scoreline, that exemplified the malaise that has pervaded Fulham this season, for there wasn’t an ounce of urgency or desire in their performance.

Jol’s men trudged along on the pitch, seemingly resigned to lose yet another game, while West Ham showed the sort of resilience and hunger that can often prove to be the difference between relegation and safety.

Having reached a European final a couple of seasons ago, Fulham are now in real danger of forfeiting their Premier League status and the feeling is too many – whether inside the camp or not – consider the Cottagers as simply too good to be relegated.

It’s hard to fathom the likes of Dimitar Berbatov, Darren Bent and Maarten Stekelenburg involved in a relegation scrap but, quite plainly, Fulham’s laissez faire attitude could cost them dearly between now and May.

A failure to change his team’s philosophy was perhaps Jol’s biggest mistake this season, with the former Spurs manager seemingly unable to change his club’s slump in form as his men displayed an incredible array of defensive frailties.

Having conceded three goals in the first 24 minutes at home against Manchester United, the Cottagers conceded three in 13 minutes the following week against Liverpool and while one could argue than Fulham might not have been expected to win either game, to suffer such defensive lapses is simply inexcusable.

Fulham’s woes at the back have been amplified by a lack of goals that has seen them scoring twice in the last five Premier League games and while Darren Bent and Dimitar Berbatov are the main culprits, one wonders if Martin Jol shouldn’t have invested on another striker in the summer.

Bent’s arrival, in theory, should have provided Fulham with a goalscorer of proven quality but the former Villa man has struggled with injuries and has only found the net twice – which, ironically, equals his goal return over the last two seasons.

Jol can consider himself unlucky for a change of ownership in the summer didn’t provide him with the chance of flexing the club’s financial muscles and spent a mere £8m on players.

Free agent signings like Derek Boateng and Adel Taarabt should have added quantity and quality to the Cottagers’ midfield but, at this stage, both of them have to be considered like gambles that have failed to pay off – a recurrent theme for the Moroccan – with the two players collecting just five starts between them.

Fulham’s hierarchy’s decision to bring in Rene Meuleensten sealed Jol’s fate, for few managers would be prepared to work alongside a manager of Meuleensten without feeling threatened.

If that was a strategic move to spark Fulham back into life has failed spectacularly and for all his knowledge, the former United’s number two will have his work cut out to keep his club afloat this season.

In a situation like Fulham’s, a change is often not only required, but is the only option. Jol, undoubtedly, knew it.



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