No jokers in Jol's hand

Posted by Phil Mison

Clive Rose/Getty ImagesDimitar Berbatov's self-indulgent display Wednesday fell flat, mirroring Fulham's recent descent in the table

Whichever way you slice the cake post-Christmas, and we've been sounding alarm bells on this blog now since October, you have to say the current crisis at Fulham is proving a real test of faith.

You would not expect a bruiser like Martin Jol to express defeatism, that's not how big-time managers operate, but you don't need to call Old Mother Hubbard to see the Cottage cupboard is bare. Not that we Fulham fans haven't been here before. Perhaps because Fulham's results of autumn promised a false dawn, we are feeling the pain more keenly at the end of 2012. The optimistic sentiment afforded the gaffer over the first 12 months of his reign while Jol unveiled his blueprint for turning Fulham FC into top-six contenders now has a hollow ring. The emperor is looking immodestly naked.

Further evidence of just how far this squad has gone backwards since August arrived came on Boxing Day with the Whites' inability to take all three points off Southampton. And while it is one thing to bemoan the handicaps of suspension and injuries for the hammering at Liverpool, best not to try and pull the wool over our eyes for the totally unacceptable surrender at QPR. We fans are too wise for that.

I didn't see the game Boxing Day. Just as well, as it sounded like yet another car-crash display of confused tactics, players not good enough in key positions, surrendering a lead late on yet again. The team leaving the field before a full house to a chorus of booing at what we used to call "Fortress Fulham" to relegation candidates Southampton tells me all I need to know. I see no point in going over the failings in the present set-up, we all read the comments to this site.

Every other Fulham forum is now reflecting increased alarm at the rapid descent towards the drop zone, while criticism of the manager is reaching a crescendo. Further comment just means tramping over the same old ground.

What can be done by the board to prevent a slide into the Championship? Although the past two seasons the side faced a new year with less points than now, and was even closer to the bottom three, I had more faith in the personnel available then to turn things around than I do now. Next week Jol enters his fourth transfer window having to skip down to the CEO’s office setting out his case yet again for more funds from Mo’s ample wallet to reinforce the side. His track record to date does not inspire confidence.

The executives at Fulham find themselves in an odious position. The current team have looked like prime candidates for relegation over the past 10 games. Dare I suggest the game is up with our Dutch manager and he has lost - or is very close to - losing the team? Tactics were never Jol’s strong point, but there is a despair presently in both his formation tinkering and post-match comments.

Here I see Jol’s aura week by week diminishing in a manner rarely applied to Roy Hodgson or Mark Hughes. Why the difference? Both previous incumbents had but one window effectively to apply their balm on a wounded Fulham. No sooner had Hughes slipped into the hot seat than he lost his England striker to a snapped ankle. So we played half-a-season with a makeshift forward line where Clint Dempsey really earned his spurs.

Jol started 2011 in similar vein, though it was his decision to unsettle Bobby Zamora and drive him from the club, a coded message for the rest of the 30-plus club. But if you recall, the last-minute loan gamble on Andre-Pierre Gignac fell through, and with Orlando Sa little more than ballast, Fulham paid the price by tossing away progress in the Europa Cup in slapdash manner.

To Jol’s credit, by luck or design, Fulham did land Pavel Pogrebnyak in the January 2012 window, and his instant impact lifted the side as Fulham played their best football of the campaign in the last third of the season. Do you see the same happening a year on?

The misery we are suffering now has its seeds in last summer. In some respects the strong finish to the season, sterling displays from Mousa Dembele, Mahamadou Diarra’s arrival and Clint’s goals, glossed over the shortfall the club got from new signings – Marcel Gecov, Pajtim Kasami and Bryan Ruiz had negligible impact on results overall. More core members of the old guard were shipped out last summer. At the time that seemed appropriate action.

But Jol’s replacement buys have yet again come up woefully short. It is very hard now to find excuses for Jol’s mismanagement on recruiting and rebuilding. Yet again Fulham began the season without a natural target man up front. Far worse, we are now reaping the whirlwind for not supplanting Danny Murphy with a midfield playmaker to man the engine room and skipper the side.

For whatever reasons the club has been shopping at Poundland and reduced to taking old sweats on short contracts. Not one of our exciting prospects from the academy is making progress – many in fact seem to be going backward. When we are so shot-shy in front of goal, does it not make sense to have Marcello Trotta back at the club and at least reinforcing the bench ahead of Kasami? It is transparent Fulham need substantial major talent recruited in January to turn the corner. Would you be putting the kitty into Jol’s hands now if it were your money?

Having pursued Jol for more than a year and been sold on his vision for free-flowing football at Fulham, would you as a board member now fancy pulling the rug – and where in football is the next likely candidate for the hot seat at FFC?

Somehow Fulham have managed to bring down on ourselves the ‘perfect storm.’ Even the presence of Dimitar Berbatov no longer seems to be in our best interests – what on earth are we to make of the juvenile t-shirt stunt? No wonder the other squad members can’t be bothered to turn up when the manager’s comments for four solid months suggest but two things: the rest of you aren’t fit to lace Dimi’s boots, and come January I can’t wait to find replacements for the lot of you.

What a way to run a football club. The team have not become collectively awful in the space of a few weeks. It is obvious, they no longer believe in the manager.


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