Jol must stand up and be counted

Wednesday 18th September 2013 8:56

Martin Jol: Needs to turn things around at Fulham

Martin Jol: Needs to turn things around at Fulham

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Fulham FanZoner Andy Lye laments his side's start to the season, and thinks it's time Martin Jol stopped making excuses for inept performances.

Another week, another Fulham performance lacking in energy, urgency, and for the most part, class. It's a situation that's becoming very wearing on the fans, and some have been making their views known for a while now, but mostly from the relatively voiceless platform of Facebook and fan forums.

The first few however have reached the point where they feel booing the team from the field, and shouting at Martin Jol, is the next necessary course of action, and their doing so is being viewed in entirely the wrong light.

After most of our games it seems that certain players (Dimitar Berbatov, Bryan Ruiz) are the only ones people can see when watching Fulham. Somehow their names dominate match reports, even when they've had poor games and people like last year's real player of season Sascha Reither outplay them for 90 minutes, but we're used to that.

We're used to the real detail of our games being missed or misreported, and we're used to the star names being the only ones to catch the eye. What we're not used to is our manager having the same attitude, and that's just one of the reasons those complaining about Jol feel justified in doing so.

West Brom on Saturday was the story of our season so far. Once again the likes of Reither and central midfield pair Steve Sidwell and Scott Parker put in the biggest shifts, Berbatov and Ruiz were poor, we conceded a late goal to throw the game away, and as usual those two were hailed in match reports as being the centre of everything we did.

Captain Brede Hangeland has to shoulder some of the blame for being out-jumped at a corner by scorer Gareth McAuley, but Berbatov having two goals disallowed for off-side simply because he couldn't be bothered to make sure he stayed on is the real reason we lost.

He and Ruiz are becoming an increasingly large thorn in the side of the club, and it isn't helping that they are Jol's favourites as well.

Parker and Sidwell are so regularly called upon in our games because of the front two's inclusion. In fact, the reason we can't even consider playing with one holding midfielder in order to have an extra attacking player on the pitch is because of Berbatov and Ruiz's unwillingness (and in the latter's case, inability) to help out defensively. At the back, especially Reither when Ruiz is deployed on the right leaving the German constantly exposed, we are are under heightened pressure in every match for the same reason. And it's because of Jol's favouritism towards them that players like Damian Duff, and the now departed Kerim Frei, who was criminally sold for £3m or less to Turkish side Besiktas, were reduced to supporting roles. Even Adel Taarabt, another of Jol's apparent favourites, spent 90 minutes on the bench despite proving our most creative midfield player in previous matches.

So the boos and calls for Jol's sacking have started at games, echoing similar online sentiment that has been brewing among the faithful for a few months, and this is being condemned by many as the kind of knee-jerk reaction to a couple of poor results that teams like Man City and Chelsea have to endure from time to time. Except that Fulham fans have never been like that (except possibly when Laurie Sanchez was briefly in charge) and the perspective many seem to have lost when viewing these reactions is that these lacklustre performances are not a new phenomenon.

We haven't played well as a team since March and finished the 2012/13 season with such a pathetic whimper that we were, in reality, just one win away from relegation. Had it not been for the miracle at Tottenham in March, that squad did not look like it had enough quality or passion to pull itself out of danger, going on to scrape a win at home to bottom club QPR, then fail to win another match in seven attempts, including saving a draw through a lucky own goal at Aston Villa, and that appalling home defeat to Reading.

On paper we looked liked we finished well with the win at Swansea on the last day, jumping us above a few teams in an incredibly tight bottom half, but had we been in the bottom three at that time, which we would have been without the three points at Spurs, that was not the team to echo the great escape of 2007/08.

So it's not just a couple of poor performances fans are upset about, it's a dozen or so. Even in pre-season, we just about got out of Costa Rica with three wins from three against weak opposition, and as soon as we came back to Europe to play stronger sides in Werder Bremen, Parma, and Real Betis, we lost or scraped draws.

Jol trots out the usual "we need to gel" lines on a weekly basis, rarely varying his tired statements, and some fans are starting to do the same because they don't want to face up to the fact that Berbatov and Ruiz are not going to single-handedly save us, and the reality is we're in quite a bad way at the moment, but the most concerning thing to come out of all of it is an underlying arrogance in Martin Jol that it now would appear has been there the whole time. Comments in recent interviews following the West Brom reactions such as "I'm a very proud person and I'm used to playing in the top five or even higher... I came here to try and help the club... I would like people to be a bit more appreciative", clearly indicate that he feels he's a big manager helping out our meek little club; doing us a favour for his seven-figure annual salary and that perhaps we should be grateful he even came here.

Fulham fans, perhaps more than most, always appreciate effort and passion in their players and managers above anything else. Give us that, and we will always be grateful for what we have. We'd rather watch a 17-year-old from the development squad run his heart every week and have goals disallowed for offside because he's still learning positional play, than a 32-year-old who should know better and simply can't be bothered.

It's time for Martin to stop saying "that's not what you want" and "you've got a problem" after every game and start achieving what we want and fixing the problem. No fan in their right mind expects us to be challenging for Europe this year. Or winning a cup. Our new owner doesn't even expect that.

What we expect is 11 men to run out onto the pitch every week and not stop running for 90 minutes. And we expect the manager to recognise who does and doesn't put that kind of effort in for the club, and make selections, substitutions and transfers accordingly.

Maybe Martin knows his time is short anyway and has given up. It wouldn't be unfair to suggest that if we're already in a relegation scrap by Christmas then he'll be sacked, and if we're not, that he simply won't have his contract renewed in the Summer when it expires, but that either way he won't be here next season. It's pretty obvious Shahid Kahn and the board don't trust him with serious transfer funds after the meagre return we've gotten from the £10.5m spent on Ruiz, so maybe he's right.

But shouldn't professionalism, and that all-important pride he wants us to believe he has in himself, dictate that he at least tries to earn himself a new deal so that he can be the one to turn us down?

The players have to take some blame for our extended run of bad form, of course, but when several of those players have changed, and we're still playing the same way, the finger of blame has to at least start shifting towards the management/coaching, and it would be nice if Jol started accepting some of that responsibility.

By Andy Lye, FanZone's Fulham blogger. Follow him on Twitter at @jukeboxmetal - and don't forget to follow @FanZone too!

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