by Mike Forrest

June 7th 2011 heralded yet another new era, in relatively quick time, for Fulham Football Club. From the strict, rigid, tried and tested system deployed by Hodgson, to a more adventurous yet still solid system used by Hughes, new manager Martin Jol arrived and promptly made a bold statement “I like to play nice, attacking football – that has always been my way and I will be no different at Fulham.”

Jols’ mission was to build on the solid defensive foundation of the team whilst also integrating a new attacking system. The favoured formation of Jol has been the 4-2-3-1. In theory the formation sounds flawless. The full backs act as attacking wing backs, one of the center midfielders act as a quarter back spreading balls forward and the forward is a target man who brings the three behind him into play. However in theory, communism sounds like a great plan.

To use this system, a squad needs pace, creativity and a target man. Fulham had one and a half of these. Bobby Zamora, who had found his best overall form of his career at Fulham, took to Jol about as well as an aquaphobic to water. The poor relationship between the two led to consistent half hearted performances from the forward, leading to problems with Jols formation. With the transfer window closed and no adequate replacement for Zamora, Fulham and Jol were stuck with the moody, grumpy, inconsistent striker.

This was not the only problem for Jol and his attempts to implement sexy football. The Fulham squad severely lacked pace however, thankfully for Jol, Fulham had decent creative players. Fans had visions of seductive, attractive, fluid football. Instead we were getting the equivalent of a drunk, stumbling, tardy, scantly clad woman that possessed decent chat up lines and a sometimes engaging flirtation but nothing substantial. And with one league win in 7 games, fans were quickly becoming frustrated.

Why was Jol trying to disprove the idiom of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”?

People get impatient with the pace of change and this was proving true for Fulham fans and it would be negligent to deny their grievances with Jol. Why was Jol trying to disprove the idiom of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”? In previous seasons, Fulham’s success was based on a solid defence. Under Jol, this was becoming leaky. Fan favourite Aaron Hughes was dropped in favour of the younger center back, Phillipe Senderos. Fans were siding with Zamora over Jol and with rumours abound of dressing room unrest, being meekly knocked out of the Europa League, Jol was facing an uphill struggle to persuade Fulham fans that he was the right man for the job.

Despite poor results and performances, Jol had made some positive contributions. His introduction of Academy graduates Matthew Briggs and Kerim Frei were appreciated by the fans, especially Frei. Frei a pacy, tricky winger with a raw talent that needs polishing, but he definitely looks as if he has the talent to make it in the Premiership. Whilst both players have gone off the boil recently, with Briggs being shipped off to Peterborough and Frei going back to the youths and developmental squad, Jol has at least proved that he is not afraid to give youth a chance.

Most of the January transfer window came and went with hardly any big news. Come deadline day, that all changed. Jol played his hand and got rid of trouble maker Zamora and brought in Russian striker Pavel Pogrebynak. This was Jol going all in, going for a Hail Mary in his last play. Getting rid of a proven, albeit inconsistent, forward and replacing him with an unproven Premier League player. Pogrebynak made his debut against Stoke and even though it’s too early to say for certain, it looks as though Jol’s ruthless decision might have paid of. Not only did the Russian score on his debut, but his all around play kept the team ticking over nicely and was a massive contribution to some of the best football Fulham have played this season. However this was just one cameo, Jol’s gamble will need more than a good 60 minute cameo from his trump card to be proven a success.

I believe, much like marquee signing Bryan Ruiz, we will see the best of Jol’s Fulham from next season onwards

Perhaps Fulham fans have been unfair on Jol and have failed to give him a chance to implement his plans. It was always going to be a little disruptive to uproot the comfortable tactics and formations that the players were comfortable with. With a stagnating squad, I believe Jol’s appointment showed a progressive attitude from the club. A new dynamic to freshen up the club and players can only be good. Admittedly the change hasn’t gone as smooth as it could have been. Maybe Jol could have eased the changes in slowly and overtime rather than the radical overhaul that he has overseen. Fans have been quick to voice their unhappiness with Jol when Fulham have gone through rough patches. However I believe, much like marquee signing Bryan Ruiz, we will see the best of Jol’s Fulham from next season onwards (presuming Fulham aren’t relegated).

One thing that Jol could do to get on the good side of all Fulham fans would be to deliver a win against QPR this Saturday. Not only would it be an excellent three points, but to beat Mark Hughes and Bobby Zamora would be especially pleasing. Mark Hughes left Fulham to manage a team that would finally match his ambition…and took control of Barcelona on Football Manager 2012 on a full time basis. So with Jol promising sexy times to come for Fulham it was with a spiteful glee that Fulham washed their hands of Hughes who treated Fulham with utter contempt and disregard akin to how the FA treat common sense. However with Hughes back in reality, being plunged back to down to earth, and taking the QPR job and Bobby Zamora, Fulham fans would like nothing more than to see their rivals and former employees beaten and Jol knows it.