Indeed, it could be viewed as a curious decision. Currently in his homeland, with one of the most prestigious and renowned clubs in world football, why would he want to leave? It’s certainly not a case of ‘job done’.
Jol has only been in charge of the four time European champions for one season and there is much left to accomplish. Despite attaining the Dutch Cup last year, Ajax were narrowly beaten to the Eredivisie title by Steve McClaren’s FC Twente. Surely, after such a tightly fought contest and slender defeat (by only one point), Martin has some unfinished business and scores to settle.
It’s not as if there is a dearth of talent at the Amsterdam Arena with which to achieve greatness; Maarten Stekelenburg, Gregory van der Wiel and Luis Suárez, to name but a few.
Hence, when asking ‘what does Jol see in Fulham’, it is not really meant as a derogatory appraisal of The Cottagers, but rather an acknowledgment of Ajax’s illustrious appeal and further achievements as yet not utilized.
But what of Fulham? Well, it will clearly be difficult to imitate the recent success engendered under Roy Hodgson. Swooping in like some sort of Nietzschean ‘Ubermensch’, Overman or Superman (or whatever it was he blabbed on about) at a time of acute need, Hodgson turned Fulham’s fortunes around and squeezed out the best with relatively modest resources, both on and off the field. I don’t like to wield out the old ‘they probably over achieved’ adage – as it’s patronising and irritates me when I hear it used in reference to my club – but, you know, it’s probably a fair assessment (so I’ll just mumble something to that effect under my breath). Impressive league performances and, most notably, last seasons infamous Europa League run means Jol faces a very difficult act to follow. Is it a worthwhile risk? Swapping Champions League football for a potentially underwhelming Premier League stint and the incredulity of being labelled a failure if he is, indeed, unable to emulate Roy’s magic.
All of which leads back the contemplation of what Jol sees in Fulham, and perhaps suggests it is a careless decision by Jol.
However, I actually think it is a very shrewd move for both manager and club.
Firstly let’s address Ajax. I know I just banged on about their plethora of talent just a few paragraphs ago, but that was just a nice bit of false scene setting and painting a pretty little picture with the sole intent of subsequently slashing it all up. Indeed, it’s no secret that all those talented names mentioned above (van der Wiel et al) have also been continually mentioned with regards to potential transfers in recent weeks. Ajax reportedly lost in the region of €20million last year and it is thought this may be compensated by selling valuable assets; yup, Maarten Stekelenburg, Gregory van der Wiel and Luis Suárez, to name but a few.
Clearly this vast weakening of the squad would be of extreme concern to Jol, particularly as he was pressing to dip his own tootsies in the transfer market and further strengthen the side. The inability of Ajax to back Jol in the transfer market, and the fiscal pressures to sell their stars, renders Amsterdam a far less enviable home.
Particularly when the Premier League is calling; somewhere Jol remains popular following his successful stint at Spurs. Taking Tottenham to 5th place on two occasions, Martin Jol is certainly a reputable and experienced Premiership figure. Hence, he would be something of a coup for Fulham. But, likewise, Fulham would be a very good home for Jol. The steady advancements of recent years have made Fulham an attractive proposition; moreover Mohamed Al Fayed is reported to have been making all the right noises in attracting Jol and is duly prepared to provide substantial financial backing. Given they already possess a strong squad backbone, this clearly offers Jol an alluring venture.
The Fulham foundations are in place, further progress is desired and the ‘big man’, ‘the Don’, Tony Soprano’s doppelganger (yeah, yeah, you get the idea), could well take them to the next level.
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