This was initially a response to a question White Noise posed on Friends Of Fulham. After a little persuasion and some light editing I thought it was worth putting it on here too.
Before the start of the season I would have expected, as almost everyone else did, a top 12 finish and a cup run of sorts in a competition with a view to being more competitive next season as the new guard and ultimately the future of Fulham are developed and Jol sets in his style of play which is, and this point can’t be argued, a very different philosophy to the three-and-a-half years previous to him. Now, it would be unfair to expect him to change his style of management completely (the players must suit the manager, just as the manager must suit the players) although he must admit certain concessions to get this squad playing successfully. He has done that in part, playing with a 4-2-3-1 as opposed to his preferred 4-3-3 (which we may be shifting towards anyway) and with the inverted, narrow attacking play which we have been successful with over the past few years.
Anyway, we are on for target one, but not target two, so by extention this season has been disappointing, if only for the utterly meek surrender of our Europa League run. The Carling Cup knock out came in such a manner that it was cause for optimism following an impressive performance by our reserves and the FA Cup knock out was in a tie which we would have not usually have expected to advance through, although the manner in which we went out was quite anticlimactic. Besides there is still a third or so of the season to play. We won’t be relegated, which is of paramount importance. If we get relegated we will be doomed as a club I think, such is the reliance on Premier League money. If we push on and do as well as we should expect to in our reminaing home games we could finish top ten, which I think everyone would agree with as ‘a good performance in the league’. If we dropped a couple of places from where we are at then that would be pretty unsatisfying but we would move on I think. So let’s reserve our full judgement for May.
It is next season that I am looking forward to seeing from Jol’s tenure. This isn’t an excuse so I can write off this season and view the future with unfounded optimism, but a very fair time frame allowed to see signs of success. Jol has, as far as I can see it, two main instructions he has to fulfill: 1) keep us comfortably in the league and 2) turn the squad into one which is self sustainable through player sales (i.e., first reduce the age and then develop players to sell on and reinvest back into the squad. fact is Roy’s transfer dealings were unsustainable). Those are the two key agendas that Jol has to fulfill and as long as he does that then he has a place at Fulham I think. Don’t interpret this is ‘I am pleased to sacrifice all ambition as long as the club is sustainable’ because, of course, I would like us to push for as high a place as possible in the league and a place at Wembley but we have to remain realistic – the Europa League final was the exception, not the norm; 2 top 10 finishes in 3 seasons is the exception, not the norm. It will become so if our long term goals are achieved which is why patience and objectivity is required in the current position we are in.
TLDR; this season has been a slight disappointment but proclamations of our demise are grossly exaggurated, judge how well we have done in the season at the end of the season and be patient with the boards long term plan.