Slavisa Jokanovic has called on his Fulham side to remain focused ahead of the Boxing Day trip to Ipswich Town as the Whites chase crucial Championship points to remain in the play-off shake up.
Fulham’s draw with Derby County last Saturday left them four points off the top six and the Serbian coach wants his side to maintain the high standards they have set since the last international break when they return to action at Portman Road. Jokanovic isn’t unduly worried about the distraction of Christmas, telling his pre-match press conference:
It’s an important family day but at the same time we are professional in this football business. We will have working days on the 24th and 25th to make sure we are ready for Boxing Day. We will stay the night in Ipswich and we will have a similar schedule to that which we have for normal games. It’s a special day for all football fans and we have to be ready for the game.
Jokanovic feels Fulham have made strides forward in the year since he was appointed as the permanent successor to Kit Symons at Craven Cottage, but remains unsatisfied, targeting some improvements during the January transfer window and greater consistency from his players.
I expect after Christmas we’re going to be a still better team, still ambitious. I’m really grateful for how people support us. I believe they are more ambitious than what we provided last Christmas, and I expect we are going to do a good job in this period, and still be in a better level next Christmas.
We are conceding less goals, we showed more ambition and more character than if you compare it with this last year. I believe we have improved, although we need to avoid the costly mistakes that we’ve made in the past. If we continue to grow and improve, we can reach our target for this season.
The head coach’s thirst for improvement has been encapsulated by the form of Norwegian midfielder Stefan Johansen, who shrugged off a difficult start to his Fulham career to score four goals in his last four games and turn in several energetic displays at the heart of the engine room. Jokanovic was effusive in his praise of the former Celtic man.
He’s a very good example for all the players. His first months and his first games were very complicated for him, and he’s showed how, with ambition, with concentration, with desire, with hard work, you can go from being not such an especially important player for us at the beginning of the season, to start being our best player in the last months.
His form at the moment is at a very high level, he’s repeated his fantastic performance in the last games, and we believe he’s going to stay in the same level or, if possible, improve himself.
The only absentee from the trip to Suffolk will be on-loan Chelsea defender Tomas Kalas, who was substituted after just half an hour of the game against Derby on Saturday. Michael Madl and Tim Ream are in contention to partner Ragnar Sigurdsson at the heart of the Fulham defence.
Tomas Kalas has a hamstring problem and is outside of the squad but the other players are all ready for what’s in front of us. My squad has three centre-backs more. I will try and find a solution between these three players for Tomas Kalas.