Seven years ago today, Fulham ended a seven-week wait for a permanent successor to Kit Symons by naming Slavisa Jokanovic as the Welshman’s full-time replacement. All we knew then was that the Serbian had a short spell at Stamford Bridge and had got Watford to the Premier League, only to be booted out of Vicarage Road by the Pozzo family. Jokanovic became a cult hero in his three years at Craven Cottage and so I’ve listed my top ten Slav moments …

LEADING FULHAM BACK TO THE PREMIER LEAGUE AT WEMBLEY

In many ways, Fulham’s memorable return to the top flight was the antithesis of everything the Serbian strove to achieve at Craven Cottage. His side played sexy football and sought to impose themselves on the opposition. The nervy play-off final against favourites Aston Villa was progressing serenely, with a wonderfully worked goal slotted home by the skipper Tom Cairney from Ryan Sessegnon’s slide-rule pass, until Denis Odoi kung-fu kicked Jack Grealish. Then it became a war of attrition. Villa kept knocking at the door, but Fulham held on to win promotion, with Ollie Norwood’s terrific tackle on Conor Hourihane embodying a fierce will to win.

TELLING CHRIS MARTIN ‘WE ARE NOT A TRAIN STATION’

Long before Chris Martin appeared on their radar, Fulham officials learned the way that Jokanovic wasn’t afraid to voice his opinions in public. Nobody had the chance to quiz the Serbian on a tabloid report that the Scottish striker had downed tools in a Steve McClaren-inspired attempt to return to Derby County before our game at Reading was abandoned due to fog at half time. Jokanovic brilliantly blasted the striking forward live on Sky Sports News, reminding Martin that ‘we are not a train station – you can’t come in and out when you want’.

A NINE GOAL THRILLER AT BRAMALL LANE

Nobody who was at Bramall Lane in a cold November 2017 night will forget what they witnessed. Teenage sensation Ryan Sessegnon became the Football League’s youngest scorer of a hat-trick as Fulham roared back from going behind to lead 5-2. Leon Clarke completed his own treble as the Blades fought back within a single goal in stoppage time and then went in search of a late leveller. It was pulsating, end-to-end football. At the final whistle, fourteen players collapsed exhausted in the centre circle. Tom Cairney called the game ‘mad’ – he wasn’t wrong.

DEPLOYING KEVIN McDONALD DEEPER THAN EVER BEFORE

Fulham finally signed Kevin McDonald in August 2016 after a prolonged public flirtation with the Carnoustie-born midfielder. The Craven Cottage cult hero revealed on Si Ferry’s podcast a few years ago that Jokanovic actually played the new number six in the most defensive role he had fulfilled in all of his career – and that he wasn’t persuaded about the merits of that deeper position initially. It proved a masterstroke, allowing McDonald to be the ballast in front of a leaky back four, whilst not prohibiting him from scoring sublime (Millwall away) and ridiculous (Barnsley away) goals, and forging one of the great middle of the park trios with Cairney and Stefan Johansen.

WHATSAPPING ALEKSANDAR MITROVIC ON DEADLINE DAY

What reignited Fulham’s faltering promotion push began on WhatsApp on transfer deadline. Aleksandar Mitrovic was kicking his heels in Belgium with a potential loan back to his old club Anderlecht off because the Belgians couldn’t sell any of their other strikers. What began as an innocent conversation between two Partisan Belgrade heroes quickly became an audacious attempt at a late loan. Alistair Mackintosh convinced Anderlecht to do Mitrovic’s medical for Fulham – and the Serbian striker became the focal point of Jokanovic’s attack.

DEFEATING DERBY IN THE PLAY-OFFS

Even if you weren’t there in 1983, you’ll know the story of how Fulham’s promotion hopes ended even before the ninety minutes were up at the Baseball Ground. Heading into the 2018 play-offs, Fulham had never scored a play-off goal, never mind won a tie. The signs didn’t look promising as Jokanovic’s side slumped to a shoddy 1-0 defeat. Plenty of column inches were devoted to wondering whether Fulham had the heart for the battle. On a special night at the Cottage, Sessegnon smashed in an equaliser before Odoi’s magical leap sent the Whites to Wembley for the first time since 1975.

STUNNING ST. JAMES’ PARK WITH A TACTICAL MASTERCLASS

Fulham had already beaten Newcastle United on the opening day of the 2017/2018 season but Rafa Benitez’s side had run away with the Championship after that. A trip to St. James’ Park was one most of the division feared. Not Jokanovic, as he explains in this Coaches Voice’s video. Deploying Sone Aluko as a false nine, the Whites put together a victory to rival their 4-1 win in the north east in 2004. Tom Cairney fired in a classic left-footed finish from range and Sessegnon was only denied a hat trick when Jokanovic, seeking to ease the pressure on his young prodigy, forced Tim Ream to take a late spot-kick.

REFUSING TO SUMO WRESTLE FOR THE PRESS

Jokanovic wasn’t exactly enamoured with the recruitment process he had to operate under at Fulham. In the aftermath of the departure of the club’s former assistant director of football, a story in the Daily Mail suggested that – in order to quieten down hacks who were picking up on the scent – Jokanovic could wrestle with them or club staff during the Motspur Park press conferences. The Serbian, no stranger to a tough tackle on the field in his playing days, gave them idea short shrift.

WANTING TO SIGN ANDREAS PEREIRA SIX YEARS EARLY

In many ways, Jokanovic was well ahead of his time. He hankered after a young Brazilian midfielder at Manchester United in 2016 – but the club’s recruitment team said that Andreas Pereira hadn’t played enough football to appear on their data system. The dispute spilled out in the public domain at the start of the new season. Nobody needs educating on why Pereira would have been an excellent addition these days, with the playmaker providing assists from both set pieces and open play.

GOING 23 MATCHES UNDEFEATED IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP

Walking into the Fulhamish studios having been asked to defend Slavisa Jokanovic after a depressing defeat at Sunderland, I was bricking it. My old Acton mucker Jack Collins plenty of potential replacements lined up and the assembled panel were ready to pull the plug on Slav. I pleaded for patience, suggesting that the Serbian had brought some fluent football to Craven Cottage and that late runs for glory were something the second tier regular served up. I didn’t expect Jokanovic to conjure up a 23-match unbeaten run that almost snatched the second automatic place, but what fun it was. The highlight for me had to be marching into London Bridge after a complete dismantling of Millwall singing about playing football Slavisa’s way.