Considering Fulham’s recent upsurge in form, it is no surprise to see news suggesting that Martin Jol has entered into discussions over an extension to his stay as manager at Craven Cottage. It comes as welcome news for Fulham supporters, who only in January were reading stories that a combination of the team’s poor form and a lack of financial support from the board could lead to the Dutchman’s early departure from the club.
Jol is certainly deserving of a new contract considering the quietly impressive job he has done at Craven Cottage this season. The results may not always have been spectacular but considering the losses of Moussa Dembele and Clint Dempsey early on the campaign, as well as the consistent injury problems to key players such as Bryan Ruiz, Mahamadou Diarra and at times, Dimitar Berbatov.
However, it is still far from certain that Jol, whose current contract expires in June 2014, will choose to sign any contract extension. The 57-year-old loves the Premier League and that in part explains his rather peculiar decision to take the reins at Fulham, despite previously only taking charge of clubs in the running for trophies in Tottenham, Hamburg and Ajax respectively. Indeed, the Dutchman may even have relished the challenge of transforming the West London club into an outfit that could not only reach the upper echelons of the Premier League, but also embark on cup runs, a Jol trademark wherever he has managed.
Unfortunately, for all his best efforts, Fulham have been unable to reach such targets and while there continues to be a distinct lack of substantial investment from chairman Mohamed Al-Fayed, the Cottagers will continue to be Premier League also-rans, too good to go down but ultimately not quite good enough to mix it with the big boys.
Thus, Jol must ask himself whether such ambitions fit his own, particularly with suggestions that ambitious Bundesliga outfit Schalke, perennial qualifiers for Europe, are targeting the Dutchman as their summer managerial move. Indeed, with the club from Gelsenkirchen said to be ready to provide serious investment into the playing squad in order to not only reach the Champions League again but also compete with Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich for the Bundesliga title, Jol may find himself sorely tempted to take up the challenge at the Veltins Arena, rather than stay put at the rather more relaxed setting of Craven Cottage.
At times this season Jol has cut a frustrated, almost depressed figure on the Fulham touchline. Over the winter months in particular when Fulham’s form nosedived, the former Tottenham manager often looked as if he could not even find the motivation within himself to search for the answers to the team’s problems. Even his messages to the fans, who he criticised for expecting too much from the team, appeared to showcase a manager who had just lost his spark.
Results have improved in recent weeks and with Fulham now sitting comfortably in 10th position, Jol certainly looks rather happier. However, the question he must ask himself when he sits down to discuss his long-term future at the club is whether a 10th-place finish is the sum of the club’s ambitions. If it is, then the Cottagers could well be searching for a new manager come the summer.
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