Fulham Focus – Can Martin Jol be persuaded to stay?

Last week, we asked the question whether Fulham could possibly hold onto their star player, Dimitar Berbatov.

Seven days on and the question is now not only whether the Bulgarian will remain at Craven Cottage, but whether his manager will too. News emerged this week that both Berbatov and Martin Jol could leave the club at the end of the season.

The story outlined doubts over Fulham’s summer transfer ambitions to reshape an ageing squad that so clearly needs surgery. While Berbatov’s potential departure has been mooted, the subject of Jol’s future had seemed to have been put to bed.

Indeed, after Fulham’s disastrous mid-season form, that left them on the cusp of the drop zone, reports quickly emerged that the manager was considering leaving upon the expiration of his contract this summer, with a return to the Bundesliga his most likely destination.

However, following an upturn in form, it emerged that both Fulham and Jol had chosen to activate the option to extend Dutchman’s deal at Craven Cottage for another season.

The Cottagers’ form has subsequently tailed off once more however and with a large number of players out of contract at the end of the season, rumours are abound that cracks have begun to re-emerge between the manager and the board.

For much of his time in charge, Jol has given off an impression of extreme comfort in his job. While at first that comfort may have been satisfying, it must not be forgotten that this is a manager who took Tottenham to the brink of qualification for the Champions League through a series of big-money signings.

After leaving White Hart Lane, his one-season at Hamburg saw him briefly threaten the top of the table before reaching the last four of both the UEFA Cup and German Cup. Then came a return to his homeland with Ajax where in his first season he won the Dutch Cup before laying the foundations for assistant Frank De Boer to lead the side to the championship title a season later following Jol’s mid-season departure.

Essentially, this is a manager who is used to competing near the very top of his profession, no matter which club or which country he works in. Jol may be comfortable with life at safe, mid-table Fulham, but a manager of his pedigree, much like Roy Hodgson and Mark Hughes before him, will not be satisfied by simply being comfortable for very long.

The question the Fulham board must ask themselves is just where are they looking to take the club. If mid-table security is the sole ambition, an understandable one given the side of the club in comparison to likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham in close proximity to them, then that could prove just a little too tame for Jol to remain at Craven Cottage.

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