Saturday 20 January 2018

Meulensteen accepts 'massive challenge' to save Fulham's season

WEST HAM UTD 3 FULHAM 0

Rene Meulensteen
Rene Meulensteen

Ian Winrow

MARTIN JOL was dismissed yesterday as Fulham manager and replaced immediately by Rene Meulensteen after Shahid Khan, the club owner and chairman, finally lost patience following a run of six successive defeats.

Meulensteen, whose arrival as head coach to work under his fellow Dutchman last month intensified speculation that a change was imminent, has agreed a contract until the end of the season. He will take over first-team duties with immediate effect, taking charge for the first time for the visit of Tottenham on Wednesday.

"It's a massive challenge, but when you're faced with a challenge like this it comes down to making sure you get the basic things right. You need to stay mentally strong and make sure the fans are getting behind the team," Meulensteen said.

"You need to make sure you close your ranks, and you make sure you start winning again. We need to make sure we don't start conceding easy goals, which Fulham have done in the last two games and the games before."

Meulensteen also revealed that he had talked to Jol after he had been dismissed.

"I rang him straight away. I said to Martin: 'Listen, I don't know if this is anything to do with me, but in the time I worked 12 years with Manchester United, and for five to six years with Alex Ferguson, I had no problem, but I go to Anzhi and Guus Hiddink departs after two weeks, and Martin does the same.'

"I don't know if it was anything to do with me, but it was definitely not something I was anticipating. We wanted to turn this corner together."

Jol (57) leaves with Fulham in the bottom three and out of the League Cup. A former player in England with Coventry and West Bromwich Albion, the 57-year-old had managed Tottenham Hotspur, Hamburg and Ajax before taking over at Craven Cottage.

His arrival as replacement for Mark Hughes in June 2011 was seen as something of a coup. But after a promising ninth-placed finish in his first season in charge, an inconsistent second campaign that ended with a dismal run of six defeats in the final eight games triggered growing dissent.

A poor start meant Jol was under increasing pressure throughout this season, with the manager frequently the target of supporter frustration.

Criticised for assembling a squad that is long on experience and short on pace, Jol has also been accused of failing to provide enough opportunities for younger players to progress into the first team.

Meulensteen's job is to revive a group of players who looked woefully short of confidence and inspiration at Upton Park.

The 49-year-old had been tipped as a potential successor to Jol when he was appointed three weeks ago following a brief 16-day spell in charge at Anzhi Makhachkala. The more significant entry on his CV is his extended time spent working as part of Ferguson's back-room team at Manchester United, including five years as first-team coach.

SCALE

The scale of the task confronting the new man was apparent on Saturday in a game that would have left West Ham manager Sam Allardyce answering the same kind of questions Jol was forced to confront had the home side lost.

Having held off West Ham for 45 minutes, Fulham had no response after Mohamed Diame put the home side ahead immediately after the interval. Late goals from substitutes Carlton Cole and Joe Cole gave the scoreline a more realistic appearance.

Allardyce was relieved to have avoided the spotlight and, after offering his support to Jol, gave an insight to the manager's lot.

"Generally you're the last to know," he said, describing the anatomy of a typical dismissal.

"If it's a knee-jerk reaction it could happen on the back of a bad defeat so it could be a knee-jerk reaction from the owners and bang, and it happens and they haven't really thought about it.

"Most of the time they've already done the replacement before you go, contrary to what they say most of the time. But at the end of the day you stay in a job by getting results, by winning football matches and getting the best out of your players." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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