At 7.30 Wednesday evening I viewed the starting eleven with optimism. At the break, like everyone in the ground wearing Fulham colours, everything was going according to plan. No save of note had been demanded of our third choice keeper on his debut. Gecov and Baird seemed to have a firm grasp on midfield, Odense had shown nothing coming forward to upset our centre backs, while Frei had an assist and lovely little goal to his name, with Clint burying the first with their keeper rooted to the spot. Further Fulham goals at the Hammy End would surely follow in the 2nd half.
I cannot adequately explain away the collective paralysis that came over the side in that second half. Even when Odense came out with more vigour I thought that would be a short-lived phase soon to blow itself out. Then from the right Neil had to react smartly to a cross shot. A silly foul from Baird gave the Danes a free-kick, and Fulham got their pants pulled down. Still I wasn't overly worried. But as time ticked down, with dreadful inevitability, Fulham froze in a manner I have not seen since 2007.
There should be no isolating of any one individual for Odense's last minute ability to move the ball from their 'D' to our flank and the subsequent cross that slid the dagger into our hearts. Fulham chronicler Rich has done that with his usual quality analysis at the hammy.com site. Fulham had failed to see out a game they would never have surrendered under Roy, and it's now our Dutch manager who has more than the whiff of Sanchez about him.
Jol wasted no time in his quotes of where we were naive and found wanting in that awful last 20 seconds. What a criminal waste of six months effort and sacrifice, to slide out in such slipshod fashion. My view, albeit with the benefit of hindsight? The Danes made sure to crowd Frei higher up the pitch in the 2nd half. So why was our impish little protege not switched flanks? Spurs do it with Bale and Lennon on a regular basis. Dempsey was no doubt pulled on 70 with Jol thinking the job was done. It wasn't. Duff was again way off his game, and we'd withdrawn the one man in our ranks likely to try a shot. Dembele, with nothing more to contribute in the 2nd half after playing Frei in, was the man to go off. Hopelessly unproductive again from a man we paid £5 million for.
Gecov? Good for an hour, then faded badly. Etuhu on to shore up midfield in those last 20 minutes and we would have held on. And Bobby, who did not have his best night I accept, being subbed with three minutes to go? Where's the sense in sending out Sa then? On that 93rd minute break where Orlando could have tried a shot or played Duff in one on one, trying neither ultimately led to us conceding and being caught out on the break. You think that would have happened with Bobby? If Jol says our dug-out was screaming at the players not to sit so deep, then I conclude the players are not listening any more. We badly needed a leader on the pitch in that second half too.
My final observations on the game itself is Briggs seems to be going backwards. Is this all part of the safety first approach that saw a Fulham free-kick 30 yards from goal played short and then 50 yards back to Etheridge? And whatever else is going on with Zamora right now, I swear on my scarf our striker has not seen a cross of the calibre that led to Fall's headed goal come his way in the past two months.
Now to the bigger picture. We are a club in turmoil. It's clearly a battle of wills - the manager against the old sweats, led - so we are led to believe - by the barrack-room lawyer Danny Murphy. His lieutenants AJ and Bobby, and no doubt a few others too. Fining Kasami £500 for missing the penalty at Chelsea is one thing. Patjim played the party line when instructed no doubt, told us it was entirely deserved and the money was going towards the player's Christmas party. But a ten grand fine off Murphy for storming straight down the tunnel at West Brom??? That's not something to be laughed off, if true. Our captain and the senior pros may have got away with it against Hughes a year ago, and Hughes had the good sense to let the players do it their way. But Jol's having none of this player power!
This all leaves the club holed below the waterline in the middle of a demanding run of games and only three points off the relegation places. Worse, because of Jol's inability to keep his trap shut, the press are all now on the story. A camera crew waiting for Zamora to turn up for the game and every pundit slavering to put his every move, gesture and grunt under the microscope. Was he really asking to come off after half an hour, having just set up the opening goal? Injured or not for the Bolton game, let's just get on with it and take some heat out of the situation.
So Bolton next, and here's the rub. I've made it plain on here how I question Jol's handling of the squad. He had these issues too at Spurs with both Danny and Bobby, and they got frozen out. Does Jol have the board's backing? I think he does. He's arrived with the remit to reduce the age of the side. Do we sit on our hands awaiting their retirement, or is it time to shove a few out the exit door? Duff, AJ, Danny, Aaron, Simon, Bobby, Etuhu...?
Maybe their time is indeed up. I've said before, there is no place for sentiment in football. No professional club can seriously tolerate rebellion in the ranks. And if a manager does not command respect he must be fired. A loss to rock bottom Bolton coming hard on the heels of the Odense disaster will really cut the ground from under Jol. Will the side he selects play for him Saturday? For the players then, a test of loyalty. Come five o'clock a lot will become clearer about the current state of Fulham Football Club.
The major caveat to my paragraph above is replacing the heroes who took us to Hamburg in 2010 with players of the same quality. And on the evidence of Jol's summer shopping and appraisal of his tactics to date, that is what seriously worries me.
There's a quote thrown out from the gaffer today, all too blimpish for my liking, where he says Fulham can still be a 'top six' side. Presumably he means in the Championship..?
Three points imperative off Bolton, come on the Whites, let's play for the shirt!