How quickly carefree thoughts of a stress free run in to conclude a season with more lows than highs dissolve. A home spanking from United I can take, this one from Brendan Rodgers promoted journeymen I did not see coming. All credit to his club for adopting such a silky passing game with less money than Fulham blew on one Dutch misfit. I'd give anything to learn of Martin's post-match words to the team. Here's a glossary of Jolspeak to date after two thirds of the campaign.
You look to play your game, and then you know normally we have the players who can do well:
The opposition rumbled our tactics early and completely outplayed us
We can press or drop off and play on the break. We didn't get the ball into areas to hurt them.
I have no idea how to get the best out of this team
The goal came at a good time for them, and then you know you have some difficulties
I cannot understand how teams keep scoring against us, at any point up to the final whistle
We try to change it in the 2nd half, but it is always difficult to come from behind
Too often I field the wrong starting eleven and all my signings so far have flopped
We are talking to the guy, and I told him I want him to play for Fulham. He's a terrific player
We have lots of players in the squad we can't offload for love or money
We were unlucky with a couple of mistakes and got punished. We have to fight on and believe in ourselves.
Don't blame me, it's all the fault of the players
That indeed was the message Saturday night. But in all seriousness, we contributed massively to our own downfall with Jol's team tinkering. That great friend of Fulham Tony Gale was calling the game for the international feed and, as ever, was right on the money with his analysis. His most telling comment perhaps to sum up Jol's year in charge. "I look at this Fulham side who came with a late spurt to finish 8th under Hughes and they haven't kicked on. I really expected more of them this season."
I think we all did when Martin growled his way through his vision for the club last June and set his jaw in Desperate Dan mode for the sleeves up task in hand. This week Fulham's in house magazine Fultime gives Martin free rein to lay out his progress report to date. He talks a good game, emphasising the accent on youth development, self-sufficiency and stable governance. Jol still maintains we should have more points. He's been almost churlish about key matches where the side let points slip away by conceding late goals...Everton, Arsenal, Swansea, Norwich, Villa. But games are won on the pitch, not the blackboard.
In the same article the boss admits an over reliance on Clint's goals now for two seasons. Rightly he states to be competitive our striker should be contributing a dozen, the wide players an additional 12 between them. While he mentions AJ's goal return this season as hitting the mark, too few of them have come in the Premiership. We no longer have goal scoring wingers in the set up. Duff's potency has declined sharply, Simon's barely been seen, and Ruiz is patently no wing man.
Jol is correct in his article to point out Fulham under two previous managers were disciplined but over cautious. He wants the side to find more goals without becoming 'gung ho.' He concedes goal contributions from all areas, such as Clint's tally from midfield, become the added dimension that will see us a top six side. The flaw in Jol's masterplan has been his reluctance to see AJ is a busted flush. Our targetmen this season, Zamo or the Pog have been feeding off crumbs, and goals from defenders at set plays have dried up, notably the nil return to date from JAR and Brede. The latter in particular points to poor preparation and schooling from the training ground.
One is left with the nagging thought that all of this was being handled with more finesse and impact by previous managers, maybe with a better grasp of what works at Fulham? Jol states he had to fall back on the ingrained methods of 4-4-2 last summer as this was what most of the squad knew best. Were the minnows of the Europa League qualifying stages not the ideal test bed for Jol's new direction? No good trying to mould the new model well into the season. Our bi-polar performances over seven months have been the result.
In my dreams last May I saw Fulham move in for Scott Parker. This year I really hope we can secure Mark Noble. People say Dembele is worth £12 million. If so, please cash in now. He is a poor man's Modric. As a face saving exercise I can see Ruiz going back to Holland on loan before being quietly disposed of for a knockdown £2.5 million in 2013. If we stick with him, he has to play off a big name and productive target man. The full backs must be changed over the summer, and Baird should surely be starting at RB for the run in. What's the problem there, with his 'absent for personal reasons?'
Much deadwood will be cleared out in the summer. My major concern should we have a tepid run in that sees us finish bottom half, and it could easily happen if we can't see off Norwich along with Wigan, is that current stars like Clint and Brede will question whether their own careers - after years of faithful service to FFC - might benefit from a move elsewhere?