With all eyes in London set to be trained on White Hart Lane on Saturday, it’s hard to notice that the match taking place down the road in SW6 is of the utmost importance.
At least, for Martin Jol it is.
The Fulham manager has been under fire much of this young season, as Fulham have floundered with disappointing results and are a chic candidate for many pundits to be flirting with the drop this season.
Under new owner Shahid Khan, Jol will have been looking to make a good impression on his new employer – instead, he’s blown a late lead to formerly goal-less West Brom, lost to Newcastle (again, very late), and lost twice to title-contenders Arsenal and Chelsea where Fulham were comprehensively outclassed and outgunned.
His only win thus far is the season-opener against Sunderland, who have ironically already fired their manager in Paolo Di Canio.
It would seem, then, that this match against Cardiff City Saturday afternoon would serve as a sort of litmus test for his managerial position. Win, and he can breathe easy, at least for a few more weeks. Drop points, and Shahid Khan will have some serious decision making to do.
Fulham have always kept a tight fist around their coffers, and it’s been something of a struggle for the Dutchman to find consistent quality in his side, but Jol has been criticized by many supporters for his tactics, which often have the appearance of playing for draws. Fulham have created the second-fewest chances so far this season, with only their opponents this weekend having concocted fewer.
It would behoove fans to keep an eye on Jol’s job status going forward. Khan has openly said he does not like to make staff changes midseason (a policy he’s stuck to with Jacksonville), but in his first foray into a sporting venture ripe with the fear of relegation, it will be interesting to see how he handles the added pressure.
Cardiff boss Malky Mackay endorsed Jol for the job ahead of this clash at Craven Cottage, pointing out Fulham’s somewhat surprising victory over Everton midweek in the Capital One Cup.
Many supporters, however, aren’t convinced. For a club that has been to a Europa League final four seasons ago and finished 12th, 9th, and 8th in the past three, steady growth is the goal.
It’s time for Fulham to get back on track, and they need to do it against Cardiff this weekend, or Martin Jol could be headed out the Cottage door.