Fulham's man on a mission
When Fulham play Liverpool in the Premier League next season, all eyes will be on the directors' box. There we will be able to watch Damien Comolli turn a bright crimson colour with embarrassment the moment he spots who is in the opposition dug out. Or at least we will be able to if the bloke has any sense of shame.
Comolli, you will remember, was the director of football who, when in charge of Tottenham, fired Martin Jol. This despite the Dutchman leading the club to a top-five finish twice in four years, taking them to numerous cup quarter- and semi-finals, getting the best out of Robbie Keane and generally returning the club to playing the kind of flowing football with which it should be associated.
According to Comolli, who delivered one of the most feeble press conference performances in living memory in defence of his decision the following day, Jol had taken the club about as far as he was going to do. What was needed now was someone who might advance it to the next level. And the man Comolli had identified as being so much more likely to take the club forward than the Dutchman? Step forward Juande Ramos.
No wonder Comolli was soon heading out of the club, and subsequently to Liverpool, where he has continued to demonstrate his shrewd way with the world football market by negotiating to spend £20 million on Jordan Henderson.
Jol took his grievance at his dismissal off to Germany with Hamburg, and later to Holland where he performed admirably as Ajax coach. But he always had a sense of unfinished business. He always wanted to come back to England. So when the opportunity came to take over from Mark Hughes at Fulham he sniffed an opportunity. And what a coup it is for the chairman Mohamed Al Fayed: there can be no employee more motivated than a manager scorned.
Indeed, the debacle of Lawrie Sanchez aside, Al Fayed has proven himself pretty adept at choosing a manager. Jean Tigana, Kevin Keegan, Mark Hughes and Roy Hodgson: it is not a bad roll of honour. A lot better, for instance, than Comolli's hit rate (and before any Liverpool fans scream the place down, Kenny Dalglish was not his idea, apparently).
It is not what you expect of the comical Harrods owner, the man lampooned by Private Eye as the Old Fugger, the misty-eyed star fancier who demonstrated his absence of personal taste by erecting a monstrous waxwork of Michael Jackson outside Craven Cottage and then telling any Fulham fan who didn't like it to go and support Chelsea.
When it comes to making the right managerial appointment, however, he seems to know what he is doing.
He probably didn't expect Hughes to go. The problem he faced there was that Hughes has what is known in Hollywood as FU money. He has enough cash in the bank not to be beholden to any employer.
Owning half of Cheshire, the Duke of Prestbury, as he is known locally, was largely steering Fulham as a hobby. He could afford to walk away and look for other opportunities whenever the urge took him. He knew he would be in a better position to negotiate for the bigger jobs around were he a free agent. That was why he was unwilling to sign a longer contract with Al Fayed in the first place.
But the moment he went, Al Fayed acted quickly and sensibly to stem any sense of the kind of drift and indecision that seems to be infecting the club down the road.
Whatever Comolli might believe, Jol is a proper football manager, adept in both the training ground and the dressing room, a pragmatic and rational advocate of good football, who knows his way around the international market. Plus, and this is by no means his least useful trait, he has a countenance scary enough to command instant respect.
More to the point, he is a man on a mission. You bet he can hardly wait for the fixtures to be published for next season, ready to circle on his calendar in green ink Fulham's encounters with Spurs and Liverpool.http://uk.eurosport.yahoo.com/football/jim-white/article/31976/