Fulham's Martin Jol: Why I Wish Aston Villa Had Made Him Our Manager
Cast your mind back a little over two years to the 9th August 2010, after three successive top-six Premier League finishes, Martin O’Neill walks out on Aston Villa. The search for a new manager began immediately and the favourite names thrown around were Mark Hughes, Martin Jol and Gerard Houllier. Villa ended up appointing former Liverpool manager Houllier, with Jol taking Mark Hughes’ former position as the manager of Fulham.
Houllier had a difficult time in charge of The Villains, with many fans disagreeing from the off that he was the right man to push the club on to the next level, Champions League qualification. That seems like a distant memory now after two seasons of relegation struggles. After lasting just ten months in charge of Villa, Houllier had a heart scare and had to step down from managerial duties for the good of his health. Although many Villa fans think that had it not happened he might have been on his way out come the end of the season regardless.
And so after Houllier’s departure, Aston Villa were back at square one, in need of a manager. I’m not even going to go into the how or the why, but we did end up with former Birmingham City manager Alex McLeish in charge, that also ended disastrously. McLeish was obviously instantly disliked, not just because he was manager of our rivals but because his style was boring and defensive and he had got a decent Birmingham City team relegated twice in three seasons in the Premier League, while having a comfortable amount of money to play with. He lasted just 12 months, in a tumultuous time for Villa in which we were fighting off relegation for the majority of the season yet again.
By the end of the 2011-12 season, there was a massive 14 point difference between the two teams
So by the time we employed Paul Lambert at the start of this season, there had been three managers at Villa Park in two years. Martin Jol has spent all of this time in charge of Fulham and has been making some enviable progress if you’re a Villa fan. In the first year (2010-11), Fulham only finished one point above Villa, but had a much more comfortable season and their expectations were arguably lower considering this is the time we were trying to push from Europa League qualification to Champions League qualification. By the end of the 2011-12 season, there was a massive 14 point difference between the two teams. You could try and put that down solely to Villa struggles, but you can’t deny that Fulham managed to gather four points more than the previous season.
I don’t blame Houllier for our downward slide, in fact I was very happy with his appointment and thought it would take us to the next step, but in the time we’ve been slipping down the table (and pecking order), Fulham have been making steady progress year on year. This progress while incorporating a stylish playing philosophy has attracted widespread acclaim and many admirers. You only have to take a look at the names on the Fulham team-sheet these days to see evidence of how much the club has improved. Former Real Madrid midfielder Mahamadou Diarra and Premier League Golden Boot winner Dimitar Berbatov are the stand-out names, but the way the squad has been moulded into Jol’s own is impressive to say the least. He has signed very well in terms of potential and experience too; with the aforementioned Berbatov and Diarra adding experience to the youthfulness and potential of the likes of Kasami and Kacaniklic.
The ironic thing is this seems to be the route we are taking now we have Paul Lambert in charge, mixing youth with experience under a controlled (tight) budget. Karim El Ahmadi and Ron Vlaar were cheap additions (and potentially bargains) but necessary in a squad that lacked depth and experience; with younger more inexperienced signings coming in the shape of Matthew Lowton and Christian Benteke.
It's not that I think Lambert is the wrong man for the job. In my opinion, he will get it right and build a successful squad to take us back up so that we are challenging the top-eight again. As long as he’s given time to orchestrate his project, and the required resources to do so. What I am saying is that if we’d have named Martin Jol as our manager instead of Houllier two years ago, then we might not be in this position in the first place… Isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing?
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