Fulham are to turn their attentions to Cardiff City's Dave Jones after their preferred choice as manager, Martin Jol, changed his mind yesterday and decided to stay with Ajax.
Jol's change of heart has left Fulham in a difficult position. The west London club have been without a manager for three weeks since Roy Hodgson took over at Liverpool and are keen to have a replacement in place as soon as possible.
Jones is believed to be the preferred choice of many of the Fulham players, after performing well in testing circumstances. He took Cardiff to the verge of the Premier League last season, losing 3-2 to Blackpool in the play-off final at Wembley in May, despite the club's financial problems. Jones also led them to the 2008 FA Cup final, losing 1-0 to Portsmouth.
However, Cardiff remain a club in crisis. They are currently banned from signing players because of a £500,000 debt owed to Charlton Athletic for defender Mark Hudson. Two weeks ago they finally paid the £1.9m owed to HM Revenue & Customs that had threatened to put them out of existence.
Jones would be likely to relish the chance to work again in the Premier League, having previously managed Southampton and Wolverhampton Wanderers in the top flight. In 2002 he said: "The Premiership is the only place to be." However he has not managed there since taking Wolves down in 2004.
Fulham had to start the hunt for a new manager all over again after Jol backed out yesterday. Fulham had offered double the salary they had paid Hodgson but it was not enough to land the Dutchman, who used Fulham's interest to negotiate the funds to buy two new players at Ajax, a right-winger and a striker.
Jol had agreed personal terms with Fulham earlier this week but then subsequently made several demands to the Ajax board concerning player sales and recruitment. The club agreed to a number of concessions and at the 11th hour the manager decided to stay.
Jol yesterday gave contradictory accounts of events depending on who was asking the questions. To the Dutch media he played down Fulham's interest in bringing him back to England. The former Tottenham manager told Amsterdam-based newspaper De Telegraaf: "I've always had the intention of staying at Ajax. I was just looking to get some clarity on the future of the club and that's what I got when I talked with [Ajax chief executive] Rik van den Boog on Wednesday evening. Fulham was just a nice alternative."
Later however he told Sky Sports News that Ajax had blocked his move, although he wanted to go. "It was unbelievable. I like Fulham, I like England, I like London," he said. "So I was probably a bit disappointed I had to say no, because the board don't want to let me go under any circumstances. He [Fulham chief executive Alistair Mackintosh] was offering a good job at a good club with good players, good honest players.
"I was willing to go there but as I said, I'm under contract. We spoke about it and not just for five minutes, for hours. I had to tell them [Fulham] I had to stay. All the problems, going to court, I did not want that, because Ajax is too big to be put through that misery."
Sources in the Netherlands say Jol had initially wanted to leave because he relishes a return to the Premier League. But he underestimated the angry reaction from the Dutch public and realised he would make himself an unpopular figure in his homeland if he took the Fulham job.