Brusque and charming in equal measure, Martin Jol made a welcome return to English football yesterday as the new manager of Fulham, almost four years after his bitter and badly-handled dismissal from Tottenham Hotspur.
The Dutchman heard of his imminent sacking in a text message from his nephew midway through a Uefa Cup tie against Getafe at White Hart Lane in October 2007, after Tottenham's clandestine overtures towards the Seville manager Juande Ramos had been exposed.
The cack-handed delivery and overwhelming injustice of his dismissal must be a bitter memory for Jol, who did not shy away from questions yesterday about his time at Spurs on the occasion of his official unveiling at Craven Cottage.
Jol said he has no "hard feelings" and no "unfinished business" with Tottenham and their chairman Daniel Levy although he admitted to having felt "bruised" by the experience. He was far less charitable towards the former Tottenham director of football Damien Comolli, now at Liverpool, with whom he clashed repeatedly. It was Comolli who told Jol after Michael Carrick had been sold to Manchester United for £18.6m in 2006 that he had found an even better replacement in Didier Zokora, who is now playing for Trabzonspor in Turkey.
Jol said everything would have worked out at Tottenham had he been left in peace. "I said to Daniel when I came to England, 'If you leave me, if you let me work for you, they will push you around the streets of London like a king'. And they never did," Jol said. "There was never a problem with Comolli. The only thing was, he was responsible for most of the football things." Jol also revealed that Comolli had wanted to replace him with Ramos three months earlier. "He [Comolli] came up with Ramos, but that was before, that was already in July. And that was a bit strange, to say the least."
That episode is all water under the bridge for Jol, who moved on to work with Hamburg and Ajax before signing a two-year deal with Fulham worth £2m a year. The recruitment of Jol is something of a coup for Fulham, who tried and failed to sign him a year earlier when Ajax refused to release him.
Jol said he had been hoping for a return to England, where he also had spells with West Bromwich Albion and Coventry City as a player in the 1980s. "I love England, I was in Walsall and I loved it, even though maybe it's not the best place. Everyone knows I wanted to come back to England. When I left Spurs I said I was like Arnold Schwarzenegger – 'I'll be back' – and now I am."
Jol replaces Mark Hughes, who walked out of the club last month after taking the club to eighth place last season. Fulham chairman Mohamed al Fayed was furious at the decision, and could not resist a dig at his former employee when he declared after appointing Jol: "Now we have a long-term manager."
Jol said yesterday he would "like to stay here at least three or four years" and promised he would not be using his time at Craven Cottage as a chance to put himself forward for a better job in the Premier League.
"I don't have to use this club as a stepping stone because I was at bigger clubs before. I love the people here," Jol said. "If I would have that ambition [to work at a bigger club] I would have done that. It's about relationships. They [Fulham] were very good to me last year, this year again. Fulham is as not as big as Arsenal or Spurs. But it is a great club, the oldest in London. That's why I came here."
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