Fulham manager sacked: The mixed emotions of football fans calling for their gaffer's head

Other than in politics, I can’t think of any other field where I would wish being fired upon another

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The oddest thing about being a football fan is how it transforms meek and mild people into screaming bullies; rational folk into bombastic fools. Football makes fans do all sorts of things that leave us feeling ashamed of ourselves, often weekly.

As a Fulham supporter, the sacking of the once-respected, but more recently derided Martin Jol as manager, has left me with mixed emotions - despite my imploring the club to do just that.

Other than in politics, I can’t think of any other field outside my own workplace (historically, of course) where I would wish being fired upon another. Anyone who has ever lost their job unwillingly will know it is one of the more, upsetting, worrying and confidence-draining experiences life can throw at you.

Of course Jol, like most Premier League football managers, won’t suffer the same financial insecurity as most. The former Tottenham boss, was lured from top Dutch club Ajax, where he was reputed to be on a £2m a year. Fulham paid less, but he won’t have an austerity Christmas.

Nonetheless, it’s not Jol’s replacement by Rene Meulensteen that intrigues me – although as the holder of a pair of season tickets I have hard cash invested in the latter’s success. It’s more my own behaviour.

I’m not even a lifelong fan. Don Revie's Leeds was my childhood team. I started to take an interest in Fulham when I moved to Hammersmith in the 90s, and have had season tickets in the home Hammersmith End since 2005.

Although one daughter has now dropped out of the fortnightly pilgrimage to Craven Cottage on the unimpeachable grounds that she “CBA” to watch Stoke or West Brom, the elder one and I love everything about the ritual of attending the league’s best situated ground  “down by the river”.

Fulham fans are much derided. “Does your butler know you’re here” sang West Ham on Saturday. However, we are proud of the friendliest stadium in the league, even if the atmosphere can sail out over the Thames.

For some years, Fulham, buoyed by Mohamed Al-Fayed’s cash, has punched above its weight, even making it to the Europa League final. Under Jol, we haven’t played well for nearly a year. Our customary spirit is lacking, particularly with that strolling peacock Berbatov in the team.

So we rant, scream, swear and hurl abuse at our own side. In resignation, we shake our heads and shuffle back home along the river – or in the case of our Hammy End neighbour Denis, back to Lincoln!

We have chanted “Jol out!” and “you don’t know what you’re doing”. Now he is out, and we’ll never know if he did. Even though I’m convinced that change was needed  and will applaud Rene on Wednesday night, I am ashamed of myself. I’m sorry Martin Jol for calling for your head. I hope you get another good job soon. And I hope I can go back to being my usual self! Come On You Whites!

Stefano Hatfield is editorial director of London Live