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Slavisa Jokanovic stirring things up at Fulham

last updated Saturday 13th May 2017, 8:42 AM


Fulham Football Club


Fulham Coach Slavisa Jokanovic
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Something is stirring down at Fulham.

Fulham, that lovely London club by the river. We thought we had seen the last of them in the Premier League for a while. This time last year they were thankful for Championship survival.

But rejuvenation has come quickly and unexpectedly at the hands of their charismatic Serbian manager Slavisa Jokanovic and on Saturday Fulham entertain Reading in the first leg of the play-off semi-final as the form team of the division.

‘Chelsea are modern, the highest level of the football in this country and we cannot compare. I am not going to sign any players for £90m like they will.

‘But this is a big club and after some depressing years we are ready to make our supporters satisfied.

‘It’s not like Chelsea’s party. We are in a different moment and a different category.

‘But if we are successful enough – and we are not there yet - we will enjoy our party too.’

Jokanovic, a decorated midfield player, arrived at Fulham at Christmas 2015 as a well-travelled coach.

Successful almost everywhere he has been – from Belgrade to Thailand to Israel - he is best known here for winning promotion to the Premier League with Watford in 2015 only to leave after failing to agree a contract.

At 48, he is a football man who knows what he wants and how he wants his team to play. Fulham lead the Championship in terms of shots and goals from open play and have played fewest long balls.

They have won more games this season (22) than the club had managed in the previous fifteen.

It’s some achievement by a manager who lost arguably his two best players – Moussa Dembele and Ross McCormack – last summer and at one stage during pre-season had only nine first team squad members.

‘At the start of pre-season the situation was not clear,’ Jokanovic told Sportsmail.

‘We signed people at the end of August and we lost many league points while I was assessing them.

‘But at the end of the season, with the team integrated, we can see the progress.

‘You must believe that the way we play is possible in this league. All the other ways to play are completely legal. They may not be aesthetic but still people like the coach because he brings results. That’s ok.

‘I want to play this way but If I don’t have enough quality players then I do it differently. I won’t kill myself. I am not Pep Guardiola. He has killed many coaches who have tried to be like him.

‘I don’t want to be a similar coach like him. I want to be myself.’

Jokanovic says he is not a romantic but he speaks romantically about football. As a child in Novi Sad, he watched the English First Division on TV.

He has spoken fondly of Brian Clough and of watching games ‘from places like Luton’, mesmerised by ‘all the heads’ in the crowd.

He loves Craven Cottage, which will threaten to bounce in to the Thames on Saturday afternoon, and it seems he is not alone.

‘Recently I had a big problem as some of my friends from Serbia wanted to go and watch Wimbledon and Oldham and I spent a week trying to find tickets for them,’ he laughed.

‘It was sold out so I was in trouble! It’s League One, the third category!

'I watched Wimbledon myself last season in a pre-season game.

'I like this. It’s interesting. It reminds me of my past.

‘I understand perfectly what is modern life and modern football. But when I am in Craven Cottage, I am back in my childhood.

‘I am not an English guy. I am from a different part of the world and when people ask me about English football, my first sensation is about these places, the old stadiums.

‘Full crowds, noisy supporters, 40,000 people. That’s great.’

Jokanovic once said he didn’t like new football grounds.

So how will this gruff, likeable young coach cope if he guides his team past Reading and the shiny new Wembley awaits?

‘I remember Wembley with the twin towers very well,’ he smiled.

‘But that’s just another romantic opinion of myself. ‘The new one? That would be a fantastic change….’























Source Ian Ladyman at Daily Mail

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