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West Ham 3-0 Fulham Prem 13 1314 The Guardian

last updated Monday 02nd December 2013, 9:35 PM

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Barney Ronay at The Guardian

West Ham (0) 3 Fulham (0) 0

Martin Jol's parting shot to the press after Fulham's 3-0 defeat by West Ham on Saturday afternoon had something fittingly elegiac about it. "I'll see you soon . I hope," Jol said as he disappeared down the nearest corridor.

In the event Jol may yet be seen again in English football, but it will not be at Fulham, where his sacking on Sunday afternoon was in truth an act of boardroom euthanasia. Not only were Fulham listless, meek and utterly lacking in vim against West Ham, they have now lost 18 of their previous 24 matches and are three points adrift in 18th place. It is hard to imagine a manager of a Premier League middleweight making a more convincing case for his own removal.

And yet, questions remain. One of the more surprising facts to emerge from Jol's post-match debrief is that before his sacking he had not spoken to the club owner, Shahid Khan, for at least two months, or indeed more than once since Khan bought Fulham. The Dutchman was on a one-year contact, activated during the summer, and perhaps a degree of drift was inevitable. But it is hard to avoid the feeling that the real story here is not so much Jol's departure as Rene Meulensteen's appointment in his place.

Fulham have taken a serious leap of faith promoting the 49-year-old Dutchman, who arrived at the club as Jol's No2 only a fortnight ago and has a fascinatingly mixed coaching pedigree. Fulham are Meulensteen's fifth full managerial post after spells in Qatar and Denmark followed by 16 days in charge of Anzhi Makhachkala this year.

The seven-year coaching association with Manchester United is his greatest recommendation, albeit the extent of his impact there is open to debate (Sir Alex Ferguson mentions Meulensteen a total of four times in his recent book).

Given that Meulensteen arrived this month on Jol's recommendation it is tempting to ask how many times Khan had spoken to his new manager before charging him with extending Fulham's 12-year spell in the Premier League. It might work out. But there is little in Meulensteen's background, history with this group of players, or Khan's grasp of English football, to suggest any great logic to the appointment. With this in mind it is hard not to feel a little broader sympathy for Jol.

Last Monday Crystal Palace's co-chairman Steve Parish sat next to his newly unveiled manager, Tony Pulis, and debated with a fan-obsessive's eye for detail the minutiae of the first-team squad's strengths and weaknesses. Quite what Fulham's hierarchy offered its departed manager in the way of support and insight, beyond a tangible upward-management vacuum, is open to question.

For all that, Fulham's real problems are on the pitch. Against West Ham they looked like what they are: the oldest squad in the Premier League, with an average age of 29 and a half, and a team shot through with underachieving senior players. Fulham have scored twice in their last five matches in the Premier League. At Upton Park they failed to muster a single shot on target, their attacks, such as they were, restricted to the odd meandering gallop from Adel Taarabt and Darren Bent's ongoing quest to explore the outer limits of exactly what proportion of an entire 90 minutes it is possible to spend in an offside position.

West Ham's opening goal, described by Jol as symbolic, seemed to capture the mood. Steve Sidwell, apparently confused by Scott Parker lying prone nearby, was robbed by Mohamed Diamé, who scored with a scuffed, deflected shot from the edge of the area.

In fairness, West Ham were excellent for the rest of the second half, scoring twice more through Carlton Cole and Joe Cole as Fulham were reduced to 10 men: it is a mark of Jol's luck that his third substitute, the young striker Moussa Dembélé pulled his hamstring within seconds of coming on.

It is possible Fulham's season could yet be recalibrated by a run of four games against Norwich, Hull, West Ham and Sunderland that starts on Boxing Day, but Meulensteen will be required to perform an act of emergency resuscitation on a team utterly lacking energy in the last few weeks. Khan paid an eyebrow-raising £150m to buy the club in the summer, more than double what Randy Lerner paid for Aston Villa. It is to be hoped his attention was drawn with sufficient urgency to the clause reminding him that the value of investments can go down as well as up.

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