Premier League Clubs Managed: Tottenham Hotspur (2004-2007), Fulham (2011-2013)
Martin Jol’s Premier League management career was dominated completely by one city. He managed two clubs in London, managed his first game in the English top-flight in the capital and also saw his management stint in this country ended in London. His time with Tottenham Hotspur and Fulham saw him provide exciting, creative sides that pleased their supporters. Sadly, there was no silverware to follow for his good work.
His time in this country is slightly undervalued when you consider some of the good work from managers arriving in the UK following his departure as Fulham manager in November 2013. His success since in the Middle East shows that he can win top honours around the world.
First steps in the Netherlands
During his playing career, Martin played over 400 times. He turned professional in 1973 with his local professional side ADO Den Haag and won the Dutch Cup two years later. He spent one season in the Bundesliga with German giants Bayern Munich before moving back to Dutch football with FC Twente in 1979.
He was one of the few foreign imports in the English game during the 1980s, joining West Bromwich Albion in 1982 and also going onto play for Coventry City. In 1985, he returned to his homeland and a second spell with Den Haag, winning the Dutch Footballer of the Year award before deciding to quit playing in 1989.
Jol went into coaching at the start of the 1990s and his first professional management role came in 1996 with Roda JC. A year after this appointment, he guided Roda to the Dutch Cup, their first trophy for three decades. He then spent six years with the unheralded RKC Waalwijk team, transforming them from relegation battlers to regular European football challengers. His achievements were well-known in the Netherlands. Jol won Coach of the Year honours in both 2001 and 2002.
To further himself though, he needed to move away from his home country and in June 2004, he was heading back to England for his first crack at management outside of Holland.
Biding his time at Tottenham
Martin Jol initially came in as assistant manager to Jacques Santini who was leaving his post as manager of the French national team to take over at Tottenham Hotspur. Santini’s side though were dull to watch and the fans never took to him as their boss. 13 games into the season, he walked out on the club and Jol was thrust into the limelight as Tottenham’s fourth manager in 14 months.
It was quite a baptism. He lost his first three matches but a 2-0 win over Middlesbrough in November 2004 started a brilliant run that saw Spurs to their best run of form since the inaugural Premier League campaign in 1992-1993. Tottenham strung a run of five successive victories together and managed an eight-game unbeaten sequence until they were beaten at home by impending champions Chelsea in January 2005. Tottenham would eventually finish ninth, missing out on a European spot by two points. Nevertheless, the foundations were in place for a fairly successful spell in north London.
This started by signing a three-year contract extension in August 2005 and the 2005-2006 campaign was going to be the club’s best in Premier League history until their fourth place finish in 2010. Tottenham sat in the top six all season and were in the coveted fourth position from early January onwards right the way through until the final day of the season. Their squad was struck down by a mysterious illness on the eve of the final match at Upton Park against West Ham United. Spurs would lose the game 2-1, allowing bitter rivals Arsenal in to snatch fourth position and the final UEFA Champions League qualification spot at the last possible moment. Despite this crushing late disappointment, it did mean European football for Tottenham for the first time since 1990 and it was the club’s highest league finish in 15 years.
An unfortunate end at The Lane
Inconsistency dogged the 2006-2007 season. High points including a first win in 16 years in the league over Chelsea and a run to the semi-finals of the League Cup. However, Tottenham were in the bottom half of the table by mid-February and out of the race for a Champions League challenge. Jol’s side did finish the campaign very strongly though, losing just once in their last 12 matches to ensure a second successive fifth place finish. On top of that, Spurs went deep in the FA Cup and UEFA Cup, reaching the quarter-finals in both competitions before bowing out to eventual winners, Chelsea and Sevilla respectively.
Expectations were even higher in the summer of 2007 with £40 million being spent on new talent including Gareth Bale and Darren Bent. However, all was not well between Jol and the hierarchy at the club. Reports began to emerge that he had fallen out over transfer policy with the Director of Football, Damien Comolli. It was believed that he had signed a number of players that Jol didn’t really want. One of his transfer targets, Bulgarian Martin Petrov went to Manchester City after the Spurs boss was refused the opportunity to make a bid for him. Worse was to come for Martin.
Results were extremely poor in the opening three months of the 2007-2008 campaign. Tottenham won just one Premier League game and that was against hapless Derby County. They conceded sloppy late goals to deny themselves away wins at Craven Cottage and Anfield and when a director and the club secretary were photographed in a Spanish hotel meeting Sevilla manager Juande Ramos, Jol’s die was cast.
He was sacked during their UEFA Cup defeat at home to Getafe in October 2007.
Hamburg, Ajax and back to London
Although approached by Birmingham City a month later, Martin elected to take some time out of the game and wouldn’t return to the managerial dugout before the start of the 2008-2009 season. When he did return, it wasn’t in England either.
He gave the Bundesliga a go, managing former European champions Hamburger SV. Hamburg finished a respectable fifth in the 2008-2009 table and also reached the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup. Unfortunately, they were dumped out of that competition by northern rivals SV Werder Bremen. He wouldn’t build on this impressive debut campaign though as the vacancy came up back in the Netherlands with Ajax.
He signed a three-year contract to manage the Amsterdam heavyweights in May 2009 and they broke a number of records in the 2009-2010 season. Ajax finished with a staggering goal difference of +86, scored 106 goals, won their final 14 games of the season and finished with 85 points. That normally would be good enough to win the Eredivisie title but they were beaten to the prize by just a single point. It was FC Twente who took the championship, under the guidance of Steve McClaren.
Jol would still bring some silverware to the club as they won the Dutch Cup, beating Feyenoord 6-1 across two matches. He would resign though in December 2010 after struggling at the start of the following campaign. Ajax were in fourth place when he left but would go on to win the title that season under his successor, Frank de Boer.
He would head back to London in June 2011, succeeding Mark Hughes as the new manager of Fulham.
A mixed bag at the Cottage
His first season back in the Premier League was a solid one. Fulham finished in ninth spot with 52 points, just one point off their record total, set by Roy Hodgson three seasons earlier. There was a 6-0 thrashing of west London rivals Queens Park Rangers, a league double over Liverpool FC and a creditable 2-2 draw with Manchester City, despite trailing 2-0 at one point. He did fall out though with star forward Bobby Zamora, who would eventually join Queens Park Rangers in January 2012.
2012-2013 was a step back though. Although Fulham finished in 12th spot, they finished the campaign very poorly, with just one win in their last seven matches which cost them a top half finish. Jol did bring Dimitar Berbatov into the club from Manchester United and it was his goals that kept them well clear of danger. The worry was though that a decline was beginning at Craven Cottage. Many of Fulham’s more experienced players were leaving, such as Danny Murphy and Clint Dempsey and the replacements were not as impressive.
It came to a head in 2013-2014 for the club. Fulham scrambled three league victories together before the end of November but apart from a 4-1 win away at Crystal Palace, they looked like a team bereft of ideas and on the verge of relegation. With every passing week, the manager’s burrowed look was getting bigger. After a second half collapse at Upton Park, which saw Fulham fail to register a single shot on target and lose 3-0 to West Ham United, Jol was sacked. He lost his final six matches in all competitions with the Cottagers. Fulham would finish the season as an ex-Premier League side.
He would get league glory though in the Middle East, guiding Al Ahly to the Egyptian Premier League title in 2015-2016. Unfortunately, he received threats on social media after the side’s failure to reach the African Champions League semi-finals. Fearing for his safety, he resigned from his post as manager after just six months in the role.
Martin Jol was a down-to-earth, commendable and good Premier League manager who always went down the attractive route. His record is fairly impressive too. It was unfortunate that sluggish starts to his final seasons with both Tottenham Hotspur and Fulham would prove to be his downfall.