London // When Rene Meulensteen was appointed to assist Martin Jol on November 13, the assumption was that if results did not improve, one Dutchman would be replacing the other.
Sure enough, a day after Fulham suffered a fifth straight Premier League defeat on Saturday, sinking further into relegation trouble with a 3-0 loss at West Ham United, Jol was dismissed and Meulensteen appointed in his place.
Meulensteen’s improbable partnership with Jol lasted a day longer than his ill-fated 16-day reign at the turbulent Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala.
Although highly rated as part of Sir Alex Ferguson’s backroom staff at Manchester United, Meulensteen left the club when David Moyes took over in the summer, but his time in Dagestan came to premature end as the club owner Suleiman Kerimov abruptly cut his financing.
Meulensteen had been linked with roles at Sunderland and Crystal Palace before taking on the Fulham role.
“Rene Meulensteen was brought to Fulham to assist Martin and today was offered the challenge and opportunity to step in for Martin,” Fulham’s owner Shahid Khan said.
“I thank Rene for accepting and now we move forward. I have great confidence in Rene and high expectations for our squad to respond.”
Jol’s position had seemed insecure from the moment Khan bought the club from Mohammed Al Fayed in the summer and such has been his mood of gloomy resignation of late, it almost seemed he was surprised not to have been relieved of his duties sooner.
“Martin was very gracious and I appreciate his understanding of the situation,” Khan said. “There is no question Martin is an excellent football man and he has my utmost respect for the commitment he made to our club.
“However, our poor form and results this season are undeniable, and Fulham supporters deserve better. With more than half the season still ahead, an immediate change was necessary.”
Meulensteen inherits a side that sits three points off the bottom of the table and three points from relegation safety. Although there is undoubted quality in the squad in the likes of Dimitar Berbatov, Adel Taraabt and Bryan Ruiz, there are concerns about the lack of work rate and fight.
In addition, although Fulham signed seven players in the summer, only Taraabt was under age 28, with four of the new arrivals 30 or over, leading to doubts about the squad’s hunger.
There are questions, too, over whether Meulensteen, now 49, has the personality to be a head coach.
Although few doubt his background – Robin van Persie has expressed his admiration – even before the Anzhi debacle, he had endured a difficult time as manager of Brondby. His first game in charge comes at Craven Cottage against Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday.
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