Greetings to Fulham supporters everywhere and it certainly is my hope that you are still enjoying the Christmas and holiday season with friends and family. And with 2016 just a few days away, I think we have good reason to express warm wishes for the New Year with Slavisa Jokanovic as our new First Team Head Coach.
Before we get to Slavisa’s appointment, however, let’s talk about something more important, and that’s the somber news we received earlier this month upon the passing of the legendary Jimmy Hill at the age of 87.
My time at Fulham has been brief, so with each passing week I am admittedly continuing to learn more about the legacy and traditions of the Club. But since my arrival in July 2013, there have been a few names that have made an immediate and lasting impact. Jimmy Hill was one of those names.
This isn’t to say I currently - or will ever be - able to fully appreciate everything that Jimmy accomplished here, or what he means to the lore and history of Fulham Football Club. But, I believe I do understand how much Jimmy means to you. I’ve heard from many supporters over the past several weeks as our search for a new head coach continued, and many of you took the opportunity to also offer thoughts or memories of Jimmy, both as a player and as a builder of the Club.
Many of your recollections of Jimmy are priceless and timeless. I thank you for them and hope that you will find our tribute to Jimmy tomorrow evening, from the features in the official programme to the pre-match ceremony, to be respectful of his countless contributions to Fulham and the game of football in England.
As I noted yesterday, I’m now extremely proud to announce that Slavisa has accepted our offer to join Fulham and accept the challenge and opportunity that will come in leading our First Team. Slavisa is in London tomorrow and will begin to fully acclimate himself with the Club in the days ahead, but be assured that he’s already very much attuned to our situation.
To say that Slavisa came prepared during the interview process would be an understatement. His analysis of our Club was impressive and his ideas were just what we wanted to hear. I’m confident that Slavisa will reverse our fortunes and bring to Fulham a winning mindset through the second half of the season and beyond.
I think it’s important to point out that Slavisa emerged from an extremely impressive pool of candidates, some of whom became available or expressed their interest to us during the days and weeks that followed our decision to make a change on 8th November. This wasn’t totally unexpected when you consider the attraction of Fulham, but it’s safe to say that our shortlist of candidates grew immediately, as well as over time.
While Slavisa was someone we were interested in from the start, we had an obligation, in my opinion, to fully explore our options. This took time, and probably a bit more than any of us would have preferred, but with each day that passed and every deliberation we made, we got closer and closer to making the right call on Slavisa Jokanovic. And that’s more important than anything.
I also want to note that Slavisa was someone who was beloved and respected by Maccabi Tel Aviv, his former club, and therefore required a great deal of effort on our part to arrange for his release. And when you consider that he was likely the target of other clubs who may have been contemplating a change, we are particularly fortunate to welcome him to Fulham.
In the end, all we need to remember is Slavisa has promoted a club from the Championship to the Premier League and has managed sides at the highest level of football. In other words, Slavisa is exactly the Head Coach we need.
And speaking of head coach – I believe the term ‘head coach’ has been misunderstood, though not by Slavisa nor nearly every one of the other candidates we interviewed. Slavisa avidly embraces the concept of head coach, which is to be on the pitch, training, organising, planning and everything that comes in preparing for and leading the Club on matchday.
This doesn’t mean he will have no say in player recruitment or squad assembly for the First Team – he most certainly will, working with Chief Football Officer Mike Rigg and his staff to ensure the best we possibly can that Fulham will field a starting XI that Slavisa will choose on matchdays and feels will be capable of winning. The concept of head coach simply means being hyperfocused on the pitch and team performance. But please be assured, Slavisa will collaborate closely with Mike and his staff as anyone would under the classic definition of manager. That was always the plan for whomever won the job, and I know that Slavisa and Mike will mesh well as we turn the page on 2015.
I do want to salute the work by Peter Grant and Stuart Gray in their caretaker roles while we brought this process to a close. There was much more to their body of work than may meet your eye. While collecting a few points, we were able to take a closer look at various players and line-ups and probably know our Club’s potential and areas of need a bit better today than we did several months ago. I thank Peter and Stuart for keeping us together for the transition ahead.
Tomorrow night, therefore, is an occasion for you to celebrate our past in Jimmy Hill and future in Slavisa Jokanovic. For me, it’s an opportunity to thank you for your patience and ask for your trust. I promise that no-one wants to deliver a winner to Fulham supporters more than I do. That’s why we have Slavisa Jokanovic in the fold. Brighter days are ahead.
Come On You Whites!
Shahid Khan, Chairman