WHEN these two teams met in mid-November – both struggling near the relegation zone after horrible starts to the season – Martin Jol insisted Sunderland and Fulham were the only two teams in the bottom half who did not deserve to be there.
“When you look at our clubs’ squads, we both should be doing better,” he observed after the 0-0 Stadium of Light draw. “We have both been under-achieving, but I do not expect either of us to be in trouble by the end of the season.”
Time has proven him right – Fulham on course for their best ever season if they can beat Spurs this coming Sunday; Sunderland having ensured their Premier League status, all but statistically, months ago now.
For Jol, it has been a sweet turnaround after inheriting the side last summer and struggling to get them competing on both European and domestic fronts – the Cottagers failing to win any of their first six Premier League games.
“I’m very happy with what we’ve achieved this season,” said the Dutchman.
“Fulham might have finished higher in the league before, but we didn’t play games in Europe that season.
“In my view, this is probably Fulham’s best ever season, because, to play 14 games in Europe, to have played 40 games before Christmas, and still finish in the top 10 – that is something.”
Having beaten Liverpool in midweek, Jol – back from a bout of illness to take charge – said he could afford to relax and enjoy the Sunderland game, just as he plans to do when he returns to White Hart Lane in the last game of the campaign.
He just wished Fulham could have made easier work of it against Martin O’Neill’s men.
“I was very pleased with the way we played against Sunderland,” he said.
“It’s just unfortunate that the way we are as a team, we have to wait until the very last second before knowing if we’ve won the game!
“The way we played we should have scored three or four goals and killed Sunderland off but, typically, we did not do that.
“Having said that, I enjoyed looking forward to the game because there was nothing to lose.
“I knew that if we won the game we could go above Liverpool and that if we drew it would guarantee us a place in the top 10, so it’s great to have the result which does both.
“Next we go to Spurs and there will be no pressure on us in that game either.
“We can enjoy it. I would like to see Spurs in the Champions League, but I would like it more if we could get the three points which would give Fulham its highest ever Premier League points total.”