The Fulham manager, Martin Jol, will come face to face with Juande Ramos at Craven Cottage this evening insistent that he bears no ill feelings towards the man who controversially replaced him at Tottenham Hotspur almost four years ago.
Ramos brings the Ukrainian side Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk to south-west London for the first leg of the Europa League play-off tie and Jol is dismissive of suggestions the occasion offers him an opportunity to gain a measure of revenge for events back in 2007. The Dutchman's tenure at Spurs appeared to have been undermined when the club's then vice-chairman, Paul Kemsley, and club secretary, John Alexander, were photographed meeting Ramos, then Sevilla's manager, in a Spanish hotel.
It was another two months before Jol, whose side languished third-bottom in the Premier League at the time after a solitary win from their opening 10 games, was dismissed before a Uefa Cup tie against Getafe, with news of his sacking leaking out at half-time in that fixture. Ramos was duly appointed the following day. Asked whether he would shake hands with the Spaniard on Thursdaynight, Jol nodded and said: "Always I respect people in football. For me the main thing is to get to the next round of this competition. If we don't, it's nothing to do with him. I'll forget him and we go on. He'll probably forget me as well, as he did before.
"You can always have ill feeling when you leave a club. But I've left clubs before Spurs and I've left them since. I left Hamburg after a year. It's not about him. It's about other people, always. I've had over 1,100 games in football as a player and a manager, so I know this happens. As it was, he [Ramos] was there for 10 or 11 months and moved on and ended up in the Ukraine. So it's something to think about."
That was said with a smile. Jol's career path has taken him to Hamburg and Ajax before he secured his return to the Premier League this summer, with Ramos' brief spell at White Hart Lane – he claimed the Carling Cup in 2008 but was sacked after a dismal start to the following season – having been followed by a brief spell at Real Madrid and 47 days with CSKA Moscow. He joined Dnipro in October 2010, although the Ukrainians are currently enduring a rather sluggish start to their own domestic campaign.
"It really is not up to coaches to decide the future of their respective careers," said Ramos when asked about his imminent meeting with the man he replaced at White Hart Lane. "We're all professionals and only clubs can make the decision of who they want to keep and who they want to sack. Really it's not up to us. It's always up to the clubs."
Jol, while acknowledging this as his side's sternest test of the season to date, will rest some first-team players against Dnipro with Sunday's trip to Wolverhampton Wanderers in mind. Both Simon Davies (knee) and Bjorn Helge Riise (hamstring) will be absent and Steve Sidwell and Moussa Dembélé are likely to feature. "I'll pick players in this game that I trust," the Dutchman added before his team's eighth competitive game of the campaign. "We'll have to aim not to concede and get a nice cushion to go there, because we'll need that. NK Split were a good side [in the previous round] but this will be a different kettle of fish. At home Dnipro are a very strong team so we'll need a good result."
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