Twenty-five years of covering Fulham: Who was the most likeable manager?

West London Sport’s Paul Warburton has covered the area’s clubs for 25 years. Here he takes a trip down memory lane, recalling his dealings with Fulham’s managers. Some he liked more than others. 

In my years of reporting on Fulham, I’ve got to know the club’s 19 managers during that time.

If you’re in front of the boss every week, you pick up more than just quotes and post-match reaction.

Here is a wholly subjective list based not on their success in the job, but on their friendliness and agreeability.

Starting with the best and heading on down…

14/11/2018 – 27/02/2019: Claudio Ranieri

You would want to have dinner or a beer with the Italian.

He would be charming, polite, courteous and tell a raft of entertaining stories.

He likes a laugh. In fact, he often went searching for one during press conferences both at Chelsea and at Fulham.

As a man, he’s top drawer.

28/12/2007 – 30/06/2010: Roy Hodgson

How could you fail to like a bloke who went to rock concerts and also liked Tamla Motown?!

He was/is friendly, likeable and ready to answer questions put to him with honesty.

He once fessed up to having been offered the Ireland job while at Fulham with: “It’s not something I want to lie about.”

28/12/2015 – 13/11/2018: Slaviša Jokanović

Slav is all deadpan humour.

I asked him once was he still fit? He pulled a pack of Serbian fags out of his pocket and said: ‘With these?’

He rented a flat while at Fulham – his family stayed in Spain. When asked did he cook for himself, he reckoned it ‘depended if there was anything in the fridge’.

He was one of those managers that took time to get to know, but once you were in his inner circle, he was priceless.

19/09/2014 – 08/11/2015: Kit Symons

Another one out of the top drawer.

Kit was as honest as the day is long. He generally wanted to help journos where possible, and it helped a great deal if one knew him as a Fulham player too.

01/03/2019: Scott Parker

Fulham boss Scott Parker

The current incumbent has all but perfected the art of engaging, listening (a lot don’t) and responding to questions.

In other words, he is at pains to address the point and deal with it directly.

He sees a joke and can offer one back.

Asked if he got a new tie clip for his birthday in October, he replied: “Nah, socks…again.”

He gets on well with everybody as far as I can see.

30/06/2011 – 01/12/2013: Martin Jol

Another you wouldn’t mind spending an evening with.

He was also open to a chat about other things outside football.

We once had a discussion about the best DJ on Dutch pirate radio station, Radio Veronica.

He also called the then head of communications, Sarah Brookes, the ‘new Madonna’. You smoothie, Martin.

11/04/2007 – 21/12/2007: Lawrie Sanchez

Friendly and agreeable, and not at all crazy despite his time with the old Wimbledon.

He too was amenable and open, and insisted on hosting a pre-season lunch in 2007-08 for journos he would be dealing with.

17/04/2003 – 10/04/2007: Chris Coleman

Friendly, but could also be fiery.

If he didn’t like something you wrote, he would call and tell you.

But he was available, and often called a spade a spade even as Fulham’s media staff held their breath.

Also, the worst timekeeper of the whole bunch.

A press conference scheduled for midday was eventually held at 4.45pm as ‘Cookie’ made his way back from a Wales international the night before.

14/02/2014 – 18/09/2014: Felix Magath

Felix Magath, Fulham manager

Here’s a surprise: the much-maligned Magath had a great sense of humour.

Going up in the lift with him at Reading’s Madejski Stadium, to break that kind of uncomfortable silence I offered: “Haberdashery, first floor” and he roared out laughing.

He was still chuckling going into the press conference.

01/07/2000 – 16/04/2003: Jean Tigana

Shy and diffident, it helped one could speak a smattering of French.

He never wanted to do press and made it plain from the get-go.

But once on the inside, he was charming and handed out bottles of wine from his own vineyard to those he got close to.

His assistants, Christian Damiano and Roger Propos were more outgoing, and fun to be with socially.

01/07/1996 – 25/09/1997: Micky Adams

Likeable, personable and the only manager I had a running race with. He won!

He too could rant down the phone, but the next second he was your pal again.

Mostly generous with his time, he was another that was pretty sociable outside a press room.

02/10/1999 – 30/06/2000: Karl-Heinz Riedle

Polite, agreeable and smiley, but once past the ‘hello-how-are-yous’ he was all business.

I don’t remember him doing small talk ever.

01/07/1997 – 06/05/1998: Ray Wilkins

The only manager I had dealings with at four clubs!

Ray toured west London during his managerial career; banned me for a while at QPR, was OK at Fulham, much the same at Brentford and Chelsea, but always chose his words carefully.

For all that, I detected a man with a wry sense of humour.

07/05/1998 – 30/06/1999: Kevin Keegan

If he called you “pal” you were in trouble.

Fortunately, that was never yours truly. But he once told a Daily Mail reporter exactly what he thought of him in front of other press.

He picked up the phone, gave a ‘good line’ and admitted: “I wear my heart on my sleeve.”

Without prompting, and on the cusp of leaving Fulham for the England job, he said: “Please don’t ask me about England.”

“Oh, you’re taking it then?”

“What did I just say?!”

01/07/2010 – 29/06/2011: Mark Hughes

I asked him if he deserved the moniker ‘Sparky’?

He answered matter-of-factly that he didn’t take nonsense from anybody.

A player told me he was the sort of bloke you wouldn’t want to play poker with.

He was agreeable enough, but he never once let his guard drop either at Fulham or later at QPR.

01/12/2013 – 13/02/2014: René Meulensteen

Rene Meulensteen, Fulham head coach

The Dutch are generally engaging, the lugubrious Meulensteen came from a different school to Martin Jol, the man he replaced.

Perhaps he learned a thing or two from the Sir Alex Ferguson school of charm while at Manchester United?

OK, it was seven years ago, but I didn’t see him once smile openly.

01/07/1994 – 19/02/1996: Ian Branfoot

Branfoot had suffered at Southampton and was dealt a poor hand of cards at lowly Fulham.

He took it out on all around him – including press.

He once told me I was the sort of person that wanted to work for The Sun. I looked at him questioningly, and he added: “You’re always after a big story.”

01/07/1999 – 25/3/2000: Paul Bracewell

His stock answer to almost everything was: “You never know.”

When he got the sack, I couldn’t resist writing: “He never knew.”

Mostly unhelpful, sometimes condescending, he once asked how I got his number when I called.

I told him he gave it to me.

“But that was when I was a player,” he answered to a bemused listener at the other end.

09/11/2015 – 27/12/2015: Peter Grant

In the job for such a short space of time, I’d be hard pressed to come up with an opinion either way.