RF: Fulham were many pundit’s favourites for promotion this season; however, despite having a decent start to the season, you haven't hit the heights that many expected. Has that came as a shock to the fans or do you think you're performing at the level you should be?
JC: I think there’s an element of shock in the fanbase. After the end of last season, Fulham fans were on the whole quite expectant, especially after a summer where the club managed to keep hold of star man Tom Cairney and the boy wonder Ryan Sessegnon.
Ultimately Jokanovic - despite last season’s heroics - has simply not got his squad firing again. There are plenty of issues in terms of fans questioning why certain players aren’t getting game time - Yohan Mollo, Rafa Shares and Jordan Graham all came in during the summer and all are yet to see any real minutes of competitive football, for example. But most of the fan unrest is directed (not necessarily correctly) at the owner Shad Khan and his son, Tony Khan - who is our director of football - for not buying a proven striker at this level in the summer.
There have been glimpses of the magic that typified the second half of last season, but also a nagging feeling that teams have worked Fulham out and are able to negate the possession-based game we employ. Jokanovic’s lack of a plan B has become more and more apparent when up against teams who look to shut up shop and hit us on the break, or are overwhelmingly physical.
RF: It may have been a while ago now but Chris Coleman had a pretty lengthy spell in charge at Fulham. What positives did he bring to Craven Cottage which you could see him implementing on Wearside?
JC: You’d do well to find many more places where Chris Coleman is adored more than at Craven Cottage - he was the charismatic captain that came in to lead the charge up the divisions before he then went on to manage the Whites, overseeing a period of change which stopped the rot, avoided relegation and set the Whites on a positive trajectory.
His pragmatic, solid style is widely acknowledged, and although he has changed his system since managing Fulham, there’s still that sense of a solid core being supplemented by one or two key attacking outlets who he trusts to do the damage. There’s no doubt he’ll bring some structure back to Sunderland’s defence, tighten up the midfield and give the club some more steel - which should all be popular moves. I have no doubt that he’ll keep you up.
RF: Similarly, Kit Symons joined him as assistant. He did a decent job at Fulham, so can you see him being a good influence on the club?
JC: Symons works well with Coleman because aside from being old team mates, he’s another that values substance over style. After a terrible period at Fulham, Symons steadied the ship, and I think having him there in the assistant position with Coleman will only be a good thing on Wearside.
If nothing else, the two of them will be working hard to shore up that defence and make the Stadium of Light into a place where you can start winning again - both Coleman and Symons relied heavily on their home records in their time in West London.
RF: The pace of Ryan Sessegnon will surely cause us problems, is he the main danger man or is there anyone else we should be worried about?
JC: Sessegnon is an unbelievable talent, with the ability to go right to the very top, and you’re right to be wary of him. A lot will depend on whether he starts at left-back or left-wing - further forward he’s a serious goal threat and his composure in the box is well beyond his years.
On the other side, Ryan Fredericks has the ability to burn defenders all day long and on his day he’s probably the most dangerous attacking full-back in the league. Tom Cairney is getting back to full fitness and if he can seize control of the game in the middle, then you’re in for a long day.
Sheyi Ojo is on loan from Liverpool and has come back from injury in fine form, so is another one to watch - he’ll probably play in an inverted winger role and will be looking to get on the scoresheet for the 4th time in 5 games.
RF: On that note, is there anyone in the Sunderland side you're particularly fearful of?
JC: I rate Lewis Grabban massively, and not just because of the goals - there’s nothing more dangerous than a striker who, even off form, somehow knows where the right place to be at the right time is.
I would have picked Aiden McGeady a year ago, but it does pain me to say as an Irish supporter, that his form is massively starting to trail off and I think his career might well be heading into the twilight zone. He’s become so impotent in recent months that I’m struggling to see him featuring at all.
I rate George Honeyman’s work ethic, and I thought I’d see more of Lynden Gooch this year, as he’s someone I thought could really do a job in the middle.
RF: How do you expect Jokanovic to approach this game and what do you think the starting line up will be?
JC: Fulham only have one way of playing, which is possession, possession, possession. We’ll look to keep the ball and fashion openings through the guile of Cairney and the pace of our wingers — if we’re on top expect a lot of overloads by the full-backs and low balls into the centre.
In terms of the line up, you never know with Jokanovic. For the last two weeks he’s picked a centre midfielder as a false 9, but here’s my best guess:
Bettinelli, Fredericks, Kalas, Ream, Sessegnon, McDonald, Norwood, Cairney, Ojo, Fonte, Mollo.
RF: Finally, can we have a score prediction?
JC: I’ll have to go for a Fulham win, but if we don’t go ahead early you’ll see us becoming frustrated and it’s in those games that we can really start to throw it away late on.
I’ll go for the early goal and a 3-1 Fulham win as we’re better on the road.