This was always going to be a transitional season for Fulham but Scott Parker has seen enough to believe that happier times are around the corner at Craven Cottage.
“You would like to think so,” he says. “After the year we’ve had, with a young squad developing and learning what the Championship is all about, you would like to think we will only improve. It is clear to see the way Fulham are trying to go in terms of young players and with this year under their belt I am sure there is more to come in the future.”
Relegation last May ended Fulham’s 13-year stay in the Premier League and has given Parker his first proper taste of Championship football.
“There have been times when I have hated it,” admits the 34-year-old. “Everyone says how hard the Championship is and you probably do not realise until you are actually playing in it. But there are times when I have enjoyed it.”
Fulham host Bournemouth tonight just two places above the relegation zone albeit with an eight-point cushion to third-from-bottom Millwall.
Parker is under no illusions as to the size of the task at Fulham but is convinced they are progressing under Kit Symons, who replaced Felix Magath last September.
“I was driving home reflecting on our win against Derby last weekend and I think any team in the Championship could have come to Craven Cottage that day and we would have beaten them,” says the midfielder. “You think to yourself, ‘if only we could have sustained that level all year we would not be in the position we are in’.
“Why have we not been able to do that? That’s the million-dollar question. If you spoke to Kit, he would ask the same thing. It is about trying to get consistency and you could probably put that down to us having a young team. When you are a young player, you do not have that consistency to your game. It is very up and down and maybe that has something to do with the way this season has gone.
“It’s been very patchy. When I look back on, it has been quite disappointing really. But you’d like to think that with a year under their belt, the younger boys in the squad will benefit next year. It is definitely a process.”
Symons received public backing from chairman Shahid Khan before the 2-0 win against the then-leaders Derby, a result that ended a run of eight games without a victory. Khan craves stability and has backed Symons to build a team to compete for a return to the top flight. But does Parker think they will be ready to challenge next season?
“Hopefully, we can,” says the Fulham captain. “I certainly think we will be in a better place than we are now. Whether that means bringing in a few new faces, and with the younger lads pushing on more with a year’s experience.
“We need to realise how to win games. At times this year, even early on when we had one point from eight matches, there were games when the quality we had was miles better than what we had played against. We have dominated teams but the Championship is a tough league and you have got a know how to win games.”
Parker thinks Fulham are beginning to realise it is not just about playing “pretty football” and believes Symons, who worked at the Academy, is the perfect man to nurture the young talent.
“Kit is used to bringing young players through so he knows how to work with them,” he says. “He is doing a brilliant job – you have seen that in the way things have turned around.
“In an ideal world we’d love to be in the Premier League and everyone at the club is working to make that happen.”