Fulham’s relegation from the Premier League is expected to be followed by another summer of upheaval at Craven Cottage with up to a dozen of their current team potentially leaving the club.
Fulham spent more than £100 million following their promotion last year but will now begin the process of reshaping and re-balancing their squad again in an attempt to minimise the financial damage of their swift relegation.
Shahid Khan, the club’s chairman, admitted that Fulham’s senior figures did not think relegation would be possible in August and apologised to the club’s fans for “letting them down”.
He promised that Fulham would “reflect” on the mistakes of this season as they plan for life in the second tier.
Interim manager Scott Parker, their third manager of the campaign, has the support of the players, many of whom would like to see him given the job on a permanent basis.
Fulham are understood to have inserted relegation clauses into the contracts of their players, which will reduce their wage bill considerably next season.
Club accounts show they made a loss of £45.
2m in the 2017/18 season, thanks in part to contractual promotion-related payments following their play-off victory over Aston Villa.
Tony Khan, the vice-chairman, told a Fulham Supporters’ Trust meeting last month that the club planned to keep the current squad intact, apart from loanees, as they fall down to the Championship.
But they will face a struggle to keep hold of striker Aleksandar Mitrovic amid interest from other Premier League clubs, and there are serious doubts over the respective futures of expensive midfielders Jean Michael Seri and Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa.
It also appears increasingly likely that Ryan Sessegnon will leave at the end of the season.
The 18 year-old will have only one year left on his contract this summer so Fulham will either have to listen to offers or risk losing their prized asset for free in the following year.
Tottenham Hotspur have been long-time admirers of the teenager.
The six players who were signed on loan over the course of the campaign will also be departing the club, leaving Fulham with the task of finding cheaper alternatives or promoting some of their highly-rated young players into the first team.
Of those loanees, only Arsenal’s Calum Chambers can be deemed to have had a consistently positive impact on the team’s performances over the season.
The likes of Andre Schurrle, Luciano Vietto and Timothy Fosu-Mensah have failed to deliver on their reputations.
“Our results over the past three months were as troubling for me and everyone associated with our club as I know they were for you,” said Shahid Khan in a message to fans after defeat at Watford confirmed Fulham’s relegation.
“Last night’s outcome made official what we didn’t think would be possible in August and tried desperately to remedy and avoid as the season wore on.
“I am sorry that we let you down.
Our goal this season was to build on what we achieved in promotion and deliver on our pledge to invest heavily in the squad, ensuring that Fulham would always compete in the Premier League and, no matter the result, never disappoint.
“That didn’t occur and, for that, we hold ourselves accountable.
We will reflect, plan thoroughly and respond accordingly.”
Next season’s squad is likely to be built around a core group of British players, many of whom helped Fulham to promotion.
Captain Tom Cairney signed a new five-year deal last summer, while midfielder Kevin McDonald and goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli also extended their contracts.
Joe Bryan, a £6m signing from Bristol City, has experience in the Championship while Alfie Mawson, the former Swansea City defender who has been restricted to only 14 appearances because of injury, would be expected to be one of the second tier’s leading players if Fulham can resist interest from elsewhere.
Parker said after relegation was confirmed that conversations had already taken place concerning the drastic summer rebuild which needs to take place.
“There needs to be a sit-down, work out where the mistakes were made this year, work on that as quick as we can and go from there,” he said.
“When clubs are down there, you get relegated, there are some clear issues. “