SScott Parker is about to start what could be his biggest footballing challenge to date; making Fulham look like a football team again. There is a huge difference between being a caretaker manager, when the pressure is arguably off you, and being appointed the boss for the long haul. When he took over after Claudio Ranieri’s sacking, Fulham were so far away from safety that most of us had already accepted relegation. Parker was never going to go through the same scrutiny that Jokanovic or Ranieri got because he was taking over an already sinking ship. His job was essentially to make us sink slightly slower!
But things are completely different now. Being giving the job on a full-time basis will bring with it all the criticisms and condemnations that come with full time management and very decision made will go under the microscope by fans and journalists alike. I’m sure Parker is relishing the challenge and, being a very studious person, I reckon he naturally ticks many of the boxes needed to be a good manager. But like most jobs, you often need more than what you have on paper to be fully successful.
So what does Parker need to be successful in the Championship, one of the world toughest leagues? Here is a small list. Scott, feel free to take notes.
Know your team- I don’t think any of us want to be reminded of the ill-fated Felix Magath era of Fulham Football Club, but when we want to know how to be successful, you often have to look at what was unsuccessful and learn from it. There’s no point beating around the bush, Magath was a disaster at Fulham. One of his biggest downfalls was the fact that he clearly didn’t know his players and what their abilities were. Playing Dan Burn at right-back is a prime example, but then even after he had a full preseason with his team ahead of our first Championship season after being relegated, he played the most bizarre line-ups game after game. It was like he was drawing his teams out of a hat in the dressing room before kick-off. The players clearly had no idea what he expected from them and it resulted in us not tasting victory that season in the league until eight games in.
More recently we have seen Slavisa Jokanovic making the mistake of not knowing his team and his constant chopping and changing our defence last season resulted in chaos at the back. It’s so important that Parker doesn’t make the same mistakes as some of his predecessors. Constantly making changes to his line-up and formation is a recipe for disaster. This isn’t to say that changes can’t be made but it’s crucial that Parker knows his team inside out. Knowledge is key.
Make decisions with conviction- No matter what you do in life, it’s really important that any decision made is done with conviction. Even if you’re not completely sure it’s the right move, do whatever it is with confidence. With Jokanovic you could nearly tell at the start of last season that he wasn’t really sure about the decisions he was making at the back. This approach will have been easily picked up by the players, so I can understand why there was so much confusion in the side. Players need their manager to be a leader, and to be a leader you need to have the self-belief to make any team decisions with confidence.
Mistakes will be made. Learn from them – No campaign is flawless. While no one likes losing, it’s important that when things go wrong Parker doesn’t let the head drop and start making rash decisions out of desperation. We have to learn from our mistakes in order to be successful. Whether it’s taking a player off who you realise you shouldn’t have started a match with, or making a more radical change over time, it’s crucial that Parker can identify mistakes and can correct them. I’ll be honest and say that some of Parker’s tactical decisions, or in some cases the lack of them, has worried me. The game we lost up at Watford that saw our relegation confirmed was a prime example. We started well that night and where still in the game at the break, but Javi Garcia out-managed and out-thought him in the second half. Parker didn’t seem to have answers for the changes that Garcia made and in the end we limped across the relegation line. Parker will need to have more than just Plan A for every game so that he isn’t caught out like that.
I wrote in a previous article that I believe that Parker has the heart for the job, but that we will have to wait and see if he has the head for it. I believe that he has already done a heck of a lot of the ground work already by getting the players onside and giving them confidence again. He is putting together a solid foundation and hopefully can build a strong team upon it. It’s now less than two months to go before the season kicks off again, so eight weeks of preparation.
Bring it on.