Fulham manager Scott Parker feels his side are in good shape ahead of the Championship’s restart – even if the isolated surroundings of virtual press conferences are taking some getting used to.
Parker sat alone in the Motspur Park communications office – conducting his usual pre-match press duties via video conference with members of the media.
“It’s different. I sit here looking at a screen with no one else around me. It’s different but last night football was back on our screens which is the main positive to take. We all realise, and that’s my message to players and staff, we’re living in a world that is difficult at this present moment in time.
“Has there been changes in the three weeks we’ve been back? Of course there has. There have been hurdles to jump and challenges to embrace. You need to be flexible and you need to be adaptable. If you can work out a way of getting the best performance out of your group, then you’re doing well. When you’re working every day, you see it. It’s about installing a drive and achieving your goal.”
Parker has spoken to his squad about dealing with the fact that Saturday’s local derby with Brentford, which could prove pivotal in the Championship promotion race, will be played behind closed doors.
“That’s a big challenge. You can prepare the team but there’s little obstacles. What you can’t do is understand the impact an empty stadium will have on the players. Any manager sitting there, whether they’re new to it or been in the job 25 years, will have to adapt. You’re constantly trying to prepare for problems or protocols but you’re always second guessing. Things change so quickly that you need to be ready.
“Playing at your home stadium with familiar surroundings can still be seen as an advantage. Time will only tell, but I can’t see it being a leveller. You’d prefer being there with fans than not. We’ll have to wait and see and make a judgement after nine games.
“Lockdown and football ending didn’t come at a good time for us or Brentford. We were top of the form table in the last 16 games, Brentford were second. We were the form teams. That’s why it was anticipated as a tasty clash, with the added edge of a derby.
“The facts are we’re having to go back into it after three months. I understand what this means and what it means to the fans. It’ll be a tough game against a very good side. It’ll be a big challenge and Brentford will be feeling the same. I hope the intensity is still high. In football that comes from a couple of things; physicality, and the mindset of what the occasion brings.
“There’s no denying that two weeks of contact training isn’t ideal, and you saw last night that brought a slower game. My team are in a good place and we know what’s at stake with a derby against your rivals from around the corner. That should add a spice and edge. We’ll understand that and so will Brentford.”
Parker revealed he should have an almost fully-fit squad to choose from after a couple of players recovered from knocks sustained when the players returned to training.
“The squad is looking okay. We had a couple of injury concerns early on which had a bit of an impact, but we’re good now. We’re going into the nine games prepared and everyone will be needed and used. We’re pretty well full strength and raring to go.”