Scott Parker was regularly raised in conversation over the last week, not just because of Fulham’s participation in the craziest Championship final day finish in a while and his side’s forthcoming play-off push but also because Jordan Henderson’s winning of the Football Writers’s Footballer of the Year drew comparisons to when the Fulham manager did got the award as part of a relegated West Ham team. Weird.

Anyway, Parker’s first full managerial campaign came to a conclusion at Wigan last Wednesday. His Fulham side might have gone off the rails after losing the first two matches after lockdown – so damaging were the defeats to Brentford and Leeds United – but they recovered, showing some serious character to stitch together a seven-match unbeaten run. Fulham might have been fortunate at times, having drawn on the individual star quality in their squad to snatch narrow wins, and they might also rue moments over the course of the season. Not being able to beat Charlton, those two defeats by Barnsley and a 3-0 home defeat by Hull, who admittedly had Jarrod Bowen and Kamil Grosicki at their disposal then. Hindsight, of course, is a wonderful thing and ‘unsuccessful’ seasons are crammed full of what ifs.

Promisingly, over 46 games, Fulham could not be beaten when scoring the first goal but on the flip side, only QPR could be beaten (albeit twice this season) when scoring first. The old saying is football is a results based business, though most football supporters want both results and sexy football. ‘Parkerball’ has struggled to deliver a complete 90-minute display, with some of the better performances with Middlesbrough, Huddersfield and Sheffield Wednesday at home being limited to first half glimmers of what could be possible. Of course we all remember the record breaking 4-0 home win against Millwall who were at the time managed by Neil Harris, now of Cardiff who we’ll meet on Monday and Thursday night (we’d all love repeats of that performance I’m sure).

One of the major disappointments this season has been Fulham’s ineffectiveness in the final third despite the serious investment in attacking options. Parker’s side finished seveth in the division for goals scored (below sides like QPR, Blackburn and our playoff rivals Cardiff City). Some would say our total shots being 5th in the division is below-par (around 130 shots fewer than Leeds) and, even more alarmingly, our shots from inside the penalty area drops us down to eleventh in the league. At no point this season have we seen the Anthony Knockaert who was named Championship Player of the Year in Brighton’s promotion campaign and, since the turn of the year, Ivan Cavaleiro has provided just two goals and a sole assist. If not for Aleksandar Mitrovic’s ability to score match winning goals and Michael Hector’s January arrival helping to bring a bit of solidity at the back, you wonder just how durable Fulham’s promotion push might have been.

Yet, despite all of the low points, there’s a chance that Scott Parker leads Fulham back to the Premier League at the first time of asking. I must say, as the year has progressed, I’ve gotten flashbacks to 2017/18. Whilst a stylish, attacking and swaggering side has been on electric form with goals potentially coming from anywhere, there’s been a former Premier League club with a deep squad full of known players never really out of the play-offs but never really pushing for automatics. Of course we know one was Fulham and the other Aston Villa, but this year it appears we take the role of Aston Villa whilst Brentford’s eye catching side are drawing comparisons to Slavisa Jokanovic’s Fulham team.

Without looking beyond Cardiff, Fulham will absolutely be expecting to walk at Wembley on the evening of August 4th but the lottery of the play-offs is unpredictable and honestly my fingernails may not exist watching on TV. If Parker achieves promotion for Fulham then no one will really care about the manner in which he did so, but another campaign in the Championship will raise many questions not just of Parker but perhaps more worryingly the futures of some of Fulham’s top end players.

Neil Harris’ Cardiff side will be a tough test but Fulham will be hopeful having recorded a comfortable victory at Craven Cottage only a couple of weeks ago. And whilst the final is the richest game of football, you’ve got to get to the dance with a couple of ISA’s first.