Fulham have this afternoon confirmed the permanent appointment of Scott Parker as the club’s manager on a two-year contract.
The former England captain has impressed the club’s hierarchy since stepping up to replace Claudio Ranieri on a caretaker basis in February. Although the 38 year-old was unable to prevent the Whites from being relegated from the Premier League, Parker did lead Fulham to three consecutive wins against Everton, Bournemouth and Cardiff City, keeping clean sheets in all three games.
He told the club’s official website that he was delighted to be offered the opportunity to do the job on a permanent basis:
“I’m delighted to be appointed Head Coach of Fulham Football Club and I thank the Chairman for entrusting me with this responsibility, as well as the support and encouragement that both he and Tony Khan have provided me.
The players, staff and fans have all been fantastic with me since I took temporary charge. We are now all focused on ending this campaign with a positive result on Sunday against Newcastle and look forward to preparations for the new season, which have already begun.”
Parker, who was previously first team coach at Fulham under Slavisa Jokanovic and the Tottenham Hotspur under-18 head coach for a season, finished his illustrious playing career at Craven Cottage, making 128 appearances for the Whites and scoring six goals.
Fulham chairman Shahid Khan added:
“Scott was brave to accept a very difficult challenge in February when appointed as our Caretaker Manager. Since that time, day by day, whether in training or on matchday, we’ve undeniably become a better football club.
Scott will now have another challenge to face, and that is to return Fulham to the Premier League. I fully believe Scott is more than up to the task. I appreciate that he’s been clear for many years that his ultimate goal is to excel as a manager, and he will be given every opportunity to succeed at Fulham. I also have no doubt that he knows and loves this Club every bit as much as our supporters, and that’s an intangible that everyone can welcome.”
Fulham captain Tom Cairney has extended his contract with the club until 2024 – despite the Whites’ relegation from the Premier League this season.
The Scottish international, whose new deal also includes an option for the club to extend his stay in west London for a further year, had no hesitation in committing his future to the club and described Fulham as ‘feeling like home’. Cairney, who scored the winner in last season’s Championship play-off final against Aston Villa, professed to having unfinished business following Fulham’s disappointing return to the top flight.
Cairney told the club’s official website:
“The Club’s been amazing to me, and to extend my contract again is an amazing feeling. I want to stay for a long time, and hopefully finish my career here.
“This place feels like home. I don’t think you can put a price on happiness, and your life off the pitch as well, and I can’t see myself anywhere else. I feel like I’ve got unfinished business. I want to stay here and I want to get the Club back to the Premier League.
“I want to bounce straight back next season. I know how hard the Championship is, but knowing our owners and how ambitious the Club is, I’m sure we’ll give it a good go.”
Cairney, who signed for Fulham from Blackburn Rovers in the summer of 2015, has made 161 appearances in his four years with the Whites scoring 28 goals.
Fulham have sacked Claudio Ranieri after just sixteen Premier League games in charge and replaced the Italian with former captain Scott Parker as a caretaker manager.
Ranieri, who was only appointed in November as the successor to Slavisa Jokanovic, had run out of road at Craven Cottage after a dismal defeat at the hands of Southampton last night. The 67 year-old’s final game in charge saw Fulham start with three defensive midfielders and never look like seriously challenging one of their relegation rivals after conceding two first half goals.
Ranieri, who only won three of his games in charge and saw his side dumped out of the FA Cup at the third round stage by League Two Oldham, leaves Fulham ten points from safety with ten games left. Parker, who returned to the club this summer after a spell coaching Tottenham’s under 18 side, will take charge for the first time against Chelsea, one of his former clubs, in a west London derby on Sunday afternoon.
The 38 year-old, who made 128 appearances in a four-year playing career at Craven Cottage, completed his coaching badges prior to hanging up his boots and the former England captain has spent this season as Fulham’s first team coach.
If you are anything like me, you probably used the weekend to forget all about the fine little mess Fulham Football Club have gotten ourselves into. The romance of the FA Cup, in which we played a bit-part role last month in capitulating to a spirited Oldham Athletic side roared to victory at Craven Cottage by their magnificent supporters, stands in stark contrast to the monotony of the Premier League, where even the most noble of ambitions is soon sacrificed as you desperately try to cling on to a seat at English football’s top table.
There’s no point revisiting the hole Fulham fell into after that glorious day at Wembley in May – we’ve had our fill of the £100m problems with the club’s summer recruitment, whether Slavisa Jokanovic was given enough time to try and figure out a way of playing in the Premier League or even if Claudio Ranieri was the right replacement when the powers-that-be decided to pull the trigger. The predicament is pitiful now – remaining in the top flight will require the sort of escape that Steve McQueen would blanch at, never mind Roy Hodgson.
The defeats, especially the most recent reverse at the hands of a revitalised Manchester United, are becoming a little too routine now. I’m reminded of that wonderful scene in The Lion in Winter, where three brothers were locked in Henry II’s dungeon awaiting their execution. Richard tells them to take their fate like men only for Geoffrey to protest, ‘You fool! As if it matters how a man falls down.’ The reply is wonderful: ‘When the fall’s all that’s left, it matters a great deal’.
Fulham’s fall has been far from glorious to date. A defence that has looked dazed and confused ever since they emerged blinking into the unforgiving light of Premier League football has hardly improved under Ranieri’s tutelage, which was supposed to be the main reason for his appointment. To what extent the Italian can be fairly blamed for that – given that there’s probably only one proven Premier League centre back amongst all the defenders on Fulham’s books – is question that might never be satisfactorily resolved.
Ranieri’s attempts to remake a misfiring side in his own image have floundered largely because Fulham have been too busy shooting ourselves in the foot. The glee that greeted a couple of clean sheets either side of Christmas proved fleeting – and the manager’s preferred method of accruing points, boring the opposition into submission, dates from the last century. It is so far removed from the flowing football that brought the Whites back to the promised land, we might as well be on another planet. You could stomach it for salvation, but at the moment it feels like Fulham’s agony is prolonged.
Ranieri’s demand for more fighting spirit was probably designed to get everyone pulling in the same direction – but it has had the opposite affect. It provoked some literal fisticuffs in the case of Aboubakar Kamara, but not enough bite from a side that still looks far too easy to play through. The presence of Andre Schurrle, who produces the odd moment of effortless brilliance and then glides through games as if unhurried by the gravity of the situation, only serves to infuriate at this point, especially when two of the club’s most successful battlers – in Tom Cairney and Ryan Sessegon – are confined to the sidelines.
Fulham have barely managed to put together a compelling ninety minutes under Ranieri – but the closest they came was in a stirring second half comeback against Brighton. They wiped out a 2-0 half-time deficit by scoring four without reply in a display that married some of last season’s flair with plenty of fight. Cairney and Sessegnon featured prominently, as they did when combining to set up Aleksandar Mitrovic for the stoppage-time winner against Huddersfield back in December. It is inconceivable that any other manager would conclude that they wouldn’t form part of Fulham’s best side.
And that leads to my final point. Caution is understandable if you are trying to hold onto a result against the top six, who seem light years ahead of what Fulham can muster at the moment. But, with the Whites sitting some eight points from safety and time ticking away, some ambition and adventure are required. Ranieri’s rearguard isn’t good enough to grind out results so taking on the opposition is the only way Fulham will glimpse survival now. The question is whether Ranieri is willing to deviate from his classical Italian method.
If Fulham are going to fall through the trapdoor, as appears ever so likely now, they might as well give us something to remember aside from atrocious defending. These might be our last few months of seeing Sessegnon in a Fulham shirt. Let’s at least go out in a blaze of glory.
Being beaten by a Manchester United side who are experiencing a renaissance under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can’t be considered a disgrace. But the lack of a clear strategy to trouble the visitors – or a plan to redeem themselves after the concession of a couple of soft goals in the first half – should deeply worry both the Fulham hierarchy and Claudio Ranieri. After all, the Italian was brought in to replace Slavisa Jokanovic on the understanding that he would be able to fortify Fulham’s leaky defence and the improvement has been marginal at past.
The boos that greeted the second half replacement of Andre Schurrle with Cyrus Christie summed up just how out of the touch the Fulham manager is with the Craven Cottage faithful. Ranieri thought the home fans were lampooning his decision to introduce a full-back for Schurrle, who had struggled with the flu in the build up to this fixture, or switch to 5-3-2 when the Whites were already 2-0 down. In actual fact, the Fulham fans were disappointed that Ryan Sessegnon and Tom Cairney, consigned to the bench again with the need for a win almost reaching desperation point, weren’t summoned forward to add a spark to what had become a limp display.
Omitting Fulham’s two most consistent performers during their promotion-winning season wasn’t the only way in which Ranieri’s selection was muddled. He went with a five-man defence at Crystal Palace last week when Roy Hodgson’s side were likely to sit in during a tense contest, but opted for a flat back four this afternoon when Solskjaer’s side were always certain to come at the league’s worst defence with all guns blazing.
Denis Odoi, shifted from centre back to right back here after Cyrus Christie had conceded a penalty at Selhurst Park last weekend, struggled in the same position at Old Trafford earlier in the season. He was like a fish out of water against the pace and power of Anthony Martial. The French winger skipped away from him before creating the opening goal with a clever pass for Paul Pogba, who squeezed his finish between Sergio Rico and his near post. The Spanish goalkeeper perhaps should have done better – but the contest was effectively over after fourteen minutes.
Martial then displayed the blistering pace and mesmerising skill that prompted United to pay Monaco a rumoured £36m for his services back in 2015. The winger received possession from Phil Jones and sprinted fully forty yards before curling an unstoppable finish beyond Rico, darting away from both Odoi and the unfortunate Maxime Le Marchand, to double United’s lead. At that point, it seemed as if the visitors could have as many goals as they wanted. It was something of surprise that they only added one more, which came when Pogba clinically converted a penalty after Paul Tierney pointed to the spot when Juan Mata tumbled after Le Marchand’s challenge twenty minutes into the second half.
Fulham’s defensive disarray is old news. Without Alfie Mawson due to a freak injury, the Whites are without a genuine top flight centre back – and it shows. There seems to be a brittleness to their spirit, too, these days that suggests they are beaten once the opposition gets in front. After a bright start, Ranieri’s men showed very little in the second half. The closest they came to a semblance of fight was when Aleksandar Mitrovic squared up to David de Gea in stoppage time after the pair challenged each over for a loose ball.
Time is running out for Fulham and Ranieri. The Italian manager hasn’t been able to make a decent fist of this survival mission – and the placid Craven Cottage crowd appears to have turned against him. The Whites actually started this game at quite a tempo and almost caught United cold at the very start but Luciano Vietto scuffed a simple finish at the back post when he had been sent clear by a raking crossfield ball from Schurrle. A nightmare run of fixtures and a ten point gap to Cardiff – after the Bluebirds’ emotional win at Southampton this afternoon – suggests that a side who achieved promotion with such a swagger last season will soon leave the top flight with barely a whimper. It is a terrible shame and one hell of a missed opportunity.