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Lookman confident Fulham can survive

Ademola Lookman believes Fulham can climb out of the Premier League relegation zone and beat the drop this season.

Scott Parker’s side are currently six points from safety and face bottom of the table Sheffield United in what could prove a pivotal fixture this evening. Lookman, speaking in a wide-ranging interview with the Guardian, has been encouraged by Fulham’s recent displays and believes the squad has the quality to put together a strong run in the second half of the season.

Lookman, who spoke moving about a tough childhood where he faced often not having enough food, revealed that Parker was a key factor in persuading him to return to London last summer.

“Scott Parker spoke to me a lot and I liked what he wanted from me and where he saw me in this team. I’m always thinking of being better and where the team is. But the highlight for me would probably be Leicester away. We won 2-1 and that mattered more than anything.”

His missed penalty in stoppage time at West Ham gets a mention, of course.

“When that incident happened I couldn’t even describe the devastation. I can only try to atone for that error. That was a key thing which people told me after that moment happened – it is about how I come back and use it to turn it into something positive.”

Lookman is insistent that the Cottagers can move out of the bottom three.

“Most definitely. We all believe it’s about us sticking to the task and working hard every day. We can do it and my focus is to help keep the team in the Premier League.”

Parker eyes parallels with Hodgson’s great escape

Scott Parker says Fulham can take inspiration from the great escape staged by Roy Hodgson’s side in 2008 as the Whites look to beat the drop this season.

Parker’s team are six points away from safety with fourteen games remaining and a successful survival bid would rank alongside the way Hodgson’s side bridged a six-point gap in their final three games with a memorable win at Portsmouth on the final day of the season. The current Fulham boss admitted that historical parallels can help to show his squad that their predicament is far from terminal.

Parker told his press conference ahead of tomorrow night’s meeting with relegation rivals Sheffield United:

“All those stories are things you can look onto and give you hope. Roy was part of that, and that’s something that you look to. Hope mainly comes from what I see and the hope and the belief comes from knowing that we can win football matches and that’s the main thing and the main drive really.”

Hodgson himself reminisced about his memories of his survival act with Fulham during his Crystal Palace press conference this afternoon as well.

“Well, we were relegated on so many occasions. So we were lucky. We were lucky in many ways, that Jimmy Bullard hit a wonderful free kick and even more fortunate that Danny Murphy, who wasn’t even supposed to be in the penalty box, scored a goal with his head which is also something which he didn’t do every week.”

Parker will also be dipping into the psychological side of management – which has spoken about several times during his tenure at Craven Cottage – to support his players over the coming weeks.

“It’s a big challenge. I realise how powerful that psychological element is to a football player. Whether you’re playing at one of the best teams in the world or whether you are one of the best players in the world, it’s still a psychological influence on performance.

“I realise that, and that’s from my own experiences as well. I set out at the start of the season and tried to create a culture at this club that everyone feels very at ease, understands the pressures and what’s expected of them, but has a real belief that you want to improve and be self-critical. At the same time, try to give them some idea of what this season was going to look like.

My experiences as a player give me conviction in that because I understood how this would pan out from last year being with the team, to the quick turnaround, to players coming in, to the level up. I probably always knew it was going to be like that. Because I’ve been able to explain it to them, it’s not come as a surprise when we’ve come under a little bit. It’s a constant process to keep trying to develop players in that way.”

‘Huge step forward’ for Cairney

LONDON, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 24: Tom Cairney of Fulham scores his team’s first goal during the Premier League match between Fulham and Crystal Palace at Craven Cottage on October 24, 2020 in London, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Tom Cairney has returned to training as he continues his recovery from a knee injury – something that Fulham manager Scott Parker has described as ‘a huge step forward‘.

The Fulham captain has been welcomed back to a modified training programme at Motspur Park over the past week, marking the first time since December that Cairney has been involved in sessions at the club’s training ground. The 30 year-old midfielder has been out of action since appearing in the 1-1 draw at Newcastle before Christmas and consulted several specialists on how to best tackle what appeared a troublesome knee issue.

Parker updated his press conference this afternoon on Cairney’s progress:

“He went for a laser treatment which we thought might help speed up the process, and he’s come through that pretty well. He’s been training with us this week, albeit modified training, but nowhere near yet being stretched to a real intensity.

“But it’s a huge step forward for him but he’s been modified, and next week we’ll step it up again. It’s little steps for Tom and we’ll see how he comes out of them. At the moment that’s been good so long may it continue.”

Cairney has made just eleven appearances for Fulham this season – scoring a single goal in the defeat by Crystal Palace – and Parker concedes it is far too early to put a date on a potential Premier League return.

Parker prepared for ‘tough game’ against Blades

Scott Parker has admitted that Saturday night’s clash with relegation rivals Sheffield United is a must-win for Fulham – but is taking nothing for granted ahead of the Craven Cottage meeting.

Fulham won their third league game of the season with an impressive away display at Everton last week and earned a point against Burnley in midweek, but Parker knows only victories will help his side away from the drop zone. He knows exactly what to expect from the Blades, who have had their own mini-revival of late – winning three of their last seven league matches.

Parker told his pre-match press conference earlier this afternoon:

“A tough game, a real tough game. They’ve got a manager with vast experience who’s done an exceptional job at Sheffield United. I think we both realise what’s at stake and the battle that’s going to bring. My team will be prepared as best they can to try and get the points.”

The Fulham boss feels that morale is high within the camp as the Whites face what looks like a crucial run of fixtures.

“Confidence is very high, and that’s been the case for large parts of this season. Certainly our performance levels over the past three or four months have shown that. It’s a big game for us at the weekend, and we understand that, we know what’s at stake and we know what we need to do. Of course, performance probably comes a little bit secondary at this moment. We want a result, and that’s our main aim on Saturday.”

“Both teams are going to want to do all they can to win the game. There are 14 games left and of course we go into this one, after picking up four points in what was always going to be a tough week, and it will be another tough game with Sheffield United. I’ve said for a while now that we go into every game wanting to win it, and it will be the same on Saturday.”

Parker voiced his displeasure at the reports linking Fulham defender Terence Kongolo, who featured for the club’s under 23 side this afternoon against Sunderland, with a breach of lockdown rules when he celebrated his birthday with friends last weekend.

“I think like anything you can imagine my reaction to it was not best pleased in the current climate in terms of what everyone is facing and what we’re in. It’s not something which is acceptable to be honest with you. I had the conversation with Terence, he didn’t know a lot about it, (that) is my understanding of it, it was a surprise party and the people who planned it have put him in a very vulnerable position. It’s something which we will deal with as a football club in-house.”

Carvalho brace beats Sunderland

A brace from midfielder Fabio Carvalho ensured Fulham’s under 23s got back to winning ways against Sunderland at the London School of Economics this afternoon.

Colin Omogbehin and Mark Pembridge’s side ended a three-match winless streak with a confident display that absorbed a spirited start from the Black Cats and then clinically finished their chances. Carvalho, who now has ten league goals in another impressive campaign at youth level, was at the heart of the Whites’ most promising moves from the outset and almost opened the scoring after a fine pass from Adrion Pajaziti provided him with a shooting opportunity from an acute angle but Sunderland goalkeeper Anthony Patterson made a smart save.

Defender Conor McAvoy headed over from the ensuing corner, but it was from a set piece at the other end that Sunderland almost took the lead. A wind-assisted corner wrongfooted the returning Fulham goalkeeper Taye Ashby-Hammond and crashed off the crossbar. That was a lucky escape, but Ashby-Hammond then made an excellent stop to deny Josh Hawkes after the attacking midfielder had dribbled past several Fulham defenders and tried an effort from distance.

Fulham went in front midway through the first half when Carvalho coolly converted an excellent Sylvester Jasper cross with a modicum of fuss. The England youth international might have doubled his tally before the break but saw his powerful volley kept out by a combination of Patrick Almond and goalkeeper Patterson.

Almond was called in action after the interval as Fulham made a fast start and the teenage centre back was in just the right place to prevent Carvalho from latching onto Jean-Pierre Tiehi’s low cross. The Black Cats were fortunate to not fall further behind with an hour gone when McAvoy hit the post after being left largely unattended at a corner and Carvalho’s curler grazed the crossbar.

Sunderland nearly levelled matters from their very next attack when the lively Hawkes produced a fabulous right-wing cross but Will Harris’ control let him down at the crucial moment. That proved to be the wake up call that Fulham needed, when Carvalho rolled his second into an unguarded net when an attempted interception of Jayden Harris’ through ball went horribly wrong, eluding a stranded Patterson, and allowing Fulham’s most potent threat a simple finish.

FULHAM UNDER 23s (4-3-3): T. Ashby-Hammond; Duru, McAvoy, Kongolo, Fossey; J. Harris, Pajaziti, Davis; Carvalho, Tiehi, Jasper. Subs: Borto, Larckeche, Murphy, Francois, De Havilland.

BOOKED: Kongolo.

GOALS: Carvalho (21, 64).

SUNDERLAND UNDER 23s: Patterson; Richardson, Taylor, Wilding, Beaumont, Almond, Wombwell, Hackett, W. Harris, Hawkes, Wearne. Subs: Krakue, Richardson, Watts, Chapman.