Finally confirmation of the news we have pretty much all been expecting over the past couple of weeks, Scott Parker is our new Head Coach. I didn’t for a second think that Tom Cairney would sign a new contract without knowing who the new manager was going to be so I guess this has been in the works for a bit of time. Given that Cairney, the leader of our squad, is clearly happy with the news, I think that we can be confident that it’s a welcome appointment from the players point of you.
I don’t know about you, but I feel so much more confident
about relegation this time around than I did five years ago and one of the
reasons for that is because I think we have a Head Coach who understands the
club so much more than Magath did. Parker finished his career at Fulham. He was
the one of the first signings of the Khan era back in 2013 and has been our
captain and club captain. This is a signing that we can all get excited about.
While he doesn’t have mountains of experience, if we can keep hold of Stuart
Gray then I believe that Scott has all the ingredients to be a successful
manager. He was always the sort of player who would run himself into the ground
for his club and the fact that he has already instilled that sort of attitude
into players who were facing relegation, means that we are in good hands.
One of my fondest memories from his playing days at Fulham
was in 2016 in a dull and uninspiring 1-1 draw at Birmingham. It was just after
the January transfer window when Moussa Dembele had been rumoured to be joining
Spurs, but the move didn’t come off and Dembele’s head dropped. He looked
dis-interested for the remainder of the season. Going into the last few minutes
with the game still level, Jokanovic brought Dembele off but instead of leaving
the pitch quickly he decided to make his feelings known and went slowly, making
the home and away crowd go nuts considering that the game could still be won by
someone. Parker was our captain that day and he sprinted to Dembele, took him
by the arm and ran him off the pitch. He wasn’t waiting for some kid to throw
his toys out of his pram, he was focused on the game and trying to give Fulham
a chance to gain all three points. There is no messing around with Parker, and
that is the sort of thing we need going into a very difficult Championship
However, I think we
need to have our realistic heads on next season. We don’t know how the squad
will look come August and we know that there are a lot of areas where we need
strengthening. The Championship is probably the most difficult league in the world
to get out of, even for managers and coaches who have a tonne of experience. Without
knowing what our squad will look like it’s hard to really say what our target
should be next year, but I’d imagine that the Khan’s are focused on promotion.
Obviously that’s what we would like, but I think we have to back a long-term
project. If it doesn’t happen next season it’s not the end of the world. The
Khan’s have acted swiftly, giving Parker a full summer and pre-season which is
great news. This is a new chapter in our history, and I can’t wait to see what
We are about to enter a crucially important phase in the
Shahid Khan era at Fulham. The decision about who you want in charge of your
football team is likely the most important decision to be made for any owner, particularly
when the club is in a fragile position. It’s like surgery to me. Everything has
to be done carefully and concisely, yet each move has to also be made with
complete confidence and any mistake can be catastrophic.
For me the fatal move this season was replacing Slavisa
Jokanovic with Claudio Ranieri. While I think that Slav’s days were numbered, I
would rather have stuck with him than have Ranieri at the helm, purely because
of just how different the footballing philosophies were of the two men. There
are a heck of a lot of ‘ifs and buts’ when it comes to life in general, never
mind football, and sometimes we are better just getting on with it than going
down the rabbit-hole and trying to dissect every decision ever made. That’s not
to say that those in charge shouldn’t be assessing, evaluating and learning,
but as fans we shouldn’t worry too much about what is behind, and instead focus
on the road to come.
The question now for Khan is who is his man to take the club
forward following our terrible Premier League return. Arguably Khan’s only successful
appointment has been Jokanovic, with Rene Meulensteen, Felix Magath, Kit Symons
and Claudio Ranieri all failing to live up to expectations, some drastically
worse than others. However, with five years now under his belt as the owner of
Fulham I believe that lessons have been learned from each of these.
In classically Fulham fashion, we have turned in three very solid displays since our relegation at Watford at the start of the month, and have won three on the bounce with three clean sheets. When Scott Parker took over he had Chelsea, Leicester, Liverpool and Manchester City in his first four games so losing his first four was hardly a surprise. We did get a decent reaction from the players, however, and weren’t far off taking points from the Chelsea and Liverpool games in particular. Parker has clearly had an impact.
Scott Parker understands Fulham. He knows what it is like to
play for the club, and this is something that can’t be underestimated. There is
no doubt in my mind that he has the heart for this job. The question for me now
is does he have the head for it? We have been better since he took over, and
three wins in a row is a barely believable but I feel that he got things wrong
at both Leicester and Watford. I think he was outmanaged in both of those games
which is a worry for me. He is still developing his own way of playing but the
early signs are that he prefers a style more Jokanovic than Ranieri, something
that I’d welcome at the club. My fear is that the games that we have won, not
taking anything way from them individually, have been games played with no
pressure. Already relegated, we have been playing for pride and while it’s
great to see pride restored to an extent, it’s a different ball game entirely
getting results in the Championship.
It could work, but it’s not a decision to be taken lightly.
Parker is turning a lot of heads and making a lot more fans believe in him.
Clearly the players like playing for him, but we have no idea what the squad
will look like come August. All we can do as fans is sit and wait.
As a fan base we have been badly let down by our club this
season. The turmoil on the pitch has been matched off it when it comes to
ticket prices and policies. True fans have been exploited with massive price
increases, a lack of concession and youth tickets and the strange policy of
selling tickets to members (open to everyone) before STHs. We don’t have to
look further than the Liverpool game last week as an example of how badly the
club are failing when it comes to tickets, with the first few rows directly
behind the goal in the Hammersmith End filled with fans not celebrating Ryan
Babel’s goal against his former club. Unashamed Liverpool fans were so
obviously in every stand that it was embarrassing.
Seemingly the club doesn’t care about who buys the tickets. If
people buy them, Fulham fans or not, they will continue to charge the
extortionate prices. The decision to not have reduced prices for concessions
and young people is leading to true fans not being able to afford to go. Parents
are having to spend a ridiculous amount of money if they want to involve their
children in supporting the club, so it’s becoming a massive put off. For me
Fulham has always been about family values and inclusion, but with the current
ticketing policy, these values seem to be a thing of the past. What an absolute
Our good friends at the Fulhamish Podcast have been
particularly vocal over the ticket policy at the club. The #StoptheGreed
campaign was supposed to be properly launched this Saturday in the early
kick-off against the Champions, with fan funded banners displayed in the Hammersmith
End with the aim of making a point to the Fulham authorities that as a fanbase
we are not happy with the approach the club is taking. Unfortunately the club
has decided to not let the banners into the ground because they don’t want
anything, …”not supportive of the team.” Then
why flood the home sections of the grounds with Liverpool fans? Why charge so
much money that real fans are shunted out in favour of tourists and touts?
When we got promoted last season,
Fulham were faced with an opportunity to further increase a swelling fanbase.
We may have lost a number of fans following our relegation back in 2014, but
over our four years away from the top flight, we gained a heck of a lot of new
followers. The brand of football that got us promoted was so attractive and our
identity as a family club meant that many people without a club found a home on
the banks of the Thames. All that good work has possibly been undone this
season, and it’s not because of the shambles on the pitch, it’s what is
unfolding off it. I’d advise the club to think carefully about what is next. Stop
ignoring the voice of your loyal supporters or else I’d imagine that people
will start voting with their feet. We are facing another relegation and club’s
in our position need their fans more than ever. Don’t push us away.
As much as I enjoy international football, I have never
really been absolutely buzzing for international breaks to come around. They always
seem to disrupt the domestic football and there aren’t as many matches. At the
minute, however, any distraction form the Premier League is a welcome one.
Things haven’t been pretty on the banks of the Thames, to put it mildly. So
instead of talking about Fulham’s disaster of a season, I thought I’d talk
about another favourite topic of mine, Northern Irish and Irish players who
have played throughout the years in our famous white shirt. I’ll limit to just
my top 5, as I have a game to get to tonight at Windsor Park at 1945!
The Hangeland-Hughes partnership will go down as one of the
greatest centre back pairing in Fulham’s Premier League history. Under the
guidance of Roy Hodgson Fulham became defensively sound, something that we
badly crave this season, and Hughes was vital in this. He racked up 250
appearances for Fulham across all competitions and scored a handful of goals
along the way. He was a crucial part of both the Greatest Escape year in 2008
and then the Europa League run of 2010. He is my all time favourite Northern
Irish player and captain .
2. Ollie Norwood
It might have only been a loan deal, but the decision to
bring Norwood to Fulham turn out to be a stroke of genius. Norwood has always
had a touch of quality about him, we have known that for years in Northern
Ireland. He might try a Hollywood pass too often for some, but it’s that vision
that has been so important for Northern Ireland. Last season at Fulham we badly
needed someone to step in for Cairney when he was injured, and Norwood was the
one to do that. He might not quite be the level of Cairney but he is what we
needed at the time. And who could forgot THAT tackle in the dying seconds of
the play-off final that prevented Aston Villa’s final chance? What a guy.
3. Damien Duff
Damien Duff was one of those players who when they are signed,
you get very excited about. He may have been slightly past his prime but we all
knew what he was capable of from his time at Chelsea and Newcastle. He was one
of those players who had a sweet left foot, but played on the right for the
majority of his time at Fulham. The Craven Cottage crowd used to get such a
buzz when he would cut in from the right and have a pop at goal. He always had
a bit of magic about him and I loved seeing him play at Fulham.
4. Chris Baird
Bairdinho. When he announced his retirement this year I was genuinely
gutted. He has been such an important figure for club and country for years and
there aren’t many out there quite like him. Baird was one of the most versatile
players at Fulham, and he was happy to play wherever was required. He was a
typical ‘leave everything on the pitch’ kind of guy, and those goals at Stoke City
will stay in Fulham folklore forever.
5. Rodney McAree
Not many players can say that they have a chant that is
still sang around a club 20years or so after they have left, but Rodney McAree
can. I was too young to remember said goal, but I doubt there are many Fulham
fans out there who don’t know about McAree’s goal up at Carlisle. Rodney also
happens to be one of the nicest guys in football. He gave me one of my first
exclusive interviews a couple of years back, something that I really
appreciated. He owns a little part of Fulham history so he is rightfully
remembered by the Fulham faithful.
It’s around 7pm on 25th May, 2018. Ten of thousands of Fulham fans are in complete delirium at Wembley, completely overwhelmed at what we have witnessed. Our Fulham sealed promotion to the Premier League playing a wonderful, fun-filled style of football. We have done it with a group of players who clearly love playing with each other, and with an 18 year-old kid who has been a revelation in the side. We have owners willing to spend both on and off the pitch with a new stadium development incoming. The future is very bright for Fulham.
Fast forward to 10pm, 27th February 2019. We have
just witnessed an extremely deflated Fulham side limp to a 2-0 defeat to
relegation rivals Southampton. Our Italian manager, the man who led Leicester
to the most unlikely of Premier League titles a few years ago, set his side up
in a negative way, playing players out of position and leaving our best midfielder
in Seri out of the side altogether despite saying that we had no injury
To say I’m angry at the state of affairs at Fulham right now
would be an understatement. I’m furious. What a complete and utter shambles
this season has been. What a wasted opportunity. While I think that Slav was
out of his depth, I would honestly rather have stuck with him than have sacked
him when we did for Claudio Ranieri. While there were some slight improvements at
the start under him, the negatives since then have just piled up.
Alongside his frustratingly negative tactics and his insistence
on playing Cairney out wide whenever everything good comes through him in the
middle, it’s his treatment of Ryan Sessegnon that upsets me the most. He has
turned Sessegnon into someone afraid of the football. Benching him, publically
saying that he is out of form, not strong enough etc and then the few times
that he does play, hauling him off at half time because of a couple of mistakes
have all contributed to deflating the player of confidence . Sessegnon was our
brightest spark last season and that was because he was given the opportunity to
flourish. I’m from a teaching background, and I remember my tutor at university
saying that our job as teachers was to create an environment in which pupils
could, and wanted, to flourish. I believe that coaching football, or any sport
for that matter, has the same principles. Ranieri should be laying the
foundations for our players to become great, but instead it’s like the life has
been sucked out of them, and it’s just heartbreaking.
We are so far away from that showing of unity last year. Our
next three games at home are Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City- all games
that 7 months ago we were relishing. Getting to see your club compete with some
of the biggest clubs in the world is something that every fan should relish,
but now I just wish that we could fast forward a month. We have a talented squad,
but under our current boss I don’t see those players being able to play with
any sort of freedom. At the minute we aren’t just going down, we are plummeting
so fast that it’s a blink and you’ll miss it sort of scenario.
If we are going down,
I want us to go down fighting but to do that we need to remove Ranieri now. I
don’t want us to rush into another managerial change, so my choice would be
Parker until the end of the season to buy time to consider properly who we want
in charge of the team. Another rushed decision isn’t going to do us any
favours, but keeping Ranieri for me will do more harm than good.