Although Fulham are facing a battle to prevent a hat-trick of relegations in as many Premier League seasons, this campaign has felt very different to the past two failures and Scott Parker is at the heart of that contrast…
Whether you rewind 8 years, back to when the Khan’s took over, or 2 years to our previous relegation from the Premier League. There are similarities in the way we chopped and changed managers, styles of play and starting line-ups, hoping there was a magic wand that could transform the same squad of players overnight. It was disjointed and a route that can easily alienate players as they are never certain how long the manager will be around or what the general plan is week in, week out as each manager has their way of putting their training/instructions across.
Therefore, some credit for the recent turnaround should go to the Khans for learning that pressing the panic button doesn’t guarantee anything but uncertainty and their faith in Parker is now coming to fruition with recent results to back up our consistent performances. It’s been a fantastic week to be a Fulham fan, and I have found myself in a glowing mood ever since we broke the Goodison Park curse. It makes such a difference when you have a group of players to be proud of and equally, it makes a huge difference to the players when they are happy in their environment regardless of the results.
Football is easy when you are doing well and winning. You are full of confidence and think you are invincible. You take more risks, want to receive the ball and most importantly don’t second guess what you are doing. So, this leads me onto my main admiration for Scott Parker. Despite only having 2 wins until recently, he has managed to keep the team’s morale and confidence sky high. You never see us doing anything uncharacteristic or panicking in possession. Every player believes in the way we are playing and they are all fighting for each other.
Scott is a good friend of mine and a wonderful person. I don’t know anyone in the game who doesn’t like him, but more importantly, anyone who doesn’t respect him. For someone who is still taking baby steps in his management career, it is incredible that he has managed to keep so many high profile players’ feet on the ground, especially the ones on loan, and that is because Scott Parker is a winner, a fighter and a leader.
If we cast our minds back to the playoffs last year when we lost the second leg to Cardiff. Picture the huddle on the pitch at full time where the togetherness and hunger to do well for this club was clear to see and made the hair on the back of your neck stand up. We then went into the final against a Brentford side who we had a very poor record against and tactically out-thought them in every way on the night that mattered. That’s all down to Scott’s fantastic man management. He takes the psychological side of the game very seriously and we have witnessed a similar pattern and spirit with 3 completely different sets of players, in 3 consecutive seasons. From the final few matches of our last relegation where we won 3 games in a row, to promotion at the first time of asking, to the present day.
As a player and now as a manager, he has always conducted himself in the right way, but equally should never be mistaken as a pushover. He can give as good as he gets and we saw recently away to Burnley that he is not a man easily intimidated despite his very calm and collected persona. He shows so much passion for both the game and the club, as we saw at the final whistle against Sheffield United, and as a former player of this wonderful club, I can understand why he feels this way towards Fulham because It is a very special club.
Nobody knows how the rest of the season is going to play out but if you had told me that with 14 games to go, our fate was going to be in our own hands (thanks to Newcastle being our last game with a better goal difference), I would have taken it. If we go down, I think it’s fair to say that it won’t be without a fight, but if we do stay up… Getting a relegated club promoted at the first time of asking, followed by keeping them in the Premier League whilst having to embed a whole team of new players and deal with Covid, in the shortest preparation time ever for a promoted club going into the Premier League. If he pulls this off, he deserves to be considered as the best up-and-coming manager in the game and thankfully, he is our manager.
Keep the faith guys. In Scott we trust!