There have been several Fulham players who have gone on to manage the club at some point in their career…
Our third highest goal scorer Bedford Jezzard remains our longest serving manager in the top flight, Finlay Street born and bred Malcolm MacDonald returned home to deliver a fantastic brand of football which culminated in promotion followed by the most controversial end to a season in the clubs history. The great Sir Bobby Robson began his managerial career on the banks of the Thames, not to mention Frank Osborne, Bill Dodgin Jr and Ray Lewington from our post war years.
Honourable mentions to Johnny Haynes and Karl-Heinz Riedle for caretaker cameos but today I’m going to focus on the most recent five players to take the biggest job in world football. Micky Adams, Paul Bracewell, Chris Coleman, Kit Symons and the recently departed Scott Parker…
5 – PAUL BRACEWELL
It was no surprise when Kevin Keegan walked out on the club to take the England job in 1999, but not many saw the highly ambitious Mohamed Al Fayed gambling on one of his midfielders to be his replacement. Especially given the ruthless nature of Micky Adams’ departure when he took over the club two years earlier.
It was a mammoth task for Brace to continue the project of getting the club to the Premier League and maybe he was the victim of being the wrong man at the wrong time. A 9th placed finish might have seemed a decent start to management had we been another club with less ambition, but anything short of the playoffs was deemed failure and Bracewell’s tenure as manager didn’t even last the season. He was sacked at the end of March with Karl-Heinz Riedle and Roy Evans appointed in caretaker charge until the arrival of the legend, Jean Tigana.
21 years on and the man who led Fulham’s charge into the new millennium is most fondly remembered for his nickname, “Persil” because he loved a clean sheet! Fulham signed off the millennium with a December that read 0-0, 0-0, 0-0, 0-0 and a 2-0 loss. It was turgid to watch and made Parkerball look adventurous. Far too boring to ever work alongside the flamboyant ownership of our Mo.
His legacy at Fulham is arguably bringing Lee Clark to the club. Without his Geordie connections, it’s unlikely we would have signed our future captain. Andy Melville and Bjarne Goldbaek were also good signings brought in under his watch and when you add in the 9th place finish which isn’t disastrous and the cup runs, especially the victory over Spurs, it’s enough to give his overall rating a few brownie points at least.
Overall Rating – 3.5/10
4 – KIT SYMONS
Whilst others on the list inherited a wealth of talent, which would have gone a long way to aid their introduction into management, Kit Symons was dealt a very tough hand. The squad was disjointed and lacking in any quality or direction. In addition, off the field, the club was as demoralised as it had been for 20 years.
He pulled the club from the basement of the Championship pretty quickly and his bright form as caretaker boss resulted in the club having little choice but to give him a chance on a full time basis. Small steps of progress were made over the next 18 months but not big enough for the expectations of a club desperate to get back to the Premier League.
The infamous diamond formation left question marks over whether he had hit his ceiling and, with the club in mid table, he was sacked after 15 games of the 2015/16 campaign. He left the club in 11th place, 5 points off the playoffs and as the top scorers in the division. Given time, who knows what would have happened, but unfortunately you don’t get time in this game and the direction the team went in under Slavisa Jokanovic is evidence that the club got this managerial switch correct. However, I’ll always be grateful to Kit for giving us our Fulham back.
Overall Rating – 5/10
3 – SCOTT PARKER
After winning 3 games in a row in temporary charge at the back end of our 2018/19 relegation from the Premier League. Scott Parker was given the full time job and the task of leading Fulham in an immediate return to the top flight.
On paper at least, our squad was considered stronger than most and we were one of the favourites, headed into the campaign. Despite the fact that Fulham were never in the top 2 that season, Scott Parker fulfilled his objective via the playoffs, thanks to Joe Bryan’s magical brace at Wembley. An impressive achievement in his first season in management.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to repeat such a feat in the Premier League and despite being competitive in most games (up until March at least), we capitulated when it mattered most and took an abysmal 2 points from our last 10 games. There were many factors in why last season was a failure but you can’t reap the praise of promotion despite the running of the club, only to then escape culpability, and blame relegation entirely on it.
Five wins all season, the worst goal return at home in Premier League history and the worst home record Fulham have ever had for goals, wins and points is inexcusable. Regardless of the flaws in the squad, they were certainly capable of more than breaking those unwanted records.
The manner of his departure and the way it dragged on didn’t reflect well on anyone. That’ll certainly leave a cloud over his time at the club and although the football was very boring to watch, he did at least achieve promotion and that has to be factored when ranking him against the others on the list.
Overall Rating – 6/10
2 – CHRIS COLEMAN
Chris Coleman has had an unusual managerial career, from hitting unexpected heights with Wales by reaching the semi finals at Euro 2016, to some very questionable career choices at club level, none of which ended particularly well. In a way, his time at Fulham was the calm before the storm. A “Steady Eddie” at the helm, doing a consistently adequate job, rarely exceeding the expectation of the fans.
After having his career cut short due to a car crash in 2001, it wasn’t much of a surprise to see Fulham turn to their former skipper as a replacement for Jean Tigana two years later. Cookie was a born leader and one of the most popular, well respected personalities at the club during our rise to the Premier League.
He inherited a side that still consisted of his former team mates, and was arguably the most gifted group of players the club has had in the Premier era. Coleman took full advantage of this opportunity by securing our top flight status for a third season, taking an impressive 10 points from the remaining 5 games of 2002/03, followed by recording, at the time, the clubs highest league finish of 9th the following season.
With Louis Saha in the form of his life, Fulham were 4th after 17 games going into the Christmas period and only began to fizzle out after the Frenchman’s sale to Manchester Utd. We ended the campaign 8 points off a Champions League place and 4 points behind 5th, demonstrating both what a great season it was and what could have been had we kept hold of King Louis for the remainder of the season.
The following summer saw the club return home after a two year spell at Loftus Road. A steady League finish of 13th followed, the team ending the season in style by securing our joint biggest Premier League win, thrashing Norwich City 6-0. The result relegated the Canaries.
Slowly but surely, the personnel on the pitch began to deteriorate in quality with replacements not as good as those departing. By the start of 2005/06, a lack of investment in the team left us with a very ordinary side that relied heavily on the flair and brilliance of Steed Malbranque and Luis Boa Morte. The pair were pivotal in everything we did going forward and carried the team similarly to the way in which Wilfried Zaha does for Crystal Palace.
Coleman was sacked in April 2007 due to the sides poor run of form. He left the club in 15th place, 4 points clear of the relegation places with only 5 games left to play. Lawrie Sanchez came in as his replacement and got us the 4 points needed to keep us above the dotted line at the expense of Sheffield United, but in hindsight, it was far from a justified swap.
It’s hard to know what potential Cookie had as a young manager based on his time at Fulham. With the good group he inherited, he achieved a top half finish but was never given the financial backing to build on it. His legacy as a manager will be providing us with Premier League wins at Old Trafford and against Chelsea. He’s the only person to win either fixture in the Premier League and Bedford Jezzard is the only other manager to achieve that particular double for Fulham.
He headed the Fulham dugout for 1456 days making him our 7th longest serving manager. That also makes him our longest serving manager in the Premier League and second behind Bedford Jezzard in the top flight. Finishes of 9th, 13th, 12th and the 15th place he left us in suggest a solid, if not spectacular period for the club and I hope my overall rating reflects that.
Overall Rating – 7.5/10
1 – MICKY ADAMS
Having spent the past decade in free fall with the future of both the club and the Cottage in jeopardy during the late 1980’s, you’d be hard pressed to find a Fulham fan who doesn’t have the utmost respect for Micky Adams. The lesser of two evils was for the club to be saved, only to be left with little money to survive on in the years that followed. This led to the club being relegated to the bottom tier and reaching an all time low under Ian Branfoot, losing to the only side below us in the football league Torquay United. Branfoot was never the most popular character, and it’s only with hindsight that fans recognise the foundations he laid for the club to stabilise itself again. He was sacked towards the end of the 1995/96 season and went upstairs to continue overseeing the running of the club with Micky appointed as a player manager. What happened next would go down as arguably the most important season in Fulham’s history.
The club did good business that summer bringing in the likes of Darren Freeman, Richard Carpenter and Paul Watson. We started brightly winning 11 of our first 14 games and that gave us the momentum to keep pushing and maintain a place in the top 3. Carlisle United were one of the teams chasing us in the promotion race and with 6 games to go, Rodney McAree wrote his name into Fulham folklore by putting the ball in the Carlisle net to all but seal promotion. This was confirmed 3 days later away to Mansfield Town on the 8th April 1997. Just like Scott Parker, Micky had achieved promotion with the club in his first full season as a manager. The difference being that Micky had pulled off the impossible.
To this day, Micky and his players are remembered as the team that gave Fulham Football Club a future. All the promotions, Premier League memories and European journeys from the Al Fayed era probably don’t happen if the club isn’t promoted. We are in a completely different place now as a club where we expect promotions and have ambitions to be in the Premier League but what was so special about this team and this promotion was the innocence of it all. The supporters had borne a heavy weight on their shoulders for several years and deserved a special season that would put smiles on faces. This is what football is all about. The ups, the downs, the dedication to your club through its darkest days and the unrivalled joy when your team exceeds expectations.
Soon after, Mohamed Al Fayed bought the club and Micky didn’t last long before being replaced by the high profile names of Ray Wilkins and Kevin Keegan. It was very harsh given what he had achieved to get Fulham into the old Division Two and within a year or so, most of the squad had suffered the same fate with Simon Morgan the only player to survive the overhaul of the squad.
In some respects, Micky Adams gets a free pass as he wasn’t given the opportunity to fail at Fulham. His record reads pure because of his untimely sacking and that makes it very hard to give him anything but a perfect score.
Overall Rating – 10/10