As I sit down to write this reaction, expressing my thoughts on yesterday’s toothless display at Griffin Park, I’m struggling to find the correct tone with which to demonstrate my feelings.
It seems to be a recurring theme under the Khan’s ownership that our fan base has become divided. We seem split between those who want to give Parker as much time and support as it takes to get things right, whilst the other half are a little more pragmatic and reluctant to persevere if they don’t see any potential in the direction he is taking Fulham. We all see the game differently and have different patience levels for knowing when it’s right to pull the plug on a manager’s time in charge. I understand that. But I have always believed in Parkxit and didn’t want him in the first place. In that respect, I come from an unfairly biased view, where I am very quick to see the bad in his management, and not easily swayed by anything good he appears to do. In many ways, I admire those who want to see the good in Parker and believe he will come good eventually. But those on the opposite end of this argument aren’t calling for him to go for anything other than the good of the club. We all have the club’s interests at heart, we just go about it in our own individual ways.
Fulham have had a pretty good run of it in recent times. The fact that, for some fans, being so far behind the top two is a crisis demonstrates how great the new millennium has been. But many of you will remember when it wasn’t so great. Rewind to 1983, when a superb Fulham side were one win away from the top flight and on the cusp of something special, only to come up just short because of Derby County, amongst a number of other things including a lack of investment in the squad. That team was then dismantled and Fulham lived up to their reputation as a selling club, losing all their best players. All of a sudden, a team worthy of promotion failed, resulting in the club declining into the darkest era of our history. Obviously, I’m not suggesting history will repeat itself to that extreme! But in many ways, the team we have this season is equally good enough to be going up and it is an opportunity we can’t afford to risk by going through the motions, as you can never be sure when the next opportunity will come along.
Ipswich Town were the longest-serving Championship club and they plodded along going sideways which inevitably resulted in everyone else overtaking them and relegation last season. This is why I am not keen on Scott Parker. Fulham have a head start on most clubs with this crop of players and I don’t want to risk everyone catching up for the sake of grooming Scott Parker into a good manager. Fulham’s priority is Fulham, not the training school for rookie managers. So the alarm bells were ringing for me as soon as he was appointed last season before the Newcastle game. You can never read anything into caretaker spells in charge and history has repeatedly shown us that. After being confirmed as the permanent boss we lost the following game 4-0 to Newcastle at the Cottage which was the perfect way to sign off on a shambolic season. Fast forward to post Brentford and the only display I have seen that I felt was convincing was the 4-0 drubbing of Millwall. An incredible 90-minute performance but one that we have failed to build upon. Even when we were on the recent 4-game winning run, which seems an age ago now, I wasn’t convinced by his decision making or his tactical approach. It felt as though we bulldozed our way through those wins simply because of the quality of player we are fortunate to have.
There are no excuses for Parker to fail as far as I’m concerned. He has the tools to do the job and if he can’t do it at this level with a squad that is superior to those of the other teams, how on earth can he be the man to take us forward into the Premier League where we will be inferior to the majority and he will no longer have the privilege of a better team?
Scott Parker was not in a position to be appointed manager of a football club with expectations to bounce back at the first attempt. There is a lot of pressure to get us up before this squad is dismantled. Although it is a little lopsided in places, it is comfortably adequate to rival Leeds and West Brom in what should have been a three-horse race for the automatics. Instead, on paper, the top two are so far out of sight that we are actually an equal distance between Reading in 18th and Leeds in 2nd. This suggests our current position in the play-off places papers over many cracks as we continue doing the bare minimum to be in the pack with everyone else. The only difference between the top two and Fulham is staring us all in the face. They both have experienced managers who know how to get the best out of players and we have lumbered ourselves with a rookie.
Anyway, on to to the match yesterday and there were no shocks for me in the line-up. Kebano has done enough in his two cameos of late to deserve a chance. Kamara was on the bench to make room for the inevitable selection of Josh Onomah, who in my eyes has already become Scott Parker’s version of Sean Kavanagh with no fan able to understand why he’s picked.
I predicted a 1-1 draw for the Focus twitter account before kick-off but, if truth be told, that was out of a reluctance to admit defeat in a West London derby. Deep down I was not optimistic, with every ounce of confidence drained out of me this season. Brentford have become a right pain in the backside of late! The Scrappy Doo of West London trying to show that they can mix it with the bigger clubs, desperate to be noticed with an underdog mentality as once again our own lot proved that they didn’t have a Scooby!
Their players over the years always seem to understand what the fixture means to their supporters. They always appear up for it, motivated from the very first ball and are always first to every 50-50. Most impressive of all, they always seem more organised than we do and have come a long way as a football club. Now established in the Championship, they somehow do it by reinvesting themselves after losing their best players and managers. From Andre Gray to Jota, Maupay to Meppam, they always seem to find that next gem on the cheap to continue the progressive success they have had since promotion. Meanwhile, Fulham can’t even spend 100 million correctly! There is a lot we could learn from Brentford, particularly when it comes to managerial appointments… This game was no different.
The Bees doing what Bees do best, buzzing around making a nuisance of themselves, taking a well-deserved lead in the 22nd minute and then tactically managing the game by taking the sting out of it. It was such a crap football match to attend and I find myself thinking that most weeks with the style imposed on our players. The defending for the goal was painful to watch. Our ‘commanding’ centre half was once again outmuscled and knocked to the floor with minimal force as the floodgates opened. It also happened last week against Preston under the crossbar. He missed the majority of last season after injuring himself tying his shoelaces when we were pinning our hopes on him shoring up the defence. Instead, we were relegated and all of this for a cost of £15 million! It’s time to free Steve Marlet of the tag as Fulham’s most expensive flop. Seri, Anguissa, Mitroglou and now Mawson are in an elite of their own. Marlet may not have been the messiah we hoped he would be but this is someone who contributed heavily to us winning the Intertoto Cup, continuing on in the UEFA Cup, with only Zamora and Andy Johnson scoring more European goals than him and he scored a dozen or so goals in the Premier League. More importantly, at no stage with Marlet in the team did our status as a Premier League club come under threat, whereas the signing of Mawson has contributed nothing but a downward spiral and he can’t even cope in the Championship! You want to tag someone as a big waste of money, you’ll find him just in front of Rodak, to the right of Tim Ream and most likely on the floor.
No two Fulham players seemed to be on the same wavelength yesterday. Nobody appeared motivated or inspired by the dugout and, dare I say it, the players didn’t look like they were giving their heart and soul for the manager. In actual fact, half of them looked bored out of their heads. I wonder if it goes through a players mind as it does with fans about certain decision making which leads to a lack of confidence in the person you are taking instructions from? Would you be inspired as a player if Josh Onomah was repeatedly selected? Nothing against the lad, in actual fact he had his best game yesterday, but his best game simply isn’t good enough. He adds very little to the team and fails to influence the match. He is the type of player that can do a job in a side down the bottom of the table who don’t have much possession and stick to basics with very little ambition. In a side expected to be pushing for promotion, he lacks the inventive, footballing brain and talent required to keep Fulham on the front foot.
The line “But Parker’s unlucky with injuries which is why he plays” is a poor excuse. You’ve got Matt O’Reilly on the bench twiddling his thumbs who is never going to get a better opportunity to break into the team, one of our own and a player sought after by some top sides in Europe. Yet Parker stubbornly opts to play a Spurs reject instead? Another example of signing pointless players to block the path for up and coming academy graduates. Just like we did to Emerson Hyndman, opting to play people like Sakari Matilla instead. Fulham Football Club, the club that never learns from previous mistakes!
I can’t be bothered to report much more on the game itself to be honest. Kebano hit the outside of the post. Ollie Watkins likewise before they took the lead. It was everything I expected it would be, lack of chances, lack of passion and a lack of desire to win. An uninspiring performance from an uninspiring manager.
I think we will do enough even with Parker in charge to make the playoffs because of the likes of Mitro being match-winners but from what I’ve seen so far, I fear he would be tactically outthought by any manager he comes up against over the two legs of a playoff and it’s time to look elsewhere for a manager that can get us over the line. Anyone got Chris Hughton’s number?