Alas, another Premier League season has ended in relegation for Fulham. That’s two promotions and two relegations in the past four seasons and a big rebuilding job awaits once again this summer. However, there are reasons to be hopeful as a Fulham fan.
Scott Parker is still the right man for the job and now has a full season of Premier League experience to add to his CV, which already includes a promotion from the Championship - a feat he will be desperate to repeat next year. His Fulham side have played extremely well in patches this season but ultimately, with a squad not quite prepared for the Premier League, they came up short.
But their performances this season must be put into context. Fulham beat Brentford in the Championship play-off final on August 4, 2020 and their Premier League season began on September 12. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic they faced an incredibly short pre-season, with little time to prepare or get Premier League quality players in through the door.
Manchester City and Manchester United, the two teams who competed in the latter stages of the European competitions may have had even less time to prepare, but they didn’t need to revamp their entire squad at short notice. Fulham beat Brentford at Wembley and then had to look to strengthen their squad, without making the same mistakes they did in the summer of 2018 when they spent over £100m in an attempt to stay in the top-flight. That attempt failed miserably.
This season, there have been shoots of positivity from this Fulham team. In February they lost just one game in seven, winning at both Goodison Park and Anfield to give them a shot at survival but unfortunately consistency over the campaign was missing.
Yet Parker has proved he can rejuvenate Fulham from Premier League strugglers to Championship contenders once before, and he now faces the same challenge, albeit on steadier ground. Several of Fulham’s signings were simply loans this time around which means the club are not burdened with high wages in the second tier. Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Mario Lemina, Ola Aina, Alphonse Areola, Ademola Lookman, Joachim Anderson and Josh Maja were all initially signed on loan and should return to their parent clubs.
Of course, this leaves a massive rebuilding job for the staff at Fulham to get them back into the top-flight. But at least this time around Parker and his team have a whole summer to prepare for the season. Three months off should give them enough time to assess and add to their current squad before having a crack at winning automatic promotion from the second tier.
For the past two seasons in the Championship the Cottagers have come up through the play-offs and Fulham are still an attractive proposition for any potential new signing. This summer the club should be advertised to new prospects as a Premier League club. Like Norwich City, Fulham firmly fixed among the 18-22 best teams in the country and should next season be contending for a place in the top flight once again.
Of course, it isn’t going to be an easy sell, but this transfer window is crucial for Fulham, not just in putting together a squad that can compete in the Championship, but one that can stay up in the Premier League in the future. Tosin Adarabioyo at 23 shows promise, Harrison Reed should stick around while Antonee Robinson is also just 23 and has proved to be a top talent collected by the Whites from Wigan Athletic’s fire sale.
Young, hungry and talented players will get this side to the Premier League and Parker has already proved he is the right man for the job. It is now a question of who else they can attract to turn them from ‘yo-yo side’ into Premier League perennials.