Jack Stroudley looks back at how Parker’s stock has risen – and continues to rise.
Fulham’s transformation in the last few months has been nothing short of spectacular. We have a defence with grit and determination to see games out, a midfield with the desire to win the ball back continuously and an overall winning mentality. Our upturn in form in last few months is a credit to the tactical work behind the scenes from the coaching staff with all eyes on Scott Parker. With it not always going his way during his tenure at Fulham, just how far has Parker come as a manager?
The building blocks
Parker joined as caretaker manager in February 2019 to replace Claudio Ranieri at a doomed and dejected Fulham. The mood around the club was bleak, with the prospect of relegation seeming an almost certain reality. Despite the inevitable relegation, we saw some real promise from Scott with what seemed to be a poorly crafted squad.
Parker’s 4-2-3-1 saw us pick up in form winning games against Everton, Bournemouth and Cardiff, and we saw early signs of his ability to get the best out of players with Ryan Babel, Tom Cairney and Andre Frank Zambo Anguissa all performing well under him. This inevitably landed Scott the full time role at the end of the season.
A bumpy road
Scott’s tenure at the club hasn’t always been plain sailing, and he’s endured criticism on multiple occasions from Fulham fans (myself included). During last season in the Championship, we saw periods where fans we’re calling for Parker’s head after particularly disheartening performances. The 3-0 loss at home to Barnsley and the 2-0 loss away at Stoke stick out as games which left Parker’s residence in SW6 in question.
Following our promotion – and Parker’s finest moment to date – we suffered a horrendous start in the Premier League, picking up one point in our opening six games and conceding 14 goals along the way. While the blame wasn’t primarily aimed at Parker, it was evident Scott was struggling to adapt to the step up in quality and that drastic change was needed internally in order to give us any chance of staying up.
A willingness to learn
With every hurdle that Scott Parker has faced, he’s seemed to find a way to make the best out of the situation. In the Championship we was able to dig in deep and pick up form at the right time, going seven unbeaten at the end of the season to secure a play-off place and ultimately gain promotion.
As mentioned above, our start to this season was woeful and left us in a tricky situation with no light at the end of the tunnel. However, Parker has shown a willingness and a desire to adapt and find a way to pick up results. His first aim was to solidify our defence. He switched to a 5-2-3 in order to create that defensive stability and structure, while giving us creativity to attack on the counter. From Leicester away onwards, we have seen the improvements made and from December onwards only Manchester City have conceded fewer goals than us.
Scott’s next issue with going forward, we seemed to be out of ideas creatively following a run of draws which ideally needed to be wins. Scott then changed things up to a 4-3-3 with reliance on both full-backs to attack as well as defend. We saw instant improvement going forward, with wins against Everton and Sheffield United coming over the course of a week.
And at Anfield yesterday, we saw Scott adapt again, changing to a 4-4-2 and playing long balls out to the flanks to try and exploit Liverpool’s weaknesses in defence. The game plan worked to a tee and every player was extraordinary picking up a 1-0 win and giving us the belief that this team really could stay up.
Big game moments
During his time at the club, Scott hasn’t shied away from make decisions during big games to find a way to win, and has succeeded most of the time. During the play-off final in a game where Brentford were clear favourites, Scott decided to play Denis Odoi over Cyrus Christie as a more defensive full-back to try and nullify Said Benrahma from creating opportunities. It proved to be a genius decision that worked out and ultimately helped us win the day.
We’ve also seen this from Scott since our promotion to the Premier League. Most notably in games away at Leicester, Everton and Liverpool, with different tactical approaches being taken. All of which ended in the same positive outcome for us: a Fulham win.
The future of Fulham?
While Scott is still young and has a lot to learn, I think he’s made a brilliant start to his managerial career. His ability and determination to get Fulham promoted at the first time of asking and his willingness to adapt and evolve to meet the demanding step up of the Premier League stands him in good stead.
He’s given us the confidence to believe we can stay up, and with a good core group of Premier League talent at his disposal who could blame us? Whether we survive or not, I believe Scott is the right man to take Fulham into the future and provide us with a sustainable and progressive football club.