Five candidates to replace Scott Parker

Louis Wishlade 25th May 2021

Louis Wishlade suggests some names that could replace Scott Parker, should he or the club decide that it’s time for a change.

With the season over, Scott Parker’s future at the club feels uncertain, thanks in part to his recent comments and the complete lack of comment from the powers that be. So, should one or both of the involved parties decide that it’s time for a change, who could be lined up to replace him? Here are five suggestions:

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First, the honourable mentions

Before we begin, here are the inevitable frontrunners. Eddie Howe has been linked to what seems like every managerial job under the sun since he left Bournemouth. But, with teams such as Tottenham, Celtic and even England supposedly after him, would he really join Fulham?

The names Andre Villas-Boas, David Wagner and Marco Silva may also be mentioned, all of whom are currently looking for work. The trio all have experience at the helm of a Premier League club and could prove to be valuable additions to the Motspur Park backroom for a long-term project.

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Fulham legend Chris Coleman also finds himself out of contract having left Hebei China Fortune in 2019, and could find himself linked to any vacancy. Though it might seem a bit leftfield, the Welshman is somewhat of a known quantity at the club and he would surely be greeted back at the Cottage with open arms.

Some may also look towards current Championship managers who have impressed this season. Steve Cooper has done a wonderful job with Swansea this season, having built a brilliant side that we’ll all be cheering on in the Championship play-off final. We may also see the manager of Cooper’s beaten semi-final opponents, Barnsley, tipped for the job as Valerein Ismael has enjoyed a stellar season with the Terriers.

However, what other, more obscure names, could steer the ship of HMS Piss the League next season and sail into the top division for the fourth time this century?

Vincenzo Montella

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A name that’s often bounced around on social media when it’s time for the Whites to find a new head coach is Vincenzo Montella.

The former Fulham striker, nicknamed ‘L’Aeroplanino’ after his trademark celebration, has taken both Firoentina and Sevilla into the latter stages of the Champions League and has also taken both the Tuscan and Andelesian sides to domestic cup finals.

The Little Aeroplane also won the Supercoppa Italiana in 2016 with Milan, their first title since 2011. Montella also brought the prestigious black and red side into the 2017/18 Europa League, which was the Rossoneri’s first foray into continental competition since 2014.

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Montella may also be accustomed to Tony Khan’s scattergun recruitment techniques, as he oversaw Fiorentina’s massive squad overhaul of 2012/13, with 17 of 26 players new to the purple shirt. He found himself in a remarkably similar situation with Milan in 2017/18, as the club’s new owners bankrolled the side to the tune of €200 million, upsetting the squad balance – and his tactics – in the process.

The Roma legend, who hasn’t held a managerial job since late 2019, is known for his intricate possession-based style of play and, while he has made adjustments to his style throughout his coaching career, he’s usually rotated through variations of the 4-3-3 and 3-5-2 formations. Montella’s playing style places an emphasis on moving the ball through the centre of the pitch, overloading the midfield and on the wing-backs to drive forward with the attack, hugging the touchline.

However, with his history of managing prestigious teams on the verge of qualifying for continental competitions, Montella may not be interesting in joining soon-to-be second tier Fulham on what looks like a multi-year project. So, sadly, this may just be a pipe dream.

Michael Appleton

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Born in Salford, Appleton came through Manchester United’s academy a few short years before the ‘class of ’96’. After his playing career, which was mostly spent at Preston North End and West Bromwich Albion, was ended prematurely due to injury, he turned to management.

Michael endured a tough start in the dugout with Portsmouth as they were relegated from the Championship in 2011/12, a season summed up by new signing Kelvin Etuhu’s eight-month stretch in prison. Appleton then suffered two short and unsuccessful spells at the helm of Blackpool and Blackburn before he found a home at Oxford United in 2014/15.

Appleton led the Yellows to automatic promotion from League Two in his second season, before finishing an impressive eighth in League One. He also led the U’s to two successive EFL Trophy finals at Wembley in a squad that included talents such as Kemar Roofe and Jonny Lundstram, due to his transfer policy of signing undervalued youngsters from Premier League academies.

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The former midfielder now manages Lincoln City after replacing Danny Cowley – another impressive lower-league manager who could be linked with the Whites. Appleton has brought the Imps to the League One play-off final, which is an impressive feat when considering that they have exclusively signed only free agents during his tenure.

The former-Preston midfielder has a very clear tactical identity which he likes to impose at each football club. This was once summed up by the Oxford Mail in an article entitled “Michael Appleton: Oxford United show attractive football can win promotion” as a system of high tempo, attractive passing football that produces goals and wins games – with 107 goals scored and 32 games won in 2015/16. For a better insight into his style, I implore you to watch some of his videos on The Coaches’ Voice.

Having seen his Oxford side play with my own eyes, I can tell you that I’d love for this move to happen. Appleton could be perfect for a long-term project with Fulham due to his malleability with recruitment, focus on promoting youth and exhilarating style of play. But it could be a risk at Championship and Premier League level, at which he’s untested.

Željko Buvač

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Željko Buvač is a Bosnian former footballer who is most famous for being Jurgen Klopp’s long-time assistant manager. He’s credited for devising the ‘Gegenpress’ style, with Klopp himself labelling Buvač as “the brain”, which was first implemented at Mainz 05 before its success at Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool.

While Buvač has had no real success with his own managerial career, which includes a stint at German fifth tier SC Neukirchen in 1998-2001 and Bosnian ‘entity’ Republika Srpska, which isn’t recognised by FIFA or UEFA, he says he essentially did the job of the manager for 17 years.

Therefore, should a club decide to take a punt on Buvač, who’s now the sporting director of FC Dynamo Moscow, they should surely receive a man of great tactical knowledge and football management experience. This may put Fulham in good stead for promotion and survival using high intensity and high pressing footballing side as Buvač would look to employ a sense of urgency that’s been lacking in SW6 in recent years.

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Because Buvač has experience as a sporting director, a role which sits in between the Chairman and manager of a football club, he may also be able to navigate Fulham’s divisive recruitment strategy, applying the necessary pressure on Tony Khan.

This may allow him to mould the club to his desires, something that not even Jokanovic truly managed. In Buvač’s case, this would most likely be a tireless 4-3-3 set-up that looks to press the opposition hard, counterattacking at any opportunity.

While handing a man that has little previous experience in the head coach role is a huge risk, the record Klopp’s understudies and fellow Gegenpress aficionados, such as Daniel Farke and David Wagner, in the Championship proves that it may just be worth it.

Franck Haise

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Franck Haise is a French former footballer who enjoyed a career spanning more than 300 games across 16 years in the country’s second division. After hanging up his boots in the 2003/04 season, Haise joined Stade Rennes’s youth squad as a coach, slowly moving up the club’s age groups before his first managerial job at conference side US Change. After just a year in this role, Haise was picked up by FC Lorient to lead their reserve side. After three years at FC Lorient as the reserve team manager, first team assistant manager and finally interim first team manager, Haise moved to RC Lens to fill their own vacancy at the helm of their reserve side.

Haise impressed while leading the Artesians’ second team between 2017 and 2020, earning the former midfielder the head coach role, replacing the outgoing Philippe Montanier in February 2019. Haise managed to keep the gold and red side on course for the remainder of the season, steering them to second in Ligue 2 and securing automatic promotion – although it is worth noting that he was only at the helm for two games before the entirity of French football was declared null and void.

However, its been the 2020/21 season where Haise has really worked his magic. The French manager, who when asked to comment on his style of play simply said “I don’t have a favourite system. For some time now, we have often played 3-4-1-2 or 3-5-2 with the midfielder moving. This is the one I use because it more closely matches the squad and the players”, has steered a Lens side, which was tipped for a relegation battle, to seventh in Ligue 1.

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His Lens side is described as “rarely a defensive team” who “frequently look to engage the opposition high up the pitch, and even when they stay deeper, they will come alive when certain triggers are met” by onlookers. The gold and red side look to win the ball high up the pitch, with every forward expected to take part.

This intensity is carried into the attack, with the two strikers and the number 10 staying narrow to encourage the opposition’s defender to play wide while the Lens wing-backs bomb down the sides of the pitch. This all-or-nothing approach does have its weaknesses, however, with the big gaps left behind the wing-backs open to exploitation – shown by side’s goal difference of just +1 despite having scored an impressive 55 goals this season.

However, following Ranieri and Parker’s somewhat mundane styles of play, some excitement could be what we need at the Cottage – especially if Haise is able to bring his experience in youth management to bring more of Fulham’s golden generation into the fold.

Urs Fischer

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Urs Fischer is another is another manager who’s fairly new to the job, having progressed through jobs at youth level before impressing at senior level. The 55-year-old is the Swiss Super League’s record appearance holder with 545 appearances as he captained FC Zurich and FC St. Gallen.

After the end of his playing career, the former Swiss international managed FC Zurich at various youth levels. After a short spell as assistant manager at the club, he became caretaker manager, then permanent manager – despite losing all three of the games that he oversaw as interim boss. He finished second in the Swiss league in 2010/11 before being sacked in 2012.

Fischer then endured a rather uneventful two-year spell as the boss of Basel between 2015 and 2017 before becoming the new head of 1. FC Union Berlin in 2018. In his time at the German outfit, Fischer has far exceeded expectations, securing promotion in his first season after a third place finish.

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This season, Die Eisernen finished seventh in the Bundesliga, one place outside the European qualification spots. Fischer has managed this while maintaining a goal difference of +6 using his trademark 3-4-1-2 formation. The Swiss manager has set his side up to play without possession against the big sides, looking to hit them hard on the counter.

His counter-pressing, counter-attacking tactic, which heavily exploits set pieces – traditionally one of Fulham’s weakness – has performed well this season, earning the Iron Ones an impressive 14 points in 12 games against the Bundesliga top six so far this season, including a final day win over RB Leipzig. Hell, he even looks like Pulis with his cap on!

While Fischer doesn’t play the silky football that the Fulham hierarchy have looked to employ in recent years, perhaps a few years of overachieving using more attritional football, similar to that of the Hodgson golden days, could cement the Whites’ Premier League status before we’re afforded the luxury of tiki-taka.

If, as the rumbles suggest, Parker walks or is pushed, hopefully you see something in these five that excites you. And who knows, maybe one will become a reality.