West London club, Fulham have staged a dramatic return to the English top flight division by beating cross-town rivals, Brentford in an epic playoff final at Wembley.
The craven cottage side suffered a bitter return to the Premier League last term despite spending £131M on reinforcements and three managerial changes, a downward plunge which saw big name players like Andre Schurrle, Sergio Rico and Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa depart the club.
Club legend, Scott Parker was drafted in towards the latter end of the last campaign to help stop the bleeding, a task which would prove Herculean as the damage to the London side’s season had already been done.
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The club’s higher ups however kept faith with Parker as the man to help steer Fulham back to the Premier League, a mandate which he has delivered with immediate effect. Speaking ahead of the playoff, the gaffer admitted some of the challenges he inherited and how he strategized to right the ship which saw the dressing room divide owing to a rift between last season’s big name signings versus the dregs who laboured to gain promotion for the club
“I realised the squad was fragile, the football club was fragile and we had these separate bands,” Parker had said ahead of kick-off at Wembley.
“At the forefront of my mind was trying to bring the club back together a little bit and try to create an environment and culture.
“In all successful clubs and businesses, it comes from a core foundation, when everything runs in the right way and everyone is on the same page. The club was very disjointed. We were in a bad spell.
“It has been a rocky road because you can’t just have a magic wand and go from real disbelief, a real weak mentality and disconnection and within two months be fighting to win.”
Following the hard fought win, Parker praised the mentality of his team
“This was a team that 15 months ago lost most weeks,” Parker said. “Everyone could see that from the outside and judge that. What people did not see and did not understand was a deep-rooted issue at a club that had some wounds and issues.
“We have tried to change the mentality. I am proud because I see a team that has transformed. Some clear errors were made [when Fulham were promoted] last time and we will learn from that.”
The game started off a cagey affair, with both sides drawing blanks during the 90 minutes of regulation time. Parker’s men then engaged a higher gear in the extra period, scoring two quick fire goals before Brenford managed a late consolation.
Parker will now rely on talismanic Alexander Mitrovic, Anthony Knockaert, and Ivan Cavaleiro to ensure a more competitive outing in the next Premier League season.
Fulham will join the duo of Leeds United and West Bromwich Albion, who have already secured promotion back to the EPL.