Why Fulham need to stick with Parker next season

The big debate is now not whether Fulham will survive the drop – it’s whether Scott Parker should lead another bid to return from the Championship.

Parker and co need the kind of miracle that demands four wins from their last four matches to give them a fighting chance of staying up.

Those games include Chelsea, next, and then Manchester United.

They also have to depend on major slip-ups from Newcastle, who play the Whites last, or Brighton and Burnley.

Even those with double-strength rose-tinted specs don’t see it happening.

Should he stay or should he go?

So, what is the case for keeping or ditching Parker?

He thinks very much like the defensive midfielder he was all his playing career both in the top flight and for England.

Consider the 12 clean sheets Fulham have collected in all competitions, as well as conceding just the one in 11 others.

It isn’t the defence that’s a worry, it’s the paucity of goals.

Parker has set Fulham up with just one main striker all season.

It’s no surprise that with just 25 goals all campaign, they are the second lowest scorers behind woeful Sheffield United – already condemned to the second tier.

Parker depended on Aleksandar Mitrovic to replicate the Golden Boot form from last season’s Championship. He hasn’t.

Parker thought Ivan Cavaleiro could “stretch” defences on a consistent basis. He doesn’t, and has never looked remotely like he could.

Loan striker Josh Maja looks more the business since he joined from Bordeaux on loan in the summer.

But even he was a little too late.

Fulham striker Josh Maja
Maja’s brace in the win at Everton gave Fulham real hope

Parker thought Ruben Loftus-Cheek would slowly rekindle the form that saw him added to England’s 2018 World Cup squad. He hasn’t.

In fact, as every game passes the Chelsea loanee looks less likely to have the impact Parker expected.

And there was no Fulham move for Ollie Watkins last summer. A mistake.

Yes, the former Brentford striker, who would only have had to move down the road, would have cost £27m, but that’s small beer alongside the £110m Fulham shelled out last time in the Premier League two seasons back.

Instead, Watkins has shone for Aston Villa as well as debuting for England.

The Fulham mindset has always been about keeping it tight and nicking one on the break.

Parker admitted: “If we play basketball in this division, we’ll lose every time.”

But not if you’ve got one more basket than the opposition, Scott, and you only do that by attacking.

But here’s why Fulham should keep Parker.

He knows the Championship inside out, having played there and masterminded an instant return from the division last term.

He’s adept at the type of domestic politics that keeps him onside with Tony Khan, son of the owner, and essentially the man who runs the club.

All bosses have to understand when to bow and when to stand tall; Parker has demonstrated that in spades.

He has ticked off Khan over ill-thought Tweets and praised the club policy (Khan’s) of bringing in very good loan players

The head coach understands horses for courses, and tends to pick a side for the game in hand.

He also ‘feels’ the dressing room.

Before he was appointed full-time following the sacking of Claudio Ranieri in February 2019, everyone; players, backroom staff, managers commented on how he lifted or spoke home truths around the Fulham camp.

He was a valued leader in every sense from the day he arrived as a player in 2013.

At 40, Parker’s best managerial years are ahead of him.

But before that, he had 20 years to learn from a host of managers, so he was able to lay out very plainly from his squad this term.

Fourth bottom would do, and they would have to get used to losing more than they won.

Not so much defeatist, as pragmatic, and based on all the cool-headed Parker has learnt from relegation campaigns experienced first-hand.

Limited options

But if you were to bin the current boss, who would be his replacement?

Who, currently in football management, knows the club better?

You might want to scout around Europe, or go for an up-and-coming from the lower divisions, or try for one of the out-of-work coaches on a never-ending carousel.

That said, how many more clubs has Tony Pulis, Chris Wilder or Alex McLeish, got in them for example?

Others like Frank Lampard would be a very controversial appointment.

Better to stick with the man who, given the resources available, has done a decent job, and has the desire to do an even better one.