Parker in­sists Ful­ham have learnt from their dis­as­trous £100m spree

Pro­moted club will avoid a re­peat of 2018 trans­fer ‘frenzy’ Man­ager says he is try­ing to build foun­da­tions for fu­ture

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Sam Dean

Had the events of Tues­day’s Cham­pi­onship play-off fi­nal been writ­ten in a Hol­ly­wood script, they might have been dis­missed as too much of a cliche.

A won­der­ful free-kick from all of 40 yards, deep into ex­tra time, in­spired by a piece of man­age­rial ge­nius on the touch­line – all it was miss­ing was a stir­ring sound­track, some slow-mo­tion footage and a nar­ra­tor’s voice telling the view­ers: “And then coach Parker had a plan.”

Scott Parker’s cun­ning, in spot­ting the gap at Brent­ford’s near post, and Joe Bryan’s tech­ni­cal abil­ity to find that gap, made for one of the most ex­tra­or­di­nary goals of the sea­son. For Ful­ham, it was the dif­fer­ence be­tween £135mil­lion and an­other sea­son in the Cham­pi­onship. It was fit­ting that, two years on from the mad­ness of trans­fer dead­line day of sum­mer 2018, it was Bryan who emerged as the hero.

The left-back is the last man stand­ing from that Au­gust splurge, when five play­ers walked through the door as the trans­fer win­dow clock ticked down to zero. Ful­ham spent more than £100mil­lion on 12 new play­ers, only to look con­sid­er­ably worse for it.

This time, it will be dif­fer­ent. “You can’t build teams with dras­tic changes and dras­tic swings of play­ers,” Parker said af­ter the vic­tory at Wem­b­ley. “We are go­ing to need ad­di­tions, but no dras­tic changes. We will learn from those mis­takes.

“What we are try­ing to build here are some core foun­da­tions. Some­times those core foun­da­tions get you far in life. You can have as much tal­ent as you want, but if you are not build­ing your foot­ball club on con­crete and you are build­ing it on sand, then in the end it will be a roller-coaster ride. I hope we can grow grad­u­ally.”

For those play­ers who ex­pe­ri­enced the tor­ment of rel­e­ga­tion in 2018-19, hav­ing lived through the sack­ings of Slav­isa Jokanovic and Clau­dio Ranieri, a sec­ond play-off vic­tory in three sea­sons pro­vides them with a chance to heal some scars.

Parker spoke of “gap­ing wounds”, say­ing his team had been men­tally bro­ken by the pain of their Premier League ex­pe­ri­ence. “We have tried to change the men­tal­ity,” he said.

As well as Bryan, the likes of Alek­san­dar Mitro­vic, Tom Cair­ney, Aboubakar Ka­mara, De­nis Odoi and Tim Ream all have an­other shot at the top flight. Rel­e­ga­tion will, of course, be a pos­si­bil­ity again, but they will at least hope to en­joy the jour­ney this time. “There was never a buzz around the place,” Cair­ney said. “It was a bad sea­son.”

Cair­ney, as club cap­tain, will not crit­i­cise the own­ers and ex­ec­u­tives too strongly for their sum­mer spree of 2018. But it does not need spell­ing out that most of those moves did not work for the team, with Jean Michael Seri (£27mil­lion) and An­dre Zambo An­guissa (£23 mil­lion) ob­vi­ous dis­ap­point­ments.

“To be fair, when you get to the Premier League you have to bring in Premier League qual­ity play­ers,” Cair­ney said. “That is what the club tried to do that sum­mer. You have to give the own­ers credit for that. They spent the money straight away. They tried to take us to the next level, but it did not work out. We lost the team spirit in the dress­ing room a bit too soon. And that team spirit is what can get you re­sults on some days. Even this time we are go­ing to have to bring in some play­ers. You can­not keep the same team.”

Har­ri­son Reed, who has been so im­pres­sive on loan from Southamp­ton this sea­son, could be Ful­ham’s first sign­ing of the sum­mer. The club are also lead­ing can­di­dates to re-sign Ryan Sesseg­non on loan from Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur, al­though Jose Mour­inho’s side are adamant he will be go­ing nowhere.

It all makes for a wel­come chal­lenge, given how dif­fi­cult it might have been for Ful­ham had they failed to win pro­mo­tion. And for Parker, now at the end of his first full sea­son as a head coach, it will be an even more in­ten­sive test of his man­age­rial abil­i­ties.

The for­mer Eng­land mid­fielder has re­ceived some crit­i­cism from Ful­ham fans this sea­son, with oc­ca­sional ques­tions asked of his tac­ti­cal de­ci­sions and the per­for­mances of cer­tain key play­ers un­der his watch. Cair­ney, though, has seen first-hand how hard it was for Parker to lift the club fol­low­ing their rel­e­ga­tion. His faith in Parker is ob­vi­ous.

“If you take a step back and look at what he has done, it has been tremen­dous,” Cair­ney said. “He got the play­ers around him and cre­ated a spirit. We had one of the strong­est squads in the Cham­pi­onship and that can be a neg­a­tive be­cause it put him un­der so much pres­sure.

“A lot of man­agers have had that, but not done as well as he has. Hud­der­s­field and Stoke have gone down and not man­aged to come back up, as well as some other teams. He has done that.

“He is a young man­ager, a Bri­tish man­ager. In the same age group as peo­ple like Steven Ger­rard, Frank Lam­pard and Sol Camp­bell. He has the in­tel­li­gence and the tac­ti­cal skill. We need to push man­agers like that. Ob­vi­ously at Ful­ham we don’t want to lose him – but I think he will go on to one of the top jobs.”

Beat As­ton Villa 1-0 £100m

Jean Michael Seri (£27m), An­dre Zambo An­guissa (£22m)

19th

A dis­as­trous sea­son. Too many of their sign­ings strug­gled to make an im­pact and they fired two man­agers by March.

Beat Read­ing on penal­ties af­ter 0-0 draw £40m Steve Mounie (£11m), Aaron Mooy (£8m, left)

16th

Beat Sh­effield Wed­nes­day 1-0

Marshall (£4m) £19m Ryan Ma­son (£14m), David

18th

A strange sea­son which started with man­ager Steve Bruce leav­ing the club. Nei­ther Mike Phelan nor Marco Silva could keep them up.

Beat Mid­dles­brough 2-0 £13m Rob­bie Brady (£9m), Gra­ham Dor­rans (£4m)

19th

Beat Derby County 2-1 £130m Wes­ley (£22m), Ty­rone Mings (£20m) 17th Dean Smith’s side es­caped rel­e­ga­tion by a sin­gle point, largely thanks to the work of cap­tain Jack Gre­al­ish (right).

A great achieve­ment by David Wag­ner to keep Hud­der­s­field up de­spite the ob­vi­ous lack of qual­ity in their team.

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