By Morgan Phillips
If the recent defeat at Wolverhampton was a reality check, the final match of the season delivered a serious health warning.
Despite the efforts of three separate Head Coaches the present Fulham squad, assembled at considerable expense, has failed to reach Premier League standard.
When the Newcastle fans sang ‘We want you to stay’, they were serenading their manager Rafa Benitez. But they might also have been celebrating the weakness of the opposition.
Fulham floundered against Newcastle’s strategy of a solid defence combined with lightning breakaways.
Now that Scott Parker’s appointment is confirmed, he has an unenviable task.
The best performers have included Calum Chambers, Ryan Babel and the unpredictable Sergio Rico. For contractual reasons they are unlikely to return.
The expensive imports, who have scarcely justified their valuation, may baulk at the Championship. Others will also depart and need replacement. Somehow Scott and the money men must create a team capable of reclaiming Premier status.
Fulham’s last match in the Premier was a good-humoured occasion on a sunny Sunday afternoon with several supporters in fancy dress.
The home side’s early enthusiasm was punctured in the ninth minute by Jonjo Shelvey’s rocket from the edge of the area.
Almost immediately keeper Rico pushed out Christian Atsu’s shot towards Ayoze Perez, who scored with ease. There was little response from the Whites, though Floyd Ayite had a decent effort diverted over the crossbar.
Malcolm Macdonald was the half-time celebrity, a most suitable choice because he was Newcastle’s top scorer for five consecutive seasons in the 1970s and he managed Fulham’s promotion-winning team in 1982.
Shelvey’s first-half goal had come from a corner, and on the hour Fabian Schar was similarly unmarked when he headed past Rico.
Ayite appeared to have reduced the deficit only to be judged offside. In the 74th minute he was replaced by the young prodigy Harvey Elliott, who combined skill, calmness and enthusiasm. He even had a shot on target unlike his elders.
Ryan Sessegnon, the next to be substituted, left the field to a standing ovation, which may have been his Fulham farewell. Whatever happens we wish him a splendid career.
Just before the final whistle Salomon Rondon added a fourth, with Rico and Alfie Mawson caught offguard.
Many Fulham supporters left at that point but a reasonable number remained for the traditional send-off.
See you next season.
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not necessarily those of Hammersmith & Fulham Council.
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