Scott Parker has said Fulham must not repeat the same expensive mistakes after sealing an immediate return to the Premier League.
Parker acknowledged the club made errors in the buildup to relegation last year and admitted they cannot afford to again make “drastic changes” to prepare for the top flight. Superb goals by Joe Bryan earned Fulham an extra-time victory over west London rivals Brentford in the Championship play-off final at Wembley to secure promotion.
When Fulham were promoted in 2018, they splurged more than £100m but several big-money signings backfired.
“You can’t build teams with drastic changes, drastic swings of players [coming in],” Parker said. “This team has been around myself now for the best part of 15 months and they have improved and improved and improved. I’m happy with where we are. We are going to need additions – we are going into the biggest league there is – but no real drastic changes.
“Some clear errors were made last time and we will learn from that, we need to learn from that. We are going into the best league in the world, the best players, it’s a brutal league and I realise the challenge ahead. I want to try and enjoy what we have done so far but we need to learn from those mistakes. What we’re trying to build and ingrain in the players and this football club is some core foundations. If you’re not building your club on concrete but sand, it will be that rollercoaster ride.”
Bryan’s goals earned Brentford a 2-0 advantage before Henrik Dalsgaard scored a consolation seconds before the final whistle. Bryan wrong-footed the Brentford goalkeeper David Raya with a superb free-kick from 35 yards before doubling his and Fulham’s tally after rounding off a fine one-two with Aleksandar Mitrovic, who entered as a substitute after returning from a hamstring injury.
“We did our due diligence on the goalkeeper,” said Parker. “He [Raya] has got a very aggressive high starting position on free-kicks. We brought it up in a set-play meeting. I called Joe over because I felt when we brought Mitro [Mitrovic] on Joe was probably going to cross it in. I tried to bluff it a little bit and I told him to commit to it, to give it a real go and see what happens. He’s executed it well. We tried this in the last game, and it went nowhere near the goal, but thankfully it has worked. My staff deserve full credit for that and the planning they did.”
The Brentford head coach, Thomas Frank, insisted his players will return stronger for the new Championship season, which begins on 12 September. The Brentford owner, Matthew Benham, shared that sentiment, saying “we will be back in a few weeks to have another go in the new season”.
Frank added: “We have gone from a mid-table club to a team who, in the league table, was the third-best team. We are very fine margins away from the Premier League, which is incredible for us.”