In Depth

Fulham relegated: chairman apologises and tells fans ‘we let you down’

Cottagers will join Huddersfield Town in the Championship next season

Despite spending more than £100m last summer Fulham’s return to the Premier League has lasted only one season after their relegation was confirmed.

The west London club lost 4-1 at Watford on Tuesday night and they join Huddersfield Town as two of the three teams that will drop into the second tier next year.

After showing so much promise by winning the Championship play-offs in 2017-18, this season has been a nightmare for Fulham fans.

With five matches remaining they only have 17 points so far this campaign. After 33 games their record stands at four wins, five draws, 24 defeats and a goal difference of -46.

Where did it all go wrong?

After their play-off success last season Fulham went into the Premier League campaign having invested more than £100m - including signing five players on the summer transfer deadline day.

After guiding the club to promotion Slavisa Jokanovic was sacked on 14 November with Fulham bottom of the table with just five points. Former Leicester City boss Claudio Ranieri was appointed on the same day but the Italian failed to work his magic at Craven Cottage.

On 28 February Ranieri was then fired after only 16 games in charge of the Premier League strugglers. Former player and club coach Scott Parker took over as first-team boss on a caretaker basis.

Parker ‘gutted’

At Watford on Tuesday Fulham had to avoid defeat to keep their survival hopes alive. Ryan Babel’s equaliser meant they went into half-time at 1-1, but a poor second-half performance saw Watford ease to the 4-1 victory.

Speaking after the defeat Parker told Sky Sports: “I’m just gutted for the fans. It is 12 months since we got into the division, and from the outset this year it’s been bitterly disappointing for everyone.

“The fans are the ones who pay their money to come and watch the team. There’s certainly been times this year when the team haven’t given back what they deserve.

“Personally, I’m really sorry for that. We knew the task ahead was going to be pretty difficult in terms of staying in the league.

“I think initially, as much as I’m disappointed that we’ve been relegated, the most frustrating and disappointing thing is the manner in which we’ve lost [against Watford].”

‘We let you down’

Sky Sports reports that more than 2,000 Fulham fans travelled to Vicarage Road for the clash against Watford. However, after a banner was unveiled saying “Fulham’s relegation party” it was obvious that the faithful were expecting their fight to come to a swift end.

Fulham chairman Shahid Khan issued a statement to thank the fans for their support during what has been a terrible season.

“Our results over the past three months were as troubling for me and everyone associated with our club as I know they were for you,” Khan said.

“Last night’s outcome made official what we didn’t think would be possible in August and tried desperately to remedy and avoid as the season wore on. For me, that makes today the most difficult day of all.

“I am sorry that we let you down. Our goal this season was to build on what we achieved in promotion and deliver on our pledge to invest heavily in the squad, ensuring that Fulham would always compete in the Premier League and, no matter the result, never disappoint. That didn’t occur and, for that, we hold ourselves accountable.

“We will reflect, plan thoroughly and respond accordingly. In the weeks ahead we will communicate further as to our vision for the future, which includes the latest progress on the Riverside Stand project that will underline my investment in your beloved club.

“I recognise that may not be of consolation today, but I offer it nonetheless to assure you of my total commitment to Fulham Football Club. Thank you for your faith, endurance and support.”

Fulham will ‘keep fighting’

Caretaker boss Parker insisted that the club will keep battling despite their relegation. The 38-year-old said his position will be assessed this summer and that there are “lots of questions” to be asked within the club.

“I think we all understand that there are some clear issues that need to be addressed like when any team get relegated,” he said. “There have been problems and obviously some mistakes have been made. We’ll sit down in the coming weeks and work out what they were, and try and learn from them.

“There’s a lot of questions to be asked and a lot of questions to be solved. The most important thing at this moment in time is working out what those problems were and to try to rectify them. We need to remain as positive as we can.

“We’ve got five games, and while I’m here, there’s no chance I’ll let these players fall away. We’ll keep fighting.”

Reactions to Fulham’s relegation

Steve Sidwell, former Fulham midfielder, speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live: “They were one of the best footballing teams in the Championship but this year, defensively, it’s been a shambles. Signing 12 players would have been demoralising for the existing players. The squad needed strengthening but not to that extent. They did not name a consecutive back four in the first ten games and as a result they have been all over the place. The players who got them into the Premier League deserved a crack at it but they did not get the chance. They need to give the job to Scott Parker because he knows the core values of the club, he understands the Championship and the fans want him to get it.”

Max Winters, Daily Mail: “Fulham’s defence was catastrophic all season and continued to cost them when their attack looked bright. They have conceded 76 goals in 33 matches, the worst record in the top flight by some distance, with neither Jokanovic, Ranieri or caretaker boss Parker able to tighten things up.”

George Flood, London Evening Standard: “Chief to such a swift downfall has been their wretched defensive record, which, with a mammoth 76 goals conceded in just 33 matches, stands as comfortably the worst in the top-flight.”

Ed Malyon, Independent: “In the end, Fulham took too many risks. Even where they weren’t willing to admit it. The risks they did take backfired, the ones they thought weren’t risks turned out to be disasters and now they risk alienating their fanbase. The best that can come from the painful dead rubbers that remain is that these fans get meaningful answers from ownership. They have got little else from them this season as August’s burgeoning hope ultimately dissolved into a pitiful relegation confirmed before Easter.”

Premier League results, fixtures and TV guide

Results Tuesday 2 April
  • Watford 4 Fulham 1
  • Wolverhampton Wanderers 2 Manchester United 1
FixturesWednesday 3 April
  • Chelsea vs. Brighton and Hove Albion (7.45pm) 
  • Manchester City vs. Cardiff City (7.45pm, live on Sky Sports
  • Tottenham Hotspur vs. Crystal Palace (7.45pm)
Friday 5 April
  • Southampton vs. Liverpool (8pm, live on Sky Sports)
Saturday 6 April
  • AFC Bournemouth vs. Burnley (3pm) 
  • Huddersfield Town vs. Leicester City (3pm) 
  • Newcastle United vs. Crystal Palace (3pm)
Sunday 7 April
  • Everton vs. Arsenal (2.05pm, live on Sky Sports)
Monday 8 April
  • Chelsea vs. West Ham United (8pm, live on Sky Sports)

FA Cup semi-final fixtures

Saturday 6 April
  • Manchester City vs. Brighton and Hove Albion (5.30pm, live on BBC One)
Sunday 7 April
  • Watford vs. Wolves (4pm, live on BT Sport)

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