April 3 – Fulham have been condemned to relegation from the Premier League with five games to play after an abject 4-1 defeat at Watford. Apart from already relegated Huddersfield, no club has been dropped down this early in the English top flight. Across Europe’s Big 5 leagues these are the first two teams to be relegated this season.
At Vicarage Road, Fulham’s fragile season ran its course as the inevitable demotion materialized in the shape of four Watford goals. Predictably, some of those goals could have been prevented, like many of the 76 goals the leaky defense of the Cottagers shipped this season.
Fulham needed to avoid defeat to retain a mathematical chance of survival, but they were no match for the high-flying Hornets. In the first half the visitors resisted after Ryan Babel cancelled out Abdoulaye Doucoure’s excellent opener for Watford, but after the interval Fulham conceded three goals in twelve minutes in what interim coach later called ‘our season in a snapshot.’
Second-half goals from Will Hughes, Troy Deeney and Kiko Femenia sentenced Fulham to an immediate return to the Championship. “We always knew it was a tough ask,” said Parker. “But that five or 10-minute spell from 2-1 onwards was our season in a snapshot. The way we lost the game was most disappointing for me.”
At the start of the season they had rejoined the Premier League alongside Wolverhampton Wanderers and Cardiff City, fellow strugglers on 28 points, on a wave of optimism and following a spent of £100 million on 12 new players, but that confidence soon faded in a truncated season that Slavisa Jokanovic and Claudio Ranieri didn’t survive as coaches. Before the Watford game Fulham had lost their previous eight Premier League games and managed just two points away from home all season.
Their recruitment policy turned into a nightmare dismantling a team that had played fine football in the Championship and the play-offs and replacing it with a disjointed squad that lacked purpose or identity. Fulham’s rearguard proved to be the Achilles heel during the season. At the back, their goal difference of +33 in the Championship became -46 in the Premier League. They have conceded a staggering 76 goals with five games to play.
“I am obviously bitterly disappointed,” Parker said. “I have ideas [of where it went wrong] but it’s not the time to broadcast them. When a club gets relegated from the Premier League, you know there are some serious issues.”
In a statement, Fulham chairman Shahid Khan apologised and assured fans of his “total commitment” to the club.
“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,” he 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.”
Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1603307413labto1603307413ofdlr1603307413owedi1603307413sni@o1603307413fni1603307413