Fulham FC are back in the big time after securing promotion to the Premier League with victory against West London rivals Brentford in the play-off final last season.
Embarking on a Premier League campaign is something the Cottagers are no stranger to, however, they will be hoping that the 20/21 season will be a chance to rectify mistakes made in a rather bleak campaign just two years ago.
The 18/19 Premier League season saw Fulham relegated as they changed manager three times whilst losing 27 of their 38 games and conceding 81 goals.
Two years on and Scott Parker has been able to restore confidence and stability in his side and the team is playing with a fresh identity.
Jack Collins of Fulhamish, a popular podcast among the Fulham faithful which won ‘Club Podcast of the Year’ at the FSA awards in 2019, believes the clubs change in identity will be crucial going into the 20/21 campaign and pinpoints this as the key aspect separating the current Fulham side to the one that went down two years ago.
He said: “As much as I loved Slavisa Jokanovic and am grateful for everything he did for the club, he was a stubborn manager. He had one style and he stuck to it no matter what.
“Parker reflects a grittier side, a nasty one that’s prepared to do the dirty work and able to adapt to the opposition. I see this as a crucial thing to carry into the Premier League, with the potential of having to face a relegation battle.”
Parker was rewarded with a three year contract-extension after guiding the Cottagers straight back to the Premier League, and Mr Collins hopes that this is a sign of the Fulham hierarchy see Parker as important to a long-term project at the club.
Mr Collins added: “What stands out about Parker is how brilliant he is at learning from his mistakes, and I believe the first game back from lockdown against Brentford compared to the play-off final against them is a prime example of that.
“Parker was totally outclassed by Thomas Frank in the first game but he digested it and come the play-off final, the performance from the boys underlined a masterclass in tactics from the gaffer.”
Prior to Fulham’s 18/19 Premier league campaign the club invested heavily in the summer with over £100 million spent and a total of 13 new arrivals.
Despite this, the injection of cash failed to produce stand out players and the new crop failed to gel with the remainder of the team.
Russ Goldman is host of Cottage Talk, another popular Fulham FC podcast, and sees Fulham’s owner Shahid Khan’s change in recruitment style this summer as pivotal going into the 20/21 season, and believes it will bring the best out of the new arrivals.
He said: “Utilising the loan with the option to buy alternative worked fantastically for us in the Championship last season, with the signature of Harrison Reed on a permanent deal reflecting this.
“It’s a win-win situation. Take Mario Lemina for example, he has a point to prove in the Premier League after his time with Southampton and the initial season-loan gives him the drive and determination to secure his spot in the Fulham midfield and earn himself a permanent contract.”
Mr Goldman believes the current Fulham side, in comparison to the one entering the 18/19 season, is richer in Premier League experience with the likes of Anthony Knockaert, Ivan Cavaleiro, and Mario Lemina.
As a result, he believes they will be better suited to the playing style the Premier League brings.
The dynamic presence and ability of youngster Josh Onomah to cover ground so effortlessly is something Mr Goldman also sees as being vital to Fulham’s success this season.
Many believed that his transfer to Craven Cottage as part of the deal with Tottenham that saw Ryan Sessegnon heading the other way was nothing to get carried away with.
Nevertheless, after a promising Championship campaign and big performances against Cardiff and Brentford in the play-offs, Mr Goldman expects big things from Onomah this season.
Alison Curtis, 74, was the first female steward to work on matchday at Craven Cottage, and a long term Fulham FC fan.
Naturally, she has seen the team go through its fair share of transitions, but is optimistic about Fulham’s fate this season.
She said: “I really like the idea of a player, who has played for the club, being given the opportunity to move through the ranks and establish himself amongst the players and fans.
“I believe the man management Parker has with the players will be vital this season and I hope to see this reflected in our performances.”
Ms Curtis did feel a backup striker would be a wise option for Fulham to pursue before the transfer window closes as back up for their Serbian talisman Aleksandar Mitrovic.
Mitrovic will be hoping for another prolific campaign after finishing top of the Championship’s goal scoring charts last season with 26 goals.
With the current campaign just one game in, the Cottagers will be expecting to bounce back this Saturday away to fellow Premier League newcomers Leeds United, after a disappointing 3-0 defeat at home to Arsenal last time out.