The 2018/19 campaign promised so much for Fulham, who had won promotion to the Premier League via the Sky Bet Championship play-offs.
Under Slaviša Jokanović, the Cottagers played a magnificent brand of football en route to securing their top flight status and were tipped for a successful season amongst England’s elite.
A wealth of talent came through the door at Craven Cottage – most notably Jean Michaël Seri, who arrived from Nice despite being linked with Spanish giants Barcelona. Aleksandar Mitrovic, who helped fire Fulham to promotion, made his loan move from Newcastle United permanent and Alfie Mawson joined from Swansea City.
Add to that the loan signings of Calum Chambers, Luciano Vietto and German World Cup winning forward Andre Schürrle, all suggestions indicated that Jokanović’s side could make a serious assault on the top half of the table.
But, as the old adage goes, money doesn’t necessarily buy you success. With a reported £100m plus spent on transfers during the summer window, Fulham lost their opening two games of the season at home to Crystal Palace and away at Tottenham Hotspur.
Things looked rosier for the west London outfit following a 4-2 victory over Burnley, but a run of nine games without a win – which included seven defeats – saw them slump to the foot of the Premier League with a -20 goal difference.
A 2-0 loss against Liverpool at Anfield spelt the end for Jokanovič as the Fulham hierarchy opted to bring in Claudio Ranieri who, just two years earlier, had led Leicester City to an unprecedented and magical Premier League title.
It appeared to have the desired effect as the Cottagers got back to winning ways with a 3-2 triumph over Southampton. Defeat against Chelsea and Manchester United, while disappointing were perhaps expected, but Ranieri’s side managed to pick up points against Leicester, Newcastle and Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Fulham then ended 2018 on a high with a crucial 1-0 victory over relegation rivals Huddersfield Town to move within a point of 17th place Southampton.
But one win and six losses in their next seven games brought about another managerial change as the Cottagers dispensed with the charismatic Italian and promoted Scott Parker from his role as first team coach.
With the Craven Cottage outfit 10 points from safety, this move was perhaps seen as more of a rebuilding step – potentially preparing for life in the Championship and laying the groundwork for an assault at making an immediate return to the top flight.
A resounding 4-1 defeat at eventual FA Cup finalists Watford signalled the end of Fulham’s brief stint back in the Premier League for the first time since 2014, but the writing had, in truth, been on the wall for some time.
Parker then went onto claim three successive victories – inflicting a hammer blow on Cardiff City – before ending the season with back to back defeats.
The vultures will be circling for their most prized assets. Young prodigy Ryan Sessegnon caught the attention during the Cottagers’ promotion campaign and, with a year of Premier League experience under his belt, could be high on many-a top flight teams’ wish lists.
One man who will be making a return to his old stomping ground this season is Cauley Woodrow, who helped fire Barnsley back into the Championship under Daniel Stendel.
The striker arrived at Oakwell from Fulham last summer and bagged 19 goals in all competitions. Reds supporters will be hoping that he can continue that form in the second tier – particularly against his former side, who have won the last four meetings.
Our most recent victory against the Cottagers was in March 2000 – a Division 1 clash in which Neil Shipperley scored the only goal in South Yorkshire.