Why Fulham have Fallen Victim to the Play-off Curse Despite Significant Investment

There would have been a real spring in the step of those who lived in South West London and supported Fulham as the Premier league transfer window slammed shut on the 9th of August 2018.

In fact, it’s hard to remember a time in the club’s history where there was the amount of optimism that there was around Craven Cottage before the start of the Premier League season.

Fulham fans would have been gathered on the Thames, sipping pints and enjoying some August sunshine as they excitedly discussed just how far they could go in the upcoming campaign after the club had spent £110m on new players during the off-season.

It’s not hard to see why the Craven Cottage faithful would have got carried away during this time, and who could blame them?

Fast forward eight months and the mood around the club couldn’t be further away from where it was during those scorching days of August.

Fulham’s stay in the top flight has been the stuff of nightmares that few would have predicted after owner Shahid Khan had been so generous in the transfer market.

So, why has it gone so terribly wrong?

The Lilywhites route to the Premier League was via Wembley and the playoffs, where they beat Aston Villa 1-0 thanks to a smart Tom Cairney finish.

Before losing to Birmingham City on the last day of the 2017/2018 Championship season and blowing their chances of going up automatically, Fulham had gone 23 games unbeaten in the Championship, which allowed
them to surge into the playoffs and, for a time, also into the automatic promotion positions.

Securing promotion to the Premier League through the playoffs means history is against a team in their bid to stay in the top flight.

Looking back, 15 of the last 26 teams that have gone up after winning the playoffs have gone straight back down the next season. There really is
no guarantee of safety to the teams that don’t go up automatically, which is something Shahid Khan would have been aware of.

This prompted the 68-year-old to go on a spending spree that rivalled even the biggest clubs in the Premier League.

When Jim White had called time on transfer deadline day, Fulham had spent the third most in the whole of the Premier League during the summer.

Only, the introduction of 12 new players, which included a staggering five new additions on deadline day, totally disrupted the harmony in the Fulham camp and alienated the players that had achieved promotion from the Championship.

This led to the sacking of Slavisa Jokanovic and then, later on, Claudio Ranieri, after both managers failed to unite the side as results spiralled out of control.

Scott Parker now finds himself in temporary charge with Fulham 11 points adrift with seven games to go. Simply put, it’s all over for Fulham, and it was after Parker’s first game in charge against Chelsea when the Cottagers failed to make the most of the bounce a new manager brings to the club.

The arrival of Mauricio Sarri’s men at Craven Cottage was indeed the last chance saloon for Fulham as, many felt, a surprising win could lift the Cottagers from the doldrums and back into the fight of survival.

It must be said, there were also a few who thought that impossible and, when punters cast their mind back to that day in early March, they would have seen the pros at betconnect provide their usual best football bets of the day and, on this occasion, they predicted it would be a tough opening for Parker and a game they would lose.

As sure as night follows day, the Blues beat Fulham and, with that, put the final nail in their Premier League coffin.

It’s back to the Championship for Fulham, which will bring about an anxiety amongst their fans, especially when they consider that a club that over-invests in the Premier League and gets relegated often ends up in free fall as they are left with players who don’t want to be there.

Owner Shahid Khan will have to guard against such destructive attitudes and, maybe, the best thing for Fulham to do is enjoy a cleansing spring clean before the summer starts.

There’s a core group of players from the 2017/2018 season there that can get Fulham promoted again but, if they are marginalized once more, that sinking feeling will come back to haunt the club on the Thames.