Sat in the bottom half of the table after a defeat to bottom side Sunderland in December, a 5th successive year in the Championship seemed on the cards for the Cottagers…..but after putting together a run of 23 games without defeat, Fulham entered the final day of the season in 3rd place, a point behind Cardiff in the race for automatic promotion.
Despite Cardiff dropping points at home to Reading, the club had to settle for a play-off place after failing to capitalise, losing 3-1 away to Birmingham. Slavisa Jokanovic’s men saw off Derby over two legs before beating Aston Villa 1-0 in the play-off final at Wembley Stadium; victory was the club’s first at Wembley in their 139-year history.
Talented full-back Ryan Fredericks has joined fellow London club West Ham on a free transfer after rejecting a new contract. Loan players Tomas Kalas, Lucas Piazon, Oliver Norwood, Matt Targett, Sheyi Ojo and Aleksander Mitrovic have all returned to their parent clubs. Cauley Woodrow has re-joined the club after scoring just 2 goals during a below average loan-spell at fellow Championship club Bristol City.
Adding squad depth has to be the main priority for Fulham this summer. The first team squad is currently made up of just 17 players and head coach Jokanovic has been linked with permanently signing a number of last season’s loanees.
The club have reportedly approached Chelsea with regards to signing Kalas and Piazon permanently but are unwilling to pay the £8.5 million permanent signing fee Chelsea placed in the formers loan contract. Targett may feel re-joining Fulham is best for him, with Ryan Bertrand blocking his path at Southampton.
Brighton’s Oliver Norwood featured 41 times for the club in all competitions whilst on-loan last season and should be available for less than £5 million.
Perhaps the most important signature Fulham could secure this summer would be that of Newcastle frontman Aleksander Mitrovic. After scoring 12 goals in 17 Championship games after joining on-loan in January, the player could cost upwards of £20 million. Fellow Serbian, Liverpool’s Marko Grujic, has also been recently linked with a loan move to South West London. Fulham are also one of a number of clubs looking to make the most of Aston Villa’s current financial difficulties by swooping in for Jack Grealish. Fellow Championship stars James Maddison, Joe Bennett and Joe Bryan are also targets.
The most important thing Fulham can do this summer is keep Ryan Sessegnon at the club. The Championship Player, Young Player and Apprentice of the Season is interesting Tottenham and Man United and is likely to be the subject of bids in the coming weeks. Fulham will be under no pressure to sell however after the money they are set to make following promotion. Captain and play-off final goalscorer Tom Cairney had also been linked with a move away from the club throughout last season, but promotion is likely to mean the Scot will stay.
Written by Dan Blank.