Football: Ranieri axed by Premier League strugglers Fulham

Ranieri (above) failed to ignite a revival in the club after replacing Slavisa Jokanovic in November 2018.
Ranieri (above) failed to ignite a revival in the club after replacing Slavisa Jokanovic in November 2018.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (AFP) - Claudio Ranieri’s brief spell as manager of Premier League strugglers Fulham ended on Thursday (Feb 28) when the Italian was sacked after only four months in charge.

The 67-year-old Italian, who memorably guided Leicester City to the 2016 Premier League title, failed to ignite a Fulham revival after he replaced the sacked Slavisa Jokanovic in November.

He was in charge for just 16 league games but won only three, and Wednesday’s 2-0 defeat to Southampton left them second from bottom, 10 points adrift of safety with 10 matches remaining.

That loss at St Mary’s was the final straw as Fulham’s travelling fans chanted “you don’t know what you’re doing” at Ranieri.

Former Chelsea boss Ranieri had been labelled ‘risk-free’ appointment by Fulham owner Shahid Khan.

But unhappy Fulham supporters unveiled a banner at Southampton that read: “Risk free? Are you watching Tony Khan?”, in a pointed reference to the Fulham owner’s son, who takes a major role in club policy.

“Following our discussion this afternoon, Claudio Ranieri agreed to my decision that a change was in the best interest of everyone,” Shahid Khan said in a statement.

Khan, whose investment of over £100million in new players in the close season after they were promoted to the Premier League has backfired spectacularly, said Ranieri behaved like a “perfect gentleman” during the talks.

“Claudio’s tenure at Fulham didn’t produce the outcome we anticipated and needed when I appointed him as manager in November, but be assured he is not solely to blame for the position we are in today,” said Khan.

“Claudio walked into a difficult situation, inheriting a side that gained only one point in its prior eight matches, and he provided an immediate boost by leading our club to nine points in his first eight matches as manager.

“Though we were unable to maintain that pace thereafter, I am grateful for his effort.” .

Last throw of the dice

Ranieri, who was sacked by Leicester months after their fairytale title success, said he was sad the good start the club had made under his charge had not been maintained.

“I am obviously disappointed with the recent results and that we could not build on the good start we made following my appointment,” said Ranieri, who took over at a time when Fulham had secured just one point from their previous eight matches.

The Cottagers were promoted to the Premier League last season with a reputation for free-flowing football, but that attacking style was exposed in the top-flight, with the club’s £100 million spree on new signings failing to deliver the required quality.

Former England midfielder Scott Parker – who ended his playing career at Fulham – is to be the caretaker manager in one last desperate throw of the dice from the west Londoners.

“Scott’s immediate assignment is merely to help us stabilise, grow and rediscover ourselves as a football club,” said Khan.

“If Scott can answer that challenge, and our players respond to the opportunity, perhaps victories will follow in the months ahead.” 

Ranieri is the sixth Premier League manager to lose his job this season and comes just days after Claude Puel was sacked by Leicester – Jokanovic, Mark Hughes (Southampton), Jose Mourinho (Manchester United) and David Wagner (Huddersfield) being the other casualties.