Parker fumes at late change

Fulham boss laments Spurs fixture switch as scandalous; Mourinho tells him to be flexible

Several unnamed Fulham players are said to have recovered from Covid-19 but manager Scott Parker is not expected to field them for a tough fixture against Tottenham today. PHOTO: REUTERS
Several unnamed Fulham players are said to have recovered from Covid-19 but manager Scott Parker is not expected to field them for a tough fixture against Tottenham today. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Fulham manager Scott Parker has criticised the Premier League for rearranging his side's game at Tottenham for today, giving him only 48 hours to prepare his players.

Fourth-placed Spurs were scheduled to travel to Aston Villa today but that match was postponed - one of five this season - after a Covid-19 outbreak forced the closure of Villa's training ground.

Instead, Spurs' home game with Fulham, which was postponed two hours before kick-off on Dec 30 after an outbreak at Craven Cottage, has been squeezed in.

While Parker said there was talk of the switch over the weekend, it was only announced on Monday, leaving him incensed at the short notice.

"To confirm that on Monday morning is scandalous. You're constantly working out well in advance," the Cottagers boss told reporters at his virtual pre-match conference yesterday.

Fulham beat second-tier Queens Park Rangers in the FA Cup third round on Saturday and Parker said his team selection for that game might have changed had he known they will face Jose Mourinho's side a few days later.

"The decisions I would have made with QPR, or the players who are just coming back. We've had it tough with Covid. That's quickly changing (on) Monday morning. It's madness really," he added.

But Mourinho offered little sympathy for his Fulham counterpart when asked about it yesterday.

"Are you serious? They had 48 hours to prepare for this game," he said at his virtual pre-match press conference. "Look, I had the news that I wasn't going to play them two hours before the (Dec 30) game started."

Mourinho also claimed clubs must be flexible amid the Covid-19 pandemic if they hope to complete the season.

"In the end, you have to play 19 matches at home and 19 away and two matches against every team," he said. "If it helps the Premier League to end the season properly, it's a solution that we all have to accept as a positive solution."

However, Parker, who was used sparingly by Mourinho while he was a player at Chelsea, brushed off the Portuguese's comparison as "an irrelevance".

"Regarding being told the (original) game was called off... It's a disappointment," he said. "To have a game called on with 48 hours notice... I don't want to get into it (as) regards Jose but you plan what you do in the week. Tottenham knew they had a fixture in.

"Jose's selection (against Marine in the FA Cup on Sunday) suggested that. They've planned."

Several unnamed Fulham players were forced to self-isolate after testing positive for Covid-19 and Parker said that while they were not showing ill effects and had recovered, pitching them straight into a tough league fixture was not ideal.

"Obviously a week, if this game didn't exist, a week of work is some ask but to think we chuck a game bang in the middle of the week is another story," he said. "My players are fine and will be fine.

"I sit angry because I don't think it's right. I believe we'll give Spurs a game but I think it's wrong.

"The problem is the time we've been told. It's beyond belief really."

Third-bottom Fulham were due to host Chelsea in the league on Friday but that has now been pushed to Saturday.

Elsewhere, Manchester City play one of their two games in hand when they host Brighton today.

A victory at the Etihad will propel Pep Guardiola's men into the top four on goal difference ahead of Leicester, who are not in action until Saturday. They will also be just a point behind leaders Liverpool (33).

Guardiola yesterday revealed at his pre-match press conference that Aymeric Laporte and Nathan Ake remain out through injury.

Sergio Aguero is also ruled out - the Argentina striker is in quarantine for "nine or 10 days" after coming into contact with a person who tested positive for Covid-19.

However, City are a team in form with six consecutive victories in all competitions.

Urging his fifth-placed side not to let up against 17th-placed Brighton, Guardiola said: "The consequence of the way we played is the results and we have to continue."



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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 13, 2021, with the headline 'Parker fumes at late change'. Print Edition | Subscribe