Scott Parker has said it is scandalous that Fulham were given such short notice of their game against Tottenham being rearranged for Wednesday night. Fulham’s manager made no attempt to contain his anger at the scheduling, calling the Premier League’s decision “blatantly wrong” and dismissing José Mourinho’s complaints about the fixture’s original postponement two weeks ago.
Parker, normally so placid in his media duties, seethed as he laid out the difficulties posed by being given two days’ notice to prepare for the trip to Spurs. The 40-year-old, who said he was only informed of the decision at 9.30am on Monday, questioned whether a bigger side would have been treated in the same way and expressed fears over player welfare.
Spurs had fumed behind the scenes when the game against Parker’s side, due to take place on 30 December, was called off less than three hours before kick-off because of a Covid-19 outbreak in Fulham’s squad. Fulham, who are 18th, were also unable to visit Burnley on 3 January. They returned to action in the third round of the FA Cup last Saturday, fielding a strong team in their win over Queens Park Rangers because Parker thought he had time to prepare for a home game against Chelsea on Friday night.
The dynamic changed after a coronavirus outbreak at Aston Villa, who were due to face Spurs on Wednesday. When that game was called off, the league replaced Villa with Fulham, whose game against Chelsea was pushed to Saturday evening. Parker, who also faces Manchester United next Wednesday, was stunned. He had to change his training plans and he fears that players who have just returned from 10 days of self-isolation will struggle.
“The possibility of playing Spurs came Saturday afternoon,” Parker said. “We didn’t think it was realistic. We were told on Monday at 9.30 that we had to fill in for Villa. I realise we live in unpredictable times. We have to move things in what we are used to as a manager. I speak for a lot of managers. It is not ideal. I accept that. I am normally the last one to moan or whine about anything as I realise it is tough out there. But what has happened to us is that to confirm a Premier League game at 9.30 on Monday morning is scandalous.
“It is not about the fixture. I accept we have to play but it is the notice. Maybe the people in these places making these decisions don’t understand how you manage teams and manage players. You are constantly working out well in advance. We have had it tough. We thought they had six days before the next fixture to get up to speed. It is madness really.”
Mourinho was dismissive of Fulham’s unhappiness. “Are you serious?” the Spurs manager said. “They had 48 hours to prepare for this game. I had the news I was not going to play them two hours before the game started. The biggest impact is to have matches postponed. That is the biggest impact. The changing of the order of the matches, the impact is minimal, I would say.”
Parker looked baffled when Mourinho’s comments were put to him, pointing out that Spurs rotated in their win over Marine last Sunday. “Getting a game called off two hours or 48 hours before is really an irrelevance,” he said. “José will know too well that you plan structures. Tottenham knew they had a fixture. His team selection at the weekend suggested that. Would this have happened with a top of the tale clash with two of the biggest teams? Probably not. This is not acceptable.”
Parker, who said players who contracted coronavirus are not suffering any after-effects, took small consolation from the Chelsea game being moved. “We all know the protocol,” he said. “There are players stuck in their house for 10 days and [who] have done no work. Even for the players to have a week’s work to play on Friday would have been some ask. But to now chuck in a game in the middle of the week is another story. I am angry because it is not right.
“We knew last week Aston Villa had a problem. We knew their game would probably be called off last week. Tell us then. If we had known this Thursday or Friday, not a problem.”