Fulham Coach Calls Last-Minute Fixture Switch vs. Spurs ‘Scandalous’ — Mourinho DGAF
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LONDON — Fulham manager Scott Parker has criticised the Premier League for re-arranging his side's game at Tottenham Hotspur for Wednesday, giving him only 48 hours to prepare his players.
Fourth-placed Spurs were scheduled to face Aston Villa on Wednesday but that match was postponed after a COVID-19 outbreak forced the closure of the Midlands club's training ground.
Instead, Tottenham's home game with Fulham, itself postponed two hours before kickoff on Dec. 30 after a COVID outbreak amongst the Fulham squad, has been squeezed in.
While former Spurs player Parker said there was talk of the switch last weekend, it was only confirmed on Monday.
"To confirm that on Monday morning is scandalous. You're constantly working out well in advance," he told reporters.
Fulham beat 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 faced Jose Mourinho's high-flying Tottenham 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 Monday morning. It's madness really," he said.
Mourinho offered little sympathy for his Fulham counterpart when asked about it on Tuesday.
"Are you serious? They had 48 hours to prepare for this game. Look, I had the news that I wasn't going to play them two hours before the game started," he said in reference to the decision to postpone the original game against Fulham.
Mourinho said clubs needed to be flexible in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic if they wanted to complete the season.
"In the end you have to play 19 matches at home and 19 away and two matches against every team. 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."
Parker, who was given little game time by Mourinho while he was a player at Chelsea, said the Portuguese's gripe did not compare with his own dilemma.
"Regarding being told the (original) game was called off. It's an irrelevance. 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 Fulham players were forced to isolate after testing positive for COVID-19 and Parker said that while they were not showing ill-effects, pitching them straight into a big 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 back to Saturday.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris)