Parker says Fulham must ride the blows to survive

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Championship - Fulham v Preston North End - Craven Cottage, London, Britain - February 29, 2020 Fulham's head coach Scott Parker celebrates after the match Action Images/Tony O'Brien

LONDON (Reuters) - Fulham manager Scott Parker believes his newly-promoted Fulham side have the mentality to soak up the inevitable blows this season and survive amongst the Premier League heavyweights.

The Londoners are already being tipped as one of the favourites to get relegated, as they were in 2018-19 having also been promoted via the playoffs.

Former Chelsea, Newcastle United, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United midfielder Parker replaced Claudio Ranieri towards the end of that ill-fated campaign. While he could not save them from an instant return to the second tier, he impressed owner Shahid Khan enough to get the job on a full-time basis.

Now, little more than a month since Fulham's playoff final win over Brentford, Parker is relishing the opportunity for his players, and himself, to test themselves against the elite, although he concedes staying up is the priority.

"The target is to stay in the league. That's the battle we face," Parker told a news conference on Thursday ahead of Saturday's home opener against Arsenal.

"It's a challenge we need to relish. It's different from last year when we needed to win every week. We'll embrace that challenge to prove people wrong."

While a flying start against Mikel Arteta's Arsenal would be a huge fillip, Parker, 39, says his side must be resilient enough to recover from setbacks.

"If we get a positive result it gives us a platform but it's a long season, 38 games, and with the right mindset we'll make sure the downs don't knock us out," he said. "A jab on the nose, guard back up again and start punching."

Parker said there will be no change in his footballing philosophy, despite the step up in quality in the division.

"The last time we realised and saw the quality, how difficult this division is," he said. "Will we drastically change our philosophy? Not at all. But we understand the challenge and the quality of the Premier League. (The) Mentality among the group is big. Cohesion too.

"It's clear we'll come up against teams with players technically better than us. We'll have to match them in desire and togetherness. We've seen that from Sheffield United, who have done a fantastic job."

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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