Hello, my friends! I am honoured to welcome you to a new season at Fulham Football Club, my fifth campaign serving as your Chairman and one that has generated immense anticipation here at the Club.
Following our recent breakthrough season that resulted in a sixth-place finish in the Sky Bet Championship and a Play-Off appearance, Fulham is again part of the football conversation here in London, throughout the UK and beyond. Among our family of supporters, enthusiasm is high. Expectations? Even higher.
So, with today’s opening match against our guests from Norwich City, let the fun - and scrutiny - begin!
I’m confident we’re going to have fun, because fun comes with winning and that’s what we envision for the 2017/18 season. Why wouldn’t we? For the first time to start a season in years, we have stability and direction in football operations under Tony Khan and his scouting and data teams. Now with a whole season at Fulham under his belt, Slaviša Jokanović returns to begin his second full campaign as Head Coach. Slaviša’s body of work in a short period of time at Fulham has been spectacular, but he makes it clear to me - and his players - that he’s unsatisfied. That’s the right approach, of course, but it’s great nonetheless to see and hear Slav remind us all of the unfinished business that awaits. Slav’s mindful approach to the game combined with his will to win has produced impressive results since his arrival in December 2015. I expect that to continue. Why? Because that’s what Slaviša expects as well.
Above all, we’re returning the core of an FFC side that went on an enthralling second-half run following the close of the January transfer window. Tom Cairney is now our full-time captain. Our resolve in keeping Tom in a Fulham kit was matched only by his desire to return so that he may accept the challenge of promoting the Whites to the Premier League. This is what motivates Tom and why he’s a perfect fit not only to wear our captain’s armband, but to represent - as an example to his teammates and, frankly, to his opponents - the values of Fulham Football Club. The most successful and memorable seasons in FFC history were made possible by players who felt they owed Fulham, and its supporters, more than the Club owed them. I feel Tom is in that company and I’m proud that he will serve all of us as our captain this season and hopefully for many more years to come.
And, you’re undoubtedly aware that Ryan Sessegnon, another in a long line of brilliant Fulham Academy products, was the focus of many top-flight clubs even as last season wound down. Ryan is staying at Fulham, where his future is bright. Again, our commitment to Ryan and his family was unqualified. And it is rewarding to know that Ryan also was just as faithful to your Club in signing a long-term deal to grow as a player and contribute to the progress of Fulham Football Club. Add to this the loan extensions of Lucas Piazon and Tomas Kalas, and it’s evident we have a unit that believes in what we’re doing. That’s great news for all of us!
But, we’re not standing still. I’m pleased to welcome Marcelo Djaló, Ibrahima Cisse, Oliver Norwood and Aboubakar Kamara to Fulham, and I hope you will join me today in making them feel at home. All four men arrive with excellent credentials and promise, and they’ll each be counted on throughout the season to lift us in the table and - most importantly - keep us there.
And, yes, at all times we will continue to explore ways - smart ways - to upgrade your squad, and transfer opportunities are undoubtedly one method of making an upgrade. But, as we’re seeing in the rise of Ryan Sessegnon, it’s also vitally important to continue to invest in our Academy and facilities. That’s why we recently purchased what’s referred to as the old BBC property across the street from Motspur Park, which will provide additional resources to Slaviša, Huw Jennings and Fulham players at all levels. We haven’t yet determined exactly how we’ll use the property, but, as I said in the spring, we’ll be respectful owners and excellent neighbours, and our blueprint will be first-class in whatever we do there to ensure the continued improvement of everyone and everything that represents Fulham Football Club.
So, yes, we’re going to have fun this season. But, there will indeed be scrutiny. Please know that everyone at Motspur Park understands this and welcomes the focus on our Club and season. We’ve worked hard to be within striking distance of our ultimate goal, and with that comes a responsibility to see the task through. Meanwhile, don’t underestimate how your belief and support can help us close the deal. Fulham enjoys a sense of community like no other club in the game, and that spirit - especially in times of adversity, which are bound to occur - can make a difference.
Finally, I do want to thank a number of players who have moved on from Fulham, such as Scott Malone, Lasse Vigen Christensen, Jozabed, Richard Stearman and especially our former captain, Scott Parker. Our current roster will continue to benefit from the learnings and examples set by Scott during his time with our Club, and I wish him the very best in the next chapter of life in football that would already be the envy of many players who aspire to make a mark in the game. Scott will be a success at every stage of his career, and I’m thankful that he spent his final four seasons on the pitch representing London’s Original.
I’m very happy to be in London for our season opener and hope to have the occasion to say hello and say thank you for all you mean to Fulham Football Club. Everyone here owes you a debt of gratitude. Our Season Ticket sales have been outstanding. Our sponsorships are up. We’re proud to introduce GrosvenorCasinos.com as our Main Team Partner. Our new kits are outstanding. Everything is looking up. We’re inspired and ready, and it’s all due to you.
Here’s to three points this afternoon to kick off the dream season we’ve been working towards.
Come On You Whites!
Shahid Khan, Chairman