José Mourinho says Fulham will owe the rest of the Premier League an apology if they field a full-strength team in Wednesday’s rearranged match at Tottenham.
The Spurs manager has been angered by what he perceives to have been a reluctance on Fulham’s part to play the game at short notice. He suggested the only grounds for them not to do so was if they had selection issues but he does not believe they have any.
Scott Parker, the Fulham manager, said the league told him and his club at 9.30am on Monday they would have to fulfil the fixture, which was postponed on 30 December after a Covid outbreak at Fulham. Parker described the notice period as “scandalous”. The league rescheduled the game after Spurs’s original opponents, Aston Villa, were forced to withdraw because of a rise in coronavirus cases at their club.
Mourinho has no sympathy for Fulham and he railed against “selfish” agendas that he fears could stand in the way of the season being completed.
“We should wait for tomorrow and see Fulham’s team … [and] the players not involved,” Mourinho said. “After that we can all feel sorry for them or we can all think that they shouldn’t speak. My feeling is the best Fulham will be here. So when we see the best Fulham you realise lots of things don’t make sense.
“We played 11 more matches than Fulham since the beginning of the season [it is actually 10]. They played Saturday against QPR. In London. They have Sunday, Monday and Tuesday to prepare. If they come with half of the team, I will be the first one to apologise to them. And I will be the first one to say we played this game with an advantage. If they come with their best, I think they should apologise to all of us. Come on, let’s play football. Let’s behave the best we can. Let’s protect our industry.”
Parker seethed as he laid out the difficulties he now faces. He fielded a strong team in the FA Cup win over QPR – Fulham’s first game since Boxing Day and their Covid shutdown – because he thought he had more time to prepare for a home match against Chelsea on Friday. That has been shifted to Saturday. Parker questioned whether a bigger club would have been treated in the same way and expressed fears over player welfare.
“We knew last week that Aston Villa’s game [against Spurs] would probably be called off,” Parker said. “Tell us then. If we had known this Thursday or Friday, not a problem. If the complication has happened over the weekend or someone has given a suggestion: ‘Oh, we could change that fixture with that one’, then that is just too late.
“There are players stuck in their house for 10 days [in self-isolation] and who have done no work. Even for the players to have a week’s work to play on Friday [against Chelsea] would have been some ask. To now chuck in a game in the middle of the week is another story … There’s no denying that injuries could be a higher risk. I’m disappointed, I’m angry, I think it’s unfair and I think it’s wrong. Outrageously wrong.”
The league is unhappy at Parker’s comments. It says Fulham were made aware before they kicked off against QPR there was the strong possibility they would have to face Spurs on Wednesday but it was impossible to confirm until Monday because of a number of factors, including the requirements of broadcasters.
Mourinho complained he had been told only a couple of hours before kick-off about the postponement of the original Fulham game whereas they had more than 48 hours to prepare for this one.
“Getting a game called off two hours or 48 hours before is really an irrelevance,” Parker said. “José will know only too well that you plan structures. Tottenham knew they had a fixture [on Wednesday]. His team selection on Sunday [at Marine] suggested that. Would this have happened with a top-of-the-table clash with two of the biggest teams? Probably not. This is not acceptable.”
Mourinho said the “main question” was whether people wanted the season to finish: “If we all are very selfish or if we all want the perfect situation for ourselves, it’s going to be very, very difficult for the Premier League to make it amazing for everyone.”
He added that Spurs had positive Covid tests “almost every week”. “One assistant coach, one player, one medical staff … We never tried to take any advantage of it.”