Unassuming and self-effacing, Scott Parker’s never been one to go loudly about his business.
He is no shrinking violet, of course; just ask those who worked with the 39-year-old during his illustrious playing career.
With his playing days behind him, Parker’s now quietly going about building his management career. All in all, he’s made a very promising start.
He leads Fulham into the play-off semi-finals against Cardiff on Monday as his first full season in management draws to a close.
It’s been an eye-opener for Parker; many highs which have been suppressed by disappointing lows. Welcome to managing in the Championship, Scott.
But under the radar, Parker led the Craven Cottage club to within touching distance of automatic promotion – missing out by just two points.
The Championship is an unforgiving division, not necessarily conducive to nurturing a philosophy whilst simultaneously picking up results.
It’s credit to Parker that he’s managed to do both, managing a win rate of over 50 percent to confirm his position as one of the best emerging young bosses in the country.
In a nutshell: Parker believes in controlling football matches through possession; to build from defence and dictate the tempo by keeping the ball.
The stats are compelling: Fulham are second in the Championship for possession average (62.09 percent) and have attempted close to 24,000 passes – more than any other team in the league and top five in England behind only Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea.
The numbers also suggest it’s not passing for passing’s the sake: Fulham are first in the Championship for successful passes and passing accuracy in the opposition half.
It hasn’t come by chance. Parker and his staff are meticulous in their preparation; a typical working week includes five team video meetings supplemented by numerous more individual and unit video sessions.
The meetings focus on six moments of the game: in possession, out of possession, counter attack, counter defence and set pieces, for and against.
All meetings have the sole aim of how best to exploit the opponents weaknesses and impose Fulham’s style on them.
In terms of training sessions: Monday to Wednesday is reserved for progressing tactical elements of Parker’s philosophy.
Thursday sessions focus on the pressing and defensive strategy ahead of Saturday’s game while Friday leads on in-possession shapes Parker wants his teams to make.
Having lost the opening game of the season away at Barnsley, the Fulham boss was deeply concerned by his team’s work out of possession.
He reacted by switching to 4-1-4-1 formation, which he believed would allow a greater grip on his team’s pressing game – a tactical switch that sparked a run of three consecutive wins.
Parker even appears to have helped dispel assertions that Fulham are a one-man team. Without 26-goal striker Aleksander Mitrovic, the Cottagers have excelled to win five and draw one of their nine games without the Serb.
Of course, there is no hiding from the fact that Mitrovic’s impact on Fulham’s promotion hopes has been profound. Take Mitrovic out of the team and it’s very easily a different story.
In truth, Mitrovic should probably be playing top-flight football; motivating a player of that ilk can often be harder said than done.
It’s been a crash course in dealing with egos for Parker – he looks to have past the test with flying colours.
Mitrovic can be a complex character to handle. But Parker’s dished out the rollickings – as well as cuddles – depending on the situation.
Parker’s played with the best, if there’s anyone who understands what’s needed to make it to the top then it is him. Those at Fulham say Mitrovic respects that part of Parker’s make-up.
Improving a footballer is the fundamental necessity for any coach but Parker has specifically spent time developing Mitrovic the man, spending hours with him purely on a human level.
Yet, with all that said, Parker will recognise his Fulham are still a work in progress. There’ll be moments when Parker will feel his team have cracked it, only for mistakes to occur just moments later.
But he’ll will find comfort in the knowledge that any unique tactical system takes time to implement. Even Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Marcelo Bielsa didn’t get it right at the first time of asking.
Win on Monday, though, and Fulham and Parker will be in with a shout of doing just that.