It's not often that a side gets relegated with five games to play and can end the season feeling optimistic. 


But a recent resurgence in west London has seen the mood around Fulham switch since the sacking of Claudio Ranieri, under the guidance and watchful gaze of caretaker boss Scott Parker.


A pitiful 4-1 defeat away at Watford confirmed the club's inevitable relegation to the Championship at the beginning of April, but since then the Cottagers have been on an excellent run and their fans will be hoping that it is a sign of things to come as they seek to make an immediate return to the top flight.


The defeat at Vicarage Road was followed by three wins and three clean sheets on the spin, a run which will surely lead to Parker securing the role on a full-time basis.

A 1-0 loss against Wolverhampton Wanderers at the weekend put a stop to the run of victories but the blueprint for success is now clear for Parker and his squad.


The key question is, of course, will they be able to maintain that level of form over the course of next season.If they are to do that then they will need to keep their most important players at the club.


There is no doubting the identity of one man they must strive to keep this summer; Aleksandar Mitrovic.


The Serbian international has scored almost a third of all their league goals this season, grabbing 11 in a campaign in which, more often than not, he has been feeding off scraps. The former Newcastle striker has missed only one league game all season and his ability to hold the ball up and bring others into the game is vital for the way this Fulham team wants to play.


The problem they will have is convincing him to stay at Craven Cottage.

Aleksandar Mitrovic

The 24-year-old has proved he can score goals regularly in the top flight and there are many teams who would love to bring in a striker who can get into double figures in the Premier League.


Parker, who has made the side a lot more resilient since taking over from Ranieri at the beginning of March, will also be keen to keep captain Tom Cairney and teenage winger Ryan Sessegnon at the club having brought them back into the starting XI in recent weeks.


Both players looked like leaving after being left out by Ranieri and previous boss Slavisa Jokanovic but Parker has got them back into the fold and, with the pair being so important in getting Fulham promoted last season, he will be hopeful of building the team around them again in the Championship.


If the former England international does get the manager's job permanently he will also be tasked with getting rid of some members of their bloated squad.

Tom Cairney,Ryan Sessegnon

On-loan Andre Schurrle will surely be first out the door with his two-year loan deal set to be terminated at the end of the campaign; the German World Cup winner already revealing he does not want to play in the second division next season.


Fellow loanees Calum Chambers, Timonthy Fosu-Mensah, Luciano Vietto, Havard Nordtveit and Sergio Rico are set to return to their parent clubs and Ryan Babel is also due to move on with his short-term contract expiring in the summer.


Parker would be well advised to sell high-earning central midfielders Jean Michael Seri and Andre-Frank Anguissa to clear space on the wage bill and generate some funds for him to spend in the transfer market.


While new players are important and inevitable, owner Shahid Khan signed 15 players for the club during the course of their one season back in the top flight and he must make sure they do not have such a massive turnover again this summer.


With that in mind, Parker should be allowed the opportunity to work with the majority of the players he currently has at his disposal.

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If he is able to retain the likes Mitrovic, Cairney, Sessegnon, Alfie Mawson and Joe Bryan, then there is the nucleus of a side who can compete at the top end of the Championship.


The 38-year-old has shown in recent weeks what he is able to do with these players and he deserves the opportunity to try and get them straight back to the Premier League.If they go in a different direction, things could take a dramatic turn for the worst.