Premier League struggler Fulham fires manager Ranieri

Fulham manager Claudio Ranieri watches the warmup ahead of the English Premier League soccer match between West Ham and Fulham at the London Stadium in London, Friday, Feb. 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

LONDON (AP) — Claudio Ranieri was fired by Fulham on Thursday, even though owner Shad Khan said the manager isn’t fully responsible for failing to lift the London club out of the Premier League relegation zone.

Khan said in a statement that Ranieri agreed a “change was in the best interest of everyone” after Wednesday’s 2-0 loss at Southampton left Fulham 10 points from safety in next-to-last place.

“No surprise to me, Claudio was a perfect gentleman, as always,” Khan said. “Claudio’s tenure at Fulham didn’t produce the outcome we anticipated and needed when I appointed him as manager in November, but be assured he is not solely to blame for the position we are in today.”

Fulham has replaced a veteran — Ranieri is 67 — with a caretaker manager who is almost half his age and less than two years into his coaching career. Former Fulham midfielder Scott Parker was put in charge of the team until the end of the season, with his first game on Sunday at home to sixth-place Chelsea.

Since being hired in November, Ranieri has only collected 12 points from 16 matches.

“Claudio walked into a difficult situation, inheriting a side that gained only one point in its prior eight matches,” Khan said, “and he provided an immediate boost by leading our club to nine points in his first eight matches as manager.

“Though we were unable to maintain that pace thereafter, I am grateful for his effort. Claudio leaves Fulham as our friend and he will undoubtedly experience success again soon.”

Bu the firing is a fall from grace for Ranieri after winning the Premier League so unexpectedly with Leicester in 2016.

“I am obviously disappointed with the recent results and that we could not build on the good start we made following my appointment,” Ranieri said.

The 38-year-old Parker is a former English footballer of the year who played for Charlton, Chelsea, Newcastle, West Ham, Tottenham and finally Fulham being retiring in 2017.

“Scott’s immediate assignment is merely to help us stabilize, grow and rediscover ourselves as a football club,” Khan said. “If Scott can answer that challenge, and our players respond to the opportunity, perhaps victories will follow in the months ahead.”

Fulham only returned this season to the Premier League after a four-year absence.

“What’s most important at this moment, however, is to regroup in a smart and deliberate manner that will serve our long-term vision for sustainable success,” Khan said. “If we’re able to do that and win some matches to make a stand late in the season, all the better.”

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