Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic says he expects to retain Tom Cairney and his other ‘best players’ at Craven Cottage, despite having to settle for Championship football again next season.
The Whites were beaten 1-0 by Reading at the Madejski Stadium on Tuesday night to lose 2-1 on aggregate in their play-off semi-final – missing the chance to contest the Championship decider at Wembley.
The fear for Fulham fans is that a promising outfit will be broken up if Premier League clubs come after the most talented members of Jokanovic’s squad – with outstanding teenager Ryan Sessegnon also a likely target.
But the Whites’ head coach is adamant there will be improvements, rather than any backward steps.
“I expect our best players are going to stay with us. This is the information that I have from the board,” said the Serbian.
“To improve depends on the summer and what we do. Right now we are talking about the need to be more clinical and solid.
“Next season is going to be complicated, like all the seasons. If we want to be in this top half in the Championship, we have to be clever in this period in front of us.
“In the end, we did not take this target where we start to believe we could be promoted, and it’s clear we need to improve our team, our squad, to be still more competitive in the season in front of us.
“We’re going to rest and make analysis about what I believe is progress we made in this season. At the same time, we must show ambition to be stronger in the period in front of us.”
One area Jokanovic will be desperate to improve will be his options up front, because with Chris Martin only on loan, he currently has no natural strikers to finish off the sometimes dazzling approach play.
“We didn’t score and we paid an expensive price,” Jokanovic said of the frustrating defeat at Reading.
“We played better football and in the end, it’s true, we are the best team, but we don’t play in the final. We created many chances but we weren’t clinical enough.
“Normally I cannot be satisfied, and am disappointed, but from another side, I am proud with my team – how they played all the season.
“At the end, we lost, but I can be proud how my team was fighting tonight. We dominated them, took risks and created many things.”