Claudio Ranieri called for ‘fighting spirit’ and insisted that Premier League safety is his priority as the Italian addressed the media for the first time as Fulham’s new manager.
After being appointed as Slavisa Jokanovic’s replacement at Craven Cottage on Wednesday, Ranieri brought his fighting talk to the table at the first time of asking as he held his first press conference.
The 67-year-old also spoke of his happiness in returning to football management, his conversation with Fulham owner Shahid Khan and, above all, his immediate ambitions for saving his new side’s season. As quoted by Sky Sports, Ranieri said: “I am an ambitious man. I have good players, but now I have to choose the players who show me fighting spirit.
“With quality, fighting spirit and union – and the fans understand this – we are all together. I need the support of our fans.”
Many doubted the Italian tactician’s ability to dig Leicester City out of a comparable hole in the Premier League danger zone when he took over at the King Power Stadium in 2015. Ranieri went on to steer the Foxes to successes which defied all odds and expectations.
The potential for repeating the feat with his new charges at Fulham was posed to Ranieri on Friday, but the Italian was not prepared to get carried away.
“We have to work hard,” he added. “That was a bonus, a fairy-tale. Forget.
“Now it is important not to think about the miracle, but to think there will be a lot of battles.
“We have to be ready together – I repeat together. The club, the players, the fans – together. They have to support us in the bad moments, and this is a bad moment.”
While Ranieri’s battle cry has laid his ambitions and determination bare from the outset in his new role, the Italian did indulge in some lighter subjects.
Ranieri famously rewarded his former Leicester stars for successfully keeping a much-needed and long overdue clean sheet during his spell in charge of the Foxes. Asked what such approach he will take with his Fulham stars, fast food was on the agenda once more.
“I need something better than pizza,” Ranieri remarked. “It is not enough – if we keep clean sheets, everybody to McDonald’s!”
"I have good players but I will pick the players who have fighting spirit"— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) November 16, 2018
Claudio Ranieri's passionate first press conference as Fulham manager included a message for the
fans and the players.
More: https://t.co/6eZ9GS1TTk pic.twitter.com/rMpHYt552j
From the deadly serious to the charmingly humorous, there was also time for the more level conversation with Ranieri during his press conference. The Italian spoke of his pleasure in accepting the Fulham job, and also turned his immediate focus to his first game in charge.
Speaking of his communication with Shahid Khan in accepting his new role, Ranieri added: “The chairman is a fantastic chairman. I spoke with him for one hour. He is enthusiastic and has spent a lot of money.
“He has asked me to save the club. Then slowly, slowly we can get better.”
Ranieri is keen to focus on his first assignment in charge – a Premier League clash at home to a Southampton side. The Italian has called for understanding and battling mentality from his players.
“When the manager changes the life is new,” Ranieri explained. “Everybody wants to show that they are the best. For me it is important that they just understand one man – me. My philosophy, I have to know all my players.
“It is a battle [the Southampton clash]. It will be very important to maintain a clean sheet or win the match. This is our goal but it is the same for Southampton. It will be a good battle.”
Having refused to draw comparisons between his new Fulham side with his former Leicester heroes, Ranieri also rejected the chance to indulge in looking ahead to his second match in charge of Fulham - a west London derby against another of his former clubs, Chelsea.
“I think only in Southampton,” Ranieri insisted. “In this moment it’s important not to think about other things. Southampton, Southampton. Then after Southampton – Chelsea.”
Ranieri picks up a Fulham side which are currently rock bottom of the Premier League, but just three points adrift of safety. The task is certainly one which a manager of the Italian’s experience, knowledge of the Premier League and tactical prowess is capable of.