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Jokanovic admits ‘ambitious’ recruitment is needed

Fulham returned to the Premier League with a 1-0 play-off final win over Aston Villa.

Slavisa Jokanovic recognises Fulham will have to invest in their team to ensure survival after winning promotion to the Premier League.

A 1-0 victory over Aston Villa in the Championship play-off final secured their return to the English top flight after an absence of four years.

The consistently entertaining football they have played since the Serbian’s appointment in 2015 has attracted many admirers and was again on display at Wembley, particularly when Ryan Sessegnon created Tom Cairney’s first-half goal, but at a higher level it could yet leave them vulnerable.

If Jokanovic’s future had also been the subject of speculation, Fulham’s promotion makes him significantly likelier to remain as manager.

The on-loan Aleksandar Mitrovic and Matt Targett similarly did much to inspire his team’s improvement following their arrivals in January and the 49-year-old said: “I personally must be satisfied. This is our project, this Fulham is my club, my staff. We needed two and a half years.

Aston Villa v Fulham – Sky Bet Championship – Final – Wembley Stadium

“We must adapt ourselves; we know what is ahead of us. The Premier League is the most competitive league and we must be clever.

“That (January) transfer window was successful and gave an important push for the team. We must show ambition to be a Premier League team, show ambition with (transfer) money too.

“We believe we can play this way, but we must know what characters and what players we need. We must try and dominate against teams we believe we can dominate.”

His opposite number Steve Bruce insisted Villa remain in a position to recover from their disappointment and again challenge for promotion next season, despite what threatens to be a difficult summer.

The futures of the out-of-contract John Terry and Alan Hutton remain as uncertain of those of Sam Johnstone, Robert Snodgrass, Lewis Grabban, Axel Tuanzebe and Josh Onomah, who have all been on loan.

Aston Villa v Fulham – Sky Bet Championship – Final – Wembley Stadium

They also only have a further year of parachute payments, which will be reduced to £15million from £33million, and Jack Grealish is expected to attract attention from elsewhere.

But 57-year-old Bruce said: “The feeling is utter disappointment for everybody. But let’s not forget we are Aston Villa, a proud club, a big club. We will try to move forward.

“There is going to have to be a change, of course. We’ll dust ourselves down, accept defeat, and yes it’s going to be difficult, but we’ve done it this year.

“Is John going to stay? That’s the question for everybody. That’ll depend on John. There’ll be discussions over the next few weeks. He had an option (for a further year’s contract) if we’d gone up but we haven’t got that now.

Aston Villa v Fulham – Sky Bet Championship – Final – Wembley Stadium

“Of course there is going to be speculation over Jack. I would like him to stay; another year with us will do him a world of good. We will see what happens.”

Bruce was also critical of his team’s poor first-half performance and of the officiating, adamant Ryan Fredericks should have been sent off for a challenge on Grealish who he felt Fulham targeted.

He said: “I’ll roll my sleeves up and get stuck into it again.”

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