Marcus Bettinelli, Stockpiling and Why a Move to Chelsea isn’t out the Realms of Possibility

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News this morning that Chelsea have bid £2.5m for Marcus Bettinelli is enough to make the blood boil if you stop and think about it.

This is yet another example of a big club using their financial weight to stockpile young talent.

There is nothing in the law book that says stockpiling is wrong. Though is it so wrong? And would Marcus Bettinelli really be better off not moving to Chelsea?

Indeed, stockpiling can actually be a clever business model. Sign young talent, develop a network of feeder clubs to which you can send young players out on loan in the knowledge they will play regularly, then either sell them on for a profit or keep the ones that develop into players for your first team.

Feeder clubs are not a new phenomenon. Arsenal, for example, had an “operational” link up with Belgian club Beveren in Arsene Wenger’s early days at the club, although that ended up with a FIFA investigation as the Parent Club is not allowed to pay the Feeder Club for the relationship. Watford, Udinese and Granada, all owned by the Pozzo family, operate within a network where players are almost interchangeable. Manchester City’s owners now own New York City FC and Melbourne City, the relationship between the clubs allowing Frank Lampard to join Manchester City prior to his move to the MLS. While Spanish clubs have second teams who play in the professional ranks.

However, it is the concept of stockpiling which is relatively new and becoming increasingly evident and potentially problematic given the money available at the top of the game.

It is a business model most successfully employed by Chelsea, the club playing the role of the villain in this current escapade.

Chelsea have a partnership with Vitesse Arnhem in the Dutch Eredivisie. The two clubs are owned by friends. This enables them to send any player they choose to the Dutch club on loan. For a small club like Vitesse, who know they will never fully challenge the likes of Ajax and PSV Eindhoven domestically, the link up guarantees them several talented young players every season at a minimal cost. For Chelsea, the players they send there get game time in a top flight league. The Vitesse squad for the upcoming season currently has four Chelsea players on loan, including Danilo Pantic, an 18 year old Serbian midfielder who signed for Chelsea yesterday.

Chelsea have also successfully developed a link up with Championship side Middlesbrough . This link up sees Chelsea send their top level prospects, the ones who are on the cusp of being Premier League ready, to play in the English second tier. That Boro are managed by Jose Mourinho’s former assistant at Real Madrid, Aitor Karanka, is no coincidence.

However, aside from the formal and informal links, Chelsea remain prolific loaners. By being a willing parent club, they will normally find a home for their players they wish to loan out. Patrick Bamford is the latest example. Signed from Nottingham Forest for £1.5m as an 18 year old, the striker has had loan spells in League One, at MK Dons, in the Championship – at Derby and then Middlesbrough, and this week signed on loan for Crystal Palace, where he will get a year’s experience in the Premier League.

In total, Chelsea currently have 30 (Yes – THIRTY) players out on loan for the upcoming season.

Their system and attitude to loanees can perhaps be summed up by their current very public pursuit of Everton defender Jon Stones. If they sign him, it’s for the first team. Everton and Barnsley have already done the hard yards and developed Stones. At over £20m, should he join, Stones is not exactly cheap.

Yet in amidst this pursuit it has gone largely unnoticed that Chelsea have in their ranks, two of the best defensive prospects in English football in Tomas Kalas and Andreas Christensen. Kalas, after two years on loan at Vitesse, has now joined Middlesbrough for the 2015/16 season. Dane Christensen has just joined Bundesliga side Borussia Monchengladbach on loan. With the likes of Kurt Zouma already at the club, the chances of these two ever making the full squad permanently must be extremely remote.

So the question remains why do young players agree to join a club like Chelsea? For the likes of Kalas and Christensen, who have given years to Chelsea already, to see such a public pursuit of someone like Stones, it must be a bit of a kick in the face.

However, think of it like this. You are a top level prospect and Chelsea want you. It’s win: win really. You know you will be sent on loan to a good club with nearly guaranteed game time. This will then either put you in the shop window or if you are one of the chosen few, you may even make the first team.

If you stay at your original club and make it to your mid-twenties, you may not ever get the move to a big club. Your club may hold out for too high a fee or your development might stall because the environment you are in is one in which results, not development, take priority.

There is the additional risk that when you join a Chelsea or a Man City as an already established player in that competition for places is fierce. Stockpiling of these prime year players is something that really is a problem for the English game as prime talents can go to waste. Manchester City are the biggest offenders here, in that they have signed a cavalcade of established players only for those players to get lost in the system and eventually be sold at a loss to worse clubs than they left in the first place – Jack Rodwell and Scott Sinclair are two recent examples that spring to mind.

For players yet to reach their prime, like Kalas and Christensen, joining Chelsea as a teenager gave them a better chance of ending up at a top club than they would have had if they’d stayed at Sigma Olomouc and Brondby, and they’ve probably been paid better in the process.

So that brings us back to Bettinelli. Would Marcus want to move to Chelsea? After all, this is a club that has just paid £8m for a back-up goalkeeper in Asmir Begovic, a player with 41 International caps to his name.

Indeed, Thibaut Courtois, Chelsea’s world class Number One is actually 13 days younger than Bettinelli.

Accepting that Courtois is an usual case, most goalkeepers don’t enter their prime until later in their careers, Bettinelli would likely still be signing up for a scenario in which his optimal position will be the eventual Chelsea Number 2.

Considering Bettinelli and his family have a long connection with Fulham I’d be surprised to see him go, especially if he is guaranteed to continue as our Number 1. Though if Chelsea could guarantee him a loan to a club whose defence doesn’t leak as many shots as ours he may well be tempted. There’s also no guarantee he stays as Fulham’s Number One for the entire season. Should we enter a promotion or relegation race, results become too important to carry any player if they are not pulling their own weight.

It also depends on his career goals. At 23, Bettinelli has the potential to be between the sticks for Fulham for the next decade. This comes with no guarantee that we’ll be back in the Premier League. A move to Chelsea would likely see him make the top division at some point in his career. Uncertainty and risk come in different forms.

From Fulham’s perspective, we won’t want to lose Marcus for the reason I’ve just said, he could be our goalkeeper for the next decade. However, with a good veteran now at the club in Andy Lonergan, and several talented youngsters in the pipeline in Jesse Joronen, Marek Rodak and Magnus Norman, there are other options should the transfer happen.

Stockpiling seems to be unavoidable, but if players can continue to see the benefits of a system that is not exactly secret, perhaps it is just something modern football will have to learn to live with.

COYW

Fulham Transfer Targets: Championship Defenders

Fulham have begun this summer transfer window by concluding three deals for players from within the Championship. In Tom Cairney, Ben Pringle and Andy Lonergan we have moved to strengthen the squad with players who are already proven in our division. It is a surprisingly sensible transfer strategy and looks to be going someway to rectifying the balance of the misshapen squad we ended last season with.

 

However, with the arrivals in the form of a goalkeeper and two midfielders (with a possible third to follow in Jamie O’Hara), one area we are yet to sign any players for is the defence. With up to an entirely new back four not out of the realms of possibility, it is safe to say Mike Rigg and co will be scouring the Championship for defensive options. So what follows is a list of potential defensive targets, should Fulham decided to continue the strategy of staying within the Championship.

Lewis Dunk – CB, Brighton & Hove Albion

Centre back Dunk is a player who’s already been linked to Fulham this summer, with some reports stating we’ve already had offers for the 23 year old turned down. Whether this is true or not remains to be seen, but it is certainly believable, and Dunk would be an intriguing signing. At 6”4’ his size makes him stand out, but there is a danger with a player like Dunk that his goal scoring, 5 last season, makes him overly memorable relative to how good he actually is. However, he’s a solid player with his prime years ahead of him so it would be a surprise if Brighton let him go.

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James Tarkowski – CB, Brentford

22 year old centre back Tarkowski has had something of a meteoric rise in the 18 months since he joined Brentford from Oldham on transfer deadline day in January 2014. Arriving in west London as a 20 year old amidst Premier League interest, Tarkowski was the archetypal sign them cheap, sell them high transfer that suits the transfer system Brentford are in the midst of implementing. At 22, he still has some development to come and it would be a surprise if Brentford sold him to a rival before his value peaks. We’ve been linked with him already this summer with rumours suggesting we’ve unsurprisingly baulked at a reported £8m valuation placed on the player by Brentford.

Tom Lees – CB, Sheffield Wednesday

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24 year old Lees is another whose name has briefly been mentioned as a potential target already this summer, with press reports suggesting a £1.2m bid was supposedly rejected earlier in June. The Sheffield Wednesday defender is popular at Hillsborough, even captaining the side at times last season and you’d be surprised if they let him go after only one full season at the club. At 6”2’ he’s another physically imposing centre back and, despite his age, would add both experience and leadership to a back line lacking an identity. Sheffield Wednesday kept an impressive 17 clean sheets last season and Lees was a big reason why. Fulham have also been linked to Wolves CB Richard Stearman, whilst it perhaps wouldn’t be a surprise to see Michael Turner leave newly promoted Norwich for a return to South West London.

Simon Francis – RB, Bournemouth

Ok, so Bournemouth aren’t technically in the Championship anymore, but Francis was the best visiting full back to play at Craven Cottage last season. At 30 he is not in the age bracket we ideally want to be signing, but it is important that we garner some experience in the squad outside of those already at the club. If Jack Grimmer isn’t to start the season as our principal right back, I’d want his replacement to be someone he can look up to and learn from. Francis led all Championship defenders in assists last season with 6 but I’d be surprised if Bournemouth wanted to let him go, or if he’d want to leave.

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Charlie Daniels – LB, Bournemouth

Similarly to Francis above, Daniels is no spring chicken aged 29. However, with Bournemouth spending £8m on Tyrone Mings last week, Daniels has seen his potential role at the club nose dive. Daniels is a good all round full back and was part of a spectacularly solid Bournemouth back four last season, alongside the aforementioned Francis, Steve Cook and Tommy Elphick. He also chipped in with 4 assists and 43 key passes. With Sean Kavanagh the only left back in the first team squad (assuming Fernando Amorebieta has no future at the club) we could urgently do with a bit of experience.

Sam Byram – RB, Leeds

I should start the write up of Byram by saying there is very, very little chance we could sign Byram. The 21 year old right back has been catching scouts eyes from the Premier League for several seasons now, with latest reports linking him to Everton in the event Seamus Coleman leaves. However, taking Leeds’ best player for the second summer in a row would be a real coup for Fulham. In reality though, it is likely that a more experienced right back arrives to challenge Grimmer for the place.  The most probable scenario is the arrival of former loanee Ashley Richards on a permanent transfer from Swansea, but we can dream.

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James Husband – LB, Middlesbrough

Another 21-year old, Husband spent the last month of last season on loan at Fulham as part of the Amorebieta loan swap. In 2 league appearances, Husband managed to do what Kostas Stafylidis failed to do in 38 and resemble a competent defender. With George Friend cemented as the starter at Boro, Husband will need to leave the Riverside for regular minutes this season and I’m sure I’d not be alone in welcoming him back to Craven Cottage. Whether Boro would sell him is a different question.

James Husband of Fulham

Scott Malone – LB, Cardiff

Malone started last season at Millwall and caught the eye as the Lions beat us at the Cottage in August. However, with his contract running down, Millwall sold him to Cardiff in January where he proceeded to make 13 appearances. It’s unlikely he’d move again, but the 24 year old is one of the Championships best under the radar full backs.

It’s unlikely any of these players will arrive in SW6 this summer, but it is good to see Fulham looking at the talent available within the Championship as a means to strengthen the squad.

COYW

Welcoming Ben Pringle

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A rumour that popped a little while ago, Fulham today announced that they “just couldn’t stop” themselves and have signed former Rotherham midfielder Ben Pringle on a free transfer. Pringle, along with ex-Bolton goalkeeper Andy Lonergan will join the Whites officially on July 1st when their current contracts have expired.

Along with the ability to make endless references to the Pringles crisp advertising campaigns, these two signings represent a canny and successful first bit of business this summer for Fulham from the new Mike Rigg, Kit Symons and Alistair Mackintosh brain trust.

Anyone that saw Fulham’s draw with Rotherham at home in April will have spotted Pringle as the best player on the pitch by some margin and he was one of, if not, Rotherham’s best and most consistent player last season as the Millers narrowly avoided relegation to League One. Following a debut season at Championship level with Rotherham, the midfielder decided not to renew his contract at the Yorkshire club. It appears fan reaction to Pringle leaving has been a mixture of disappointment and understanding, with Rotherham fans seemingly comprehending of Pringle’s desire to play at a slightly higher level. Albeit I’m sure they’d have liked a transfer fee.

Financially, Pringle’s arrival on a free transfer represents obvious good value, whilst also leaving funds in the kitty for what is likely to be an expensive summer for Fulham, with both starters and squad players needed across nearly every position. Although as always with free transfers, the player is likely to be on slightly inflated wages, these are unlikely to be anywhere near those of the players left over from the Premier League squad of 18 months ago. Getting a player who could well end up as a starter on a free is nothing to be scoffed at.

Left midfielder Pringle has just turned 26, so unlike far too many of our recent signings, he is in the statistical prime years of his career. To get the best player from a division rival is a good move, to get one on a free transfer is even better.

In fact it is a move like this, although showing how far we’ve fallen in the last 18 months, that shows we are finally starting to think smarter about how to get back up the footballing pyramid. While it is not necessary to have a squad full of players with Championship experience, we desperately need a few more, and to get a player such as Pringle who is in his prime is a smart piece of business.

I’m particularly pleased with Pringle’s arrival as he fills a severe positional need. We survived last season with a complete lack of width. It wasn’t a good tactic. Aside from the inexperienced George Williams, whose style is not that of an out and out winger, and converted left back Sean Kavanagh, we do not have a genuine left midfielder in the squad. Pringle’s pace, passing and more specifically his crossing ability will help create genuine chances for a frontline far too often starved of service last season.

Statistically, Pringle made 40 appearances last season, scoring 3 goals with 7 assists. What stands out is Pringle’s ability to create chances. His 99 chances created was 20 higher than the nearest Fulham player (Ross McCormack – 79). By contrast, Bryan Ruiz created only 42 chances, Lasse Vigen Christensen created 41 and Hugo Rodallega 40, albeit all of these had reduced playing time for one reason or another.

Meanwhile Pringle’s 92 “Key Passes” was 22 higher than Fulham’s highest, Ross McCormack with 70. Scott Parker was second with 40 and Ruiz 3rd with 39.

From a financial and statistical point of view, Pringle represents a clever start to Fulham’s summer.

Welcome to Fulham, Ben.

COYW

Fulham’s Roadmap to Regeneration: Part IV – Potential Transfer Targets

The fourth and final step on the roadmap to Fulham’s regeneration will be the targeted acquisition of a select few players who can complement those left in place and promoted from the academy.

With our relegation, our list and spectrum from which to select those targets will have shifted. We are unlikely to be able to attract players from Europe’s top leagues for a year of battling in England’s second tier.

Instead, our options will be closer to home. Whilst we may not necessarily have the ability to get players to drop a tier, the Football League pyramid regularly produces players of a good enough calibre to be perfect for a promotion campaign. Indeed some football league experience would not go amiss in what is likely to be a young and foreign dominated squad left in place.

We should capitalise on our stature as a club that will have us leading the pack when it comes to attracting talent to move up the tiers of English football. All told though, with known transfer hound Felix Magath at the helm, Fulham’s scouts and chequebook will likely be travelling far and wide this summer.

However, without the encyclopedic knowledge to match our German manager, here are a few names from within the Football League to whom Fulham could look this summer:

Strikers

At present, Fulham look reasonably well stocked up front. However, much depends on the fate of Kostas Mitroglou. If the Greek shines at the world cup and earns a move away from SW6 our front line will have a gaping hole. With Hugo Rodallega’s scoring record questionable and Marcello Trotta reported to have handed in a transfer request, to ask teenagers Moussa Dembele and Cauley Woodrow to score 40 goals between them is simply too much. QPR’s signing of Charlie Austin a year ago showed the value of adding a proven goalscorer at Championship level. Fulham’s name did not come up in discussions of where Bournemouth’s Lewis Grabban would end up despite interest from fellow relegated teams Norwich and Cardiff and the 22 goal striker is now heading for Carrow Road. Regardless, there are several strikers who would significantly improve our arsenal up front were they to join.

Jordan Rhodes

Blackburn hitman Rhodes has been on most potential target lists since before he left Huddersfield two years ago. At 24, he is entering his peak years and is likely desperate for a crack at the big time. After a season in which he scored 25 goals, Norwich were reported to be looking at the Scotland international before signing Grabban this week. Blackburn’s obscene demands for an eight figure price tag may mean Rhodes doesn’t get a move away from Ewood Park, but should he do so, Fulham would be well advised to be at the head of the queue for the prolific hitman.

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Ross McCormack

Another Scot, Leeds’ McCormack has dominated the Championship scoring charts since his Cardiff days. At 27 he is entering the last few years he’s got to get to the highest level. With our finest in-house striking talent in their teens, securing a goalscorer with experience would be no bad thing. Leeds’ new owner, flamboyant Italian Massimo Cellino, this week claimed Newcastle had a bid for the striker turned down, however, the Tyneside club say otherwise and Cellino could just be trying to drum up interest in the forward who scored 28 times last season. Another 27 year old worth monitoring is Brighton’s Leandro Ulloa, who reportedly came close to joining Crystal Palace in January.

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Troy Deeney

25-year-old Deeney is an intriguing possibility. He’s a big burly proper striker that can do big proper striker things like push defenders out the way for fun. He can however, also score goals at Championship level with quite some frequency. 24 goals was an impressive tally for the Englishman last season in a Watford team who never really got going following their playoff final defeat the season before. Watford’s owners the Pozzo family are well known dealmakers so any Watford player is likely available at the right price and Deeney could be a decent alternative to the more expensive options named above.

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Callum Wilson

Dropping a division further makes finding the diamond in the rough that bit harder. Undeniably the best talent at that level either achieved promotion, such as our own Marcello Trotta, or was simply former Championship players on the downslope of their careers. Exceptions to the rule can be found and one such talent is Coventry striker Callum Wilson. The 22 year old scored 22 goals last season for a team playing their home games in the wrong town. Wolves, Nottingham Forest and Bournemouth have already been linked with the forward whom Coventry want to build their team around. Peterborough’s Britt Assombalonga is another young forward who will be keen to go up a division but his failure to assert himself at Watford before his drop to League One will worry any potential suitors. Finally, Chelsea and England Under 21 striker Patrick Bamford set the world alight on loan at MK Dons, but was out of the Derby team for the playoff final. Were Fulham to look to a loanee, Bamford has shown significant promise of top level potential and Fulham could prove a perfect step up.

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Midfielders

Midfield is an area that Fulham appear well stocked to bring through players. However, like attack, our midfield lacks a particular punch and it will similarly be too much to ask of the likes of George Williams, Lasse Vigen Christensen, Pat Roberts and Chris David to achieve promotion on their own. Both for a cultured passer to provide the assists and some recognised athleticism would not go amiss and we’ll need the midfield to chip in some goals as well. Here are a few names to consider:

Craig Bryson

Derby midfielder Bryson was the standout player in an exceptional year for the Rams that ended with heartbreaking defeat in the playoff final. At 27, Bryson’s route to the top has been a long winded one, but with 16 goals and 12 assists he was a genuine contender for Championship player of the season last year. The highlight of his and Derby’s spectacular season was a hat trick in the thrashing of bitter rivals Nottingham Forest and Bryson ended the year in the Championship Team of The Year. Whether he and Derby can repeat their success will remain to be seen but his name will be on a few club’s target lists.

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Will Hughes

Like Bryson, his teammate Will Hughes was in the Championship Team of The Year but unlike Bryson, Hughes’ name has been on scouts’ lists since he was under driving age. Now aged 19, the peroxide blond central midfielder remains a reported target for clubs such as Manchester United and Liverpool. However, with Derby’s failure to gain promotion and a lack of firm offers elsewhere, a solid and sizable bid from a club like Fulham could tempt a transfer. As unlikely as it would be, a player of Hughes’ box-to-box creative talent would be perfect for our midfield.

Henri Lansbury

Nottingham Forest’s Herni Lansbury has already been rumoured to be a Fulham target this summer with the Nottingham Evening Post suggesting a £5m offer was in the offing. Like Hughes, the former Arsenal man would add some much needed spark to our midfield and £5m would not be too high a price for a midfielder who gained significant honours at youth level.

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Ikechi Anya

One player quietly garnering significant praise over the past two seasons has been Watford utility man Ikechi Anya. Originally a right back, Anya played for Scotland as a left midfielder last week. The 26 year old ended the season with 8 assists coming largely from defence and like Troy Deeney mentioned above, would be available at the right price. Fellow Watford man Lewis McGugan is also someone I’ve thought Fulham should have had an interest in for a few years now.

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Defenders

Defence is an area where we will undoubtedly be looking for fresh blood. Although Dan Burn is likely etched in as a starter at centre back, who will be there alongside him is very much up for debate. With both John Heitinga, who signed for Hertha Berlin, and Brede Hangeland, who was released, formally having left in the past week, our two starting centre halves from last year’s run in are no longer at the club. John Arne Riise has said his goodbyes and there ate lingering doubts as to whether Sascha Riether and Fernando Amorebieta will be at the club next season. Academy wise, Jack Grimmer and Liam Donnelly look the likeliest to make an immediate step up but we may have interest in strengthening across the board.

Aaron Cresswell

The Ipswich Town left back was named in the PFA Championship Team of the Year and has been linked to Fulham in the past. Left back is our weakest position in-house so we are likely to be in the market at that position. At 24, the man who got 13 assists for Ipswich is undoubtedly on the list of players being considered. Rangers’ Lee Wallace was also linked in the press this weekend.

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Steve Cook

23-year-old Bournemouth centre half Cook was probably not on many fans’ radars before being linked to Fulham in May. He made 39 appearances in a Bournemouth defence that ended last season with a positive goal difference and has also been linked to newly promoted Burnley in the past few weeks. Unlike Cook, Nottingham Forest’s Jamaal Lascelles is probably the most hyped young defender in the division and Fulham could do a lot worse than attempting to lure him south in exchange for Steve Wigley.

Harry Maguire

Sheffield United centre half Maguire impressed for the Blades when they played Fulham in the FA Cup back in January. Wolves have reportedly had two bids already rejected for the 21-year-old with a fee of £2m rumoured to be enough to prize the player away from Sheffield. He looks destined for a big future and another year in League One might not be in his best interests.

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Will Packwood

Another young defender to keep an eye on is Birmingham City’s 20-year-old American Will Packwood. A Championship Young Player of The Month last season, the centre back has already shown tremendous courage to recover from a double leg fracture suffered shortly after he arrived in the Midlands. He’s highly rated and in the signing of Foday Nabay a year ago, we’ve shown our scouts know the route to St Andrews.

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Sam Byram

Were we to need a new right back, one option could be Leeds’ Sam Byram. The 20-year-old was linked to Southampton in the event Callum Chambers moved on earlier in the year such is his potential. With in-house rookie Grimmer a natural centre back we may yet go into the market but chances are another homegrown option, Josh Passley, might get a chance first.

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These are of course only a few potential options. With our extensive scouting network and a manager fond of scattergunned signings from far afield and beyond who knows what transfers lie in store. However, by adding a select band of young, talented and hungry players who can complement what we already have, we have the opportunity to create a new ethos and with it a whole new club. We must avoid the temptation to sign players who are old or out of contract. Now is not the time for mercenaries. Let’s hope this is the first year of a new Fulham in the transfer market.

COYW

The Lion, The Switch and Who Knows What Wardrobe

It’s like opening the door to Narnia. From the moment the transfer window opens on January the 1st football fans go on a perilous month long journey of discovery in search of Aslan The Official News Lion.

It is 31 days of rampant speculation. Did someone see Nani on the Fulham Road? Did Alistair Mackintosh meet with Steven Defour’s agent? Were Lionel Messi and Ferenc Pushkas seen playing Deal or No Deal on the Itbox at The Earl Beatty pub next to Motspur Park station?

As fans we have little way of knowing what’s actually going on. Is our club actively trying to recruit new faces? Have they planned for the window with comprehensive scouting and budgeting? Were those plans ripped up with the comprehensive change of management? What will actually happen?

The trade off in January is much written about. To get quality, you have to pay for it. That is not Fulham’s style. We are not a club who goes out wantonly looking to sign other club’s best players. Our ethos has long been attempting to secure value by signing players unwanted or undervalued at other clubs. Indeed our transfer philosophy since the time of Roy Hodgson and before has been to secure experienced professionals at knock down prices with an occasional drop of high expectation prime of their career stardust mixed in for good luck.

Unfortunately the last real player signed for top Euro was Bryan Ruiz two and a half years ago, and he made his debut for PSV Eindhoven back in the Eredivisie last weekend. Under Mohamed Al-Fayed there was an obvious reluctance to drop too many coins in the ocean. For whatever reason Fulham’s three biggest inbound transfers (Ruiz, Andrew Johnson and Steve Marlet) have left SW6 without setting the world alight. Johnson (when fit) and Ruiz (when confident) had their moments where glimpses of their fee were justified, but they never quite lived up to the billing, though Bryan may yet have the opportunity to resurrect his Fulham career after the World Cup.

With any luck, the new regime does not bare old scars. For Fulham to progress beyond the sedate spiral to anonymity that has been our path so far this season money will need to be spent. 3, 4 or 5 players are needed in the next week for this window to not go down as a failure. There is for all intents and purposes, a summer’s worth of work to get done in a little over seven days.

Yet it appears we might get our wish. The month long game of cat and mouse and agent is being played out in public for several reported targets. When Rene Meulensteen let slip the verbal dogs of war regarding Ravel Morrison last week, West Ham couldn’t publicly cry foul fast enough. A player of Morrison’s talent would not be on Fulham’s radar unless they felt they had a realistic chance of signing him, including the financial resources. That is not to say we should expect Fulham to pay any more for him than they feel he is worth. As often stated, Fulham’s management are not the sort to be held to ransom.

For a player to move you need two things: a willing player and a willing club. But there is something else that clubs want prior to making a transfer, the upper hand, or at least the perception that they are the ones getting a good deal. Apart from ransom sales of players with expiring contracts, this is where the media repartee comes in. Were West Ham really upset that Meulensteen spoke of Morrison because it destabilised the player, or were they livid that the knowledge he wanted to leave made him cheaper?

The gulf between planning and execution gets exponentially wider in January. There will be a library’s worth of stories we don’t know. Players Fulham wanted to sign or came close to signing. In the past month there have been reminders that Fulham have in the past tried and come close to signing Alvaro Negredo and Andre Pierre Gignac only for deals to fall through for one reason or another. Indeed it was widely reported last January whilst he was still a Roma player that Maarten Stekelenburg got as far as Heathrow airport before being told Roma had decided against selling him to Fulham.

Then there are those who did join as the end-of-transfer window back-up plans, the likes of Orlando Sa, Eyong Enoh and David Elm. We will have to wait a few more days for the results of this month of mystery deal making to reveal themselves. Its often what’s not told, those stories of business left unfinished, that would truly capture our imagination.

Unfortunately though, it is those stories that have an official ending that matter. Who will have their photograph taken holding a pristine new white shirt before February 1st? We’ll just have to wait a little longer to find out.

COYW