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Fulham U23’s Premier League 2 fixtures released

Fulham under 23’s Premier League 2 fixtures for the forthcoming 2021/22 season have been confirmed this afternoon.

The Division Two campaign will commence with a trip to the Stadium of Light to face Sunderland on Monday 16 August, with a 7pm kick off. Fulham’s first home fixture will be played at Motspur Park on Friday 20 August with West Bromwich Albion the opposition. The season will conclude with a home game against Burnley at Motspur Park on Friday 29 April.

With two new clubs being awarded coveted Category One status over the close season, two new sides have been added to the Premier League 2 set-up. Both Birmingham City and Nottingham Forest will face Fulham in the second division.

Fulham are still believed to be in the process of recruiting a new under 23 head coach to succeed Mark Pembridge after Colin Omogbehin’s promotion to first team development coach following the club’s summer reorganisation of the academy. Fulham’s full league fixtures are as follows:

Monday 16 August, 7pm: Sunderland v Fulham (Stadium of Light)

Friday 20 August, 7pm: Fulham v West Bromwich Albion (Motspur Park)

Friday 27 August, 7pm: Aston Villa v Fulham (Bodymoor Heath)

Friday 10 September, 7pm: Fulham v Southampton (Craven Cottage)

Monday 20 September, 7pm: Wolverhampton Wanderers v Fulham (Molineux)

Friday 24 September, 7pm: Fulham v Newcastle United (Motspur Park)

Friday 7 October, 7pm: Norwich City v Fulham (The Walks Stadium)

Friday 15 October, 7pm: Fulham v Reading (Motspur Park)

Friday 22 October, 7pm: Fulham v Nottingham Forest (Motspur Park)

Monday 1 November, 7pm: Fulham v Middlesbrough (Motspur Park)

Monday 8 November, 7pm: Burnley v Fulham (Leyland County Ground)

Friday 19 November, 7pm: Fulham v Stoke City (Motspur Park)

Monday 29 November, 7pm: Birmingham City v Fulham (St. Andrew’s)

Friday 3 December, 7pm: Fulham v Wolverhampton Wanderers (Motspur Park)

Monday 20 December, 7pm: West Bromwich Albion v Fulham (New Bucks Head, Telford)

Monday 10 January, 7pm: Nottingham Forest v Fulham (The Impact Arena, Alfreton)

Sunday 16 January, 2pm: Southampton v Fulham (The Snows Stadium, Totton)

Monday 24 January, 7pm: Stoke City v Fulham (Lyme Valley Stadium)

Friday 4 February, 7pm: Fulham v Sunderland (Motspur Park)

Monday 21 February, 7pm: Newcastle United v Fulham (Northumberland FA)

Friday 25 February, 7pm: Fulham v Norwich City (Craven Cottage)

Friday 18 March, 7pm: Middlesbrough v Fulham (Heritage Park)

Friday 1 April, 7pm: Fulham v Birmingham City (Craven Cottage)

Monday 25 April, 7pm: Reading v Fulham (Select Car Leasing Stadium)

Friday 29 April, 7pm: Fulham v Burnley (Motspur Park).

Kamara’s Aris move collapses

Negotiations between Fulham and Aris over the potential sale of forward Aboubakar Kamara have ended without agreement, according to the Athletic’s Peter Rutzler.

The Greek Super League side were interested in signing the Mauritius international on a permanent basis – and Marco Silva had agreed to allow Kamara to leave Craven Cottage for a fee of around £4m – but the deal appears to have collapsed. The 26 year-old has an eventful four years at Fulham, having missed a penalty against Huddersfield after refusing to hand over the spot kick to Aleksandar Mitrovic, being involved in a training ground scuffle with the Serbian and being arrested after assaulting a Motspur Park security guard.

Kamara, a £5m capture from Amiens, has scored seventeen goals in 91 first-team appearances for Fulham and helped the Whites win promotion to the Premier League twice via the Championship play-offs. It remains to be seen if his move to Greece can be resurrected.

Where should Fulham strengthen further

Fulham’s summer transfer window roared into life on Saturday night with the club announcing the capture of Harry Wilson and Paulo Gazzaniga. Marco Silva made clear in his interview with the official website on Sunday that was eager for the club to press ahead with further signings to strengthen the squad before the start of the new season and I’ve spent some time pondering whether the first team squad could do with improving before the big kick off.

You might be surprised that my first choice is another winger – given Wilson’s recent arrival. I’ve opted for the Arsenal youngster Reiss Nelson. It might seem strange in the first instance as Silva as a surfeit of wide options to pick from at present but another devastating deliverer from the flanks would help Fulham play to the strengths of Aleksandar Mitrovic, which we singularly failed to do last season. Both Nelson, a talented prospect likely to available on loan this summer, and Wilson are excellent crosses of a ball and could provide the sort of service that our Serbian talisman will thrive upon. The pair are also strong set piece takers, possess serious pace and plenty of skills. You can just imagine Matt Grimes, another rumoured impending arrival, spreading the play for Nelson and the England under-21 international feeding Wilson. If Nelson isn’t available, the club could consider looking into the likes of Marcus Edwards or Max Meyer.

There still may well be a gap in Silva’s squad for another creative midfielder and the Midtjylland man Evander may fit the bill. His technical quality, ability to influence game and a versatility that sees him able to fill a number of different midfield roles makes him a very attractive acquisition. The Brazilian has a work ethic that will see him track back effectively, cover team-mates and embark on recovery runs during transitions. His desire to win the ball back could be particularly handy in the Championship. Another skilled set piece threat, Evander is also just 23 – with plenty of time to improve under Silva’s guidance. Another midfield option would be useful and I’m sure that is under consideration currently. Other options might include Jean-Paul Boëtius, a personal favourite and longstanding Fulham target, the Euro 2020 Joe Morrell, Dutch craftsman Dani de Wit, Manchester City’s Ivan Ilic and the versatile Daniel Armartey, who could also cover centre back and right back.

Striking reinforcements are essential. Fulham certainly don’t want to heading into another season without senior back-up for Mitrovic, even if the Serbian is certain to Silva’s first choice up front. The identify of my number one choice might provoke howls of derision but I’d look into luring Wesley to London. His big-money move to Aston Villa might not have worked out, but Fulham have a good track record into reviving careers. At 24, he has time on his side and will be hungry to prove a point in England. He has excellent technical ability, can be an asset if a more direct approach is called for and is also an adept dribbler. Alternatives could include Ajax’s Danilo, Sirki Dembele – who has long been a favourite of Tony Khan – and the Hertha Berlin forward Davie Selke.

My selections are clearly quite controversial, but designed to spark a bit of debate as we look forward to the new season. Which positions would you prioritise in the coming weeks and who would you like Fulham to bring in?

Boa Morte back at Motspur Park

Former Fulham winger Luis Boa Morte has started work at Motspur Park as Marco Silva’s assistant.

The Craven Cottage cult hero was pictured on the club’s official Twitter account passing on instructions during this morning’s first team training session. Boa Morte, who was Silva’s number two during his time in charge of Everton, made 203 appearances – scoring 33 goals – during a six year playing career with the Whites.

Three Turkish sides in Seri chase

Three Turkish sides are competing to sign Fulham midfielder Jean Michael Seri on a permanent basis, according to reports this morning.

The Ivorian midfielder, who is not in Marco Silva’s first team plans at Craven Cottage, is expected to leave Fulham this summer after spells on loan with Galatasaray and Bordeaux in recent seasons. The Turkish giants are keen to welcome him back to Istanbul and have already entered into negotiations to sign the 30 year-old earlier this summer.

Reports from France this morning identify newly promoted side Adana Demirspor as another potential destination, with Trabzonspor also holding an interest in signing Seri as he enters the final year of his Fulham contract. A return to France is also not of the question as Lile consider the playmaker a potential replacement for Boubakary Soumare.

Fulham are keen to get Seri’s significant pay packet off their wage bill before the start of the new Championship season next month. He has made just 36 appearances for the club – scoring a single goal – since signing from Nice in a deal reportedly worth £27m in July 2018.

Decordova-Reid returns in Jamaica defeat

Bobby Decordova-Reid returned from his Covid-enforced lay-off but couldn’t inspire Jamaica to victory as they were beaten 1-0 by the United States in this morning’s Gold Cup quarter-final.

Decordova-Reid, who had missed the Reggae Boyz’s 2-1 victory against Guadeloupe last Friday and the 1-0 defeat against Costa Rica on Tuesday night, completed a period of isolation and returned two negative tests in order to feature from the start in Arlington but couldn’t repeat his heroics from the tournament’s opening game – when he scored a stunning goal to beat Suriname.

Jamaica battled bravely but were beaten by a late header from Matthew Hoppe. Fulham defender Michael Hector, used in a holding midfield role throughout these championships, was an used substitute. The Americans will face Qatar in Thursday’s semi-final whilst the Fulham pair will head back to London to join the tail end of Marco Silva’s pre-season preparations.

Grimes set for Fulham medical

Marco Silva’s reshaping of Fulham’s squad will continue next week as Swansea skipper Matt Grimes heads to London for a medical ahead of a proposed move to Craven Cottage.

The decision of Swansea’s board to cash in Grimes as the influential midfielder entered the final year of his contract at the Liberty Stadium is thought to be one of the reasons for manager Steve Cooper’s departure last week. The Daily Mail tonight reports that the Welsh side have agreed a fee – believed to be in the region of £4m – with Fulham for the classy midfielder.

Grimes has attracted interest from the likes of Newcastle United, Southampton and Bournemouth after becoming one of the Championship’s most consistent performers. It appears as though Fulham have won the race for his signature with a medical scheduled for next week. The former England under-21 international midfielder, who came through the Exeter City academy, has scored eight goals in 157 appearances during his six years in south Wales.

Farewell, Stefan Johansen: Fulham’s unstinting heartbeat

It is fair to say that Stefan Johansen’s Fulham career didn’t get off to auspicious start. The Norwegian midfielder was hauled off just 32 minutes into a disastrous debut against Birmingham City, full of misplaced passes, nerves and mistimed tackles. He looked horribly out of place in the unforgiving heat of the Championship. It serves as a timely reminder about the perils of rushing to judgement. Johansen’s departure for Queens Park Rangers this weekend hits particularly hard for two reasons: first, the nagging sense that he was shabbily treated after his part in two Fulham promotions and, secondly, for his pivotal role at the heart of arguably the most stylish Fulham side in two decades.

Looking back at it now, snaring Johansen from Celtic for a smidgeon over £2m was the sort of steal master criminals would still be dining out on. It is impossible to understate his importance in the side that Slavisa Jokanovic built. He quickly shook off that shambolic debut to become an automatic selection in central midfield, dovetailing deliciously with the defensively-minded Kevin McDonald and Fulham’s creative hub Tom Cairney. Supporters may fondly recall that Johansen was more than happy to break up opposition attacks with scant regard for the rules, but he was a midfield craftsman in his own right too.

For every cynical challenge like that the one that floored Cameron Jerome in the play-off semi-final, there was a majestic strike like the one that settled the west London derby at Loftus Road. The Norwegian had the happy knack of delivering decisive goals to put Fulham’s promotion push back on track – opening the scoring with a beautiful volley at Burton, when the Brewers looked like nullifying our dominance on a bitterly cold night, and cracking open a similarly miserly Norwich rearguard in another crucial clash. He weighed in with eleven goals in his first season at Craven Cottage as the Whites felt the pain of the play-offs at Reading, but Jokanovic was putting together the building blocks of something even bigger.

A further eleven goals followed in the next campaign – impressive considering Ollie Norwood’s emergence as a credible understudy in the Fulham midfield – including several strikes that settled a stuttering start to the season, where Jokanovic’s side struggled to impose their will on emboldened opponents. There were more iconic moments, such as his gesticulating to James Maddison as the gifted midfielder became frustrated at being completely outplayed at Carrow Road, his winner against Nottingham Forest, a brilliant fourth goal on Boxing Day at Cardiff and, of course, the critical chest control that set up Ryan Sessegnon for that vital opener against Derby in the play-offs. Not to mention the way he found Sessegnon at Wembley in the build up to Cairney’s memorable finish.

Johansen’s influence wasn’t confined to cultured assists or massive goals, however. By far his biggest asset was his boundless energy. His ceaseless running was a key part of the way Fulham’s possession football matched up to the more agricultural methods of some Championship opposition and his willingness to mix it up in pursuit of victory made him a cult hero. Johansen’s footballing ability – he was never found lacking in the Champions’ League at Celtic – couldn’t legitimately be questioned and that midfield trio produced some of the most spellbinding football seen at Craven Cottage since Jean Tigana stalked the touchline. There’s no finer compliment than that.

There’s something else that stood out about Johansen. He was a model professional, whose pursuit of excellence was limitless. He once told the Norwegian press on international duty that he felt the only way he could belong in such exalted company at international level was to prove it in training every day. You could almost see him take that attitude onto the field as well.

He’s been considered a role model in his homeland for many years – as evidenced by his elevation to the national team captaincy – and struck a serious blow for social justice in signing up to an equal pay agreement with the Norwegian women’s skipper Maren Mjelde in Trafalgar Square in December 2017. I saw his considerate side in his dealings with a number of disabled supporters and had personal experience of it, when he walked over to engage in conversation when I was waiting for someone else at Motspur Park. When I asked why he’d approached me (he surely hadn’t committed my drunken acclaim at Preston train station to memory), he said he didn’t want me to feel left out. Such is the mark of man. He fully merits mention alongside his compatriots Brede Hangeland and Erik Nevland in Fulham folklore.

It was totally understandable that Johansen grew tired of being jettisoned after playing a pivotal role in lifting Fulham out of the Championship. He might not have been up to the mark required to pull Fulham away from the Premier League relegation zone – his fighting qualities wouldn’t harmed our position – but he deserved better than being discarded from Scott Parker’s squad without discussion. He’s demonstrated that he is still a force to be reckoned with at Championship level and he deserves the chance to continue QPR’s resurgence under Mark Warburton. We’ll never forget his contributions in the famous white shirt. Takk for alt, Stefan.

Johansen on his ‘five great years’ at Fulham

Stefan Johansen has penned an emotional goodbye to the Fulham fans following his departure for Queens Park Rangers this weekend.

Writing on the Fulham website, the Norwegian midfielder details his fantastic memories from his time at Craven Cottage and how much the club means to him and his family.

The letter reads as follows:

“I couldn’t leave without saying thank you to you, the supporters.

Fulham has meant a lot to both me and my family. It’s been five years of ups and downs, but it’s the ups that I will always remember, especially the Play-Off Final against Villa, which was one of the best atmospheres and experiences I’ve ever felt at a game.

The Club means a lot to me, and the fans will always be in my heart. Fulham has always been, and still is, a family club. And I really felt that when I first arrived. I felt welcome immediately. The support was great. There have been some tough times but there have been good times as well, and those are the ones that you will always remember.

What the supporters have given me is incredible. From day one I have always felt welcome, and that’s something that will always be in my heart. I really appreciated that support that you’ve given me over the last five years.

I’m looking forward to returning to Craven Cottage for our match in October. Fulham was five years of my career, and my life, and it was also my family’s life for five years. Five great years, the longest I have ever spent at a club. To come back to the Cottage will be a special, special thing for me, because you meant a lot to me and my family.

It was fantastic working with the boys every day, too. We were more than just teammates. It’s one thing to work together, but what was special about the group of players we had when I came in was that we had a real friendship as well. On the pitch things worked well, but off the pitch we were real mates, too. We wanted to fight for each other. A lot of us have moved on now, but that’s how football is. We will still keep in touch. We’ve created memories that will stay with us until we’re old. It’s been fantastic in that sense. Being part of that team gave me something that I will never forget.

I will definitely be keeping an eye on Fulham’s results. Thank you again for your support these last five years.

Take care, and see you soon.

Stefan”

The battle to be Fulham’s number one

When the news broke that Paulo Gazzaniga was having a medical ahead of joining Fulham this weekend, a lot of fans’ first thoughts will have centred around Marek Rodak. The Slovakian international, who had an outstanding breakthrough season at Craven Cottage as the Whites were promoted from the Championship under Scott Parker, watched most of our doomed Premier League campaign from the bench after Alphonse Areola arrived on loan and the acquisition of another goalkeeper places his hold on the number one jersey under question again.

Rodak’s displays in the Championship shouldn’t have come as a surprise given his string of consistent performances with Rotherham on loan – and he definitely deserves another chance to establish himself in the Fulham goal. Rodak was arguably the division’s most consistent custodian in 2019/2020 – with only Nottingham Forest’s Brice Samba posting statistics to match. Gazzaniga has a fine pedigree as a back-up goalkeeper, having amassed significant top flight experience at Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur, but would he have signed on the dotted line just to be a number two?

Rodak’s resilience has been tested before. He had a nightmare start to his Fulham career, being sent off at Middlesbrough after being elevated to the first team following some error-strewn performances from Marcus Bettinelli, but bounced back strongly – never looking like relinquishing the shirt. He secured some vital wins in the promotion season, with a succession of fine saves grabbing a win in a tight contest at Swansea, and he bailed Fulham out at Pride Park with some excellent stop against a dominant Derby County. Rodak’s rise was rightly rewarded with international honours and it is intriguing to think about how he might progress under the tutelage of new goalkeeping coach Hugo Oliveira, who played a key part in the emergence of Jan Oblak.

Although frustrated at his lack of first-team football last year, Rodak admitted that he picked up a few useful tips from French World Cup winner Areola. It would be good to see another of Fulham’s academy prospects progress with Rodak’s rise from the FA Youth Cup final side in 2014 to one of the Championship’s strongest performers a source of considerable pride for Huw Jennings and the rest of the Motspur Park coaching staff. He may well learn more from Gazzaniga in training, but he’ll desperately want to be Marco Silva’s first choice.

The theory will be that an experienced Gazzaniga can help push Rodak to new heights. The big shot stopper should be well known to English audiences from his stints with Southampton and Spurs, but he actually shot to prominence during an eye-catching spell with Gillingham after a recommendation from Gary Penrice, who had recognised his potential when watching Valencia’s youth team. Gazzaniga didn’t stay at the Priestfield for long with some superb League Two displays – including a miraculous clean sheet against Oxford that is memorably recounted in Michael Calvin’s The Nowhere Men – seeing compatriot Mauricio Pochettino take him to Southampton in a move that the goalkeeper described as ‘a dream’.

He spent four years at St. Mary’s – largely used as back up to the likes of Kelvin Davis, Artur Boruc and Fraser Forster – but performed well on his rare Premier League outings and was reunited with Pochettino when the Argentine made the move to Tottenham after a successful loan spell with Rayo Vallecano, where he had made 32 appearances. Gazzaniga found it nigh on impossible to dislodge Hugo Floris but when the French captain sustained a serious injury, he seized his opportunity. Having starred against PSV Eindhoven in the Champions’ League a year earlier, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that Gazzaniga commanded his goal impressively in both domestic and continental competition and plenty of Spurs fans felt he was unlucky to lose his place when Lloris returned from a lengthy injury lay-off.

Gazzaniga, who got a taste of first team football whilst helping Elche successfully battle against relegation from La Liga in the second half of last season, has already spoken about relishing the challenge with Fulham. That could be taken two ways – he will be up for trying to oust Rodak from the side as well as helping the Cottagers secure an immediate return to the top flight. As a tall, commanding and confident shot stopper, who is good on crosses, he certainly has the credentials to be a success in the Championship – and there is an element of doubt about whether Silva has brought him in to replace Fabri or with a view to installing him as the new number one. Whatever the manager’s intentions, it is clear that Fulham have two quality goalkeepers ahead of the start of the new Championship campaign and that can’t be sniffed at.