Matthew Briggs is a player I’ve kept an eye on since he made something of a surprise Fulham debut in our defeat by Middlesbrough at the end of the 2006-07 season. The young defender, who can play at left back but is more naturally a centre half, has made steady progress and become a regular in the reserve team but hasn’t seen much more first team action, probably because of the outstanding performances of the likes of Hangeland and Hughes.
His development hasn’t gone unnoticed by the national youth team coaches. He was selected for the England U19s for the European Championships in the Ukraine and has just been my man of the match for England in their 2-2 with the hosts this afternoon. The game was screened on British Eurosport, whose commentators were talking about the Fulham prospect and even went as far as comparing him to Bobby Moore. That’s high praise indeed.
The result leaves England in something of a battle to reach the semi-finals. Switzerland, with four points from their two matches, are on the brink of reaching the last four and will play the tournament hosts in their final game. England will face Slovenia at the same time on Monday evening. A win would mostly likely see them progress.
However England do at the tournament, Matthew’s reputation is sure to be enhanced by his composed performances. Is it too much hope that his development could lead to a central defensive partnership of him and the promising Chris Smalling in the years to come? It’s certainly possible, although the club have seemed reluctant to play too many youngsters in the first team in recent years. With Fulham battling relegation and then fighting for a European place in the last few season, it is easy to see why but I wouldn’t bet against Briggs making his mark if – and hopefully when – he’s given another opportunity.