A fairly regular criticism of Jol regards one his promulgations at the start of the season. One of the reasons why the Fulham board felt he was a suitable candidate for Fulham manager was that they felt like the squad was too old, and Jol was only too happy to comply with the remit that the average age should be reduced. However, if you look out onto the pitch, the squad is just as old as it was (besides Ruiz and Riise who has a year on Salcido) before he took over. So what is Jol doing?
Well, Jol’s recruitment policy in the summer focused on signing up young players (pictured above standing next to Murphy is one such example). Kasami is just 19, Gecov 23 (he was when he signed anyway, not sure when his birthday is), Sa also 23, Ruiz 26 which is not young but not old either, especially considering the likes of Gera, Zamora and Johnson are attacking Premier League players into their 30s. Somogyi at 26 and Grygera at 30 were brought in too but have barely featured, if it all, although it was a great shame to see Grygera get injured after a bright start to his Fulham career especially considering the kerfuffle that has ensued around the right back position since. Riise is, of course, our regular left back although he didn’t play yesterday, as didn’t Ruiz, on which basis it’s almost acceptable to title this article ‘None Of Jol’s Signings Play’, but that’s just me being a bit melodramatic On top of that, Frei has made giant strides since joining 13 months ago and was promoted into the first team squad at 17, Briggs is now a recognised Premier League talent and Trotta, Dalla Valle and Donegan have all made debuts. It’s actually remarkably refreshing considering the approach taken by Hughes and even more so Roy before him. Not to mention the Academy’s relentless recruitment drive over the past year or two, seeing the likes of Cauley Woodrow, Dan Burn, Tankovic, Williams and many others join for fees that cumulate into the several millions.
Yet none of these players are regulars, yet anyway. And that is the key. To find talented young players in their teens ready to play consistently at an intensity of this level is infrequent enough, and then there is the consideration that either they play for large clubs so they would be difficult to persuade or they play for smaller ones but would cost alot of money. It is simply unrealistic to expect a manager to go into a club and turnaround a squad which averages 30 to one where half of them aren’t old enough for a provisional.
What is realistic however is for a manager to go into a club with a view of long term integration, buying players who demonstrate undoubted talent but not on consistent display or by promoting from within. Kasami and Gecov and Tankovic and Frei are’t for this season. They are for the many seasons they have ahead of them in their careers. They are rough diamonds, very talented players for sure but not yet ready to play Premier League football consistently. Frei is supremely gifted but still has many limitations; Kasami similarly is a very good young player but does not use it in the best way and so falls short of what is required. There are more exampls. If we were to suddenly throw these players into our first team it would suffer.
Even Dembele is a prime example. Signed for 5 million pounds of thereabouts, his first season in England was inconsistent, suffered from struggles with the physicality and he generally flattered to deceive, yet you could see glimpses of huge talent. A season later and we could sell him for 15 million, theoretically enough to buy three more Dembeles, which is exactly what brings this footballing and financial modelling success.
Don’t get me wrong, this article isn’t meant to be a desparaging comment on our young players, far from it infact; I believe we are fortunate enough to possess some players in our squad who in 3 or 4 years will be playing Champions League football reguarly, and the fact that Juventus have come in for Kasami speaks volumes about his talent (but so does their proposition to loan him immediately to relegation-battling Cesena). There is a vicious circle which goes something like
Player Needs Games To Mature Into Premier League Player -> Doesn’t Play Because He’s Not Ready -> Player Doesn’t Get Games He Needs -> Doesn’t Play Because He’s Not Ready -> Player Joins Huddersfield/Brighton/Other Lower League Club At 23 And Might Regain Some Momentum In His Career
but the way Jol has played it he has done pretty well. The drop off the face of the earth of Kasami is quite strange. although he’s now back on the bench, but Frei still gets plenty of bench time and Briggs is (going off his twitter) injured. Gecov yet isn’t trusted in the first team but next season I think he will make more impact. Not to mention the number of talented young players in our Development and U18 squads.
Essentially what I’m saying is be patient. The young players are here in the long term, and in the short term we are lucky to have a good group of talented proffessionals who can carry the Fulham beacon with pride for another season before it is handed over to the next generation of players, a set which one would think would conform more to Jol’s style of play than the relatively static bunch we have now. Roy’s recruitment policy was a double edged sword; while he brought in some good players, the egg-timer on their career was running down and now Jol has inherited the problem of a squad full of 30 year olds, a problem which shouldn’t be overlooked and if not dealt with will be the demise of our Premier League status. For now however, they are doing just fine on the pitch, on track to avoid relegation comfortably while the successors which Jol has brought are being groomed to take their place. Maybe the absence of cup competitions, a series of ‘easy’ home games and absence of relegation fear means that the revolution will start sooner rather than later
Expect a dramatic Summer transfer window.