Before a few weeks ago, I had never heard of the Dallas Cup and now, I feel as though I’ve heavily missed out. A prestigious and physically gruelling youth tournament that has helped to chisel and develop some of the greatest players to grace the game, a list that includes, Raul, David Beckham, Michael Owen and Clint Dempsey to name just a few. Previous English winners of the Dallas Cup include Liverpool in 2008, Nottingham Forest in 2002 and West Ham in 1992. They have now been joined by English under 18 Premier League winners Fulham who would go on to triumph in the Dallas Cup in emphatic style, proving why we are all excited about where our academy is going.
The captain of the impressive under 19 Fulham side that would go all of the way in the tournament told me about his and the squad’s experiences in Dallas. Jack Grimmer has earned plaudits for his performances for Fulham’s under 21 side and had a very successful week out in America personally. A centre back that when growing up modelled himself on old fashioned centre halves and fellow Scots Alex McLeish and Willie Miller admitted the majority of the squad did not know what to expect, with him also praising the tournament, “It was honestly the best tournament I’ve played in as a player so far. We didn’t know what to expect but had only heard good things, so we went out with an open mind and thankfully done well in the matches. It was also obviously an honour for me to be captain! As well as the tournament, the week in general was brilliant. We got time to go to the outlets for some shopping to get some down time.”
Picture: A victorious Jack Grimmer (right) holds the Dallas Cup trophy with teammate Ryan Williams (left)
The excitement grew within the Fulham fan base as the tournament continued, and it didn’t go unnoticed, Grimmer added “[The support was] overwhelming to say the least! I’ve had a lot of tweets giving the whole squad support which is brilliant. It shows how much the fans care for the club regardless of the ages playing. We really appreciated all of the support we got from everybody back home.” One of the interesting things about seeing our highly acclaimed side in the Dallas Cup was seeing how well they dealt with different styles of play from around the world. The Scot would add “It was different compared to playing against EPL teams for the u21s, but I was slightly more used to it because I have played International games with Scotland for a few years now. All the players adapted well and listened to what our coaches told us throughout the competition.”
With the Dallas Cup being an under 19 tournament, a few of our squad players had already been integrated into the under 21 side which gave as an advantage in experience. The enthusiastic captain agreed; “Well obviously as a player playing with and against better players’ week in and week out helps you improve, so yes I think this helped. The squad had a real good mix of older and younger players. One of the best parts about the squad was the togetherness.” He also was full of praise of Steve Wigley and appreciated each Fulham coach has provided in his development: “I was coached by Ray Lewington when I first arrived and as you’d expect each coach has their own style and way of doing things. I’m thankful to each of them in my own way for each thing they’ve taught me. Both Steve and Kit are top classes coaches hence why they are both on the international scene too. I hadn’t been coached much by Steve until the trip so it was nice to finally get some time under him. He definitely knows how to get the best out of his players.”
After answering questions about the squad’s time in the Dallas Cup, Jack Grimmer was kind enough to answer more questions about his personal career. The natural leader showed clear goals and a mature head when asking what his aims for the rest of the season and the year ahead, “Personally my ambitions are to knuckle down and keep working hard and of course to break into the first team!” 19 year old Grimmer was in fact a joy to talk to and spoke very intelligently about his idols and the experienced provided by the first team, “Players always offer advice and pointers. Experience is priceless! I’ve looked up to good old fashioned centre halves like Alex McLeish and Willie Miller from my time at Aberdeen. Now I base my game around the centre halves at Fulham. They also show a great example of how it should be done! It’s brilliant Brede recently signed on.” Upon finishing the interview I asked Jack whether he had a message for Fulham fans and he replied with “I just really hope I can do them proud and fill the shirt that so many great players have played in.”
I and the others at HammyEnd.com cannot thank Jack Grimmer enough for this interview and must say he was first class during it admitting he was glad to help us. I hope we see him and the rest of the squad parade the trophy during the next home game which is interestingly against Chelsea. We should be very proud of our squad and hope that this is the first of a double with the under 18s on the journey for back to back Academy League titles.