Just a few days ago, Fulham’s academy director, Huw Jennings, formerly of Southampton’s much lauded academy development system, discussed Moussa Dembele as one to watch. He said:
Moussa is a bit of a throwback to a striker of yesteryear, because he is a classic No 9 who can hold the ball up with his back to goal and also run in behind with pace and power.” Even the keenest academy watched wouldn’t have anticipated the young forward making the first team squad for Saturday’s home game with Swansea, although that’s what Martin Jol announced this afternoon.
Moussa Dembele who is both current top scorer of the under 18s and under 21s certainly is a prospect for supporters to salivate over, but at 17 years and 129 days old (come Saturday) the early nature of a prospective debut for Dembele is a surprising one, it would make him the youngest debutante for Fulham under Martin Jol and the youngest since Matthew Briggs arose upon the scene as a fresh faced 16 year old in 2006.
The Frenchman is a pure athlete and at 6ft tall, he offers pace and power which at his age holds him in good stead with coping physically at Premier League. As Huw Jennings said, Moussa Dembele is just as good outside the box as he is inside of it, he’s happy to be the vocal point of the attack as well as offering pace in behind; something Fulham have maybe missed with Dimitar Berbatov as the lone striker.
Any frequent watches of youth football will know about Moussa Dembele, and certainly Reading supporters need no introduction to him after his – to be frank – animalistic hat trick to help Fulham to a 3-0 win in the U18 Premier League final, videos of which are on YouTube along with other highlights showing Dembele’s amongst others’ talents.
Jennings insists: “The only motivation and driving force for us is to provide players who are going to be good enough to play for our first team.” Given he helped Southampton develop the likes of Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as well as recently debuted England International Adam Lallana, the future could be very bright. The intent for Fulham is to produce these kinds of top quality player, and although Huw Jennings is essentially the hub of the success of the Fulham academy, it would remiss not to mention the other key men behind the Fulham academy. For example, Malcolm Elias, the Talent Identification and Recruitment who would have had a part to play in bringing Dembele here in the first place, I also believe that when Liverpool were looking to purchase Paul Konchesky, he was the one calling for Alex Kacanikic to be included in a swap deal.
As well as Jennings and Elias, we have a very intelligent under 18 coach; who is also Head Of Coaching at the academy, in Steve Wigley; also previously of Southampton as well as being assistant to Stuart Pearce for the England U21s. Unsurprisingly, Wigley shares the same aims, “A club of this size should be producing players on a consistent basis, not one every four or five years, it should be producing players regularly.” To go along with these superb people, we have former players around the academy who know what it’s like to play for Fulham, like Luis Boa Morte who helps with the under 21s, under another ex-Fulham player Kit Symons. Fulham also have probably the most notable academy product in the modern era of Sean Davis knocking about Motspur Park, so there’s plenty of people for academy players to look up to and get advice from.
The exciting Dembele might be in line for a debut for the first team this weekend and this hints at, not just the quality of player we have on our hands, but also that our academy is being run by the right people. Dembele will be a seriously big talent, and as reported by a couple of papers a few weeks ago, bigger teams will be looking around him, circling the situation like sharks, but let’s enjoy the quality whilst we have him. I for one am excited, and all of you guys should be too. Dembele will be a seriously big talent, and as reported by a couple of papers a few weeks ago, bigger teams will be looking around him, circling the situation like sharks, but let’s enjoy the quality whilst we have him. I for one am excited, and all of you guys should be too.