So the season has come to an end for Fulham FC, it began in East Anglia and finished in East Anglia, and somewhat unexpectedly, both the Tractor Boys and the Canaries finish in play off positions, and the Whites of South West London sit in a disappointing 17th spot in a year where the football club was expected to achieve much more. Players came and went in the close period prior to this season, and the same is set to happen in this and I hope that Fulham have learned from their previous mistakes; however, in this post, I aim to analyse each first team player in a ‘stay or go’ manner which should take the football club to core that the club will need to build upon.
Maarten Stekelenburg – The former Dutch number one joined Fulham with much promise, a previous star that has had somewhat of a dip in his career and it was the kind of situation that Fulham had benefitted from a number of times before. Brought in by fellow Dutchman, Martin Jol, Stekelenburg struggled with fitness as he attempted to replace the boots, or gloves, or Mark Schwarzer and was quickly out of the team after Felix Magath’s appointment. Stekelenburg never looked comfortable behind an uncomfortable defence, and we lost the assurance that was so sturdy under the previous Australian number one. Presumably one of our highest earners, and having no real want to be a Championship player, letting Maarten Stekelenburg would be good business, and Southampton have been rumoured to be a club to help us remove the unsuccessful signing from our club.
Marcus Bettinelli – What an excellent first year for Marcus, put in following the appointment of Kit Symons and the failing efforts of Gabor Kiraly and Jesse Joronen. Bettinelli showed off his talents as a shot stopper, keeping the team in games and losing scores low with a string of impressive saves. His performances on the banks of the Thames this season has seen the Englishmen represent his country at Under 21 level for the first time in his career. Marcus can be the future of the football club, and with a settled team ahead of him, next season should see him improve even further. Deserving of a new contract, and perhaps a certain number of shirt, Marcus Bettinelli is a potential star goalkeeper for our football club and somebody that we should be excited about.
Gabor Kiraly – A strange one is our Hungarian ‘number one’ and I don’t mean just the jogging bottoms. The previous management for the former Palace keepers’ wealth of experience in the top levels of England and Germany and to be an older head to our two young goalkeepers, Jesse Joronen and the aforementioned Marcus Bettinelli, brought in Kiraly. He’s certainly got a ton of playing years under his belt and Gabor has always come across as a model professional, which leads to me wondering whether it might be worth keeping him as a third choice goalkeeper which would allow Jesse Joronen to depart on loan and somebody younger to compete with Marcus. Affordable, experienced and sets a good example, Gabor Kiraly could be a good individual to have around the club and part of the goalkeepers union.
Jesse Joronen – Currently out with a dislocated kneecap, Joronen was one of the first experiments of Felix Magath’s Championship reign as he started the season in goal for the Whites. After Marcus Bettinelli’s success in the metaphorical number one shirt, the Finnish international was farmed to Accrington Stanley, which fatefully saw him replace Bettinelli as Stanley’s starting goalkeeper. An awful knee injury saw him return to the club early and his season finished. Probably needs another loan once he returns from injury.
Tim Hoogland – Hoogland was one of the few highlights of Felix Magath’s season start, the German right back was Fulham’s top scorer for a long while, he gave the attack an added impetus from full back and simply looked like he wanted goals. As the season has gone on however, his positional qualities have come under question and his previous injury troubles haunted him with missing three months of the season. The ability though, that Hoogland has to cover both right back and central midfield is an interesting proposition in a squad which doesn’t have the most versatility. Tim Hoogland would be an useful utility player to have around the squad, I do fear future injury worries and I’m unaware as to how much he’s paid but on the basis of it, another year may be a wise thing for us to do.
Jack Grimmer – I’m a fan of the Scottish under 21 international, I think he’s adapted to the right back slot well, aided by an immense tenacity that we rarely see in full backs these days. Stronger defensively as opposed to offensively is understandable given Grimmer’s centre back background, and I don’t deny that there’s development to be done, but the glimpses of quality are there. I wouldn’t complain at all if Jack Grimmer was given a similar season to this past one, battling for the number two shirt playing anywhere between 30-70% of matches depending on performances. Defensively, I see hints of Steve Finnan showing the potential he has as a defender, and of course he needs to improve offensively with delivery of cross and general ball play, but he’s a good prospect with the makings of a very solid full back.
Dan Burn – 15 of the 22 games that Dan Burn played for the club this season didn’t end in defeat, pushed out following the 5-0 loss at home to Watford, not be seen again until the last six games of the season – the five of which he played contributed strongly to safety with a four game unbeaten streak from Charlton away to Blackpool away. His partnership with loanee Michael Turner made the backline look a lot more solid and pair that with Burn’s results record and it’s beyond me why wouldn’t look to have him as the focal point of our defence. We’d need a bit of pace and structure around him but in terms of pure defending, I think Dan Burn is our best centre back.
Shaun Hutchinson – Another Geordie centre back, Hutchinson has had a mixed season in his debut year for the football club. More warm and cold with no hot taps available, Hutchinson struck up a decent partnership with fellow newbie Nikolay Bodurov, but the results record is poor. Shaun Hutchinson has lost 16 of his 31 appearances this season, so if we compare to Dan Burn despite Hutchinson playing more games, the former Motherwell defender has lost more games than Dan Burn has not, and if you mathematically bring Dan Burn to Hutchinson’s game time, the losses work out to 10 in 31. An adept 3rd or 4th choice centre back with the potential to be a decent Championship player, but he’s certainly not a starter in his current state.
Nikolay Bodurov – One of many unknown quantities come his arrival to Fulham under the mental German, Nikolay Bodurov has been somewhat of a pleasant surprise with his playing style reminiscent of much adored Fulham legend, Aaron Hughes. A very quiet defender, suspicions arose of the Bulgarian’s vocal capability and the ability to organise his fellow defence, which is vital of course in any division, let alone the Championship. He’s an instinctive and intelligent defender, but I’m convinced about his ability to be at the back of a team fighting for promotion. Like Shaun Hutchinson, he may be better off as a 3rd or 4th place centre back with Dan Burn and an other partnering at the back.
Fernando Amorebieta – Oh good old Love Bite, like Marmite, some love him and some hate him. For me, I do like Fernando Amorebieta, however, he’s presumably one of our highest earners and the Venezuelan is one of the players that we could sell and not really miss. If we can get a couple of million, then it’s a good deal I think. Amorebieta is probably a better left back than a centre back in England, with his irrational defending making him too much of an aggressive central defender. I’d let him leave, if there’s any suitor’s that is. Sorry Fernando.
Kay Voser – Not really applicable, fills the number 15 shirt well, which has been held by Fulham legends Marcel Gecov, Diomansy Kamara and Collins John (which is maybe a bit harsh on Kamara for City away alone, but you get the sentiment). I don’t imagine that he cost much, and I don’t imagine that the management will be interested in keeping here. You can’t miss what you never had.
Sean Kavanagh – Like Jack Grimmer, some have been unsure on Sean Kavanagh, I do personally like the lad, he’s got a terrific left foot of which I wish we had seen more in his appearances for the first team this season. He’s probably suited to more of a fringe role next season, filling in here and there as he continues to develop and adjust to a higher level than he’s used to. I think he’s certainly a project to work upon and he’ll mature into a very comfortable footballer.
Patrick Roberts – The face of Fulham’s academy explosion, Patrick Roberts has been publicised as the ‘next big thing,’ and not just for Fulham, but England too. Patrick has drawn transfer links to the Premier Leagues’ big boys and watching his playing style, form, and destruction at youth level you can see why. A runner of the ball with the eye of creating opportunities and scoring goals himself is a really attractive staple to build upon, you genuinely do not get players like Patrick Roberts coming to light everyday. As for his current situation, I (like many others) want to see him playing more minutes for the football club; he doesn’t need to start, but the kid can make an impact – now 18 years old, he’s certainly capable of bullying some tired legs.
Alexander Kacaniklic – A weird one is Alex Kacaniklic, who joined the football club in a swap deal that also contained Lauri Dalla Valle and seeing Paul Konchesky move the other way to Liverpool. A bright start for the young Swede saw him hit the bar on his Fulham debut and his first full campaign for the club saw him grab four goals in twenty games, which excited many for his potential and growth that largely stunted as an aura of over self-confidence saw his performances dip with little motivation; it was almost as though he was too comfortable in his spot. He’s not made the impact that some thought he would since being recalled from his loan spell; 24 in August, ‘Kaca’ certainly still has room for development, but with George Williams waiting in the wings for a spot on the left flank and Fulham happy to receive what money they can, a permanent move away for circa £3m could be a decent move for both sides.
George Williams – Another top academy talent, but will sadly miss the start of next season with a painful anterior cruciate ligament injury. Perhaps more Championship ready than Patrick Roberts, George is sure to also be a future star. We need to take care of him after this long-term injury in order to protect his career, so I’d recommend almost leaving him out and giving him his own pre-season which does possibly meaning the start of the season with the under-21s. Another player that will either be here for years to come or we will we see a lovely big influx of cash for him.
Scott Parker – An outstanding professional’s career is coming to an end and I’m sure once he goes, whenever that is, our young kids would have benefitted from working and training with him. He has one year left on his contract that will take him past the age of 35, and you’ve got think that retirement thoughts will be looming furthermore, by that point I think we should hope that our midfield should be able to cope without him. He has valuable footballing experience that will positively benefit the football club in what I’m sure will be his final season at the club. The key thing for the football club is to make the handover from Scott Parker and his role to his replacement as smooth as possible.
Lasse Vigen Christensen – What a rookie season for our Danish academy talent. Following Kit Symons’ appointment, he put his faith in one of the academy starlets that many had overlooked and ignored. Christensen however, showed his incredible talent; giving our diamond the impetus it needed from the central midfield positions required to affect the game offensively. ‘LVC’ has blossomed and flourished, displaying a wonderful ability to manipulate the ball, as well as creating opportunities and scoring goals, of which he’s scored 5 this year with an impressive 7 assists also. The box-to-box midfielder is the kind of player that changes games in an instant and can have a squad built around them.
Ryan Tunnicliffe – Another player that welcomes mixed reviews, for me, I want more quality on the ball but I can appreciate his ‘Scrappy Doo’ like playing style, something useful in this division where many a game needs more fight and less football. He has experience at this level, if you only count those with guaranteed contracts going into the next season – he’s second behind Ross McCormack in terms of games at this level. It’s easy to forget that Ryan is only 22 years of age and comes with a naturally bitty playing style with some potential to be a real good strong player. Perhaps not, like LVC, somebody to build your squad around, but certainly somebody useful to have in and around the team.
Emerson Hyndman – A great technical talent, Emerson Hyndman possesses an excellent poise on the football, easily comparable to one of the greatest ball players ever to grace the game, Xavi. Hyndman has played just the 11 games this season, not helped by leaving to play for the American Under-20 sides to help them qualify for the World Cup and not returning thanks to a broken collarbone; he’s not featured for the team in 2015 for those multiple reasons. Now, depending on our summer business, I think that Hyndman should be placed in the first team to Under-21 balancing act next season. Train with the first team, but if you’re not needed, then play for the Under 21s. Another wonderful prospect for our side which will promise massive returns on investments but I think we’d both benefit from taking just a little bit more time with him as we look to mix together player development and a promotion push, there’s midweek games for Hyndman to get a look in where Scott Parker cannot play three in a week.
Bryan Ruiz – What a sad story, the high-priced Martin Jol signing has never truly shown his full talents at Craven Cottage, though not helped by losing both Mousa Dembele and Clint Dempsey after his first season, meaning his second year at the club saw the playing staff much changed and Dimitar Berbatov arguably steal Bryan’s thunder. When he’s on song, Bryan Ruiz is a joy to watch, but I simply don’t think that he wants to play for Fulham nor in the Championship, and we should accept that and let him leave. Thanks for the glimpses Bryan.
Matt Smith – Kit Symons controversially allowed Matt Smith to further extend his loan at Bristol City when he could have come back and made an impact earlier, none-the-less, Smith certainly made an impact as we changed our game to a more defensive and direct style. Smith showed he’s more than a long ball too, surprisingly blameless with the ball at his feet and pleasantly clinical with both his right and left also – just the one of his five Fulham goals were scored with his head. As decent as Smith has looked though, I still believe that he should be utilised as a plan B and super-sub role only as the football club ought to firstly concentrate on a faster, technical and more grounded style of play. Smith is the ideal being to come on in the search of a late goal or defending set pieces. Great first season, but my pride in style of play does see Matt Smith as a substitute option.
Ross McCormack – What a wonderful talent, it bemuses me that Ross McCormack hasn’t got more Scotland caps or hasn’t played at the top level. Ross has fantastic technical ability which sees him score all kinds of goals and create all kinds of opportunity and he is the type of player that will fire you to promotion or up in that part of the table as we’ve seen with Daryl Murphy – with McCormack’s goals being disappointed by the defensive efforts of his team mates. I think to get the most of Fulham offensively, we need to get the best out of Ross McCormack and how we do that is down to Mike Rigg in conjunction with Kit Symons (or another manage). Does Ross McCormack play with another striker as he has done with Hugo Rodallega and Mat Smith? Does he lead the attack with a number 10 and two wingers giving him delivery and service to eat upon? Or is he the number 10 in the previous scenario? It’s down to you Symons and Rigg to put together an attack that will be both clinical and easy on the eye.
Cauley Woodrow – It’s getting to the point where it’s difficult to think of different ways to introduce our academy talent but anyway, Cauley Woodrow, I feel has contributed well and can be pleased with his season at the club. Like 99% of young players in their first full season, there’s certainly work to be done, and for me, I want to see the England Under-21 international release his inner goal scorer. 5 goals in 14 starts is not a bad stat whatsoever, but he should be aiming for double figures next season as he’s had chances to score more. Cauley provides a high pressure that we lack in other strikers, which was vital in our 2-0 win at home to Derby, setting the tone with putting the pressure on the Derby defenders similar to the days of Andy Johnson and Bobby Zamora meticulously zoning in on the oppositions defence. All in all, a decent season for Cauley Woodrow he just needs to take his opportunities with more bellicosity and aggression.
Hugo Rodallega – When our Colombian striker is on song, he’s virtually uncontainable in this division and his goals earlier in the season saw Fulham clinch vital points which helped Kit Symons guide the football club away from the drop zone. Then polar opposite side of the striker struck, and we went months playing with 10 men as he failed to score from pre-Christmas through to post-January, before going on another run of mid-February to the rest of the season without striker. This hot and cold nature is unaffordable for the football club and even more so when you take Rodallega’s inevitable Premier League wages into account. He’s given us some good memories, but like Ruiz, it’s time to say goodbye to somebody that we cannot look to in order to rebuild and fight for the football clubs’ future.
Moussa Dembele – A satisfactory contribution to this season from Moussa Dembele, he’s not played a strong amount of football but has managed to grab his first professional goals in only his second start of the season for the football club, and in the 5 games that Moussa started for Fulham FC, we were undefeated in three. Moussa Dembele has something that we don’t have in other academy attackers, and that’s physicality and pace – he’s ready built for professional football but just needs his footballing brain to catch up with his impressive physical skills. He may have to have another season like the current and the one I proposed for Emerson Hyndman, and that’s balancing upon the tightrope in between the first team and the Under-21s.
Adam Taggart – Australian striker, Adam Taggart has had an awful season following his move from the A-League in the summer. A groin injury has seen Taggart go no further than a handful of appearances for the Under-21s. We can’t yet comment on what Adam Taggart can contribute next season, all I know is that he should start next season with the Under-21s and possibly get a loan move in League One to aid a smooth adaption to English league football. He’s certainly got good credentials to work with, good pace, a willing runner and a natural goal scorer and Adam Taggart could develop into a strong first team player for the football club, but maybe longer than we both would have liked.
Richard Lee – Not applicable. Pointless signing and we didn’t need him. I won’t even say thank you to the lad.
Ashley ‘Jazz’ Richards – Where to start with Jazz Richards? He came in at a point where Jack Grimmer was coping just fine with Championship football, and it seemed bizarre when Tim Hoogland was set to return in a number of weeks after. Richards are failed to convince Fulham supporters, as he’s not looked any more solid than our young Scottish right back. Watching the tussle for the spot has been a decent watch, but whether Richards has a future at the football is questionable. I would be tempted to make this move permanent if the price is very low (circa £500k), he’s 24 so he can always become a better play, and his ability to play either full back position is somewhat desirable. If he and Jack Grimmer are given a full season of tussling for the position, we could benefit from higher motivation and want to play games of football. In summary, I’m not convinced that I care whether he returns or not.
Kostas Stafylidis – It all seemed bright for the Greek full back, one of our impressive performers in pre-season, Stafylidis was involved with a number of goals during the warm up games. Though come full competition, Kostas’ vulnerability in a full back position was transparent and he became a liability to the defence. Three appalling appearances would follow a good performance, but I do fear that the odd good performance would see us gamble money where we could get better value; for example, the rumoured buying option is circa £2m, Middlesbrough brought the more impressive James Husband from Doncaster for £500k. He’ll probably develop into a pretty solid footballer, but I do not believe that the stars align between Fulham FC and Kostas Stafylidis at this current moment of time.
James Husband – Out of all of loanees, James Husband’s to be made permanent is most desirable for me. An excellent fusion of both attack and defence, Husband is a unique full back in the modern game where defence is first but he’s also proficient in the final third. He showed indications of being one of the better full backs we’ve had for a long while, and I’d be happy to see us spend some good money in order to bring James Husband here permanently – whether that deal is possible or not, I don’t know.
Michael Turner – As hinted in the Dan Burn paragraph, we’ve looked a stronger team once Michael Turner arrived at the football club and partnered Dan Burn in central defence. Strangely loaned out by Norwich, Turner done really quite well in helped the core of our side look more solid in a period where Fulham have been all over the place for well over 12 months. I also mentioned in the Dan Burn paragraph that we should look at building a defence around Dan Burn, and as well as partnership as they developed, I’m not firm on whether I’d be happy with Michael Turner being part of that defence with pace in behind being an issue for 46 games next season. A good player, but perhaps we should oversee all of our options before contacting Michael Turner about returning to the football club for the 2015/16 season.
Seko Fofana – Manchester City midfielder Seko Fofana came into the football and gave us something we lacked in the midfield, and that was vigour, size and pace into the middle trio. He won over the majority of Fulham supporters by the end of his loan at the football club with his dedicated and energetic playing style. It would certainly be tempting to bring him back for another season to give us that different style, but I’d like to see our own academy talent, Solomon Sambou given an opportunity first. Although shorter in stature, Sambou is an incredible ‘tank-like’ player where he wins the ball from players much bigger than himself and burst forward to aid offensive play. Whilst in the Under-18s, Sambou was the water carrier of the side, being the purely defensive player, but his goal against Chelsea in the Youth Cup final showed his ability offensively. I do apologise for side tracking, but lets give Solly a go before deciding whether Seko should return to the football club; none-the-less, Fofana can be happy with what he’s done overall for Fulham.
Danny Guthrie – I do like Danny Guthrie since he’s arrived at the football club, he’s a pure ball player, and the first legit midfielder with that ability we’ve brought in since Danny Murphy. Obviously he doesn’t touch the former Fulham captain, but that ability is desirable, as Fulham will look to build a promotion pushing side. Danny Guthrie has a Championship promotion to his name with Newcastle United, and we could well do with a quarter back in midfield to help us control games of football and thread passes through from deep. Kit Symons has seen him perform in training so will have a better idea of his quality than I do, but from what I’ve seen, I’d look at negotiating a contract for the ‘former’ Reading man.
My squad stripped to the bare:
So we’ve come to the end of an unexpectedly very long post, I wasn’t expecting it to become such a slog as it has been. So in the squad that you shall see below, we’ll see our squad stripped, not including hypothetical loan signings. Players with questions marks will signify that they’ll only stay depending on the external situation in regards to potential recruitment and players with the ‘U21’ bracket will contribute to both squads in my world. Worryingly, it’s very bare, as a skeleton to work upon and by my calculation, my squad would require six new first team ready and quality players, as well as sprinkling some more quality on top of the squad.
Goalkeepers: Marcus Bettinelli, Gabor Kiraly (?) and Jesse Joronen.
Defenders: Tim Hoogland (?), Jack Grimmer, Dan Burn, Shaun Hutchinson, Nikolay Bodurov, and Sean Kavanagh.
Midfielders: Patrick Roberts (U21), Alex Kacaniklic (?), George Williams (U21), Scott Parker, Lasse Vigen Christensen, Ryan Tunnicliffe and Emerson Hyndman (U21).
Attackers: Ross McCormack, Matt Smith, Cauley Woodrow, Moussa Dembele (U21) and Adam Taggart (U21).
If you have made it this far, thank you for reading! Feel welcome to provide your opinion either below or you can contact me on Twitter @frankieptaylor.