A rumour that popped a little while ago, Fulham today announced that they “just couldn’t stop” themselves and have signed former Rotherham midfielder Ben Pringle on a free transfer. Pringle, along with ex-Bolton goalkeeper Andy Lonergan will join the Whites officially on July 1st when their current contracts have expired.
Along with the ability to make endless references to the Pringles crisp advertising campaigns, these two signings represent a canny and successful first bit of business this summer for Fulham from the new Mike Rigg, Kit Symons and Alistair Mackintosh brain trust.
Anyone that saw Fulham’s draw with Rotherham at home in April will have spotted Pringle as the best player on the pitch by some margin and he was one of, if not, Rotherham’s best and most consistent player last season as the Millers narrowly avoided relegation to League One. Following a debut season at Championship level with Rotherham, the midfielder decided not to renew his contract at the Yorkshire club. It appears fan reaction to Pringle leaving has been a mixture of disappointment and understanding, with Rotherham fans seemingly comprehending of Pringle’s desire to play at a slightly higher level. Albeit I’m sure they’d have liked a transfer fee.
Financially, Pringle’s arrival on a free transfer represents obvious good value, whilst also leaving funds in the kitty for what is likely to be an expensive summer for Fulham, with both starters and squad players needed across nearly every position. Although as always with free transfers, the player is likely to be on slightly inflated wages, these are unlikely to be anywhere near those of the players left over from the Premier League squad of 18 months ago. Getting a player who could well end up as a starter on a free is nothing to be scoffed at.
Left midfielder Pringle has just turned 26, so unlike far too many of our recent signings, he is in the statistical prime years of his career. To get the best player from a division rival is a good move, to get one on a free transfer is even better.
In fact it is a move like this, although showing how far we’ve fallen in the last 18 months, that shows we are finally starting to think smarter about how to get back up the footballing pyramid. While it is not necessary to have a squad full of players with Championship experience, we desperately need a few more, and to get a player such as Pringle who is in his prime is a smart piece of business.
I’m particularly pleased with Pringle’s arrival as he fills a severe positional need. We survived last season with a complete lack of width. It wasn’t a good tactic. Aside from the inexperienced George Williams, whose style is not that of an out and out winger, and converted left back Sean Kavanagh, we do not have a genuine left midfielder in the squad. Pringle’s pace, passing and more specifically his crossing ability will help create genuine chances for a frontline far too often starved of service last season.
Statistically, Pringle made 40 appearances last season, scoring 3 goals with 7 assists. What stands out is Pringle’s ability to create chances. His 99 chances created was 20 higher than the nearest Fulham player (Ross McCormack – 79). By contrast, Bryan Ruiz created only 42 chances, Lasse Vigen Christensen created 41 and Hugo Rodallega 40, albeit all of these had reduced playing time for one reason or another.
Meanwhile Pringle’s 92 “Key Passes” was 22 higher than Fulham’s highest, Ross McCormack with 70. Scott Parker was second with 40 and Ruiz 3rd with 39.
From a financial and statistical point of view, Pringle represents a clever start to Fulham’s summer.
Welcome to Fulham, Ben.