In what will be Fulham’s third appearance at the prestigious Dallas Cup, an U19 group will represent Fulham FC and experience football against teams from around the world with an added bonus of potentially coming home with the Gordon Jago Super Group trophy; brought home by Jack Grimmer and the rest of that group in 2013. Since that maiden voyage, Fulham have seen twelve members go to Dallas and come back to make their Fulham debuts, with the number potentially rising from those two journeys alone. With that, I aim to breakdown and introduce each member of the 2016 Dallas Cup squad.
1) Magnus Norman:
At 19 years old, Magnus Norman is one of senior members of the squad. With a professional contract at the football club until 2018, the England U18 international goalkeeper travels to the Dallas for his second tournament, he started two of Fulham’s three matches in 2014 as a 17 year old. Norman currently holds a squad number and regularly warms up with the goalkeepers on match day.
2) Ryheem Sheckleford:
An athletic attacking full back, Ryheem Sheckleford has made the Under 21 right back spot his own this season despite still being eligible for Under 18 football. Sheckleford has come on leaps and bounds this season, seemingly improving with each passing game. At right back, Sheckleford balances his attacking and defensive responsibilities nicely.
3) Shane Elworthy:
Another under 18 eligible under 21, Irishman Shane Elworthy has become a useful utility player for the under 21s filling in at centre back and left back when asked; despite coming through the football club as a hardworking right midfielder. Elworthy will be expected to continue his run as a left back. Not the flashiest player in the squad but Elworthy will do a solid job I’m sure.
4) Jerome Opoku:
Jerome Opoku is a rangy central defender, who can also fill in at left back with his strong athletic capabilities. At 17 years old, Opoku is one of the youngest members of this Dallas Cup squad in the middle of his first full year at under 18 level. He captained the U16s in 2014 as they won the U16 Premier League International Cup.
5) Aron Davies:
Having just passed his first year at the football club after joining from Bristol City in February of last year, the Welsh U19 international looks like another superb spot for the academy displaying the poise and grace of a modern day centre back. Davies though does not shirk the defensive facet of the game, which seems to have been forgotten at some point in the development of many central defenders today. The common criticism of many is something along the lines of “defend first, play later,” it would appear that Aron Davies appears to have both aspects of the game in his repertoire.
6) Josh Smile:
The oldest of the Dallas Cup squad, Smile (like Norman) is going to his second trip to Dallas but as a much better player than the one that went to 2014. In 2014, Smile still had to contend with Lasse Vigen Christensen, Emerson Hyndman and Solomon Sambou for a starting berth, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see Smile captain the boys this year. Short in stature, Smile is big in possession owning a tremendous passing range and ability with a knack of getting stuck in. Smile has been made more of deep lying playmaker in recent years, which has been interesting to see develop, as he attempts to be a central part of proceedings.
7) Luca De La Torre:
Born in San Diego, US under 17 international Luca De La Torre has become a constant in the under 21 set up despite not turning 18 years of age until May. De La Torre is technically excellent, exciting in possession and an all round bright talent; though wanting to dampen expectation of course, the returning American fits the mould of potential with the likes of Patrick Roberts and Moussa Dembele as a potential game changer. Malcolm Elias and Huw Jennings deserve plaudits again for unearthing, attracting and developing such a talented footballer to the football club.
8) Foday Nabay:
17-year-old Nabay will celebrate being at the football club for three years in the summer after a fairly big switch from Birmingham City; where after leaving the Blues, Lee Clark claimed Nabay potentially could have become the youngest player in Birmingham’s history, which created an exciting buzz when he joined Fulham. Having played under 18 football at the age of 14 years old at Birmingham, Nabay initially mostly played in our under 16 set up which cooled hype somewhat though you can’t deny the talent of player there. Whilst Dennis Adeniran has spent time playing for the under 21s this season, you feel this is a pretty important tournament for Nabay to prove his ability and perhaps earn some game time at that level before the seasons end.
9) Joshua Walker:
A pacey striker, Walker is going to the Dallas Cup with an impressive brace at under 21 level under his belt in the match prior at Blackburn. Walker is a nice finisher, sharing the top scorer spot with the under 18s with Stevie Humphrys. Although not as impressive and dominant as a Moussa Dembele, Walker certainly looks to be an interesting striking talent with his possession of speed, hard work and scoring ability. Under the right tutelage and guidance, Walker is a noteworthy prospect.
10) Stephen Humphrys:
I must admit, perhaps my favourite player of the group. I’ve previously dubbed him the British Bergkamp, for his build and strength of a classic number 9 but he also holds wonderful technique whether that’s with his first touch, close control or picking out inventive passes. Humphrys scores and creates goals and is currently the top scorer for both the under 21s and under 18s: the last player to finish the season in that position? Moussa Dembele. Now not to say that Humphrys is the next Dembele, he’s certainly an exciting talent in my personal opinion and will only get better with his first full season of under 21 football ahead of him.
11) Jon Dagur Thorsteinsson:
The 17-year-old Icelandic (Icelander?) joined the football in the summer having already played professionally in Iceland in the national second division and tournament. Already an Icelandic U17 international when joining, “Thor” has played multiple times for the under 19s after joining the football club. A creative midfielder that can play wide or behind the striker, Jon has been given good game time with Peter Grant’s under 21s on top of his under 18 duties where he currently sits on 4 goals and 3 assists.
12) Marlon Fossey:
Born in Hollywood, Fossey is another returning American despite living in Jersey when he was signed at Fulham as an 11 year old. Initially an attacking player, Marlon Fossey has been moved to play at right back – a position he has made his own at under 18 level with Ryheem Sheckleford making the step up. Marlon Fossey is a legitimate athlete, holding the county hurdles record and his attacking tendencies make him an ideal modern full back.
13) Taye Ashby-Hammond:
An England international at under 16 and under 17 level, the 16 year old Richmond born goalkeeper is one of the babies of the group, travelling to his first Dallas Cup. Although Magnus Norman I’m sure will claim seniority for the goalkeeping position, it will be valuable experience for young Ashby-Hammond with the potential of getting some game time in Dallas.
14) Harrison Paton:
17-year-old Canadian Harrison Paton is easy on the eye when in possession of the football, and you’d be forgiven for thinking he was younger than he is. With the ability to play anywhere in midfield, Paton has been involved with Canada’s U20s.
15) Cassian Thomas:
Cassian Thomas was a member of the 2014 U16 Premier League International Tournament; the box-to-box central midfielder is full of running that can win – and keep – the football. We will learn more about Cassian Thomas next season where he should be able to get more game time in his first full under 18 season having only turned 17 in January.
16) Moritz Jens:
A big German central defender, Jens is assured defensively despite his young age. Last records have him at 6ft2 at the age of 16 but he’s more than a big lad at the back. Jens is confident and comfortable in bringing the ball out from the back and should contest game time with Jerome Opoku as he has done with the under 18s all season. In Jack Grimmer and Liam Donnelly, Fulham have produced strong central defenders that perhaps do not possess the physical size to correlate to the professional game; there is no worry physically from Moritz Jens.
17) Isaac Pearce:
Joined from Bristol Rovers in November, Pearce however played in the under 18s’ last game of the previous season, scoring in a 5-1 win over Arsenal. With Stephen Humphrys and Joshua Walker moving up to under 21 level next season, a position opens up for Pearce to challenge for in the striking position.
18) Jayden Harris:
An under 16, Jayden Harris has tasted a number of under 18 minutes this season. Harris may not get that many minutes out in Dallas but the learning experience will be invaluable looking into next season.
19) Elijah Adebayo:
Elijah Adebayo has picked up a bit of form going into Dallas, though not as the centre back he is listed on the club website. Adebayo has scored three goals in his last three starts for the under 18s as a striker. Having turned 18 in January, Adebayo potentially has the first few months of next season to contest with the aforementioned Isaac Pearce in the striking position. He had been moved to centre back in recent years following early years as a striker, and the ability to be competitive in both is interesting. He could have minutes in both positions at the Dallas Cup as we round up our 19 man squad.