Fulham fans have been treated to the sight of several academy prospects making successful contributions to the first team over the past year. Slavisa Jokanovic has handed Ryan and Steven Sessegnon, Tayo Edun, Luca de la Torre and Matt O’Riley senior debuts and all have very bright futures at Craven Cottage.
To kick off the New Year, I’ve highlighted four youngsters who enjoyed an excellent year in the academy and could be pushing for a first team opportunity in the twelve months ahead of us. It is a testament to depth of resources at Motspur Park that keeping down to just four was incredibly hard work.
Jon Dagur Thorteinsson
This lovely Icelandic midfielder has a name you’ll remember once you learn how to pronounce it. The 19 year old arrived at Motspur Park on trial and it didn’t take Fulham long to sign him up. Thorteinsson started his Whites career in the under 18s, but a few sparkling performances saw him join the under 23s, where he has starred of late.
A versatile player blessed with plenty of skills, Thorteinsson can play as a number or out wide, which is where he has been stealing the show for Peter Grant’s side. Turned in some superb showings in the Checkatrade Trophy, especially at Charlton, and scored a lovely curler against Brighton before Christmas. He’s scored five in 17 appearances to date – and could be summoned to the senior squad should such impressive development continue.
This imposing 19 year old, who has been with Fulham for ten years, is enjoying the form of his life in the under 23s right now. Having played at both centre back and centre forward in the academy, Adebayo benefited hugely from two non-league loan spells with Slough Town, where he scored a hat trick on debut, and Bognor Regis, for whom he netted five times in seven games.
Adebayo returned to Motspur Park determined to kick on and he has certainly done that in an incredible campaign with the under 23s. He has scored nine PL2 Division 2 goals, making five more, as well as adding two more Cup goals. The likeable striker has added finesse to his unquestionable power and is a real handful for opposition centre halves.
It is a measure of how highly Luca Ashby-Hammond is thought of that he has been featuring regularly for Fulham’s under 23s aged just sixteen. A thoroughly modern goalkeeper, Luca’s distribution with his feet is second to none and, after starting his career as an outfield player, he doesn’t lack confidence in his footballing ability – as shown by the way he dispatched a vital penalty in the FA Youth Cup win at Huddersfield.
He’d already proven his worth with several superb saves to put Fulham in pole position in that shoot-out and Ashby-Hammond’s exemplary glovework has already earned England recognition. The intelligent keeper came through the Fulham ranks with Matt O’Riley and, like his talented team-mate, has not been overawed by his swift promotions. Ashby-Hammond could be the next home grown goalkeeper to feature in the first team squad. He certainly has the ability to go all the way.
Fulham fought off a host of Premier League clubs to bring this gifted midfielder to the capital from Tranmere Rovees. Already a highly rated England youth international, Hilton’s composure on the ball and eye for a pass has marked him out at every level and his talented is being lovingly nurtured at Motspur Park.
A mercurial midfielder, who has adapted to a number of different positions over the past year, Hilton is capable of conjuring something special from absolutely nothing. He scored a sumptuous chip in the under 18’s win at Tottenham earlier this season – another example of his outrageous ability.
Regular watchers of the academy sides rave about both Hilton’s ability and the way he has starred to influence matches. Fulham have a real gem on their hands and it will be fascinating to watch him flourish this year.