Alfie Mawson’s move from Swansea City to Fulham at a rumoured £15m rising to a potential £20m makes him the most expensive defender in Fulham history. What is Alfie Mawson’s journey to that point and what will he give to Slavisa Jokanovic’s side? That’s what I aim to tell you.
Born in London, Alfie Mawson was released from the Reading academy at 15 years old and had unsuccessful trials at Bournemouth and Millwall before being picked up by Brentford on scholarship terms. It was at Griffin Park where Mawson received and signed his first professional contract at 18. Largely part of the Development Squad at Brentford, Mawson spent time on loan with six different spells in his three years as a professional at the Bees (including three separate loans over the course of ten months at Maidenhead in the Conference South). Further spells at Luton and Welling were to come before a Football League club came calling.
Wycombe Wanderers signed Alfie Mawson on a season long loan as a 20 year old with Chairboys boss Gareth Ainsworth looking to rebuild after a 22nd placed finish and safety on the final day in his first full year in charge at the club. Despite initially being signed as cover following an injury, Mawson struck up an impressive partnership with ex-Fulham academy player Aaron Pierre with Wycombe and did not look back as the club finished in the play off positions. Mawson’s performances in the heart of the Wycombe defence saw him place 3rd in the running for League Two Player of the Season as well as sweeping up at the clubs’ awards do – taking home both the Players’ Player and Supporters’ Player of the Season awards.
Naturally, Mawson’s performances and accolades caught the eyes of many and having rejected Brentford’s offer of a new contract, the Londoner was free to pursue his options and evaluate his next move. Barnsley of League One came calling and Alfie decided to join the Yorkshire club then managed by Lee Johnson. Unfazed by the leap in competition, another strong season came and again Mawson was central at the back for a team that made the play offs, but this time he was successful with a 3-1 win over Millwall. As part of this season in Yorkshire, Mawson played more games than any other Barnsley player which also won the Football League Trophy in the first of what would be two Wembley visits in a 3-2 win against Oxford United.
At 22 years of age, Alfie Mawson’s blitzed development drew even more attention. This 22 year old English central defender, nominated for the League Two Player of the Year, a key part in two play off appearances in two years (in two different divisions) who is showing astute defending qualities and comfort on the ball wasn’t to be waiting for Premier League football for long. In January 2014, Mawson joined Welling United on loan in the Conference Premier: in August 2016, he was transferred to Premier League club Swansea City for a rumoured £5m. His first start for Swansea wasn’t to come until October, but a man of the match display in a clean-sheet draw against Watford announced the centre back’s arrival to Premier League football.
A strong season continued where it started and Alfie Mawson’s trophy cabinet may have needed an upgrade as he took home Swansea’s Young Player of Year in his first season at the club. His strong performances were rewarded as he made his debut for England at under 21 level and was subsequently taken to the European Championships, starting every game and was arguably England’s strongest performer as they reached the semi-finals before being knocked out by Germany on penalties (of course).
Swansea have had issues off the field before and during his time at the football club, in just two years he’s played under five different managers as the Welsh club lost all identity that was continued through Brendan Rodgers, Michael Laudrup and Garry Monk. Despite the chaos of coaching changes, Mawson’s performances didn’t waiver and he received a call up the senior squad of the England set up from Gareth Southgate. Yet to make his debut, you do wonder whether a World Cup inclusion may have came if not for requiring surgery from a knee injury. Alfie Mawson was nominated for Player of the Season from the Supporters and also finished in the top 3 for Players’ Player of the Season and with two more strong performances (and an impressive four year journey) was naturally going to see Premier League interest following Swansea’s relegation.
Now on the verge of a return to the Premier League with Fulham, Alfie Mawson may be Fulham’s most experienced player in terms of games played in the division. Now in a team that has a very clear footballing style and identity, Alfie Mawson should fill the right-sided central defence position and will encouraged to show his bravery on the football as only eleven central defenders played more short passes than him in the Premier League last season and no centre back completed more over a distance. Beautifully weighted balls out to the flanks with be paired with the unglamorous side of centre back play as he ranked 7th in the division for blocking shots and 8th in the division for both clearances and aerial duels won last season. There are question marks about his turn of speed and agility to recover balls in behind against the high defensive line utilised by Slavisa Jokanovic but you hope there’s enough around Mawson to make it a non-issue.
Formally of Brentford, a Chelsea fan growing up that idolised John Terry isn’t the thing that captures the hearts of Fulham supporters but after becoming the clubs most expensive defender, his whole hearted displays and courage in and out of possession very well could. History suggests that the down-to-earth centre back will continue his strong performances or even improve, and the very real possibility that Alfie Mawson will be the first Fulham player to play for the England National Team since Bobby Zamora is something worth cherishing. Adding much needed size and presence to the Fulham defensive line, Alfie Mawson was once quoted in an interview with the Guardian saying “I just want to be known for being a good footballer and a nice fella. That’s enough for me.” And I think that’s enough for us too.