The Motspur Park conveyor belt has a history of churning out high quality talent. Think Ryan Sessegnon, Moussa Dembele and Patrick Roberts in recent years. Fulham insiders have often spoken highly about a classy and intelligent winger in Sylvester Jasper and over the past year we have seen his talent really blossom.
Jasper’s always been a lively presence in the Fulham youth sides and he enjoyed a stellar year with Steve Wigley’s under 18s before the coronavirus lockdown brought an abrupt end to their all-conquering campaign. They were at least rewarded with the league title, if not a place in the UEFA Youth League, and Jasper was one of the team’s most consistent performers. It was no surprise, after scoring nine goals and making ten more in only eighteen games, that Jasper was promoted to the under 23s. That his talent admittedly transmitted to that level, in a much more inconsistent side, speaks volumes for the winger’s quality – Jasper registered two more assists in five games.
What is most exciting about his development is the partnerships he has forged with fellow members of the academy. Jasper has a brilliant understanding alongside Fabio Carvalho, who was recently named Fulham’s scholar of the year in recognition of his own outstanding development. The pair have played together since breaking into the club’s under 16s and it is a testament to the academy’s hard work that they are both participating in first team training ahead of Fulham’s forthcoming Premier League return.
Jasper’s elevation to the senior squad for the FA Cup tie at Manchester City might have come as a bit of surprise, but Scott Parker clearly believes in the youngster. A young manager who is not afraid to introduce burgeoning talent, as he showed by handing Jay Stansfield a senior debut off the bench against Aston Villa in the previous round, Parker introduced Jasper as a late substitute at the Etihad in what was otherwise a pretty chastening defeat. It wasn’t an isolated outing for the winger, though, with further appearances coming against Brentford and Birmingham – the latter at a time when Fulham were pushing for a late winner to keep their promotion hopes alive.
Jasper, whose outstanding year was rewarded yesterday with a richly-deserved three year contract, seems to have slotted well into the senior squad. He went on holiday with Steven Sessegnon, another recent academy graduate, and was seen celebrating promotion to the Premier League in that viral clip from Aboubakar Kamara’s Instragram Live on the Wembley turf. His integration into the first team squad is a positive sign of the harmony at Motspur Park these days, with a number of youth prospects mixing with their more senior colleagues in stark contrast to the end of the Claudio Ranieri era, for example.
What’s next for Fulham’s latest young wonderkid? It is possible that Jasper’s contract extension is the precursor to a loan move lower down the Football League pyramid, as in the case of Marek Rodak, who used that experience so impressively when he stepped into the first team in the middle of last season. You would think he would attract plenty of interest from Championship and League One sides. But Parker, a clear admirer of Jasper’s talent, might prefer to nurture the winger from closer to home even if the likes of Anthony Knockaert and Ivan Cavaleiro converting their loan spells into permanent moves make nailing a first-team spot seem tricky.
There’s no doubt that Jasper has an exceedingly bright future ahead of him and his comments after signing that new contract speak to his desire to keep improving and do his best to help the team. If Parker can channel that hunger and Jasper’s obvious ability, then Fulham could have another real star on their hands.