Fulham confirmed their released and retained lists on Friday night – with plenty of question marks over several of the decisions and the club’s plans for a return to the Championship in the 201/22 campaign.
Only Kevin McDonald features on the released list from the senior squad and his departure is understandable following his kidney transplant. There are several exits from the youth team set-up. Fulham have decided to release Julian Schwarzer, son of former Fulham goalkeeper Mark, whose second spell with the club has come to an end after he was brought back to Motspur Park as keeping cover. Jordan Aina, brother of Ola, has been let go after just a season with the club, whilst Martell Taylor-Crossdale, brought in from Chelsea in 2019, has formerly left the club having struggled to make an impression with the under 23s. The striker’s departure is not a surprise after he was sent back from Colchester on loan and Taylor-Crossdale spent time on trial with QPR earlier in the season.
Ryan De Havilland, a midfielder who occasionally featured at under 23 level, has also left the club after four years, whilst Luca Murphy – whose acrimonious move from Hartlepool two years ago hit the headlines – was also released. Two full backs, Lesley Duru and Jaydn Mundle-Smith are also searching for new employers and Jayden Harris also moves on after more than decade with the club.
Fulham formally confirmed that all seven loanees players have headed back to their parent clubs as expected. Lemina, Aina, Andersen and Areola made their mark whilst at the club, as regular first-team players who put in some outstanding performances, they were not enough to rescue the Whites from the drop. Lookman showed early promise, but it felt as though he wilted as the season went on. Maja returns to cash-strapped Bordeaux after an uneventful loan spell, although his debut brace at Everton did hint at real promise and that penalty at Arsenal briefly sparked hope of another great escape. Ruben Loftus-Cheek goes back to the Stamford Bridge bench, where he will still move more than he did at Craven Cottage pitch as he models for BooHooMan.
Seven players have been seen their one-year extension options activated. Tyrese Francois, the talented Australian midfielder who made his first-team debut against Southampton in 2019 and came off the bench on the final day of the season against Newcastle, is among these. Cyrus Christie will be at the Cottage for another year after spending this season on loan with Nottingham Forest and Maxime Le Marchand, who made sixteen appearances and scored three goals at Royal Antwerp in the second half of the season, is also contracted for another year.
Jerome Opoku has been rewarded for another encouraging loan spell – this time with League One Plymouth – with an extension, which may allow him to make an impression on the first team set up. Given the surfeit of centre backs now at Parker’s disposal another loan might be more likely, with a Championship destination a possibility this time. Terry Ablade has been earned an extension of his own after lively displays for the under-23 side and has been joined by the Ghanaian-American central defender Eric Ameyaw and defensive midfielder, Jonathan Page.
There was also confirmation of Tim Ream’s new deal, which the American spoke about in the run-up to his current international duty. Fulham have also agreed new terms with Marlon Fossey, the attacking right back, who has been so unlucky with serious knee injuries over the past two seasons. Luca Ashby-Hammond, the highly-rated England youth international goalkeeper, has put pen to paper on a new contract after another strong season with the under 23s, whilst older brother Taye has been offered a new deal.
Several of the club’s academy starlets have been offered new contracts. These include exciting English forward Mika Biereth, who scored 21 goals in 22 games as the under 18s retained their Premier League south title. Jean-Pierre Tiéhi, who registered ten goals in 23 games at under-23 level, is also considering a new contract. Scottish centre back pairing Connor McAvoy and Ibane Bowat, pivotal to the under 18s success this year, have been offered new deals whilst Luciano D’Auria-Henry, who stepped up to the under 23s at right back, and Idris Odutayo are also in the process of securing their futures at Motspur Park.
Finally, Fulham revealed they remain in dialogue with long-serving goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli, whose contract expires at the end of the month. You would imagine that Marek Rodak remains ahead of Bettinelli, whose loan spell with Middlesbrough ended in disappointment as he was dropped by Neil Warnock towards the end of the season, but he will always retain a place in the hearts of the Fulham faithful, especially following his exploits after coming back in the team that Slavisa Jokanovic guided to promotion.