Three Fulham academy stars to watch

Cody Drameh

The energetic full back has heavily impressed at both U23 and U18 level this season. Cody played a crucial part in the U18 journey in the FA Youth Cup, creating several goals for his teammates and scoring one himself, whilst also maintaining his defensive duties to a great standard. Having trained with the first team all season long, it is a surprise to me that Cody has yet to make a senior appearance.

He is the first choice right-back for the U23, pushing Marlon Fossey, who’s just come back from a long term injury, to left back. On occasions the pair have alternated but with the ability and work rate which Cody possesses, it would be hard for anyone to take his place on a team sheet.

Drameh has featured for England U18’s on a few occasions and whilst it’s clear to see that he is winning all the plaudits for his excellent performances, the stats are also in his favour; he has 7 assists in 17 games for the PL2 side which is incredible for any full back at any level. His goal contribution of 26% shows that Cody is clearly excelling at youth level and I believe he should be tested at senior level and under the guidance of Scott Parker and Stuart Gray, we could have a real player on our hands.

Fabio Carvalho

The promising starlet is an England U18 international, playing at a higher international level than former teammate Harvey Elliott, he is a footballer who would heavily appeal to a statistician as the attacking midfielder has 15 goal contributions in 21 league youth appearances. Having made U18 football look too easy for him, Carvalho was quickly promoted to the PL2 squad where he has been the star performer all season.

Carvalho’s contract is up in the summer of 2021 and the club will surely offer him a new deal to keep the bigger clubs out of interest from snapping up arguably the most promising player in the academy.

Having seen teammates Jay Stansfield and Sylvester Jasper both make the transition from youth to first team football, Fabio has every right to feel hard done by that he hasn’t replicated the successes of his colleagues. Once described as one of the ‘20 talents to watch in England’ by The Guardian, Carvalho will almost definitely be a part of Scott Parker’s pre-season plans.

Martell Taylor-Crossdale

The dominant striker has scored twice in two appearances for the England Under 20 side and his poaching ability within the box is like no other. His scoring instincts meant that Fulham had to compete with several clubs abroad to secure his services. Unlike Cody and Fabio, Martell has featured for Fulham, appearing in the Carabao Cup defeat to Southampton earlier on in the season.
Martell, who we signed from Chelsea in the summer has scored a goal every three games for an under-performing PL2 team, and his huge presence on the pitch has been integral to the PL2 side. What tends to happen with strikers is that they are based purely on stats, however, Martell looks good stats-wise but his class and know how on the field shows spectators that it is only a matter of time before he breaks through into our first team and pushes the likes of Aleksander Mitrovic for a name in a matchday squad in the future.

Having came through the same Chelsea youth team as the likes of Callum Hudson-Odoi, who was there to see Martell score a hat trick vs Reading u23s earlier on in the season, and also the likes of Reece James and Billy Gilmour, Martell will undoubtedly have the desire to follow in the successes of such players and I believe that he needs to feature in our first team in the near future to help continue his excellent development.

Stansfield salvages a point for Fulham U18s

A clinical finish from Jean-Pierre Tiehi and a late Jay Stansfield free-kick salvaged a point for Fulham’s under 18s in an entertaining clash with Aston Villa this afternoon.

Ravaged by injuries, Steve Wigley was forced to deploy four centre halves in an unusual line-up. The changes gave sixteen year-old Xavier Benjamin the opportunity to show his capabilities on the right of a diamond, with Scottish youth international Connor McAvoy filling in at right back due to the lack of options. There was also a start for promising keeper George Wickens, who returned after a five month injury lay-off. Young striker Stansfield started again after his impressive brace against Southampton last weekend.

Villa went in front after twenty minutes after forward DJ Campton-Sturridge took a theatrical tumble in the penalty area and earned a spot-kick. Hayden Lindley’s effort came back off the post but Charlie Farr was the quickest to react and fired home the loose ball. Wigley’s young side might have been dispirited but they fought back admirably. Jean-Pierre Tiehi continued his fine run of form, scoring his fourth goal in six games, with a delightful finish six minutes before half-time, but the forward was forced off with an injury after a crunching tackle – which saw him on crutches after the game – before the interval.

The introduction of Imani Lanquedoc saw Mika Biereth deployed as a striker alongside Jay Stansfield, having previously operated behind Stansfield and Tiehi up until the substitution. Villa were certainly physical in their approach, with several heavy challenges aimed at Stansfield in particular, for which the referee issued three yellow cards.

A disappointing lapse in defensive concentration allowed Campton-Sturridge to restore Villa’s lead ten minutes into the second half when he clinically converted Cameron Archer’s clever pass. Fulham looked uncharacteristically lethargic until wonderkid Michael Olakigbe, fresh from a sensational performance against Watford, was summoned from the bench. The winger made an almost immediate impact, waltzing past a couple of defenders and winning a free-kick just outside the area. Stansfield stepped up and found the net with the aid of a massive deflection – earning a point with two minutes to play despite a below-par performance.

FULHAM U18s (4-3-1-2): Wickens (7); McAvoy (6), Murphy (6), Bowat (5, Olakigbe 86, 7), Odutayo (7); Page (6), Benjamin (6), O’Neill (7); Biereth (6); Tiehi (7, Lanquedoc 45, 5); Stansfield (8). Subs (not used): McNally, Araujo

GOALS: Tiehi (39), Stansfield (88).

ASTON VILLA U23s (4-3-3): Onodi; Farr, Sylla, Lindley, Sohna; Goodridge (Reddin 55), Appiah, Raikhy; Archer, Young, Campton-Sturridge (Rowe 84) Subs (not used): Marshall, Sewell, Ealing.

BOOKED: Lindley, Sohna, Sylla, Farr.

GOALS: Farr (20), Campton-Sturridge (53).

de la Torre and Carvalho secure U23s win

Two superb strikes from Luca de la Torre and Fabio Carvalho secured Fulham’s under 23s first win in seven games as the young Whites saw off Aston Villa at Motspur Park last night.

After drawing a blank in four of their last five games, teenage striker Jay Stansfield was handed his first PL2 start after scoring in his only appearance off the bench against West Ham in the 3-3 draw in early December. Stansfield, fresh from signing his senior deal last week, almost made the perfect start but his predatory finish was ruled out with Carvalho adjudged offside in the build up.

Fulham were playing adventurous football and deservedly went in front in the 34th minute thanks to an incredible solo goal from American midfielder de la Torre. The classy turn and finish straight into the top corner ended his barren run of 13 games without a goal in some style.

The hosts were well on top throughout and the talented teenager Carvalho settled the contest with six minutes to play. personally seen live on the 84th minute. Sylvester Jasper teed up the England youth international who found the top corner with a modicum of fuss.

There was a welcome return from injury for Sonny Hilton, who showed glimpses of class as he acclimatised to match action again. Striker Cameron Thompson was an unused substitute having been sidelined since sustaining a muscle injury in early August.

Scottish centre back Connor McAvoy slotted in seamlessly to the under 23 back four having played the majority of the season for Steve Wigley’s U18’s team. Cody Drameh was comfortably the classiest player on the pitch, with the young right back showing a great attacking threat with his frightening pace, reminding me of one Ryan Fredericks. Cody excels defensively in one on one situations and almost laid on another goal for Hilton.

Arguably the most impressive aspect of Fulham’s performance was the fact that Villa were restricted to very little in front of goal. Magnus Norman was a virtual spectator – facing not even one shot on target – with Fulham completely possession. Up next for the U23s is a must win trip to Plymouth Argyle as they attempt to reach the next round of the PL Cup.

My man of the match: Cody Drameh

FULHAM U23s (4-2-3-1): Norman (6); Drameh (9), Fossey (6), McAvoy (7), Jenz (6); De Havilland (6), Francois (6); Hilton (6), de La Torre (8), Carvalho (8); Stansfield (6). Subs (not used): Las, Asare, Davis, Thompson.

BOOKED: De Havilland.

GOALS: de la Torre (34), Carvalho (84).

ASTON VILLA U23s (4-3-3): Sinisalo; Kelser, Bridge, Birch, Revan; Philogene-Bidace (Hooper 78), Burton, Tait (Chukweumeka 58); Ramsey (Sea 71), Archer, Wright. Subs (not used): Lyndley, Searle.

Fulham’s future stars

Fulham’s academy is renowned for the development of outstanding young players and have been churning out accomplished footballers for many years now under the watchful eye of director Huw Jennings. Fulham fans don’t need to be reminded of the exploits of Ryan Sessegnon or Moussa Dembele, whilst both Marek Rodak and Steven Sessegnon have shown signs of being the next homegrown youngsters to slot into the senior side.

There is great excitement about the next generation of young talent currently making their way through the Motspur Park pathway. Both Jay Stansfield and Sylvester Jasper have starred for the under-18 side that is currently top of their Premier League division and the pair were rewarded for their outstanding form with first-team debuts by Scott Parker.

The depth of talent extends deeper still and, in this article, I’ve highlighted the progress of three outstanding under-16 talents, who have the potential to excel at the highest level for the Whites in the years to come.

Michael Olakigbe

Michael Olakigbe is a versatile winger, at home on either flank, and comfortable with both feet. The youngster plays his football with real flair and has made great progress since joining Fulham from QPR in the summer of 2018. Olakigbe honed his prodigious skills at the East Soccerbase Academy and he is eligible to represent either England or Nigeria at international level. At just 15, the fact that Olakigbe has made two appearances for the under-18s – scoring against Reading last Saturday – and he was named on the bench for the U23s against Stoke City as well.

Olakigbe hopes to emulate the stellar performances of Wilfried Zaha, who he considers his idol, in the Premier League in the future. You can’t fault his ambition, but given his undoubted talent you wouldn’t bet against him making his mark in the senior team in years to come.

Xavier Benjamin

Xavier Benjamin is a strong, athletic centre back, who is very comfortable with the ball at his feet, making him ideally equipped to be a very modern defender. He has the confidence to dominate opposing forwards and is also vocal on the field of play, marking him out as leadership material in the future. and his vocal ability sets him up to be a leader in the future. Benjamin’s ball-playing ability means he is finely attuned to Fulham’s footballing philosophy and you can why the club have high hopes for him at this relatively early stage in his development.

Benjamin has already been sponsored by Puma, which is an unusual development at such a young age, but suggests that plenty of people have noted his talent. The centre back has already represented England at under-15 level and has already featured twice for the under-18 side this season. He was another youngster to be included on the bench for the recent PL2 fixture against Stoke at Craven Cottage and has shown character to battle back from an ankle injury, which interrupted his exposure to under-18 football. Benjamin believes he can go on to play Premier League football, although his immediate target will be laying claim to a regular spot in Steve Wigley’s side.

Stefan Parkes

Stefan Parkes is a versatile full back, who usually plays on the left side of a back four. The youngster is yet another defender who is confident in possession and is viewed as one of the most promising prospects within the academy. 

Parkes arrived from Brentford as an under-12 when the Griffin Park club opted to abolish their academy structure. The pathway for Parkes has already been set by the meteoric rise of the Sessegnon twins and he certainly has the ability to follow in their footsteps. He has already featured for the under-18s, breaking into the side at the tender age of fifteen last season and not looking at all out of place.

The full back has also had to come to terms with an injury that has limited his participation during this campaign, but his talent has not gone unnoticed. Parkes, already a regular in the England youth set-up, captained his country’s under-15s against Belgium and his composure and maturity has impressed plenty of observers. He recently played his first full ninety minutes against Tottenham for the under-18s and will have his sights set on continuing his outstanding development to date.

FA Youth Cup preview: Manchester City v Fulham

Fulham’s Under 18s return to FA Youth Cup action tonight with a tough fifth round trip to Manchester City, reliably considered one of the country’s finest academies. Steve Wigley’s charges should go into the contest full of confidence, though. They have lost just one of their fourteen league games this season – setting the pace at the top of the Premier League South standings – and with City leading the way in the North, the scene is set for a mouthwatering clash.

The man of the moment Jay Stansfield, whose outstanding form since his summer arrival from Exeter City has seen him elevated to the senior squad, will lead the line for Fulham at the Etihad Campus this evening fresh from signing professional terms with the club. The seventeen year-old striker has scored eighteen goals in eleven appearances for the under-18s this term and also netted on his under-23 debut against West Ham. His eye-catching debut in the FA Cup against Aston Villa was followed by a first senior league appearance in the closing stages at Charlton Athletic a couple of weeks ago and Stansfield’s consistency has seen him earn England honours as well. He scored a hat-trick against South Shields in the third round – and could be Fulham’s most potent threat should he be selected after missing the weekend win over Reading.

Fulham came through a tough tussle with Sheffield United in the fourth round, with full back Cody Drameh finishing off a flowing counter-attack after running fully 70 yards with the ball having helped the Whites clear a corner. Such was the quality of Drameh’s delightful strike that it was among the contenders for the Fulham January goal of the month award. Drameh, another of the promising right backs that the Fulham academy have produced of ate, has featured regularly for Mark Pembridge’s under-23 side and this is a common characteristic of the team that Wigley is likely to pick tonight, with seven of the starters against South Shields having seen some PL2 action this season.

Fulham’s key player could well be the prodigiously talented Fabio Carvalho, who has captained the under 18s on several occasions this season. The England youth international, who burst onto the scene with some superb performances in Fulham’s FA Youth Cup to the quarter finals in 2018, is excellent adept playing as a winger or a number ten and is having a sensational season so far. Carvalho has scored four goals and made five more in ten appearances for the under-18s, whilst four times in six starts at under-23 level as well. His guile, flair and vision will be crucial to unlocking the Manchester City defence this evening.

The consistently high level of young talent that comes through the Fulham academy is something of a marvel, with credit having to go to academy director Huw Jennings, Malcolm Elias and, of course, Wigley, who is now back in charge at under-18 level. This might just be the best crop of under-18s since the side that reached the final of the FA Youth Cup in 2014, a line-up that included the likes of Moussa Dembele, Patrick Roberts and Marek Rodak. City will prove a tough test, but there’s no reason why the Whites can’t progress further in the competition with another composed display.

MY FULHAM U18s XI: Las; Drameh, Odutayo, Murphy, McAvoy; Page, O’Neill; Carvalho, Jasper, Tiehl; Stansfield.