Ben Davis and National Service

Fulham made a little bit of history back in 2017 when Ben Davis, a 16 year old from Singapore signed to the academy. A Singaporean has never played in the Premier League or Championship, and Davis could be the first one to do that. The only other player from Singapore to play in the professional game in England is Daniel Bennet, who played for Wrexham in the  old English Third Division a number of years ago.

However, back when Davis signed for Fulham, the question of his duty to complete National Service in Singapore when he became 18 came up straight away. In Singapore, every male at the age of 18 must complete some form of National Service for two years. Around the same time that Davis signed, he and his family had applied for deferred NS, but his request was rejected. NS can be deferred, but it mostly happens for academic purposes, but it can happen for the Arts and for sport. Sport is a difficult one, because it’s only for sportsmen and women who are “…representing Singapore in top-tier international competitions,” or “…displaying potential to win (medals).”

While Davis is seen as a huge talent in Singaporean football, he isn’t yet close to helping them win medals at an event. In fact, deferring NS for sport has only happen three times since 2003, twice for national swimmers and once for a sailor. Davis has been called up to the Singapore national side but is yet to win a cap which could be one of the reasons why he hasn’t been able to defer it. It’s important to note that Davis is not trying to get away with doing his NS altogether, rather it’s putting it off until his football development is much further on.

We are now at the stage were Davis should be back in Singapore starting his NS, so because he has essentially defaulted, he is now in danger of being sent to prison if and when he returns home. He is at the age were NS is due, and he should have reported back to Singapore in January. According to ‘Singapore Legal Advice’, any defaulter can be punished with “…a fine of $10,000 and/or a term of imprisonment up to 3 years.”

This is a potentially very serious issue for Davis and his family if he ever wants to return back to Singapore, but his family are said to be appealing the original decision to reject to request of deferment. Generally speaking, countries who have NS are very strict with it. In the case of Son Heung-min of Spurs, he had to actually win the Asian Games with his South Korean football side to be spared military service there, so who knows if Davis will ever be in a position were he can help Singapore win a competition.

One thing is sure though, taking two years out of football at 18, just when you could be on the brink of making it, is more of less kissing goodbye to a career in England. Watch this space.

A Long Term Solution

This seasons seems to go from calamity to calamity. We perhaps re-entered the Premier League with an air of complacency, but even at that we have fallen so far below our expectations for this season it’s painful. One hundred million pounds later and we have a squad filled with talented individuals but with limited team spirit.

We have shown flashes of a strong side this season, but we have lost our soul and identity, especially when we brought in Ranieri. Let me be clear, I wasn’t fully against the sacking of Jokanovic. I thought that he was out of his depth and the fact that he played a different defensive line in each of his Premier League games showed that he clearly didn’t know what he wanted from his squad. However, sacking him when we did to bring in Claudio Ranieri, was in my eyes, the biggest mistake that has been made this year. We went from a very attacking manager, to one who sets up with five at the back and it wasn’t going to end well. Hindsight is a great thing.

However, my biggest issue with Ranieri isn’t necessarily his footballing style. It can work with the right squad, as we witnessed when Leicester won the Premier League under him, but it has been a disaster on the banks of the Thames. My issue is the treatment of Ryan Sessegnon and Tom Cairney. Say what you want about Jokanovic, but he allowed Sessegnon to flourish and become one of England’s hottest prospects while giving Cairney the captain’s armband and allowing him to be the heartbeat of the side got the best out of him. The relationships that Jokanovic spent a long time developing have been destroyed in 14 Premier League games under Ranieri. I have never been the sort of person who wants a manager to go at the first sign of trouble, but if Ranieri went now I’d be happy. He hasn’t improved things anywhere near enough to justify Jokanovic’s sacking, and while I can understand why Jokanovic had to go, Ranieri was the wrong choice to replace him.

I don’t think it will happen, but IF Ranieri was to go this week, I’d be content with Scott Parker until the end of the season, then let the owners and board have a good think about who to bring in for the long term. What should be happening right now in the board room is discussions about our long term future on the pitch, and I don’t think Ranieri is the one, even if he pulls a miracle out of nowhere and keeps us up. He has been poor for both squad and fan morale.

But who should take over? Who would be willing to take us on? We can’t be that unattractive of a prospect, with owners who are clearly willing to put their hands in their wallets, but sometimes potential managers will look at owners track record with sackings etc and make a decision based on that. The Khan’s have owned Fulham since July 2013, approximately 66 months ago, and in that time five managers have been sacked.

I’ve seen a few names mentioned online so I’ve put together a list of five managers who we could potentially look at. REMEMBER that some of these may be completely unrealistic, but I’m looking at new up-and-comers alongside managers who are currently out of work.

  • Scott Parker- If Ranieri goes before the end of the season, I’d imagine that the Khans will turn to Parker to get us through to the end of the season. It might be too soon for him to take over the official managers position for the long term, but look at how well Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard are doing in their first positions. Cairney’s comments on how motivational Parker was in the dressing room for the Brighton game shows that the players already have a real respect for him. Is it too soon for him? Probably. Will he make a great manager one day? Quite possibly.
  • Vincenzo Montella- The Italian only played about half a season at Fulham, but became a fans favourite very quickly. He has a decent record with some big name clubs including Roma, Fiorentina, AC Milan and Sevilla. He guided Sevilla to their first Champions League quarter-final with a 2-1 victory over Manchester United but his league form was the worry for owners, and he has been out of work ever since he was sacked at the end of April 2018. He might be out of our reach, but he already has an affinity with Craven Cottage, so maybe we could tempt him home.
  • Steven Gerrard- This is possibly the most unrealistic of my five candidates as he currently has Rangers challenging for the title in Scotland. He also gets European experience at Ibrox, so I think he would only be tempted away from Glasgow by a Premier League move. He has made a very positive start to his managerial career, though, so it could be a very fun addition if it was to happen.
  • David Wagner- Wagner worked wonders with a poor squad at Huddersfield, so what could he do with a bit of financial backing? He likes to play his football like his friend, Jurgen Klopp, but he just hasn’t had the players to do that this season. He is a passionate manager, and one who like to have a real relationship with the club he works for which is something that Fulham fans love to have. He also knows the Championship and knows what it takes to get promoted, so if we end this season with a relegation I would be confident that he could get us back up.
  • Lee Johnson- Johnson has done very well with Bristol City, but I get the impression that he has brought the club as far as possible. He could be ready for a new challenge, and Fulham could be an attractive one for him. If he is promised funds, then he might feel like it’s time to move away from Bristol. His teams are well drilled and are attack focused, things that I feel that we need at Fulham.

The only thing I am sure about right now is that Fulham are going to have to make changes on the pitch and behind the scenes this summer. Whether we manage to survive or not, we need to find our identity again.

#COYW

Keep Believing

It’s remarkable how 45 minutes of football can change your whole attitude about things. I’ll admit that after the miserable defeat at Burnley that I thought that there was no hope that this squad could drag themselves out of this relegation battle. It’s the first time in years were I have genuinely lost hope in our team and it felt awful. My mood didn’t change after the Spurs game, despite a decent performance, and at half time against Brighton I was one of the many who considered it season over.

But then something changed. While our defence is still a considerable worry, we showed a bit of fight for the first time in ages. I have said for ages that I thought the turning point in our season was the draw away against Brighton where we were seemingly cruising only to end up with a 2-2 draw, so perhaps it is fitting that a possible comeback could come off the back of us coming from 2-0 down against the same team.

It has been a frustrating January so far in terms of the transfer window, with just one player through the doors of Motspur Park. While the signing of Ryan Babel looks like a very positive one, we all know that it is in defence were we really need personnel. With just a matter of hours left in the window, I’m hoping that our business isn’t done yet, but I’m beginning to get a little fearful.

Next up we have a trip to Selhurst Park to take on Roy Hodgson’s Palace, and for once we have already had some fortunate news with a Wilfred Zaha red card meaning their star man is unavailable. It’s mad to think that they apparently haven’t won a Premier League game without him while he has been with them, so hopefully we don’t go all Fulhamish and allow them to turn this unwanted record around. I’m gutted that I can make Saturday as Selhurst Park has been on my football to-do lists for some time, but I’ll be stuck following from afar because of work. I fully expect the Fulham faithful who are there to be making a real racket, especially after Tuesday night’s result. As a fanbase we really can make a difference to what happens on the pitch, and continuing to be behind the boys can help get them over the line.

We still have so much work to do to get us out of this mess, but there have been some positive signs recently. I really hope Ranieri goes with the team that finished on Tuesday night against Palace as we were so much better then than how we started the game. I thought Cairney was sensational, and I hope it puts to bed some of the doubts about his attitude! He was very unfortunate not to score himself, but it was his shot that allowed Vietto to score after it had cannoned off the bar. Shout out to Sergio Rico as well who made an unreal save from a Murray header when the score was 2-2. Chambers, Babel, Mitro and Seri all had great matches in the second half. We have the players who can turn this around, so we need to keep believing.

Great Escape II anyone?

#COYW

Hammyend Team – Memories, Hopes and Dreams

As a New Year breaks, we thought it was time as a team to give you our collective memories from 2018 as Fulham fans and what we hope for in 2019. Enjoy!

Memories from 2018

Dan Crawford – 

2018 was full of incredible memories that make it very difficult to pick one. The whole of our unbeaten run was so mesmorising and some of the football Slavisa Jokanovic’s side played was heavenly. The spirit and fortitude shown by the boys to keep plugging away even when it seemed automatic promotion was out of reach was just incredible – and the drama of the play-offs was just something else. That night against Derby at Craven Cottage is unforgettable and the suddeness of the turnaround, with those goals from Sessegnon and Odoi, made it all the more memorable.
And then there was Wembley. I never thought I’d see Fulham play at the famous ground. But to win there: in a such a high stakes game, well that has to go down as one of the best days of my life. I don’t know how many times I’ve watched that glorious goal again. Sessegnon’s composure and vision to set Cairney away and the coolness of the finish. The desire to see it through after Odoi’s red card and that magnificent Ollie Norwood tackle. The final whistle brought all kinds of emotions – relief, joy, disbelief – bubbling to the surface.

 

Alan Drewett

Last year will be a year that will stick in the mind of every Fulham fan. We eventually got to Wembley and we gained promotion back to the big time. It was a year that started off with a 23 game unbeaten run and just falling short of the automatic places. The addition of Mitrovic was certainly the season defining moment for us. The first half of the season we were crying out for a centre forward that could finish, hold the ball and slot in to our free flowing way of football and he ticked all the boxes.

The play off semi final win at home to Derby will also be a memory I will never forget. We were a team that rarely threatened from corners and it was a Denis Odoi header from a corner that sent us on the way to Wembley. The pitch invasion afterwards allowed my 3 year old son to face the Craven Cottage turf for the first time. Everywhere you looked, there was pure jubilation from everyone on the pitch. Denis Odoi being held aloft is one particular image which will always bring a smile to my face.

Frankie Taylor

Slavisa Jokanovic’s swaggering Fulham side clinched promotion in dramatic style throughout the play offs following a remarkable unbeaten run towards the end of the season which left Fulham a whisker away from the automatic slot. Our first day at Wembley since 1975 was ended in joy, a day I’m sure no Fulham fan will forget… not less Ryan Sessegnon threading through a gorgeous pass to captain Tom Cairney (and arguably the poster boy of Jokanovic’s era at Fulham) to slot beyond Sam Johnstone in the Aston Villa goal. For the turnaround in fortunes, the style of football and the ultimate success, Slavisa Jokanovic should never be unspoken when discussing great managers of the football, though for whatever reason it didn’t work out in the Premier League, he played a mighty big part in getting us there.

Lydia Campbell

2018 will stand forever in the memories as one of the craziest, most exciting and most absolutely mad years as a Fulham fan. A 23 league game unbeaten run will always give us some memories, but what came at the end of it was THAT trip to Wembley and our golden ticket into the Premier League via a Tom Cairney goal. What a day, what a year.

We have had some crazy moments along the way, Middlesbrough away stands out to me with Ollie Norwood’s last gasp penalty sealing the points in a game we probably had no right to win. I was working for BBC Sport NI that day at an Irish League game and very nearly ruined the live post-match interview with Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter as the score came in on my phone. Sorry, Stephen…

Then fast forward to Denis Odoi’s header against Derby which could have been the last thing I saw alive as the guy beside me practically rugby tackled me when the ball hit the back of the net, before lifting me above his head in celebration. It was all good though, if that was the last thing I witnessed before coming to an untimely end, it would have been a pretty good way to go out.

Cue Wembley. It’s hard to really put into words what that day meant to me. Things have been very tough for my family over the past 18 months for reasons that I’ll not bore you with here, so getting to watch Fulham win at Wembley with my dad, the man who introduced me to Fulham all those years ago meant more to me that I could possibly have imagined. Special moments.

Hopes and Dreams for 2019

Dan Crawford

If I’m honest, I’m still a little sad about how it ended for Jokanovic. I was a true believer in the style of football and the philosophy even after it became clear that we were going to struggle in the Premier League. There’s no doubt that Claudio Ranieri has tightened it up and made us much harder to beat. It might not be pretty – indeed, it is the polar opposite of what has gone before, but it is working.
My immediate wishes are for some reinforcements in January. It looks like we’ll need another centre back if Alfie Mawson’s injury is as serious as we fear it could be and that could be a sound acquisition in any case. There’s a clear need for a defensive midfielder since Anguissa has yet to step up to the mark – no matter how good Calum Chambers has been in his new found role. I also think some back up for Mitrovic in the striking role is a must, but Premier League experience – which much of our squad is lacking – is vital. We can stay up, but we need to make the right moves.

 

Alan Drewett

Our return to the Premiership has already been a season to forget. With so many changes made in the summer, 12 players in and £105m spent, we were all hoping to hit the ground running. Unfortunately, it has not gone according to plan. Slavisa Jokanovic has been replaced by Claudio “The Tinkerman” Ranieri and the whole identity is changing. I would like to see us still be a Premiership team come May and use the summer transfer window to allow Ranieri to buy his players and make us a stable top flight club.

I am hoping the board and the owners have learnt something from the summer transfer window and allow the manager to have more of a say on who is brought in. The next 5 months are going to be nervy, tense and certainly a rollercoaster ride with plenty of highs and lows. I hope we use the January transfer window to make the necessary changes to the squad in order to make us compete at this level. It is extremely important we keep the likes of Sessegnon and Mitrovic fit if we are going to stand any chance. I am looking forward to the rest of the season and I am hoping our first away win of the season is just around the corner at Burnley.

Have a fantastic 2019, all! COYW!

Frankie Taylor

Claudio Ranieri now takes the reigns. A dramatic difference in footballing philosophy brings multiple questions, which players suit? Which players will adapt? And who will the manager like and dislike? Leicester title winning leader has already looked to recreate the hardened defensive set up and whilst it lacks the quality of a Ngolo Kante, Riyad Mahrez or Jamie Vardy, Fulham have a January window to get the squad better suited for Ranieri-ball.

Big changes hit Craven Cottage as work is set to start on the Riverside Stand, and the income of Premier League football is vital to helping us through financially that period of time. Extra outlay may be eye watering for the books, but necessary with the Whites in desperate need for players that better suit the quicker play of the new regime to ensure that a fancier, expanded Craven Cottage plays host to Premier League football.

Although Premier League safety will be the biggest aim for 2019 for the football club, I’d like to see a continuation of youth involvement in the first team, beyond Ryan Sessegnon (who is absolutely established in the first team), Claudio Ranieri hasn’t dipped down to see what he has – though the FA Cup game against Oldham may be the best opportunity for that.

Lydia Campbell

The back half of 2018 has been hard. Results on the pitch have been pretty dire and we have been left with the momentous task of Premier League survival while being the bottom team at Christmas. My long-term hope is obviously survival, but in the short term, I don’t want us to lose all of the flair and spirit that got us into the top league in the first place. We need to be more effective as a team, and we need to be able to grind out results like all teams at this side of the table, but I would like Ranieri to do that without ripping the soul out of the side.

I don’t think he will as I think the likes of Sessegnon, Mitrovic, Cairney and even Odoi have roles at this club in the hunt for survival, but we all need to accept that changes will be made. He has already made us a much better unit, and we haven’t done that by completely sacrificing our attacking play. We have had copious chances in most of the games under Ranieri, so I hope we start taking them!

As a team we would just like to thank you all for reading our material, and want to wish you all a happy and healthy new year.

#COYW

 

Divided Opinion – Aboubakar Kamara

I can’t remember a Fulham player dividing opinion among fans quite as much as Aboubakar Kamara has done over the past few months. To an extent we had a debate over Dimitar Berbatov, when some believed that his talent alone should keep him on the team sheet back in 2013, while others pointed to his disruptive behaviour being reason enough to get rid. Then we were consumed by intense discussions about the goalkeeper situation. That one ranges back seasons, with Marcus Bettinelli always the man involved.

But it seems different this time. AK has pushed all boundaries and after his antics over the penalty yesterday the debate rages on over whether or not he should even play for Fulham again. I’ll try my best to address this question here.

Little was known about AK when we signed him for an undisclosed fee back in the summer of 2017, but it became apparent very quickly that this was a player with limited technical ability, but one who would run through a barge door for you if you got him on your side. He has chipped in with a decent amount of goals considering he has only been a bit-part player since his signing, but it’s his overall play that causes so much frustration amongst fans, coaching staff and likely team mates. He earned a red card in just his fifth league start for the club for a daft push on Bailey Wright of Bristol City last season, and has come close to receiving his marching orders on a number of occasions since then. He dives, he barges into people for no apparent reason and yesterday showed that he has a ‘me over the team’ attitude. You could point to his age, claiming that at 23 he still has a lot to learn, but Aleksander Mitrovic is just a year his senior. I simply can’t use his age as an excuse for his immaturity. For me, Kamara has to learn his place in the team, and that needs to come from the players around him and from the coaching staff. He needs to grow up. I looked at his appearances last season, and in his last five games at the end of last season his received a yellow card in each of them (not all back to back games). His discipline should be at the top of the list for things to work on.

However, if we are going to decide whether or not he should play for the team again, we have to look at what he can bring to us. There have been quite a few games recently, and then towards the back end of last season, were AK made a very positive difference to the team. During the play-off games against Derby he stretched their defence causing a lot of problems. Then when I think about the last few games, to me it was evident that we were a more effective, attacking side with him in it. He is a speed merchant, and is built like train, two attributes that defenders absolutely hate in attackers. We don’t have a lot of speed in our squad, so when we have someone like Kamara he can make a huge difference. While his behaviour yesterday for the penalty was unacceptable, I suppose you could say that any hungry striker would do it. As soon as the spot kick was given, he sprinted 30 yards to get the ball that had been cleared as he was adamant that he was taking it. I think disobeying your manager, your captain is disrespectful and it can’t happen again, but for the good of the team maybe all should be forgiven. Booing him if he plays again isn’t going to help anyone.

In summary, I think that whether he plays again will depend on one thing; is he willing to accept that it was the wrong decision and agree that it can’t happen again. If the answer is yes, then I’d have him back because of what he brings to the side. But if he remains ignorant of the fact that he was massively disrespectful to his team, manager and fans yesterday then that points to a player who isn’t interested in the team. If that’s the case, then good riddance. No player is bigger than the club.

It’s up to you, AK. What’s it going to be?

#COYW