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McDonald to leave Fulham

Kevin McDonald will leave Fulham when his contract expires at the end of June, the club have confirmed this evening.

The Scottish international is currently recovering well from a kidney transplant having had an operation at the end of last week to cure the disease that he has played with for an astonishing fourteen years. McDonald has made 128 appearances – scoring six goals – in five years at Craven Cottage since he made the move from Wolves. He formed an outstanding partnership with Tom Cairney and Stefan Johansen at the base of Slavisa Jokanovic’s midfield and was a key part of the two Fulham sides that won promotion from the Championship.

McDonald told Fulham’s official website this evening:

“I’ve absolutely loved it. Every minute of my day-to-day life at Fulham has been great. Of course there’s been ups and downs, but that’s part of football; if you can’t accept the downs then you’re in the wrong sport. But I’ve really enjoyed it, and I think that’s shown in the person I’ve been and the player I’ve been.

It was such a good move for me, and it kind of changed my life, changed the way I played football, so I’ve got fond memories. Coming into the club and playing that style of football and learning to play that attacking, free-flowing football was just unbelievable.

We didn’t start off well and there were so many doubters out there but we stuck to our principles and, over time, it paid off. We got better and better and yeah it was disappointment at the end [against Reading], of course it was, but we went into the 17/18 season full of confidence, thinking ‘we’re going up here.’

The failure drove us on, and playing that second season was just unbelievable, especially that second part of the season where we were going into every game knowing we’d win. The feeling was just amazing, and for me personally, it was great. I was a huge part of the team and enjoying playing in a good football team, at a great club.

McDonald also spoke about the special relationship he has enjoyed with the Fulham fans.

“They’ve been absolutely top drawer with me, especially through these times now. They’ve been absolutely incredible, their support for myself and my family has been amazing. From start to finish they’ve been brilliant.

“Even when I’ve not been playing they’ve been amazing. Throughout the course of it they’ve always wanted me to be in the team and they’ve been a huge part of the club for me. I’ll be forever grateful for them. All the love they’ve shown to me and my family, it’s been amazing. There’s no real word for things like that, but my connection with the fans has just been brilliant and I’m sure it will be forever.”

Fulham have also confirmed that Ryan De Havilland, Lesley Duru, Jayden Harris, Jaydn Mundle-Smith, Luca Murphy, Julian Schwarzer, Jordan Aina, Martell Taylor-Crossdale will all leave the club when they contracts expire at the end of the month. Maxime Le Marchand, Cyrus Christie, Tyrese Francois, Jerome Opoku, Terry Ablade, Eric Ameyaw and Jonathon Page have all had the options to extend their contracts by a further year activated. New deals have been agreed with Tim Ream, Luca Ashby-Hammond and Marlon Fossey whilst new contracts have been offered to Taye Ashby-Hammond, Connor McAvoy, Jean-Pierre Tiehi, Mika Biereth, Ibane Bowat, Luciano D’Auria-Henry and Idris Odutayo. Marcus Bettinelli remains in discussions with Fulham about a possible future deal.

Jennings wins Premier League academy award

Fulham academy director Huw Jennings has today been named as one of the winners of the Premier League Eamonn Dolan Award for his outstanding achievements in youth development.

Jennings, who has previously worked at the Oxford United and Southampton academies as well as the Premier League, shares this year’s award with the Brighton and Hove Albion technical director Dan Ashworth. The award is named in honour of the former Reading academy supremo Dolan, who sadly passed away from cancer in 2016.

Jennings has overseen the progression of 44 academy graduates to first-team debuts in more than a decade at Craven Cottage, with talented midfielder Fabio Carvalho the latest to make the step up to senior football in the final weeks of the last season. Fulham’s under 18 side successfully defended their Premier League U18 south title and Jennings’ key role at the helm of one of the country’s leading academies has won him respect and admiration throughout the national game.

He told the Fulham official website:

“It’s fantastic. Eamonn was a terrific ambassador for youth and dedicated his career to the development of young players. To win an award that’s in his name makes me feel very privileged.

You can never replace the enjoyment of seeing a young player progress to the first team for Fulham. We’ve had a number of those during my time here, most recently Fabio Carvalho. It was great to see Fabio start the last three Premier League games, and hopefully he can go on to achieve great things. That’s certainly always a starting point for my personal highlights.

We’re probably witnessing the most successful period of youth development in England, and in my career. Hopefully, that can transfer into international success and lots of club related success with talented young players. I’m really proud to be working with a really strong team of staff who are so hard-working and dedicated to their roles. In terms of on the pitch, we’ve had successes with the Under-18s, who won the Southern Premier League for a second year in a row. There’s also been good progress from a number of individuals right across the programme.

This is a great club to work for and it’s the longest I’ve worked anywhere and I’ve done that for two reasons. One is that I’ve really enjoyed it and the other is that the club has continued to put up with me!”

QPR targeting permanent deal for Johansen

Queens Park Rangers have made securing the services of Fulham midfielder Stefan Johansen on a permanent basis one of their highest summer transfer priorities.

Rangers, who have today confirmed the capture of experienced striker Charlie Austin from West Brom, are eager to turn Johansen’s successful loan from Craven Cottage into a transfer. The Norwegian midfielder was hugely impressive after moving to Shepherd’s Bush in January, scoring three goals and making two more in 21 appearances for the R’s.

The 30 year-old, who retired from international football in March in the hope of prolonging his playing career, has spoken publicly of becoming disheartened at a lack of first-team opportunities at Fulham. He was not included in Scott Parker’s 25-man Premier League squad last season and has just a year to run on his current contract. The only significant stumbling block could be Rangers’ matching Johansen’s wage demands.

Johansen was a key figure in Fulham’s two promotion-winning sides from the Championship, but has twice been jettisoned once the Whites returned to the top flight. He previously spent time on loan with West Brom when Fulham were relegated in 2019 – helping the Baggies reach the Championship play-offs. The former Celtic midfielder has made 136 appearances for Fulham – scoring 21 goals – since making the move south of the border in August 2016. He formed a classical partnership with Tom Cairney and Kevin McDonald in Slavisa Jokanovic’s iconic Championship midfield as the Whites reached the play-off semi finals in 2017 and then went one better against Aston Villa at Wembley the following year.

Rodak named in Slovakia Euro 2020 squad

Fulham goalkeeper Marek Rodak has been named in Slovakia’s final squad for the forthcoming European Championships, which was confirmed this morning.

The 24 year-old was included in Stefan Tarkovic’s initial 24-man party and won his sixth senior international cap in last night’s friendly draw with Bulgaria in Austria. Rodak will compete with Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dubravka and the Lechia Gdansk keeper Dusan Kuciak for the number one jersey during the tournament, which gets underway on June 11th. He played a key role in Slovakia’s qualification for Euro 2020, saving a penalty from Alan Browne in the play-off shootout victory over the Republic of Ireland.

Rodak has been a spectactor at club level for much of the past season after Fulham signed Alphonse Areola on loan from Paris Saint-Germain. He started the first league game of the season, a 3-0 defeat by Arsenal, but had to wait until the final match of the campaign – when the Whites were beaten by Newcastle – for another appearance in the Premier League. He made two FA Cup appearances and featured in two League Cup fixtures.

Slovakia face Austria in their final warm-up match in Vienna on Sunday before opening their Group E campaign against Poland in St. Petersburg on June 14. They face Sweden at the same venue four days later before travelling to Sevilla to take on Spain in their final group game on June 23.

Rodak stars for Slovakia

Marek Rodak warmed up for Euro 2020 with an impressive display between the sticks as Slovakia drew their first pre-tournament friendly with Bulgaria tonight.

The Fulham goalkeeper started on the bench with Lechia Gdansk custodian Dušan Kuciak preferred in goal. He was beaten inside nine minutes when Atanas Iliev punished some slack defending to put the visitors in front in Austria. The Bulgarians, who failed to qualify for Euro 2020, looked by far the better side until midfielder Laszlo Benes equalised from close range just before the break.

Rodak was handed his sixth senior international cap when he was introduced as a substitute immediately after half-time. After being a spectator for much of what had proven to be a particularly dour contest, the 24 year-old was called into action when he turned a fierce drive from Dominik Yankov onto the post. Such an excellent reaction save will have done Rodak’s chances of being included in Stefan Tarkovic’s 26-man squad – due to be named tomorrow morning – no harm at all.

Bowie praises ‘inspirational’ McDonald

Kieron Bowie has heaped praise on Fulham midfielder Kevin McDonald and credited the veteran with playing a key part in his own excellent first season in London.

Bowie admitted that he initially struggled with homesickness after making the move from Raith Rovers last summer but went on to have an outstanding first campaign in Fulham’s under 18 side. The teenage forward highlighted McDonald’s influence as a coach with the younger sides as well as his personal input into Bowie’s own development.

“Kevin is always ready to give me advice in terms of my own game, or just if I want to talk about something while we are in the gym. He’s really down-to-earth and I don’t even think of him as a coach — he’s just one of the boys, passing on his experience and leading by example on the training pitch. And he’s not lost a step, either. What a player!

“I’ve got so much respect for him and he can relate to what I’ve been through because he has been on that same journey, coming through in Scotland and then making a big move to England. Kev has been there, done it and when he speaks, you listen. He’s just a really inspirational guy, on and off the pitch. I think he’ll be a top manager if that’s what he wants to do. Sometimes on a Tuesday or a Wednesday, he’ll take our session and his knowledge of the game is unbelievable.”

Bowie revealed that he find elements of the move to London difficult at first, but now feels he has adapted well to life with Fulham.

“I struggled with homesickness a lot at the beginning. Being so far from home was really tough. I had never lived on my own; I had never been without that support from my mum in the same house. That was a big adjustment. I’m still only 18, so that was the biggest factor in the first couple of months. It’s a massive learning curve — especially away from football — and I’ve grown up a lot. When I was playing for Raith, that was my club, in my town and you feel a lot more comfortable in that situation. This was a big leap into the unknown, but I got there in the end.

Around Christmas, I started to feel a little bit more settled and find my rhythm. I was enjoying myself, started to build confidence and I was scoring goals. I kicked on from there. All the boys are top players.”

The Kirkcaldy-born youngster scored fifteen goals in twenty league appearances as Steve Wigley’s side secured a second consecutive Premier League U18 South title.

“Of course, we’ll lose games and have the odd disappointing performance, but we learn from that and the aim is for us all to become better players. But, there’s no denying that winning trophies is a nice bonus when you are trying to develop and get that winning mentality.”

Bowie’s fine first campaign with the Cottagers has been rewarded with a first call up to Scott Gemmill’s Scotland under-21 squad, which came as something as a surprise. The eighteen year-old is in line to make his debut against Northern Ireland in Dumbarton tomorrow afternoon.

“I’m incredibly proud to be in the squad — and a little bit stunned, to be honest. I’ve only been in the Scotland under-19 squad once so I never imagined I would be in the under-21s — a good two years ahead of my age group. I’m just pinching myself.

“Shaun Maloney was the guy I looked up to when I was watching Scotland as a kid. He was the man doing the bits of magic, scoring the goals and I’d watch him thinking: “I’d love that to be one day.” There’s no pressure on me because I’m just one of the younger players in the group. It’s a bonus at the end of the season and I can go, work hard and try to express myself and show what I can do.”

Fulham slap ‘£10m price tag on Cairney’

Fulham have put a £10m price tag on captain Tom Cairney as the club seek to deter interest in their creative midfielder from former boss Slavisa Jokanovic, according to a report from Teamtalk this morning.

Jokanovic, who was appointed as the permanent successor to Chris Wilder at Sheffield United last week, has reportedly made the Scottish international his top target as he bids to lead the Blades to an immediate top flight return. Cairney captained Jokanovic’s Fulham side to play-off final success over Aston Villa in 2018 and was a pivotal part of the team that fell short at the semi-final stage the previous season. The midfielder has previously said that the best football of his career came in that spell under Jokanovic.

The Scottish international still has a further three years to run on his current contract at Craven Cottage. Cairney is understood to be happy in London and would be unlikely to leave Fulham, although Jokanovic is apparently eager to explore the possibility of luring the 30 year-old playmaker to Yorkshire. Whether Sheffield United would be willing to part with such a significant sum for a player who has struggled with injuries in recent seasons in order to strike a deal remains to be seen.

Cairney, who made just ten league appearances this season having aggravated a knee problem picked up in pre-season, has scored 37 goals in 212 appearances since joining Fulham for around £3.5m in July 2015.

McDonald’s kidney transplant successful

Fulham midfielder Kevin McDonald successfully underwent a kidney transplant yesterday, the club have confirmed.

A short message on Fulham’s official Twitter account revealed that both McDonald and his brother, who was his donor for the transplant, ‘are both doing well as they begin their recovery from surgery’. The Scottish international thanked supporters for their messages of goodwill as he prepared for the operation.

McDonald has made 128 appearances in five years at Craven Cottage and has been part of two Championship-winning promotion sides with Fulham.

Reed wants to bounce straight back with Fulham

Harrison Reed admits that Fulham’s relegation from the Premier League ‘hasn’t sunk in yet’ but the tigerish midfielder is already targeting an immediate return to the top flight.

The former Southampton midfielder has quickly become a favourite of the Fulham faithful after building on an impressive loan spell at Craven Cottage with an excellent first season after signing for the Whites permanently, despite the massive disappointment of relegation. The 26 year-old’s energy and reading of the game was pivotal in helping Scott Parker’s bridge the gap from Championship promotion contenders to becoming competitive in the league above, although he admits the pain of the drop is still very raw.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Athletic, Reed says:

“It hasn’t sunk in yet. For so long, we believed that we could really do it, that we really could stay in the league, and that we deserved to stay in the league. But over the course of 38 games, it’s not down to luck, we fell short. You can look back at key moments and say, ‘We were unlucky here’, ‘We didn’t get the decision here’. But there’s only so much that counts for.”

“We didn’t have the quality in certain moments to kill a game or see it out. It is really painful because for so long, we were so competitive. We were just the one goal away from picking up more points in certain games. Over the course of a season, that’s huge.

“It was difficult. We’ve gone from winning games in the Championship to being on the receiving end in the Premier League, and you’re in the spotlight with the coverage the Premier League gets. We found out early on that you make one mistake, even if it’s not a glaring mistake, but one player switches off tactically, out of possession, the opposition see it and they can score.”

“In those moments, you sink or swim. We had to understand where we were going wrong, where we needed to improve. We had to be brutal. The manager was brilliant; he understood the dynamics of a Premier League game more than what we did as players. He spoke to us at length about what needed to change how we needed to manage games better. We became a very competitive side.

“We had belief. It never wavered until it was impossible to do the job — that comes from the manager. Working hard, disciplined, not letting defeats kill us. While we haven’t been successful as a team on the pitch, in terms of building the mentality and building people, I feel that the manager has been successful.”

Reed reveals that, although it was a wrench to leave his boyhood club Southampton, he was eager to make the move to Fulham after helping them win the Championship play-off final and that he feels so comfortable at Craven Cottage that he is fully committed to helping the club return to the elite level of English football next season.

“It was an amazing season. I knew in my head that it was what I wanted to do, and I was pushing every day to get it over the line as quickly as possible. I felt it was the right time to move on. I feel like when you find the manager and a place where you feel at home, it makes the decision really easy. And that’s what I have at Fulham.”

Reed credits Parker both as a huge influence in bringing him to Craven Cottage and developing his game as a deep-lying midfielder.

“I got a phone call to say that Fulham were really interested and the manager wanted me. It was almost a perfect fit. It started with more detail, with how he wanted me to play, the job of that No 6 position. It’s an important position. It’s there for the build-up, to link defence to attack, to link the wide triangles to the opposite sides, to shut down counter-attacks.

“There’s a lot of detail that you need to know to be able to play that position in his team. He made sure I understood every part of the game. It was then about being a character in the team, about being an influence off the pitch. I feel like he’s given me that responsibility. I looked at the stats early on, and it wasn’t quite good enough in the first few games. I improved from that point: the duels, 50-50s, tackles, interceptions.”

Reed remains hungry for success and, whilst careful not to overlook the depth of competition in the Championship, believes that Fulham can realistically consider themselves amongst the leading contenders for promotion next season.

“My initial reaction after this season is to get back there as quick as possible. Listen, the Championship is a very, very competitive league, it takes a lot of quality and a mentality and consistency to be successful but last season and this season will stand us in good stead. I’ve really enjoyed the season in the Premier League. I’ve loved it, I feel like I’ve grown as a player. I can’t wait to get back there. We can do that next season.”

Ream commits future to Fulham

Veteran defender Tim Ream has committed his future to Fulham following the London club’s relegation to the Championship.

The experienced American centre back, who extended his contract at Craven Cottage last summer to 2022, told a press conference ahead of his Concacaf Nations League duty with the United States that has discussed his future with Fulham and wants to help Scott Parker’s side secure an immediate return to the top flight.

The 33 year-old said:

“I’m happy to stay at Fulham and play my part. I’ve had conversations with Scott [Parker] and the backroom staff, they want me there and I want to be there. I still have that drive to stay in England. I’d love the daily, the daily grind and constant pressure, promotion/relegation, trying to be the best that you can possibly be, with consequences. And if you don’t perform, you’re dropped very quickly.”

Ream made only ten first-team appearances for Fulham this season, but was named captain for the Whites’ final two fixtures against Manchester United and Newcastle. The former Bolton defender has made 204 appearances in six years at Craven Cottage and has become something of a cult hero amongst the Fulham faithful.