Fulham have begun this summer transfer window by concluding three deals for players from within the Championship. In Tom Cairney, Ben Pringle and Andy Lonergan we have moved to strengthen the squad with players who are already proven in our division. It is a surprisingly sensible transfer strategy and looks to be going someway to rectifying the balance of the misshapen squad we ended last season with.
However, with the arrivals in the form of a goalkeeper and two midfielders (with a possible third to follow in Jamie O’Hara), one area we are yet to sign any players for is the defence. With up to an entirely new back four not out of the realms of possibility, it is safe to say Mike Rigg and co will be scouring the Championship for defensive options. So what follows is a list of potential defensive targets, should Fulham decided to continue the strategy of staying within the Championship.
Lewis Dunk – CB, Brighton & Hove Albion
Centre back Dunk is a player who’s already been linked to Fulham this summer, with some reports stating we’ve already had offers for the 23 year old turned down. Whether this is true or not remains to be seen, but it is certainly believable, and Dunk would be an intriguing signing. At 6”4’ his size makes him stand out, but there is a danger with a player like Dunk that his goal scoring, 5 last season, makes him overly memorable relative to how good he actually is. However, he’s a solid player with his prime years ahead of him so it would be a surprise if Brighton let him go.
James Tarkowski – CB, Brentford
22 year old centre back Tarkowski has had something of a meteoric rise in the 18 months since he joined Brentford from Oldham on transfer deadline day in January 2014. Arriving in west London as a 20 year old amidst Premier League interest, Tarkowski was the archetypal sign them cheap, sell them high transfer that suits the transfer system Brentford are in the midst of implementing. At 22, he still has some development to come and it would be a surprise if Brentford sold him to a rival before his value peaks. We’ve been linked with him already this summer with rumours suggesting we’ve unsurprisingly baulked at a reported £8m valuation placed on the player by Brentford.
Tom Lees – CB, Sheffield Wednesday
24 year old Lees is another whose name has briefly been mentioned as a potential target already this summer, with press reports suggesting a £1.2m bid was supposedly rejected earlier in June. The Sheffield Wednesday defender is popular at Hillsborough, even captaining the side at times last season and you’d be surprised if they let him go after only one full season at the club. At 6”2’ he’s another physically imposing centre back and, despite his age, would add both experience and leadership to a back line lacking an identity. Sheffield Wednesday kept an impressive 17 clean sheets last season and Lees was a big reason why. Fulham have also been linked to Wolves CB Richard Stearman, whilst it perhaps wouldn’t be a surprise to see Michael Turner leave newly promoted Norwich for a return to South West London.
Simon Francis – RB, Bournemouth
Ok, so Bournemouth aren’t technically in the Championship anymore, but Francis was the best visiting full back to play at Craven Cottage last season. At 30 he is not in the age bracket we ideally want to be signing, but it is important that we garner some experience in the squad outside of those already at the club. If Jack Grimmer isn’t to start the season as our principal right back, I’d want his replacement to be someone he can look up to and learn from. Francis led all Championship defenders in assists last season with 6 but I’d be surprised if Bournemouth wanted to let him go, or if he’d want to leave.
Charlie Daniels – LB, Bournemouth
Similarly to Francis above, Daniels is no spring chicken aged 29. However, with Bournemouth spending £8m on Tyrone Mings last week, Daniels has seen his potential role at the club nose dive. Daniels is a good all round full back and was part of a spectacularly solid Bournemouth back four last season, alongside the aforementioned Francis, Steve Cook and Tommy Elphick. He also chipped in with 4 assists and 43 key passes. With Sean Kavanagh the only left back in the first team squad (assuming Fernando Amorebieta has no future at the club) we could urgently do with a bit of experience.
Sam Byram – RB, Leeds
I should start the write up of Byram by saying there is very, very little chance we could sign Byram. The 21 year old right back has been catching scouts eyes from the Premier League for several seasons now, with latest reports linking him to Everton in the event Seamus Coleman leaves. However, taking Leeds’ best player for the second summer in a row would be a real coup for Fulham. In reality though, it is likely that a more experienced right back arrives to challenge Grimmer for the place. The most probable scenario is the arrival of former loanee Ashley Richards on a permanent transfer from Swansea, but we can dream.
James Husband – LB, Middlesbrough
Another 21-year old, Husband spent the last month of last season on loan at Fulham as part of the Amorebieta loan swap. In 2 league appearances, Husband managed to do what Kostas Stafylidis failed to do in 38 and resemble a competent defender. With George Friend cemented as the starter at Boro, Husband will need to leave the Riverside for regular minutes this season and I’m sure I’d not be alone in welcoming him back to Craven Cottage. Whether Boro would sell him is a different question.
Scott Malone – LB, Cardiff
Malone started last season at Millwall and caught the eye as the Lions beat us at the Cottage in August. However, with his contract running down, Millwall sold him to Cardiff in January where he proceeded to make 13 appearances. It’s unlikely he’d move again, but the 24 year old is one of the Championships best under the radar full backs.
It’s unlikely any of these players will arrive in SW6 this summer, but it is good to see Fulham looking at the talent available within the Championship as a means to strengthen the squad.