We, as a club, have never been known for our wonderful youth production line. Such greats that have been produced include Zat Knight, Zesh Rehman and of course, the man with the name that so many want, but so few gain, Elvis Hammond. I’m not denying that we have produced the odd player who had a bit of a sparkle in his football (Who put the ball in the Blackburn net?!) but far too often they have been not up to scratch.
But is it all change on the banks of the Thames (or in the greenery of Surrey?). Al-Fayed set out a vision at the end of the 2009 season- a vision that we, Fulham, would produce a range of greats from the very heart of the club itself. And with most things that Al-Fayed says, he does back them up, no denying that- appointing Huw Jennings, the man who has found such players as Theo Walcott and Gareth Bale (oh how we could do with one of them!). He’s made positive steps forward to, increasing our youth spending to a stage where we are being linked with, and getting, some very positive youngsters, including our latest additions of Jack Grimmer, Lasse Vigen Christensen and Ryan Williams.
But that is just the latest batch of players- we’ve seen some of our older academy players starting to be introduced to the wonderful world of Premier League football. Kerim Frei has provided pace, flair and enthusiasm to the wings, whilst Marcello Trotta has excelled on a recent loan move to Wycombe, scoring a quite remarkable 8 goals in 8 matches in a relegation threatened side. I am, of course, forgetting the one true son of Fulham, the man who has risen through the year groups from the under 10’s to the First 11. Matthew Briggs. A pacey, strong left back, he had a promising run in the Europa League, scoring an absolute corker of a goal against Crusaders (on a plastic pitch!) before getting injured. Sent out on loan to Peterborough to regain some of that early form and promise that he showed, I for one will be watching that loan move closely.
As for the “newer” academy graduates we have Neil Etheridge, who, at the tender age of just 22, has already represented his country 28 times, and looked that he could be promising in a showing in the Europa League. We also have the Liverpudlian duo of Alex Kacaniklic and Lauri Dalle Valle, who arrived as part of the best deal (well apart from Bullard) Fulham have ever done- 2 youngsters and 2 million for a 31 year old! Roy’s leaving present? Anyway, they have both shown promise, Lauri going on a successful loan deal to Dundee earlier in the season, while Alex has banged them in the reserves, earning himself a move to Watford, where I understand he has shown what he is all about and given off a very positive viewing of himself. Ronnie Minkwitz has been rated by all who have seen him play, myself included, who have been impressed by his work rate, attitude and passing ability in the center of midfield.
But it seems that in the past year is where Fulham have really stepped up their game at attracting young players. We have signed Dan Burn, the towering centre defender scouted by many top clubs, Cauley Woodrow who made his debut for Luton aged 16, Omri Altman, who trialed at Arsenal and lets not be forgetting Muamer “the Tank” Tankovic, who is rated as one of the best prospects to come out of Swedan in recent years.
Our success on the field has increased too, reaching the Academy Final last season and doing well in the league and Youth FA Cup this season, coming from behind to beat a talented Manchester City youth academy squad. Things are looking up for Fulham Youth after years of a barren spell.
The Future is Bright and the Future is Fulham.
I’m Will and this has been my first post of many (I hope!). You can follow me on twitter (@willpaul25) if you want to hear more Fulham related ramblings.