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Mesca makes Fulham return

Fulham midfielder Mesca has returned to Fulham after the end of his loan agreement with Crewe Alexandra

The promising winger has helped Crewe enjoy a recent revival of results and most notably scored the winning goal in the club’s 2-1 win over Carlisle United on New Years’ Day.

The skilful wide man, 20, has gained invaluable experience whilst on loan and Crewe manager Steve Davis has not totally ruled out trying to bring the promising youngster back to Gresty Road.

Jol wants to offer Mesca loan opportunity

Fulham boss Martin Jol wants to send out Mesca and several of Fulham’s other youngsters before the loan window shuts next month.

The former Chelsea winger made his first-team debut against his old club at Stamford Bridge in September, but hasn’t featured since.

Marcus Bettinelli, Marcello Trotta and Cauley Woodrow are among the Fulham young guns gaining experience in the lower leagues.

And boss Jol wants more of his kids to get regular games elsewhere.

He said: “If you look at the left side we have Adel Taarabt, [Pajtim] Kasami and even Damien Duff can play there.

“We’ve got Ashkan Dejagah and Duff on the other side too. There’s too many players here now to throw them in, so I would love to find something for them.

“I’ve got six or seven youngsters who could play in the lower leagues and do a very good job, but you need the clubs to take them.

“There’s still not a lot of interest because all of these lower-league clubs are looking for older, experienced players.

“They want to keep these teams up and may feel these youngsters can’t do a job for them.”

Jol sets Mesca challenge

Martin Jol has challenged Mesca to prove himself worthy of a first-team place by the New Year – or face a loan spell away from Fulham.

The Portuguese winger, so impressive during pre-season, made his Fulham debut as a substitute during Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at Chelsea and he has seemingly vaulted above Ashkan Dejagah in the pecking order after some eye-catching displays during training down at Motspur Park.

Jol has told the 20 year-old, who signed a new contract with the club in April, that could gain a regular place in the side if he can perform consistently or he will follow Alex Kacaniklic’s route into the first-team, with the Swede emerging after a successful loan spell at Watford two years ago.

I told Mesca if he starts scoring goals and giving us assists he could be the number one. I will wait until January [to loan him out] because he’s in contention for the first team.

A Guide to Fulham’s Homegrown Talent 2013-14

Following interviews with manager Martin Jol on the official website, and owner Shahid Khan on CottageTalk on Friday, I am now increasingly confident that the final month of the transfer window will be prosperous for Fulham Football Club.

With the first team in need of several star additions to the starting line up, the near two months of transfer inactivity has given an opportunity for several of Fulham’s young players and academy graduates to shine in pre-season and possibly earn a place in the first team squad for the coming season.

So with no new signings to profile, here are a few of the Fulham youngsters that everyone should know going into the 2013 – 2014 Barclays Premier League season.

Buomesca Tue Na Bangna (“Mesca”)

20-year-old Guinea-Bissau born Portuguese youth international winger Mesca is the most exciting of a crop of young players about to break into the first team squad. Having been released from Chelsea’s academy as an 18 year old, Mesca joined Fulham in August 2011 and has been on a fast climb ever since. A starring member of the victorious 2012 Premier Academy league Champions Under-18 side, he was promptly promoted to first team camp last pre-season where a goal in a 4-0 win over Nice proved a memorable highlight. Unfortunately a knee injury prevented him from making his much anticipated competitive first team debut last season, but with the incumbent Alex Kacaniklic currently injured, Mesca is slated to potentially open the season starting on the left. A fast, creative left winger, Mesca could soon be a shining crown jewel to have come from within our system.

Mesca

 

Jack Grimmer

19 year old Scotland youth international Grimmer is another currently enjoying first team training as our second choice right back. He joined the Whites back in January 2012 having already made his professional debut with Aberdeen aged just 16. A versatile defender who can play centre half, right back or in midfield, Grimmer is a vocal leader on the pitch. His Scottish twang was noticeably audible from the stands as Fulham’s outstanding player in the 2012 Premier Academy League Final. Having led the Under-19s to Dallas Cup glory and made the bench for the FA Cup game at Blackpool last term, Grimmer will hopefully make the first team squad on a more regular basis as back up to Sascha Reither this season. Full international honours should also be in the offing in the not so distant future.

 

Chris David

Much talked about Dutch midfielder Chris David joined the Whites last January following a somewhat protracted move from Bryan Ruiz’s old club FC Twente in the Netherlands. The 20 year old was supposedly the brightest spark in Twente’s youth set up and hopes are sky high for him to develop into a top class attacking midfielder. Trips to both Costa Rica and Austria with the first team show how highly he is rated by Martin Jol, though he will likely start the season playing for Kit Symonds’ Under-21 side. With a few impressive cameos in pre-season and a few more once the season starts, don’t be surprised to see Chris David in the first team fringes come the second half of the season.

Mesca, Tankovic and David on preseason tour

 

Marcello Trotta

One of the better known players to have come out of the Academy in recent seasons, Italian striker Trotta deserves to be given his chance at senior level this season. Successful loan spells at Wycombe in 2012 and Brentford in 2013 have proven 20-year-old Trotta is capable of scoring goals in senior football. Questions about his attitude prevailed after his taken-against-orders missed penalty cost Brentford promotion to the Championship, but the confidence shown, and humility learnt, will hopefully blend together to help Marcello develop into the top class striker many, including myself, believe he can become. Martin Jol has spoken of his desire to strengthen up front, so chances might be limited, but he is currently the most natural born poacher in the entire squad.

Trotta scoring against Chelsea last season

 

Muamer Tankovic

Whether we see 18-year-old Swede Tankovic in the first team this season is unknown, with a full year of development squad football and a possible loan spell more likely. A versatile forward player, Muamer arrived at Fulham as a 16 year old from IFK Norrkoping in 2011, and has shone for the Under-18s in a Number 10 role and up front. A starring member of last May’s second successive Barclays Premier League Under-18 championship winning side, Tankovic’s physical development is such that he could be ready for senior football sooner rather than later. A loan to the Championship like Alex Kacaniklic’s to Watford in 2012 would probably be the best move all round.

Lasse Vigen Chrisensen

Similarly to Tankovic, 18-year-old Danish central midfielder Christensen is unlikely to force his way into the first team just yet. He did however, feature in the opening fixture in Costa Rica, showing hopes are high for the former FC Midtylland player who arrived at Fulham in January 2012. The club website cites him as “bold and creative in possession” and he shone as a cultured deep lying central playmaker when I saw him last. A year learning his craft from the likes of Giorgos Karagounis in first team training could have Christensen first team ready next summer, if not sooner.

Christensen and Tankovic training with the first team in Costa Rica

 

The Under 18s / Under 21s

Besides those profiled above, there are numerous other players lighting up the Under 21s and Under 18s who could well see first team action in the future, its just unlikely to be this coming season. There are other, good players I wont have mentioned below, but the entire Fulham youth set up is prospering and will hopefully supply players to the first team for years to come.

Goalkeeper

Neil Etheridge is the star pupil in the goalkeeping ranks. The Philippines international has been capped a staggering 40 times for his country aged just 23. Having recently signed a new contract, Martin Jol has stated Etheridge has the potential to be a future Fulham Number 1 and spent the majority of last season as back up to now departed Mark Schwarzer. Hopefully Neil is given a loan spell in the Championship or an overseas top flight this season to get some regular match practice under his belt. Highly rated Marcus Bettinelli travelled with the first team to Austria, while Jesse Joronen, Max Oberschmidtn Magnus Norman and Marek Rodak are all highly rated within the system. Slovakian Rodak in particular starring for the Under 18s towards the latter part of last term.

Defence

Centrally, two players stand out for me. 17-year-old Northern Irishman Liam Donnelly showed the maturity, calmness and positional sense of countryman and fellow centre half Aaron Hughes in the winning Under 18 team back in May. His central defensive partner that day was that statuesque Stephen Arthurworry whose size alone should guarantee a decent professional future, an adept passing range akin to that of first team skipper Brede Hangeland will likely ensure it. Mention must go as well to on loan Dan Burn. Having scored the goal that got Yeovil promoted from League 1 in May, 21 year old Burn will spend the entirety of this campaign playing under Lee Clarke at Birmingham City in the Championship. With both Hughes and Philippe Senderos having contracts that expire in 2014, don’t be surprised to see Burn playing games alongside Amorebieta or Hangeland in a year’s time. Sierra Leone born Irish youth international Noe Baba and Scotland’s Cameron Burgess are also highly rated.

Midfield

18-year-old Frenchman Ange-Freddy Plumain signed from RC Lens last month amid somewhat of a cloud of confusion after the French club released a statement saying they thought he was still under contract to them. Regardless, Plumain is an exciting prospect who can play on the wing or up front and stated he chose Fulham as the club best suited to further his development, and will expect to play a full season in the Under 21s despite having featured 22 times for Lens’ first team last term. German midfielder Ronny Minkwitz saw his development slow down in the last 12 months after previously captaining the Under 18s and will have a make or brake 2013/14. The same can be said of Australian winger Ryan Williams who starts the season on loan at Oxford United and home grown prospect Charles Banya who made a Premier League substitutes bench at Stoke last November. The two gems at Under 18 level are 17 year olds Emerson Hyndman and Patrick Roberts. American playmaker Hyndman still has some physical development to go but his reading of the game and distribution skill show sizable natural talent. Winger Roberts is fast making a name for himself on both the domestic and international stages, and is included in the latest England Under 17 squad. Finally, a word on Josh Pritchard who is currently halfway through the season at Tromso in Norway’s top flight where he is playing regularly in an under publicised loan spell.

Forwards

Anyone who saw the Under 18s tear Reading apart in May will be well aware of the following two players. Englishman Cauley Woodrow and Frenchman Moussa Dembele will both have successful senior careers unless they waylay their development with a false career move. Woodrow is, and I hate to use this phrase, a typical English centre forward; think a young Teddy Sheringham with long blonde hair. Equally adept at playing the hard yards with his back to goal as he is poaching in front of it, with the right development and appropriate loan spells, Woodrow could, and should, one day successfully wear the white of the Fulham first team. Frenchman Dembele on the other hand is a natural headline maker. His quite brilliant hat-trick in the Academy final was as good as any forward his age (then 16) could have scored. Having turned 17 and signed professional papers, there is a real chance that in Dembele, we have a player who could one day be worth the £15m his namesake was sold to Tottenham for. Thankfully, with a professional contract bearing his name, that development will be at Fulham. Former MK Dons youngster George Williams will get his chance to lead the Under 18s this term, while Dino Islamovic is another Swede looking to impress in the Under 21s.

Hat-trick hero Dembele back in May

 

Last Word

This coming season is a big one for several recent academy and development squad products. The case of the missing Kerim Frei must be answered after injury halted the development of our “next Messi” (as some were calling him after some stellar early performances) and time is ripe for him to show his face again. Midfielder Pajtim Kasami impressed on loan at Luzern last spring and has been one of the stars of pre-season. Defender Matthew Briggs must be hoping he gets his chance at left back and will fight John Arne Riise all season for the spot, though many, myself included, feel he has the ability and skill set to one day progress further up the pitch.

COYWs

Jol lauds special team effort

Martin Jol praised a superb team effort after Fulham moved closer to Premier League with a narrow win against Stoke at Craven Cottage.

The Fulham manager singled out the work rate of central midfield pairing Steve Sidwell and Giorgos Karagounis, who was preferred to loan signings Emmanuel Frimpong and Urby Emmanuelson, as being as just as crucial to Fulham’s victory as Dimitar Berbatov’s sumptuous first half volley or Mark Schwarzer’s vital penalty save after the break.

I think it was a team effort. If you look at the midfield –  Steve Sidwell and Giorgos Karagounis – you saw the work rate and the work effort, because we have a problem with their style. It was a team effort but a couple of players made the difference today. Mark Schwarzer made it our day because we may have lost two points again if the penalty kick had gone in.

Schwarzer made three great saves. In the first half from Walters when they got in behind our defence, then when Philippe Senderos tried to hold off his man – that was a great save – and, of course, the penalty.

Jol revealed that Berbatov’s sprint towards the Fulham bench after his vicious volley had found the top corner was provoked by his own insistence that the Bulgarian striker had hardly scored any volleys since signing for the club from Manchester United at the end of the summer transfer window.

Dimitar always scores between 15 and 25 goals [a season] so it would be silly to think that he can’t score 15 to 20 goals for us – that is what I always have in mind. His goal was a good one but I can remember him scoring a lot of great goals. I said a couple of months ago that he never scored from volleys anymore, that is why he came up to me! It’s the first goal he’s scored from a volley [for Fulham] and in the past he did that all the time. He tried to prove a point because he’s a good sport. We’ve got other players who can make a difference but he and Mark certainly made a difference today.

Jol believes his side were good value for a victory that, ahead of the afternoon kick-offs, lifted Fulham up to eleventh in the table.

Overall, if you saw the first half, I think we were the better team. But it’s always difficult against them. They changed their system, they put all these big guys up front, they play this style and it was not easy for us. We should have scored a second goal and we didn’t, so in the end they could have punished us for the fact we only scored one goal. But, of course, we’ve got Mark Schwarzer who saved the game and the three points for us.

It’s about players. If you’ve got good football players, they can pass it around. Giorgos, for example, in the first half – he made the difference for us in midfield. That is what I knew, and that is what he showed. Of course we’ve got good players but sometimes you need to play ugly against teams like Stoke to get results and to earn the right to play your own football, and I think in the first half we did that.

The Dutch coach was delighted that his side have managed to pick up a couple of crucial home victories since Christmas that could set them up for a concerted assault on the top half as the season draws to a close.

I felt before the game that we had a few vital games this year. West Ham United was one of them, Newcastle United was one of them, and Norwich City last time – because we could have been dragged into a situation with five or six other clubs. Now we are surrounded by Sunderland, Stoke – who are having a very good season – West Ham, who were flying and are now below us. So I think these points are vital to us.