You might not admire Daniel Levy, but have to chuckle at his consistency. Tottenham have just lost the north London derby, when the punditocracy was beginning to talk of the famed gap between the red and white sides of the rivalry growing in their direction, and drew disappointingly with West Brom at the weekend. There are a few rumbles in the fan base and some supporters have even questioned whether Mauricio Pochettino, one of the most progressive coaches in the game, is all that.
Levy is a master of communication and subterfuge well beyond the world of sport – famed for pulling off great deals. Fulham fans of course have bitter experience of how he snared Mousa Dembele at the last knockings of the 2012 transfer window and would, therefore, have eyed yesterday morning’s Telegraph report that Spurs had installed Ryan Sessegnon as their one number one target to replace the ‘fuming’ Danny Rose with great trepidation. Given the way the modern sports media works, it was soon blasting around cyperspace, social media and leading Sky Sports News, with a special package heading the hourly bulletin.
As ever, the substance behind the story is difficult to find. Levy and Spurs did their best to try and rattle Fulham earlier in the year, briefing to the same paper that they’d placed a £25m bid for Sessegnon, having been one of a host of leading clubs disappointed when one of the country’s most coveted young players signed his first professional contract with a Championship club. No formal offer was received by Fulham – this was merely a test balloon floated to see if whispers of teaming up with Tottenham and Pochettino could tempt the teenager away.
Sessegnon, who along with his twin brother Steven has been with Fulham since the age of eight, was mature enough to recognise that, whilst he could have easily swapped Motspur Park for a Premier League club in the summer off the back of his astonishing exploits during his breakthrough season in senior football, learning his craft at a club committed to providing the pathway through to the first team for their young starlets was best for his development. He’s been a regular in Slavisa Jokanovic’s side this season, starting at left back, and scored that sensational hat-trick at Sheffield United – which seems to have started off a new round of frenzied speculation.
Matt Law’s piece proclaims that Sessegnon is above Luke Shaw in Pochettino’s pecking order to replace Rose, who is apparently destined to join Manchester United in January. The report builds on the Mail’s revelation at the weekend that there’s no minimum release fee clause in the deal that Sessegnon signed over the summer, but adds that Fulham struggle to retain the youngster should they fail to reach the Premier League in May, which seems like a bold claim given that he was happy to sign on after the play-off heartbreak. Why might this link come now, at a time when Spurs are worried about being left behind in the league again? Could it be because Manchester United have been linked with a £35m move for Sessegnon in the new year?
Perhaps the most intriguing part comes at the end, where Law writes:
But Tottenham believe Pochettino’s record of bringing through talented English youngsters puts them in a strong position for Sessegnon’s signature.
Pochettino has undoubtedly cultivated the talents of Harry Kane, Dele Ali and Harry Winks in the past couple of years, but you don’t have to cast your mind back too far to see how Spurs’ jettisoned the careers of several English talents. Sessegnon could just ask the last local boy to come through the academy – a midfielder who played in all four divisions for the club, represented England at youth level, and enjoyed cult hero status with the fans.
Sean Davis had his head turned at the height of his powers and, after a standoff, swapped west London for White Hart Lane, whereupon his promising career failed to take off. The man who amassed 188 appearances for the Whites, scoring goals at Blackburn and at home to Sheffield Wednesday that ensured Fulham would return to the Premier League having been given his senior debut by Micky Adams as he was resurrecting the club in the bottom tier four years earlier, would tell Sessegnon to learn from his experience and stay put.
Fortunately, Fulham’s hottest property is a man whose maturity and intelligence belies his tender years. He has a genuine appreciation for the club that have given him and his Steven their chance to shine and clearly loves the affinity developing between him and the Fulham fans. That doesn’t mean to say we can book in his testimonial at Craven Cottage for 2026 but it might suggest that we are dealing with a different character to Moussa Dembele, who moved to Celtic for a nominal fee two years ago, having benefited from the Motspur Park finishing school or even Pat Roberts.
The best summation of Sessegnon’s career prospects came in this weekend’s Football League paper from Adam Virgo (pictured left), who advised Gareth Southgate to consider picking the Fulham prospect in his next England squad. That might be a little premature considering Sessegnon hasn’t even had an under-21 call-up yet, but if Southgate, who knows his history, wants to return from Russia with silverware next summer he will have to fast track a Fulham player into his plans at some point.
Well that was…exhausting. Happy Day After Deadline Day everyone. It sort of feels like Boxing Day doesn’t it, the festivities are over and you now get to play with your new toys. After the drama of last night though, it kind of feels like that time you got given a playstation but without the games you specifically wanted and asked for.
That’s enough of the metaphor’s for now, but in truth, the passing of last night’s transfer deadline has left something of a disappointed feeling in the pit of the stomach of most connected with Fulham Football Club.
That is not to say yesterday was a bad day. Quite far from it. The signing of Manchester United’s former Premier League Golden Boot winner and seven time Bulgarian Footballer of the Year, Dimitar Berbatov, marked yesterday as one of the finest in our clubs transfer history. Alongside George Best and Edwin van der Sar, this could well be one of the highest profile signings ever at Craven Cottage.
Fulham's New Number 9
That overall feeling of being somewhat underwhelmed comes from the fact that on deadline day, minutes seem like hours and hours seem like weeks. The announcement of Berbatov was made at 3.30pm. That left seven and a half hours to do something about our depleted midfield corps.
At that stage there was a huge sense of optimism about the day. We’d already signed former Premier League winner Kieran Richardson from Sunderland reportedly for around the £2m mark. A bargain for such a useful and versatile left footed squad player in my book.
Alongside Richardson though, there were many names being mentioned as potential midfield targets. With Danny Murphy having left back in June, Dickson Etuhu earlier this month and Moussa Dembele earlier this week, surely the club had a plethora of central midfielders ready to sign on the dotted line?
And so the press thought and we were led to believe. Over the course of the day, Wolfsburg’s Iranian/German Ashkan Dejagah, Dutch youth international Chris David, Belgian international Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe, Spurs’ Tom Huddlestone, Stoke’s Wilson Palacios and at one stage Lyon’s Brazil international Michel Bastos were all supposedly on their way to Motspur Park. It will be interesting to see if rumours of FC Twente’s Nacer Chadli arriving on a chartered jet only to be sent home prove true.
Wow, two or three of these and we’ve done all right was the general feeling. Heck, Bastos or Chadli would have given us a star, something I think we all felt justified in wanting given the circumstances.
There was the other elephant in the room all day, well, all transfer window in truth. Clint Dempsey was leaving, wasn’t he? Where to? How Much For? And When? Unfortunately, and this might me the key to explaining our final tally, it wasn’t until late in the evening that his summer-long will he wont he saga with Liverpool was ended, by his signing for Tottenham at 10.30pm.
All of a sudden seven of those seven and a half hours had gone and we hadn’t done a single thing. Still though, there was a sense of optimism. Listen back to CottageTalk, the podcast which excellently broadcasted the last two hours of the transfer window, and you’ll here mostly jubilant Fulham fans discussing our merry future.
Iranian international Ashkan Dejagah
Then, with mere minutes of the transfer window remaining, we got word that we’d sign Dejagah, the right winger from Wolfsburg who’d been at Motspur Park all day, but that was it. Surely that had to be incorrect? Not one central midfielder? Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe had supposedly been at Motspur Park as well, so what went wrong? Maybe his club pulled out, like the Andre-Pierre Gignac scenario from last summer when Marseille pulled out at the 59th minute of the 11th hour. But know, at sometime after midnight, Everton announced his signing on loan for the season. Someone has questions to answer on this one, especially if he turns out to be just what we needed.
Chris David, a promising Dutch attacking midfielder from FC Twente was supposedly in the bag though, Sky Sports had been reporting it as done all day. The Dutch club even posted the story on their website. Again however, it seems that we were to be left frustrated, another one that just slipped away at the very end.
So while, in the emerging light of the morning after, we are left slightly unhinged at the lack of a single central midfielder or genuine midfield superstar arriving, it is important to see the overall picture. It wasn’t a bad day at all. We knew Dempsey was going, so to bolster the ranks with two midfielders (Richardson and Dejagah) and a proven goalscorer (Berbatov) is excellent business. It’s just that there is a sense that it all feels a tad unfinished.
After outlays approaching £20m last summer, Fulham made a net profit into eight figures this year. In a time when we are all aghast at QPR’s seeming financially drunk spending spree this summer, perhaps a prudent and frugal transfer window shows truly how far we’ve come as a stable top-flight club.
Never mind eh, we must be due a fun summer next year? We can spend the next 10 months dreaming how we’ll spend that Dempsey and Dembele money. Oh right, that’s not exactly how it works is it.
I think, however, in the end, it may have come down to this. Sign a new player who isn’t our number one target, or use the next four months until the January window opens to give some of our own young talent a chance to shine. The phrase, Take The Stage was used a lot in London this summer, never has it been more appropriate here too.
Alex Kacaniklic has so far taken his first team chance with both hands in Clint Dempsey’s position. Kerim Frei, Dempsey’s understudy in that position since January could well be moved to central midfield, a position that suits his skill set with a bit of physical development or they’ll both rotate on the wings to the peril of right backs up and down the land. Then there’s Pajtim Kasami, a player many fans have been clamouring for to get his big chance in his preferred central role. Well here it is. I for one think with some nurturing, Pajtim could be as good a central midfielder as anyone we were thinking of singing last night.
So it might not have been everything we wanted, but if yesterday was Christmas, we were still on Santa’s good list. Now let’s go and beat West Ham.