On the fringe

Posted by Phil Mison

David Stockdale Fulham v Man UnitedGettyImagesDavid Stockdale: One for Fulham's future?

I wonder if other fans are bemused by our policy of loaning out players. We are not Manchester United. Fulham cut their cloth accordingly and operate within their financial restraints in all aspects of running a club in the Premiership. But considering where we have so recently come from, the strategy for a couple of years has been to write out some sizeable cheques to pull in youngsters from the likes of Luton, Portsmouth, Darlington and Aberdeen.

None to date have shown themselves capable of going straight into the first team in the manner of Raheem Sterling at Liverpool. This week sees the sale of striker Lauri Della Valle to Molde in Norway. Another striker, Marcelo Trotta, will be departing, I'm certain, in the summer. Currently scoring goals to assist Brentford's push for promotion, the Italian was on the bench for our final game of last season at Spurs, but has got no closer than that to a league start this season. Jol clearly doesn't rate the boy.

Let's take a look at some of the names the club went for in the hope they would provide the next generation of stars to play in the white shirt. We’ve already mentioned Della Valle, a makeweight in the deal that took Paul Konchesky to Liverpool. He didn’t set the world alight with goals at lower league clubs when out on loan, and certainly never got a look in at Fulham. Will he now find his goal touch in Norway?

I suppose of all the young hopefuls David Stockdale stands out as the 'one for the future' serving out the longest apprenticeship. And when he's been given his chance in the first team I think he's done okay. Steve Bruce clearly rates him, and I genuinely hope to see the uncomplaining Stockers play his part in getting the Tigers back into the top flight. But as far as Fulham are concerned, five years down the line our number two keeper is still to make it as a first-team regular. Personally, I find that puzzling, and can only assume the coaches at Motspur see weaknesses I can't detect.

Manchester United clearly is a magnet for talent and the richest club in British football can secure the best. Therefore it’s been no surprise to see current internationals like Tom Cleverly (Wigan) and Danny Welbeck (Sunderland) in the past parading their credentials with other Premier League clubs before returning to the first team at Old Trafford.

But that’s a level unattainable for Fulham’s loanees. In fact we have trouble even attracting interest from Championship calibre sides for our fringe players. Which begs the question, just how good are they? And how are their careers benefiting from some of the deals arranged, such as Kerim Frei being sent out to Cardiff to sit on the bench, then return injured to SW6?

What of others supposed to now be knocking on the door? Half a million went on the much fancied Australian Ryan Williams, on loan for a month at Gillingham in 4th tier football. Cauley Woodrow, another six figure sum here too for the lad from Luton, coming up to 20 now. Can anyone explain what sort of benefit Tom Donegan will gain from a spell at Farnborough Town? The blond giant Dan Burn deal rises to £2 million with add ons, and he’s certainly been making his mark at Yeovil, but isn’t it time to test him in a higher league? Richard Peniket to Hereford – another footballing backwater. Jack Grimmer’s departure from Aberdeen was bemoaned as a ‘major loss to Scottish football.’ Is he not ready for a place on the bench yet? Another teen to command a big fee.

Talking of disappearing off the map, nobody in Europe showed much interested in Pajtim Kasami, a £4 million pound misfit and one of Jol’s earliest mistakes in the market. Luzern in the Swiss league sounds like some comedown from Serie A to me for this lad.

I raise this question about the ability of our academy to progress talent through the ranks because this week we have seen the latest ‘sensation’ to light up the Motspur Park training pitch. Striker Moussa Dembele, nabbed from PSG last summer, looked the real deal after his hat-trick for the U-18’s. Let’s hope we finally get to polish up a diamond at Fulham. It’s been a while.

A quick line on our return to league action with Stoke the visitors this weekend. This will be a very interesting barometer to see what the coaching staff have managed to achieve over the two week break.

We do well against Stoke at home. They have won just once from their last 22 league games away from the Britannia, and managed only one maximum from the last 7 trips to Craven Cottage. They always manage to bully us at the Britannia, but like all bullies run scared when off their own turf.

However, Jol’s methods were utterly discredited over the winter. If our one tactic remains to channel everything through a withdrawn Dimitar Berbatov we will end up bottom three. Is this the game for a turnaround in form?

Don’t hold your breath. We have not scored in three of our last four league games and show just one win in the last five. With Diarra still unfit, Richardson still not ready to displace weak link Riise, and Jol yet to work out his best strike partnership this late on in the season, I sense the frustration may linger for a while longer yet. Put your money on a forgettable draw.


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