Tomorrow belongs to them

Posted by Phil Mison

AP PhotoMesca, left, and Cauley Woodrow, right, are just two of the many rising stars within the Fulham Academy.

In the absence of any meaningful action for the first team until our Sunday outing to Spurs on the 17th, it's high time we turned the spotlight on our stars of tomorrow. There are certainly reasons to be optimistic from Fulham's grass roots infrastructure up through the Academy with our boys regularly winning at every level.

Take Steve Wigley's U-18 side, for example. Played six, won six. You can't ask for more than that. These lads are scoring for fun as they put opponents to the sword. What's more, you hear the side regularly commended by beaten teams for their levels of skill. From the latest success, a 4-1 win up at Bolton, Wigley even saw game time from three 15-year-olds in a white shirt. You have to be pretty special to mix it with lads three years your senior, even more impressive when you come out on top. On what was a cold and blustery afternoon, Academy Director Hugh Jennings says for a passage of twenty minutes in the second half, Fulham played to a level he'd never seen before from a U-18 side.

Meanwhile, Kit Symons' U-21 side last Friday night got the better of local rivals Chelsea at the Cottage. It may have ended 1-0 but the Fulham boys had three shots come back off the woodwork in a game they utterly dominated. Season ticket holders can just walk into all these games, while it's a nominal three pounds for the rest of us. It's a shame more people don't turn up -- I thought about going along but the club web site could well do more to publicise these games. On a quick search of the home page I couldn't find the match details or kickoff time.

Lest we forget, when ticket prices started going through the roof and the really massive clubs were all selling out, some respectable crowds in places like Newcastle and Manchester were turning up to reserve games just to keep in touch with the club they loved. I wish I had the time to get over to Motspur Park for a closer look at our young heroes, but it's not local to where I live.

Nobody, for some reason, was allowed in to see a very strong Fulham 'reserves' thrash a Portsmouth XI 5-2 this week. With no fixture this weekend, the club arranged this behind closed doors one-off, presumably to integrate our loan signings further and maintain fitness levels. I've little idea of the strength of Pompey's side -- the ongoing problems down at Fratton for such passionate supporters is really sad to see, whatever your allegiance in the football fraternity. But having said that, the workout paid off for Martin Jol's men: Goals from Mladen Petric, Hugo Rodallega, Urby Emanuelson and two from Stanislav Manolev will have done plenty for everyone’s confidence. Check out the Fulham team on the web site. That looked good enough for the Championship to me.

Of course, without sight of the game, we can only speculate on the energy levels and desire. But if the key to a healthy club is pressure from below on the first teamers, then here’s hoping Jol was taking note. Sir Alex Ferguson never allows anyone at Old Trafford to feel like they are automatic choices. It's an axiom our own manager might do well to follow.

Which brings us back to the one Fulham side in the whole set up still struggling to come up to scratch. What to make of the current first team squad and the club's ongoing trend for one year contract extensions? Chris Baird is now the latest to be thrown a lifeline. How to interpret this short-term strategy? I may have the answer.

I think Jol has been sandbagged by club policy, asked to maintain a holding brief, but to secure Premiership status while being deprived of serious funds for team rebuilding. That the side needs major restructuring is apparent to all, only FFC are not ready for it quite yet. Sitting in the CEO’s safe is a secret sealed envelope. A construct of the canny Scot and the Egyptian trader.

A World Cup will be upon us in 15 months. Fairly quickly into the tournament another failed England team will head back from Brazil. The England team manager, by then approaching 67, falls on his sword saying it is time to let someone else have a go. A month later Roy Hodgson returns to manage Fulham FC for the start of the 2014-15 season and all is right with the world again.

With the return of the Messiah and the maturing talent from our ranks, inside five years Fulham are lifting the Champions League trophy.

Nurse, ready for my medication now


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