‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ & Reasons to be optimistic about the first month of the Transfer Window

With the first month of the transfer window coming to an end, it seems that the opinion of the Fulham fans is divided. But, I think it has been a very successful start to the window for our club.

I can understand why many people have been upset/angry about the ‘lack’ of new signings this month, but after the season we have had our first steps in the window had to be about renewing the deals for our key players, especially with the mounting interest of other clubs. Keeping the stars whose contracts were at risk this summer was paramount to any success this summer because we couldn’t afford to build a brand new spine once again this summer.

By renewing the deals of Cairney & Sessegnon this early in the window, it removes any fear that they could leave, and eases any fears that the players we are trying to build around are staying with the club. Both the renewals for Cairney and Sessegnon are worth far more than any new signing, and with Cairney being the stand-out player in this division, and Sessegnon seen by many as the next biggest talent in English football, Fulham have already done tremendous business.

Securing both of these, it means that we go into next season, with two stars of the highest quality and should they repeat last season’s success on the pitch, the club would be in a very strong place to demand mega-money for both players, which in turn secures the long-term future of our club – something that is often over-looked but can’t be ignored due to the pressure that Financial Fair Play places on clubs in this division.

With this being our last year of the parachute payments, the club have to place smarter bets in the window, and by securing key players to new deals and taking their time to recruit the right players, we won’t be forced into selling any stars at the risk of FFP in the future, and that’s the most important aspect with the board trying to build something special – Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Furthermore, I understand the frustrations about the ‘stats’ system that is in place, and it’s generally the point that many people associate with any bad press around the club, or any suggestion that Slavisa Jokanovic may depart the club. But, if we take a step back and away from the Media garbage that is posted on a regularly basis, we should be quite thankful of the new system. It was brought in at the end of the reign of Kit Symons, and if we reviewed the transfers of the 3-4 years before it was introduced, you’d probably ask the question; why wasn’t in brought in before?

Personally, I think we are very fortunate to have an owner like Shahid Khan, he’s always invested in any manager the club has had at the helm, and provided the funds to supply them – even to the point that we broke FFP and were forced to have a transfer embargo. Owners like Khan are rare to come by, especially having an owner whose wealth continues to grow at the rate his does, meaning our club isn’t at any risk of financial crisis. You only have to look at the clubs that have fallen down the leagues over the years to realise how common that actually is – Bolton, Blackpool, Portsmouth & Blackburn spring to mind, all of which had similar stays in the Premiership, with Portsmouth & Bolton spending time in European competition too.

Therefore, it is important to be smarter under the strict guidelines of Financial Fair Play and by having a more ‘research’ based approach to the signings we do make, should put us in a stronger place in the future.

It also avoids, the problem of having to overhaul the squad every year due to bringing in a new manager and them wanting to bring in their own players. The club put its’ faith in Martin Jol to do that, and over the years our squad age rose, investment slowed due to MAF wanting to sell, and in reality, relegation was on the cards for a long-time, with key players not being replaced. It also left the club in an awkward place when relegated, as our players didn’t have much value, due to age and high wages, so shifting players upon relegation proved harder than first thought – limiting that immediate window of reinvestment that can be seen by other clubs, especially Aston Villa, who had £40m of talent out of loan last season.

The club then relied heavily on Felix Magath, a manager with an impressive CV but he decided to bring in players like Mark Fotheringham, Adil Chihi, Kay Voser, Nikoklay Bodurov, Gabor Kiraly & Dino Fazlic – and let’s be honest, not one of those were up to the standards of the Championship, and every one of them was a costly mistake. All of which, I’m sure wouldn’t have got the approval if they were wanted under the new transfer system.

Kit Symons was then installed and he was then backed to overhaul the squad, and he brought in players like Michael Turner, Danny Guthrie, Jamie O’Hara, Richard Lee, Jazz Richards & Ben Pringle. All of which again, no longer have a future at the club and more squad upheaval has been needed. Don’t get me wrong, there may have been one or two that have been a success, but on the whole, that system has faltered for us for a long time. While, I appreciate Khan’s reign has overseen relegation and the bad times for our club, he has continued to invest and that’s paramount, and with him finally having the right staff around the pitch and higher up in the club, we are probably in our strongest position for a number of years to move back up the leagues.

As for last summer, Slavisa Jokanovic worked closely with the system and while the media continued to pour out garbage news about him leaving, last summer was incredibly effective. The players that were brought in were either at the peak of their careers or coming into those years – where there was always going to be a return on their investment.

Even though, last year’s summer signing Jozabed didn’t settle in England, he was sold this summer at a profit, something we failed to do with any of the signings we tried to move on under previous tenures. Not only that, but Fulham are a club that are notoriously quiet and secretive about their business during the windows, so we may need to remind ourselves that if we’re not on the Sky Sports reports, then it’s probably not a bad thing – just our club keep deals under wraps until the last second, just look at Kalas’ arrival last year, that was a surprise for everyone – even the journalists! Therefore, I wouldn’t read too much into the reports about Jokanovic leaving due to this system, remember Slavisa has said before that he is happy at the club, and signed the new deal recently. If he wasn’t happy with system around him, he could have left for nothing this summer, but instead he signed a new contract to continue the project he had begun.

Furthermore, while the club have begun moving on some players, many of which will be replaced by the successes of the youth squad in terms of rotation spots, which does mean that the likes of Tayo Edun, Denis Adeniran & co will feature more for the club, especially in cup games – providing them with a pressure-free environment to develop and make a name for themselves. This is exciting, because as we saw from last year’s cup run, young stars like Edun & Adeniran proved that they could have an impact on the side and Jokanovic trusted them to do so, and with those stars in and around the squad and signing new deals we probably have more depth than first thought – although I agree, we are 3 or 4 senior signings away from a full-strength side.

But overall, the first month has been successful upon reflection. The club needed to sell players this summer to be able to re-invest like they did last summer due to FFP, and we have smashed the targets needed already. By securing £3.5m profit on Malone in just 12 months, another £4m from Jozabed plus the fees from the likes of Burgess, LVC (Sad to see move on) & Stearman, all of which will bring us close to around £9-10m from sales.

An exciting number to utilise, considering it was only Malone that has been sold who was involved on a regular basis – and while he was good going forward, defensively he had his flaws, and his transfer means we somehow got £3.5m for Jazz Richards (considering Richards and Scotty swapped clubs last summer) and who would have thought that was possible!

As for the departure of Lasse Vigen Christensen, I was a little bit gutted to see him depart but after thinking about it, it shouldn’t really take anyone by surprise. He was the only bright spark under Kit’s reign and if he had avoided the injury problems he experienced shortly after his rise to fame, it could have been a different story but since injury struck him down, he has rarely featured and edged ever closer to that exit door.

But, I do wish him all the best for the future and will keep an eye on his development and especially to see what midfield role he plays in on a regular basis, as he featured in way too many different positions during his time at the Cottage, even as left wing back at times! But thanks for the moments of magic LVC, I hope you stay clear of injury and really get that opportunity to live up to the potential you have.

Finally, with the team now returning from their pre-season tour, I’d expect the next 14 to 20 days to be really busy for Fulham, and with the way the rumours are going, it would suggest that our favourite Czech defender, Tomas Kalas is on his way back to the club – which is definitely welcomed news.

Although, I do feel that his deal will be similar to Piazon’s with Kalas signing a new deal at Chelsea before being allowed to leave on loan. Which would be a shame considering most of us were hoping a permanent deal could be agreed, but regardless I will be happy however he returns to the Cottage because he is a player of the highest quality, and his partnership with Ream really began to blossom towards the end of the season.

There are also question marks around the future of David Button, and with another poor pre-season display, his long-term future is under scrutiny. With Nottingham Forest reportedly interested in the goalkeeper, I would expect him to leave, but with Fulham still trying to sell the goalkeeper at a profit, it may be hard to find a suitor. Reading were reportedly keen on the former Brentford stopper, but after being given the valuation by the club, they decided to pursue Vito Mannone instead – but I’m glad to see that our club are demanding much higher fees for players this summer, providing us with the opportunity to re-invest and balance the books more easily.

To conclude, we are still in the early stages of the transfer window, and I’m sure there will be more twists and turns between now and the end of the window, but there’s plenty of reasons to be optimistic, and with the board fully aware of how important this summer is to build on last year’s achievements, I am confident that they won’t let us down. Expect us to start getting more vocal in the next 14 days about business I’d imagine, especially with the kit launches and the squad returning from their pre-season tour. Just like last summer, targets would have been identified very early on, and there would have been a number of targets lined up should moves for key targets fail to materialise. Have faith, the club is back on the way up, we have all the right people behind the scenes and with Jokanovic wanting to build something special at the club, the future is bright.

Thank you ever so much for reading (I know it’s been a long one!) – But you can always contact me on Twitter – @ABronsSmith. It’d be great to hear from you!

Please do share the article online with fellow supporters, and please feel free to contact me.

 

 

The Future is Bright, The Future is Black & White – Cairney Renewal, Djalo & More

Dreams do come true!

Fulham finally announced that club captain, Tom Cairney had signed a new deal today which will keep him at Craven Cottage until 2021, with an option to extend that for a further year.

Personally, I think this will be our best signing this summer, especially after another exceptional season for TC, in which he won Player of the Season. It’s been a terrific twelve months for Cairney as he had taken the role as Captain and lead the side to a top six finish – something many fans didn’t think would happen this time last year!

With Scott Parker announcing his retirement, Cairney stepped into the captaincy role on a full-time basis with Scott being unable to play in every game last season. In doing so, Cairney set the standards for the squad, dominating the stats with a tremendous return of goals and assists, as the club went through another transition after Slavisa Jokanovic arrived. Off the pitch, Cairney continued his success and followed in the footsteps of Scott Parker by becoming the perfect role model for the younger players and aspiring fans.

Cairney’s new deal also puts a stop to the rumours linking him with a move away from the club. After Newcastle’s reported bid of £20m being rejected by the club in January, renewing his contract will only add more value to that price-tag.

Now that Cairney has a long-term deal and has become the captain of the club during his prime years of his career, the future is once again bright and the board look set to deliver on the ambitions of keeping key players at the club.

Furthermore, Fulham have also agreed a new deal for teenage sensation, Ryan Sessegnon and his brother Stephen. A deal that I felt was always more likely than Cairney’s future, with Sessegnon developing at an alarming rate under Slavisa this term. Next season I imagine the young England star will feature more often in a left-midfield role, but with rumours linking Scott Malone with a switch to Huddersfield, maybe he will be asked to fill that role in the back four on a permanent basis. That could well be the option, and something that may appeal to the coaching staff, especially as he could operate on the left-side of a 5 man midfield should Slavisa experiment with 3 centre backs.  But renewing both Sessegnon’s and Cairney’s contracts just proves the club is moving in the right direction and even if we get one more season out of the stars, the renewed contracts will make sure that we will receive a monster transfer fee should they depart the following summer, leaving the club with the funds to find an appropriate replacement or reinvest elsewhere.

Today we were also greeted with the news that Fulham had finally completed the signing of Marcelo Djalo, a central defender from Segunda division side, CD Lugo. While the former Juventus and Real Madrid man may be an unknown quality, it is clear from his debut interview with the club that he will be involved in the first-team, as he hopes to become a permanent figure in Slavisa’s plans. That may change should Fulham make progress with their attempts to sign Chelsea defender, Tomas Kalas but with the demanding amount of fixtures Fulham have to play next season, having strength in depth is paramount to any club’s promotion attempts, so Djalo will be more than welcomed addition this summer.

As tweeted earlier today, I do expect the club to become busy in the next fortnight or so, especially with players departing. With the futures of Richard Stearman, Denis Odoi, Lasse Vigen Christensen, George Williams and even Cauley Woodrow in question, I’d expect to see progress on their departures either permanently or on loan to be arranged before the end of the month. Although, talks regarding a return to Belgium for Odoi have reportedly stalled and he could be at the club for another season, something I’d be very happy with – especially after his impressive contribution this term whenever called upon.

Other than that, Fulham obviously have a mountain to climb in securing new players, especially in the heart of the defence and their search for a leading man upfront. As mentioned before, Tomas Kalas is the key target for the club this summer after impressing at Craven Cottage last season, but we face tough competition from Hull City for his signature. While, Bordeaux forward, Diego Rolan has been reported as a key target for Slavisa Jokanovic this summer, and could be available for as little as €6m with the striker entering the last year of his contract. The longer this story progresses, the more I am getting excited and after having the pleasure watching the Uruguayan hit-man play on a number of occasions last season, I truly believe he has the qualities needed to succeed in the system that has been implemented at the club. After being linked with a €17m move to Everton last summer, it certainly looks like a profitable investment should he be a success in England, and with the forward only being 24 years of age, he matches the scouting criteria perfectly.

But, just like every target, Fulham will face competition and there is reported interest from Turkish Giants, Fenerbahce in the forward. But, just like last summer Fulham can compete with Turkish clubs when it comes to transfer signings after they beat Galatasary to the signing of Stefan Johansen last summer. With Fulham able to offer first team football and the luxury of living in the English capital, Fulham becomes a much stronger proposal despite being in the Championship still and this could be the telling factor in a number of targets, especially Rolan & Kalas.

Finally, I just wanted to thank everyone for their support and continued reading of the content that I have published since starting this blog a number of years ago. I never thought that it would have gained the popularity it has and the feedback you guys/girls have provided on a regular basis. Unfortunately, the club is moving in another direction for the match-day programme this season, and while that means the Craven Corner will not be in the programme, it will be accessible on a number of platforms. Being able to work with the club to publish the programme content has honestly been a dream come true, and I’m sure there will be more collaborations in the future.

Thank you so much for your ongoing support, and let’s hope this will be a summer to remember.

Please feel free to contact me on Twitter – @ABronsSmith and to share this article with your friends, family and fellow fans.

All the best,
Ad.

Fulham at the heart of the Rumour Mill!

It’s been two weeks since my last article, and it’s safe to say there hasn’t been a dull moment for Fulham fans in the transfer window to date. Despite not signing anyone just yet, Fulham have certainly been at the centre of the rumour mill.

First of all, it looks like we are having to tighten the purse-strings this summer, with no more parachute payments, and the club haggling more than ever around transfer fees for key targets. This shows that we need to be smart this summer to avoid another FFP sanction and therefore won’t be held to ransom by clubs during negotiations. Even in January, Fulham nearly had a deal over the line for Greek striker, Karamonos who even travelled the London, but a deal couldn’t be agreed for around £1.5m for the Olympiacos man.

Could that happen again this summer? Yes, it can and it will time after time again.

Last season, Fulham’s scouting team worked around the clock and made sure they got their targets from all over the world, and although the squad was overhauled, the quality we managed to attract for the money spent was terrific. This summer, there will be more pressure to repeat that level of success, and with Fulham and Chelsea still unable to reach an agreement over star defender, Tomas Kalas, I have the feeling this could be the last we’ve seen of our Czech star in a Fulham shirt.

With Hull City boss, Leonid Slutsky, a close friend of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, It is clear we are going to have tough competition to win the race for such a prized asset.

Although, Kalas would prefer to stay in London for personal reasons, Fulham can’t afford to drop £6-7m on Kalas this year, and I understand that may be tough to read, but it’s the way we have to be while we’re still in the Championship. With Slutsky in London this week and spotted at Stamford Bridge, it’s clear that Hull will be taking an influx of Chelsea top talent this summer – Kalas sadly being one of them.

But in the last 48 hours, Fulham have seemingly moved on to another defensive target, with Copenhagen captain, Mathias ‘Zanka’ Jorgensen being linked with a move to the club for 30m Danish Krone, which roughly equates for £3.5m, a fee that is much closer to the budget we have in comparison to Chelsea’s price-tag for Kalas.

Zanka would be an interesting buy for a number of reasons. He’s now had two spells at Copenhagen, after failing to make an impact with PSV which was the last time he left Denmark. But while he is captain of the Champions league outfit, he does come with a reputation. Speaking to a number of Danish fans and journalists recently, many of them say while he is a talented player and quick across the ground, he has a fiery reputation, and has started a number of fights on the pitch. While, I love a player to have passion, the last thing we want to do is go down to 10 men. But, he’s a talented footballer and it would still be a coup should we manage to get this deal over the line. With just 1 more year on his contract, £3.5m seems like a likely fee, but I’d expect to hear about bids from other clubs shortly, as we won’t be the only club interested.

But, Zanka isn’t the only defender linked with a move to Fulham, with the club continually edging closer to a deal for CD Lugo star, Marcelo Djalo; who in all honesty is a bit of an unknown quality.

What we do know is that he is a powerful presence, standing at 6’4 and while it’d be nice to have another towering presence at the heart of our defence, the difference in quality from Spanish Second Division to the Championship is huge in my opinion. Despite the deal only costing around €1m, I wouldn’t be expecting him to be the first-choice defender. Although, should he be a success, it will only be another sign that our scouting network and transfer policy is rapidly improving. Nonetheless, the defender has had experience at being at big clubs, with stints at Juventus and Real Madrid in the earlier stages of his career and a move to Fulham could be the big platform for him to make his name. At just €1m, I’d welcome the move even though none of us would know what to expect, it’s another face in the squad and which is threadbare at the moment, and we’ll need players to rotate for all competitions.

As I said at the start of the article, it’s been a busy fortnight for Fulham and never more so in the rumours linking us with a centre forward. After being heavily linked with Montpeiller forward, Steve Mounie again, I think it’s safe to say that he will not be joining us this summer.

While our interest in the Beninese forward is clear for everyone to see, the €13m price tag is something we won’t be entertaining. Despite Huddersfield signing Laurent Depoitre from Porto, Nahki Wells is expected to leave the Yorkshire club and therefore I’d expect Mounie to hold talks with David Wagner sooner rather than later.  Speaking of which, Nahki Wells would be a striker that I’d love to see at the club and someone I watched very closely during his time at Bradford City. With a rumoured £8m valuation, it could be still be very good value for money, but with the Bermudan linked with a move to Burnley, we couldn’t compete with the Premier League opportunities that they could offer.

Nevertheless, Steve Mounie hasn’t been the only forward being linked with a move to Fulham this summer, with Bordeaux’s Diego Rolan slowly becoming our main transfer target. With Bordeaux reportedly valuing the player around €8-€10m, this is could be more likely to happen. Although, Fulham would want the deal structured around the lower valuation, and heavily off-set with clauses, if the player was keen on a move to England, there’s more chance of this signing coming across the line than Mounie. Despite only scoring 9 goals last year for Bordeaux, Diego Rolan is a top talent. Still only 24 years old, the athletic Uruguayan has the ability to score all sorts of goals, and his agility and ability to make runs beyond the final man, will suit Jokanovic’s system perfectly. This is a player that excites me and could be the solution to our striker dilemma, but with Schalke now interested in the player, we’ve got very tough competition for his signature.

Last week, there was also reports linking the club with a move for Braga forward, Rui Fonte, formerly of Arsenal and brother of West Ham defender, Jose Fonte. As I said at the time, the story was a non-starter, and the media quickly denied any suggestion that a move could happen. Even though I expect the club to be scouting heavily in the Portuguese and Belgian leagues, I’d be hoping that our standards were set higher than Rui Fonte, an average player that isn’t a traditional forward. Despite his 11 goals last term, he wouldn’t have been the player to lead the line, so I’m glad this story is over.

But, to conclude our conversation on Fulham strikers, the club have extended the contract of Cauley Woodrow. The England U21 star, impressed during his loan spell at Burton last season, and I’d be very interested to see what happens to him in the next 12 months. A hard-working forward could suit the way Slav wants to play, but in reality I feel we have extended the contract to add more money to his price-tag, and with Burton keen to make it a permanent deal, don’t be surprised if he returned to Burton Albion this summer.

Nevertheless, I don’t think that Cauley Woodrow would be our only departure this summer if he was to leave. Richard Stearman and Denis Odoi are also expected to depart this summer and with interest mounting rapidly in George Williams I expect them all to be at their new clubs before the end of July. As for replacing Odoi at right-back, Fulham have been linked with a move for Bastia defender, Alexander Dijiku. Considering Bastia have been relegated this year, any proposed move I would hope to be on the cheap side, especially as we are only gaining around €1m for Odoi’s return to Belgium. Although Dijiku’s highlight reel consists most of his roulette on Marco Verratti, Odoi was a tremendous servant to club and played an important role, and his boots will be tough to fill.

Finally, as expected this summer was always going to take us fans on a rollercoaster, and so far it has delivered on that. I know it’s hard to not get carried away when the likes of Rolan are linked, but let’s just take a deep breath for second (I’ll try and do the same).

There’s still a long way to go until the first game of the season, and I have trust in the club to deliver the same level of quality that they did last year. Plus, Kalas was a surprise announcement last year, so I have complete faith that there are many deals happening that haven’t come to the public eye just yet!

I’m quietly confident that this will be a strong summer for the club as we look for promotion next season.

Thank you ever so much for reading, and your ongoing support. Please do share the article online with your friends and fellow fans, and please don’t hesitate to contact me on Twitter – @ABronsSmith

 

 

Summer Transfer Madness Begins..

The season is over, and it is time for the summer transfer madness to begin.

After the season that Fulham have had, don’t be surprised when Fulham’s stars are at the heart of many rumours.

There’s plenty of interest in the players that stood out this season at Craven Cottage, but what must be remembered is that the club are aware of the talent they possess, and will make sure that they keep the spine of this squad together with the aim of promotion next year.

Personally, I do think that if a bid of around £20m came in for Cairney or £15m for Ryan Sessegnon, the club would have to consider it but considering there are only a few clubs that could pay those fees, I do expect Fulham fans to be happy with the business in a few months’ time.

Realistically, I can see the club looking to add three or four new faces this year, with hopefully one of those being the permanent signing of Tomas Kalas from Chelsea this summer. The Czech international formed a key part of the side and was a one man Thames Barrier at times for Slavisa Jokanovic, and with only 1 year left on his current deal at Chelsea, hopefully a permanent agreement can be made. But, that ball is firmly in Chelsea’s court for that deal, with the player costing our neighbours £5m a number of years ago. With Chelsea’s history of selling, it would be very hard to imagine Chelsea selling such a talented defender at a loss. Yes, he may not be in the plans of Antonio Conte, but this is a club that sold Oscar for £60m, Luiz for £50m and Begovic for a profit considering he has hardly played since his move. With this in mind, I’d imagine the fee for Kalas to be around £6m should he be sold this summer.

As for our other loanee from Chelsea, Lucas Piazon I honestly don’t know what his future is. The Brazilian was a bit of a shock signing last year, and initially joined the club on a 6 month loan deal after a mediocre season with Reading. Expecting Lucas to be a bit part player, I was surprised at how well he settled and took his chances when called upon. While I agree there are better players out there than Piazon, his passion and understanding of the football we play is highly beneficial and if the right price can be agreed, then I would welcome him back next year with open arms.

As for our final loanee, Chris Martin I’d be very surprised to see him back at Craven Cottage next season. Despite the £6m agreed price-tag incorporated in his loan spell, the Scottish forward signed a new contract at Derby, but stranger things have happened in football, and with Rowett now in charge of our Championship rivals, who knows if he is part of their long-term plans now McClaren has departed.

A very nervy summer for Martin awaits.

But, just like last year I’m expecting Fulham to shop abroad and to dive straight back into the Belgian market. The signings of Denis Odoi and Neeskens Kebano were a success, and while the Congolese forward took longer to settle, his impact on the side was noticeable scoring vital goals in the second half of the season.

Although Kebano is expected to stay and continue his development, our other signing from the Belgian League last season, Denis Odoi is expected to depart. Talks have begun between Fulham and Gent over a transfer, despite the full-back scoring twice and appearing over 30 times for Fulham this season. It’ll be a shame to see Odoi leave after just one year, as he played a more important role than many may think, filling the gap effortlessly left when Fredericks was injured or suspended and to find another full-back to fill a back-up role to Fredericks with the quality that Odoi has will be a very tough task this summer.

There were rumours that Gent star, Thomas Foket would be part of any potential deal for Odoi but with a number of top European clubs interested in the midfielder, it would be a coup should he swap clubs with Odoi this summer.

Foket hasn’t been the only rumoured transfer target this summer, with the likes of Vicari, Jackson Irvine and Jordan Hugill all being a ‘reported’ target this summer for Slavisa Jokanovic and the board.  While Vicari seems unlikely, it is interesting to be linked with Burton star, Irvine and Preston forward, Hugill as both seem rather uninspiring to me. While they may be players that work hard on the pitch, I would be hoping that the club focus on a higher quality of footballer this year.

While I appreciate that the money may be tight this summer due to Financial Fair Play, there is still a lot of business we can do. Should we lose Sessegnon to Spurs which seems to be linked by another outlet every day, we could splash the cash further. But, Sessegnon is expected for further talks with Fulham this month about his long-term aims, and I have a good feeling he may well sign a longer deal sooner rather than later.

As mentioned earlier, there will be plenty of interest in our key players this summer and they will form a part of the rumour mill on most days but take those stories with a pinch of salt.

First of all, there will be interest in Kevin McDonald after his stunning debut season, but considering the club paid £1.25m for him last summer, it would take a sizeable fee to see him depart and rumours that he is a £2m target for Nottingham Forest, Rangers & Brighton are way wide of the post. Considering he was a player of the year candidate and a vital cog in our team, any interested party would have to pay in the region of £5m for the club to entertain it.

There’s no chance that the board would sell a prized asset for just £750,000 profit after the season he has had.

As for Marcus Bettinelli being linked to Chelsea, this isn’t a story that is going to go away so quickly. The former England U21 goalkeeper has been scouted by Chelsea on a number of occasions and their interest in the player is high.

But, with Bettinelli regaining his place in the side at the tail end of the season, his next move will depend on where he stands in Jokanovic’s plans for the next twelve months. But, if I’m truly honest, I’d rather see Button depart than Bettinelli, as Marcus proved to be the better keeper with his sensational performances after his injury.

Finally, in an ideal world, I’d love to see Tomas Kalas return, and for Fulham to offer another Chelsea youth player a chance too in the shape of Lewis Baker. The young England U21 midfielder has experienced a few loan spells now, but after 15 goals in 39 games for Vitesse this season, he could suit our style and add real quality to our side. Then again, there will be Premier League interest in the young midfielder, especially after the U21 fixtures this summer but considering the success of Kalas and Piazon’s loans, we could provide the perfect place for Baker to make a name for himself in English football. While this is a far-fetched dream, I’d love to see it happen as I truly feel he has all the qualities needed to succeed in the modern game.

To conclude, it’s still very early days in this window and knowing Fulham like we do, they will do all their business on the quiet and probably most of it in July; and while that may be frustrating for some fans, have patience and faith in the recruitment team because last year they done a tremendous job of creating a side that our fans can be proud of once again.

Thank you ever so much for reading. Please feel free to tweet your thoughts to me @ABronsSmith

 

 

A Time for Reflection: What an amazing journey this season has been.

As another season comes to a close, it’s time to reflect on the roller-coaster journey of the last 12 months.

First of all, it’s been a great honour and pleasure to have blogged and produced content for the programme this season, and I can’t thank everyone enough for their help and support throughout the season.

But on the pitch, I think it’s safe to say we surpassed expectations this year. I remember writing the articles during pre-season and thinking that if we finished around 10th or 12th it would have a been a good season considering another summer overhaul and the sad performances that plagued our seasons since relegation.  So it is a surprise that a year on, I’m gutted to have watch our beloved club knocked out of the play-offs by Reading just last week. A result that in fact, hurt more than relegation for me but I think that’s due to having such a good end to the season and the optimism around the club kept on growing and that’s infectious!

Despite our strong opening month this season, Fulham began to hit a rocky patch and as we stumbled to Christmas with the occasional breath-taking performance, it wasn’t until the end of January and the end of the AFCON tournament that Fulham began to hit top form. Prior to the African Cup of Nations, Neeskens Kebano had failed to deliver and live up to the £4m price-tag that hung over his head from the summer, and Floyd Ayite’s return to the side was more than needed. Kebano’s 6 goals and 3 assists fuelled the resurgence in SW6, which was uncharacteristic as many fans were fear the worst when AFCON takes place due to fatigue and missing key fixtures, but on this occasion it was like a new signing.

Last summer I remember writing a paragraph about Kevin McDonald and potential fears about what he could bring to the side. But, fast forward to today and every game this season I have eaten humble pie. When Slavisa switched to a 3 man midfield of McDonald, Cairney and Johansen, Fulham began to dominate teams and although Cairney will get the media plaudits this season for his goals and assists, it will be McDonald who gets my Player of the Season vote. The summer signing from Wolves became the lynchpin in our side, allowing the creative players the freedom they needed to make things happen in the final third of the pitch. After every game, I remember my focus on McDonald becoming more and more apparent and the appreciation for the Scot grew. Not only did he read the game incredibly well, you could constantly watch him dictate the players and the play, even out of possession he’d be the constant voice keeping the players in their position, ensuring that the side stayed as rigid as possible during the defensive side of the game – something the squad has lacked since relegation and some may argue for even longer than that!

So, here it is – Kevin McDonald, you get my vote for Player of the Season and it’s been a pleasure to eat my doubts all season. What a man, what a player, what a leader.

But, we couldn’t do a season review without mentioning his midfield partners; Tom Cairney and Stefan Johansen. Cairney’s stand-out performances earned himself a place in the Scottish National team, where he put in a solid display, earning more praise from international fans and I’d expect he will feature more regularly in the near future for Scotland. Even though Cairney may come a close second in my player of the season votes, he has been priceless this season and not only that, but has stepped up to captain the side this season in the absence of Scott Parker; and just like a true captain, he has lead from the front, setting the perfect example to his team-mates and aspiring youth players that have emerged over the course of the season.

This summer will be nerve-wracking for Fulham fans as his name will plastered in every Transfer Rumour post and column, but fingers crossed our captain will lead us to promotion next season. A player that epitomises everything that is great about our club and a terrific role model for anyone.

Finally, Stefan Johansen deserves a huge amount of praise for the season he has had in his debut year for the club. Despite being subbed in the first half of his debut, the Norwegian put the work in off the pitch to force himself into Jokanovic’s plans this season. His work ethic and desire to play a part in both ends of the pitch as proved to be the missing ingredient in the centre of the park. Being able to support McDonald in the defensive side of the game while making sure he can be an outlet for the likes of Cairney, Aluko and co in the final third of the pitch, there’s no surprise he managed to notch up an impressive 13 goals and 8 assists in all competitions. Just like the other two players, Stefan Johansen has proved to be an invaluable asset in the middle of the park, and if we are going to improve on our season next year, keeping these three together is the ultimate objective for the board.

While, the three midfielders have gathered the most amount of attention this season, there has been a massive amounts of improvement all over the pitch. In the heart of defence, Tim Ream looks like a rejuvenated player under Slavisa, and has developed a strong relationship with Chelsea defender, Tomas Kalas – a player that we hope is back at Craven Cottage next year. If I’m honest, I think Slavisa’s persistency to play out from the back has really benefited Ream’s performances, and finally suits the way the American would prefer to play.

Ream’s partner in defence, Kalas has been a superb addition to the side and if an agreement can be reached to keep the young Czech at the club, then it would be a coup for the club, considering his age and ability. Kalas would be a tremendous investment by the club if a reasonable fee could be agreed and I strongly feel that he will only get better, meaning that his value could rise should he join Fulham on a permanent basis and play on a regular basis – something he may not be able to achieve at Chelsea yet, or at another loan club.

To conclude, it’s safe to say there has been plenty of changes over the course of the season and plenty of ups and downs. Being the roller-coaster season that it is, I think everyone has learned a lesson or two, and looking back we’ve grown as a club and squad because of it. In my honest opinion, if we can keep this squad together for the next 18 months at least, there’s no reason why we couldn’t achieve automatic promotion in that time. There’s a great feeling around the club again, the players are settled and work in harmony with each other and the longer we keep them together, the better the results the fans will witness.

Lastly, I would love to thank you all for your help and support over the course of the season and I apologise for not updating this blog as much as I could have in the past 2 months. It’s been a tremendous season for Fulham and it’s going to be an exciting summer for us all, and I will make sure I will keep you in the loop with the latest as we start preparing for the new season.

Thank you ever so much for reading – If you have any feedback or want to contact me, please do tweet me @ABronsSmith.  

 

 

 

 

Play-off First Leg: Match Day Programme, Saturday 13th May – 5:30pm. Fulham 1-1 Reading

FFC-082-BP-interview (6)-page-001.jpg

Text:
The Craven Corner

Fulham’s future is bright, according to columnist Adam Brons-Smith…

Twelve months ago, we were banging our heads together trying to figure out what the future held after two disappointing years in the Championship. Fast-forward to today and we have a club and a team we can be proud of.

At the start of the season, I predicted we’d finish around 10th or 12th, so to end the campaign in sixth and five points above Leeds in seventh is an incredible achievement.

The job that has been done by everyone at the Club, both on and off the pitch, has been nothing short of amazing, but even after 46 league games,our season isn’t over. Today could be the turning point in our Club’s history and the beginning of something special.

While Slaviša Jokanović has already built a very talented squad and reshaped our footballing philosophies, his biggest job will start this afternoon as we begin our journey in the Play-Offs and hopefully secure a return to the Premier League.

Since February, Fulham have became the in-form side of the division. We’ve defied the odds already and I strongly believe we’ll continue to surpass expectation and achieve what most people thought was unthinkable at the start of the season – promotion.

But, if there’s been one thing that this league has taught us, it’s that there are no easy games and nothing can be taken for granted. All you have to do is look at last season’s table and see where both Reading and

Today could be the turning point in our Club’s history and the beginning of something special” Adam Brons-Smith

Fulham finished in comparison to this term’s standings. Not only that, but back in December Fulham beat Reading 5-0 at home. Yet, just a month later, Reading got their revenge with a 1-0 victory at the Madejski Stadium. So, just like every game for the past month or so, we have to treat these remaining matches like a cup final to make sure we perform to the best we possibly can and continue our end-of-season momentum throughout these Play-Off fixtures.

Momentum and consistency were two words that I constantly discussed last summer and it was these two aspects that would define our season. Despite our form

fluctuating throughout the first half of the season, Fulham began to settle in 2017 and players began to adjust to the methodology their coaches wanted. With this, Fulham started to get noticed and the ‘spine’ of our team became more apparent. With a concrete midfield of Kevin McDonald, Stefan Johansen and Tom Cairney, Fulham’s identity grew and their possession-heavy football began to get noticed on a wider scale. A rejuvenated Tim Ream returned to the side and proved to be the ideal partner for Tomas Kalas. As
the side became settled, our points total grew and the fans’ belief and optimism developed alongside that week after week.

Luckily, Fulham start the Play-Offs with a full-strength side and, with Chris Martin available once again, the only selection headache for Slaviša will be who leads the line.

I don’t expect the same result today as we witnessed back in December, but I do hope
that Fulham make their home advantage count. We now have three games left to create history and return to the highest tier in English football. COYW!

Tweet your thoughts to me @ABronsSmith