It’s been a busy week for Fulham, with even more players being linked to the club and a number of players departing Craven Cottage.
Starting with the departures, Fulham announced the departures of; Dan Burn, Alexander Kacaniklic, Shaun Hutchinson & Jamie O’Hara from the senior squad. As you’ll know by now, I am a big fan of Dan Burn so I’m gutted that he has been allowed to the leave the club.
Personally, I feel that he was one of the highlights in our relegation season and sadly became a victim of the managerial merry go round limiting him to the occasional game rather than a run in the side that he deserved.
Kacaniklic’s departure was expected, the young Swede failed to secure regular game-time since joining the club and despite some very impressive games, the winger lacked consistency to produce it on a regular basis. Sadly, I feel he will be missed by quite a lot of fans. Then again, he was one of the only natural wingers we had in the squad and secondly, he was one of the remaining players who was in the squad during the better Premier League times – but just like everything, memories are made for a reason but everyone has to make changes and sometimes, change is for the best. Early reports around the player are suggesting that he is in advanced talks with French side, FC Nantes so his next destination should be sealed very shortly.
Another departee, Shaun Hutchinson was a bit of an enigma since arriving under Felix Magath in 2014. A young defender, who was highly rated at Motherwell and started a number of games under the crazy German, who unfortunately fell out of favour under Kit Symons & Slavisa Jokanovic. Another victim of the managerial merry go round, who should have been given more of a chance this season especially after a tremendous performance away to Ipswich Town alongside Dan Burn back in April. Reportedly, Hutch was tracked by Sheffield United for a potential loan deal in January, so don’t be surprised if he ends up at Bramall Lane this summer.
This takes us on to Jamie O’Hara, the midfielder that split opinion throughout the season with his performances. I was very happy when Jamie joined the club, especially after his terrific performances for Blackpool, he controlled the midfield and his passing range was more than impressive. I also held Jamie in high regard after he reportedly contacted the club for a chance to prove his worth and fight for a contract – a trait that is admirable in the modern game, he wanted to play for the club and that shouldn’t be overlooked by anyone.
During the first few months at the club, Jamie O’Hara collected a number of Man of the Match awards and filled that deep-lying playmaker role perfectly. Sadly, Kit Symon’s 4-1-3-2 tactic was found out early, and with O’Hara not providing the traditional defensive cover, our defensive fragilities became clear. To conclude, O’Hara excelled in the right systems where he could help the game tick over in a possession based setup, but sadly in a 4-4-2 or any role that demanded defensive discipline, the former Spurs midfielder was sadly caught out.
I do wish him all the best with his next step and I’d expect the midfielder to stay in the Championship, most likely with one of the newly promoted sides, unless he decides to take a step down to League One.
On top of the players that have been released Fulham have completed a deal with Wolves for goalkeeper, Andy Lonergan. The experienced goalkeeper arrived last summer on a free transfer, and his experience was priceless when he took the number one jersey following Bettinelli’s injury.
Arriving with low expectations, Lonergan began collecting Man Of The Match trophies and winning the club points single handedly with some world-class reaction saves. In all honesty, I’m shocked he was allowed to leave the club but Wolves have secured a very talented goalkeeper for this division. While, some fans may question Lonergan’s ability to save long-shots, the fault can’t be placed on the goalkeeper. Long-shots should be stopped by the defenders and midfielders before the chance to shoot presents itself, but Lonergan can leave the club with his head held high and will be missed by a majority of the fans – his heroics were one of the reasons Fulham retained their Championship status this season.
Lonergan’s exit could hint at another move for Crystal Palace goalkeeper, Alex McCarthy this summer, who nearly joined the side in January. If another goalkeeper did arrive this summer, it would be interesting to see what the future holds for Marcus Bettinelli, who is reaching the most important stage of his career. The England U21 goalkeeper, will be demanding game-time to further his development so should another potential number one goalkeeper arrive, Bettinelli could be persuaded to look elsewhere for regular game-time. Personally, I’d like to see Marcus become Fulham’s number one goalkeeper for many years, so I’m hoping Jokanovic keeps his faith in the young shot stopper.
After securing the signature of our goalkeeper, Andy Lonergan, Wolves are interested in a deal for Matt Smith with reports suggesting a potential £750,000 being offered for his services. Another player that hasn’t secured regular game-time at the club to date, but in stints has impressed. When he was loaned to Bristol City, Matt proved that he wasn’t just a target man who was only good in the air, the former Leeds striker showed his capability to score a variety of goals.
His close friendship and relationship with the talismanic Ross McCormack also makes him a more valuable member of the side. With Dembele leaving the side this summer, Smith could once again become the perfect partner for our top goalscorer, McCormack. Personally, I have a feeling that Jokanovic will allow Smith to depart this summer, but this could be a decision that would come back to haunt our Serbian Head Coach.
Finally, on player departures, Moussa Dembele is reportedly close to agreeing a deal with Galatasary. A move that will be considered strange by many, but it will provide the young French forward with a chance to play Champions League football – a platform in which he can springboard his career even further. The sad news of Dembele leaving for foreign football is that financially Fulham will suffer. Fulham would be entitled to a much larger compensation package should he joined another English based side, but with Dembele close to joining Galatasary, Fulham will only receive £300,000 for his services.
As well as the senior players departing the club, Fulham announced the departure of a few youth players whose contracts were not renewed this summer. Noticeably out of the players, Liam Donnelly, Jordan Evans and Plumain were amongst the names – all of which were expected to make an impact at Fulham. Donnelly was a figurehead and captain of the FA Youth Cup Final side that included Moussa Dembele and Patrick Roberts, while Evans possessed one of the best left foots in youth football, with his end product rarely off the target – you only have to take a look at the screamer he produced for Oxford United to know that.
While, Plumain was a talent that was expected to take the world by storm. He was highly regarded by Rene Meulensteen and Martin Jol and was meant to be part of the future Fulham side that would have included the likes of Muamer Tankovic, Pajtim Kasami, Dino Islamovic & Chris David – Sadly, a disappointing loan spell in the French second tier, saw Plumain leave the club.
Football is a strange sport and players are constantly on the move, so although some of these departures may have come as a shock they are nothing out of the ordinary in the modern game. We all knew that the squad would undergo a massive rebuild this summer, and at least we are seeing signs that this is happening. This is only the beginning of the departures, so don’t be surprised if another five or so players leave the club before the window ends.
But, with transfer season fully underway Fulham continue to be linked with many players and this week has only reiterated that fact.
During the week, Fulham have been linked with moves for former Celtic forward, Anthony Stokes, Celtic midfielder Stefan Johansen while weaker sources have claimed Fulham are interested in moves for Aston Villa’s Callum Robinson.
First of all, Stokes would be an interesting move for the club, a proven goalscorer in Scottish football and a fiery personality could prove to be the perfect partner for McCormack, but with Stokes’s former boss, Alan Stubbs now in charge of Rotherham, I’d expect the forward to join the Millers sooner rather than later.
Stefan Johansen is an interesting player to be linked with; the Norwegian has impressed at Celtic so I’d be surprised if he would leave the club for Championship football, which makes me think this story is fuelled by the agent as the midfielder discusses a new deal at Celtic Park. As for the link with Callum Robinson, I don’t really know enough about the player make assumptions or question the story, but with the links dying out towards the end of the week I’d doubt there was any real interest from Fulham.
Fulham have more recently been linked with a move for exciting prospect, Emyr Huws who is currently playing for Wigan Athletic. An exciting midfielder, who thrives in the final third could be what is needed at the club – but the young Welshman will not come at a cheap price. Wigan reportedly paid £1m for his services , so a fee closer to the £3m mark could secure his services, but with our defensive frailties taking priority, those funds could be best spent elsewhere.
In other news, Blackburn have stated that Fulham target, Grant Hanley will not be sold this summer while Bursaspor are now demanding closer to €10m euros for their defender, Serdar Aziz. With both stories leaking this week, Fulham could once again, spend all summer chasing central defendisve targets unless something dramatically changed with Bursaspor or Blackburn. While Sheffield Wednesday have once again been linked with a £12m move for Ross McCormack. McCormack’s potential exit will be heavily discussed all summer, but with the release clause reportedly closer to £15m, a potential departure seems unlikely.
Thank you ever so much for reading the blog – You can contact me on Twitter @ABronsSmith