Incredibly proud to be announced as a columnist for Fulham Football Club.
Since blogging over two and half years ago, I never thought I’d get the opportunities that have been presented to me.
But, your ongoing support and feedback has allowed me to work with the club that I have grown up supporting and that is more than I ever could have hoped for.
Below is a copy of the issue (But the text format is below the image).
From the bottom of my heart, thank you ever so much – it means everything to me.
As Fulham return from a successful pre-season tour of Ireland & Portugal, today’s opponent will be their toughest test as Head Coach, Slavisa Jokanovic rebuilds the side ahead of another campaign in the Championship.
While Crystal Palace may be our opponents today, Fulham will be looking to replicate their success over the next few years. The Eagles have become a formidable Premier League outfit since being promoted in 2012, and despite a series of managers and new ownership, the club have developed a strong foundation to build even more success upon. After securing Premier League safety last season, Palace reached their first FA Cup final in 26 years, narrowly losing to Manchester United. While Palace will be our rivals today, their success proves what can be achieved after a period of difficult years and manager rotation.
Fulham’s rebuilding has begun and new signings, Floyd Ayite and Sone Aluko have already made a strong impression on the field, providing lightning pace and creativity in the final third. While, Slavisa has added more firepower to the squad, a defender has also been recruited in Denis Odoi. The Belgian has spent his entire playing career in Belgium, but over the years has developed into a talented full-back who is more than comfortable at playing on either side of the back four. Possessing natural pace and being technically gifted, the Belgian defender will definitely be one to look out for as the season progresses.
We also welcome back Austrian defender, Michael Madl who has signed for the club on a permanent basis. The former Sturm Graz captain has signed for an undisclosed fee, after quickly becoming the number one choice at centre-back last season. His arrival shows the level of depth our scouting network possesses, with very few people knowing about the player before he joined. Madl will be playing alongside Chelsea loanee, Tomas Kalas this season with the youngster impressing over the last 18 months on loan at Middlesbrough. The young Czech defender is highly regarded by many in the world of football, and with his ability to operate at the heart of the defence or as a right-back will prove to be priceless as Jokanovic improves the quality of his squad this summer.
Fulham have also strengthened in the midfield, after securing a deal for long-term transfer target, Kevin McDonald. After speaking to a few Wolves fans, they have described the Scot as a natural centre midfielder, possessing an impressive passing range and enforcing presence, which seemingly means that Fulham have grabbed themselves a bargain.
Although, McDonald didn’t have the best of season last year due to many different reasons, he did win the ‘Player of the Season’ award for his efforts throughout the 2013/2014 season at Wolves. Despite McDonald not being an out and out ‘anchor man’, his overall play-style should suit the possession based game that Slavisa Jokanovic is trying to implement.
The in-depth level of scouting prior to this summer’s signings should insure that the players will be able to make the transition into the side at this level and having these resources available to Jokanovic will only help him build a competitive squad for the upcoming season. The board should be praised for their work in the transfer market already, as they have managed to secure a number of signings under the noses of the media – allowing Fulham to negotiate without the unnecessary hassle of the media spreading rumours over any possible deal.
But not all our rebuild has been through recruitment and transfers. During Fulham’s pre-season tours, Slavisa has placed his faith in three emerging talents, Stephen Humphrys, Dennis Adeniran & Ryan Sessegnon. At just 18, Humphrys & Adeniran have made the transition into the first team effortlessly, with Humphrys notching a double against Cobh Ramblers & Cork City and Adeniran showing maturity in the midfield despite still being part of the youth setup. A special mention must be given to Ryan Sessegnon, who was sensational in the pre-season friendly against Preston North End. Starting at just the age of 16, the England U17 defender, put in a disciplined performance at left-back assisting Cauley Woodrow for the opener. With Jokanovic’s faith, Sessegnon could grow into a tremendous player for the club in the near future, but considering his age, his development cannot be rushed. While, it may be hard for optimistic fans to be patient, ensuring Ryan develops in the right way is vital, and the coaching staff will be making sure his feet are kept firmly on the ground. Even though it may have been tough for the fans to lose Patrick Roberts, Moussa Dembele & Emerson Hyndman, it is clear that the club have another set of top-quality talents to make the step up and fill the void that was created by their departures. All of this is incredibly encouraging and it is testament to all the coaches who run our development squads, and their hard work must not be forgotten as the starlets come up through the ranks at Craven Cottage.
Although it is tough to still see our beloved club in the Championship after 13 years in the Premier League, there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes, and as fans, we must do everything we can to support the team throughout every game. By making a tonne of noise and rocking Craven Cottage with our support, there is no reason why we can’t make our home ground a fortress again.
The future is bright, the future is black and white – Come on You Whites!
Thank you for reading – feel free to tweet your thoughts to me @ABronsSmith