Fulham - The 'Youf'
I'm one of those guys who likes a fairytale story; you know, a rags to riches kind of thing?
That's why I've always been a little disappointed (albeit secretly) with Fulham's ability to produce fine young footballers.
The only recent exception which springs to mind with regards to the above statement is that of Chris Smalling, but even he was a man who began his career elsewhere.
Don't get me wrong, I am of the whole-hearted opinion that Fulham do have a fine academy at hand, which is well run and produces good talent, yet, there's a gap between Reserve and Premier League football that Mr Continuity himself, Roy Hodgson, never helped bridge.
I'm sure, had Hodgson's tenure spanned over more than two-and-a-bit years, then perhaps a youngster or two would have been pitted against the big boys, but during Roy's reign I never felt he was going drop the tried-and-tested in favour of a fresher more youthful formula.
It is, however, of no detriment to Roy that I write this, as he ultimately won us football matches. Yet, given that we played so many games last season, I would have been one of few that welcomed the opportunity to flaunt some of the talent that were coming through the ranks at Motspur Park.
Wayne Brown, for example, is a player who showed great promise and is someone I kept an eye out for on his loan periods at both TPS Turku of Finland and Bristol Rovers. Hodgson himself took his time to praise the midfielder, but, he was never given that run in the first team to fulfill his potential.
Instead, he is shipped off along with many others who were given scholarships and given hope, only to be ignored at the final hurdle.
We do, like many clubs, possess a first eleven which has been bred from a whole host of varying youth systems; any youth system but our own.
It's a common thing and English football has come to grips with that. However, while we spend our mornings sipping tea and reading the paper, bemoaning yet more woeful England performances and calling for a more youthful aspect, we have to realise that the future of England starts at club level. It always has.
The National team will never truly create a 'Golden Generation' to be proud of unless sides like ours, sides that don't field star-studded line-ups every weekend, are able to filter through just a few little gems for their respective national coaches to sit up and take notice of.
Our new manager, Mark Hughes, gratefully seems to be a man who is fully aware of the positives some younger players can bring to a team.
The willingness to learn and impress is a good foundation upon which to build with younger players, and add to that the emotional connection they will hold with the club. I for one would be more eager to perform at a 'boyhood' club than any other and I'm sure any academy players that are given the opportunity will play with their heart on their sleeve.
Of course, success is paramount in football, and with the naivety of inexperienced players comes an element of risk. It is often said though, that risk comes hand in hand with reward, and I for one am of the opinion that Mark Hughes should be one to take a risk and begin to bring through our academy starlets.
I'm not asking for a revamped starting eleven of pre-pubescent 12 year-olds, but a steady stream of good young players being given that opportunity to impress, rather than rotting in the woeful competition that reserve football can bring.
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