TEAM PREVIEW: Fulham – Les Strong wants to see club’s youth thrive

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The last few years couldn’t have gone much worse for Fulham. From a stable side in the Premier League, the Cottagers were relegated from the Premier League and at one point looked like they were on their way to League One. Kit Symons has steadied the ship and will now turn his attentions towards the top end of the division.

Last Season: Championship (17th)

Manager: Kit Symons



GKs: Marcus Bettinelli, Jesse Joronen, Andy Lonergan
DFs: Shaun Hutchinson, Fernando Amorebieta, Nikolay Bodurov, Tiago Casasola, Sean Kavanagh, Dan Burn, Jack Grimmer, Cameron Burgess, Jazz Richards
MFs: Thomas Eisfeld, Scott Parker, Alexander Kacaniklic, Kay Voser, Ryan Tunnicliffe, Lasse Vigen Christensen, Emerson Hyndman, Ryan Williams, Tom Cairney, Ben Pringle, Jamie O’Hara
FWs: Matt Smith, Patrick Roberts, Cauley Woodrow, Adam Taggart, Konstantinos Mitroglou, Moussa Dembele, George Williams, Ross McCormack



In: Tom Cairney (Blackburn Rovers), Jazz Richards (Swansea City), Andy Lonergan (Bolton Wanderers), Ben Pringle (Rotherham United), Jamie O’Hara (Blackpool)

Out: Tom Richards (Aldershot Town), Hugo Rodallega (Released), Tim Hoogland (Bochum), Gabor Kiraly (Szom Haladas), Chris David (Released), Adil Chihi (Released), Josh Passley (Released), Jonathan Buatu Mananga (Waasland-Beveren), Noe Baba (Released), Maarten Stekelenburg (Southampton – Loan), Stephen Arthurworrey (Yeovil Town – Loan), Bryan Ruiz (Sporting Lisbon)


First Six: Cardiff City (A), Brighton & Hove Albion (H), Hull City (A), Huddersfield Town (H), Rotherham United (A), Blackburn Rovers (H)

Likely Lineup: (4-3-3) Betinelli – Hutchinson, Burn, Amorebieta, Richards – Tunnicliffe, Christensen, Cairney – Pringle, McCormack, Roberts


A word from…Les Strong

On his close bond with Fulham I joined in 1969 as a kid, George Cohen was my first manager and I left about 1984, so I was there 15 years. It’s a fantastic club, the ground is really nice, a really old-fashioned place with modern facilities and the atmosphere is fantastic.

I went back as a catering manager after I retired and now I’ve been doing hospitality for the last 15 years, so I’ve been with the club on and off nearly half a century.

On struggles for consistency The peak for us was ’75 when we got to the cup final, it was disappointing the year after that to not buy players and capitalise on that. There was money available that could have got us up to the top division but it never happened.

In the 80s we went down to the old third division with a really good team. Gerry Peyton, Gordon Davies and players like that. It was a surprise for us to get relegated but we did come back within 12 months and under Malcolm McDonald we were unlucky not to go up again straight away to the top division. But it’s a fantastic club to be involved with and we’ve had some superb players here over the years, the like of George Best, George Cohen, Rodney Marsh etc.

On similarities to the current team The Championship has always been a tough league to get out of, you’ve got good teams coming up and good teams coming down, it really is a fantastic league and I’d love to be involved in it!

It is similar, every game is like a cup final and it’s a real challenge to get back up to the Premier League once you’re in it. This season we’ve already brought in four or five players and I think the club is in a much healthier position now.

On what’s gone wrong so quickly I think we held on to a few players a bit too long. Alex Ferguson was fantastic at that transition, we had quite an ageing team and we never really got on with that transition. We allowed them to age without bringing in younger players so I think the writing was on the wall the year before.

Those players did fantastic for us, they got us into Europe but things got stale, players moved on and players were ready for retirement, managers were coming and going and we just never made that transition into the new era. Once you go down it’s so hard to get back up too.

On going back to basics I think we’ve identified that we need players who are experienced at that level. The Championship is a different ball game, you’ve got to fight for everything and if you don’t you won’t win the game.

To bring in players who know that and have experienced that is important and Kit’s identified that. Hopefully that means we can hit the ground running, you don’t want to take five or six games to gel, you want to be up the top straight away with momentum and ensuring we’ve given ourselves a chance.

On the academy graduates Our academy is incredible, we’ve brought some great players through. Going back to my era, even then we had five or six players from the academy in the side.

The only problem is you can push too many through at once but now I think we have a nice mixture of youth and experience. Christensen had a superb year last year but we don’t want to be constantly experimenting, relying on a large amount of kids will be difficult but I think we’re starting to find a good blend between the young players and experienced Championship players. The fans love it too, seeing young players come through our own academy.

On Kit Symons He came in at a really difficult time, we’d lost the first six or seven games, we were rock bottom and cut adrift. He came in and got some fantastic results straight away, it’s going to be a tough job for him and I know fans were frustrated with the fact we were losing so many games.

I think we let around 90 goals in including cup games which is unacceptable but Kit started to stabilise things and I think he can push on this season with a more settled squad. I think it was unrealistic to believe we would challenge last season but now he’s got players who want to play for the club and will be fighting for their places.


The Offside Rule Podcast Prediction: Fulham can expect a much more solid season this time around, the likes of Ben Pringle and Tom Cairney have impressed in the Championship and Kit Symons appears to be putting together a good squad.

Key Player: Ross McCormack – He didn’t hit the ground running last season but any team that goes up has a 20 goal striker. McCormack is just that, if he can get off to a good start then he’ll be crucial to the Cottagers.

One to Watch: Emerson Hyndman – He was a key part of Fulham’s team at the start of last season and was one of the few good performers in a struggling team. He featured little under Symons later in the season but the American has enough talent to break back into the first team.


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