Rank: 5 | Age: 23 | Starts: 23 | Appearances: 29 | Minutes: 1978 | Goals: 2 | Assists: 3
Ryan Tunnicliffe came to Fulham from Manchester United in January of 2014 under the recommendation of then current manager Rene Meulensteen. Once a highly regarded academy prospect for the Red Devils, Tunnicliffe could never really manage to squeeze into the first team picture, serving loan spells at Peterborough, Barnsley, and Ipswich Town while with the club. Once he arrived in SW6, Meulensteen was subsequently sacked and the reign of Felix Magath began. Deemed as a surplus to the club, only 5 weeks after his signing was Tunnicliffe sent on loan to Wigan for the remainder of the season. Again, he would begin the ensuing 14/15 season on loan, this time with Blackburn.
But, a new year would spell a new chapter in his career as he was recalled by Fulham on New Year’s day of 2015. Since then, Tunnicliffe has been one of the mainstays in the middle of the park for the Whites, appearing in 49 of 54 possible League matches when healthy.
The 15/16 season began on a unfortunate note for Tunnicliffe, serving a one match ban for comments he made on Twitter directed towards Patrick Bamford. It would take several more matches for Ryan to break into the squad, but by the end of August he made it into the starting XI and would play every minute for Fulham for the next 11 matches. Entrenched in central midfield alongside Jaime O’Hara for much of that stretch, Tunnicliffe’s energy was a welcome sight. He even scored this sensational chip at Ashton Gate versus Bristol City, which would finish second in Goal of the Season voting by the club.
Unfortunately, Tunnicliffe’s run of good form would come to an end at the hands of a hamstring injury, which required surgery and would sideline him for 14 matches. During that stretch the club would struggle, securing only 11 of a possible 42 points.
Tunnicliffe returned to action in a substitute role by mid February, and by March he was fully match fit putting in regular 90-minute shifts for the side.
2016/17 Best Case:
I expect big things from Ryan Tunnicliffe in the upcoming season. Still only 23, he boasts a considerable amount of experience, not only due to his time and exposure with Manchester United, but the smattering of Championship teams he’s played for while on loan. We all know Ryan isn’t one of the most technically gifted players on the field, but there are few that bring the same energy and intensity game in and game out. Tunnicliffe’s contract expires at the conclusion of the upcoming season, but if he continues playing as he has of late, the club would be amiss not to pursue an extension.
As he continues to develop, I foresee him growing into a leadership role within the side, especially with the impending loss of Scott Parker once he hangs up the boots for good. Tunnicliffe plays a similar style as Parker, relentlessly badgering attackers in order to regain possession, but with the ability to move forward and contribute in the attacking third. I would still prefer to see the club add a bigger name in central midfield via the transfer market, filling the much talked about vacancy that Danny Murphy left years ago, but I believe Tunnicliffe would be a capable counterpart to whomever that may be. For the immediate future, barring any signings, expect to see Tunnicliffe alongside Scott Parker in the “engine room” for Fulham next season.