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The Craven Corner: 'Rome wasn't built in a day' & Reasons to be optimistic about the first month of the Transfer Window

Fulham Columnist & Sports Blogger, Adam Brons-Smith discusses the opening month of the transfer window and why there are many reasons to be positive at Fulham. 

With the first month of the transfer window coming to an end, it seems that the opinion of the Fulham fans is divided. Personally, I think it has been a very successful start to the window for our club.

I can understand why many people have been upset/angry about the ‘lack’ of new signings this month, but after the season we have had our first steps in the window had to be about renewing the deals for our key players, especially with the interest in them growing every day. Keeping the stars whose contracts were at risk was paramount as we couldn’t afford to have to build a brand new spine once again this summer.

By renewing the deals of Cairney & Sessegnon this early in the window, it removes any fear that they could leave, and eases any fears that the players we are trying to build around aren’t going anywhere. Both the renewals for Cairney and Sessegnon are worth far more than any new signing, and with Cairney being the stand-out player in this division, and Sessegnon seen by many as the next biggest talent in English football, Fulham have already done tremendous business.

Securing both of these, it means that we go into next season, with two stars of the highest quality and should they repeat last season’s success on the pitch, the club would be in a very strong place to demand mega-money for both players, which in turn secures the long-term future of our club - something that is often over-looked but can’t be ignored due to the pressure that Financial Fair Play places on clubs in this division.

With this being our last year of the parachute payments, the club have to place smarter bets in the window, and by securing key players to new deals and taking their time to recruit the right players, we won’t be forced into selling any stars at the risk of FFP in the future, and that’s the most important aspect with the board trying to build something special - Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Furthermore, I understand the frustrations about the ‘stats’ system that is in place, and it’s generally the point that many people associate with any bad press around the club, or any suggestion that Slavisa Jokanovic may depart the club. But, if we take a step back and away from the Media garbage that is posted on a regularly basis, we should be quite thankful of the new system. It was brought in at the end of the reign of Kit Symons, and if we reviewed the transfers of the 3-4 years before it was introduced, you’d probably ask the question; why wasn’t in brought in before?

Personally, I think we are very fortunate to have an owner like Shahid Khan, he’s always invested in any manager the club has had at the helm, and provided the funds to supply them – even to the point that we broke FFP and were forced to have a transfer embargo. Owners like Khan are rare to come by, especially having an owner whose wealth continues to grow at the rate his does, meaning our club isn’t at any risk of financial crisis. You only have to look at the clubs that have fallen down the leagues over the years to realise how common that actually is - Bolton, Blackpool, Portsmouth & Blackburn spring to mind, all of which had similar stays in the Premiership, with Portsmouth & Bolton spending time in European competition too.

Therefore, it is important to be smarter under the strict guidelines of Financial Fair Play and by having a more ‘research’ based approach to the signings we do make, should put us in a stronger place in the future.

It also avoids, the problem of having to overhaul the squad every year due to bringing in a new manager and them wanting to bring in their own players. The club put its’ faith in Martin Jol to do that, and over the years our squad age rose, investment slowed due to MAF wanting to sell, and in reality, relegation was on the cards for a long-time, with key players not being replaced. It also left the club in an awkward place when relegated, as our players didn’t have much value, due to age and high wages, so shifting players upon relegation proved harder than first thought – limiting that immediate window of reinvestment that can be seen by other clubs, especially Aston Villa, who had £40m of talent out of loan last season.

The club then relied heavily on Felix Magath, a manager with an impressive CV but he decided to bring in players like Mark Fotheringham, Adil Chihi, Kay Voser, Nikoklay Bodurov, Gabor Kiraly & Dino Fazlic – and let’s be honest, not one of those were up to the standards of the Championship, and every one of them was a costly mistake. All of which, I’m sure wouldn’t have got the approval if they were wanted under the new transfer system.

Kit Symons was then installed and he was then backed to overhaul the squad, and he brought in players like Michael Turner, Danny Guthrie, Jamie O’Hara, Richard Lee, Jazz Richards & Ben Pringle. All of which again, no longer have a future at the club and more squad upheaval has been needed. Don’t get me wrong, there may have been one or two that have been a success, but on the whole, that system has faltered for us for a long time. While, I appreciate Khan’s reign has overseen relegation and the bad times for our club, he has continued to invest and that’s paramount, and with him finally having the right staff around the pitch and higher up in the club, we are probably in our strongest position for a number of years to move back up the leagues.

As for last summer, Slavisa Jokanovic worked closely with the system and while the media continued to pour out garbage news about him leaving, last summer was incredibly effective. The players that were brought in were either at the peak of their careers or coming into those years - where there was always going to be a return on their investment.

Even though, last year’s summer signing Jozabed didn’t settle in England, he was sold this summer at a profit, something we failed to do with any of the signings we tried to move on under previous tenures. Not only that, but Fulham are a club that are notoriously quiet and secretive about their business during the windows, so we may need to remind ourselves that if we’re not on the Sky Sports reports, then it’s probably not a bad thing – just our club keep deals under wraps until the last second, just look at Kalas’ arrival last year, that was a surprise for everyone – even the journalists! Therefore, I wouldn’t read too much into the reports about Jokanovic leaving due to this system, remember Slavisa has said before that he is happy at the club, and signed the new deal recently. If he wasn’t happy with system around him, he could have left for nothing this summer, but instead he signed a new contract to continue the project he had begun.

Furthermore, while the club have begun moving on some players, many of which will be replaced by the successes of the youth squad in terms of rotation spots, which does mean that the likes of Tayo Edun, Denis Adeniran & co will feature more for the club, especially in cup games – providing them with a pressure-free environment to develop and make a name for themselves. This is exciting, because as we saw from last year’s cup run, young stars like Edun & Adeniran proved that they could have an impact on the side and Jokanovic trusted them to do so, and with those stars in and around the squad and signing new deals we probably have more depth than first thought – although I agree, we are 3 or 4 senior signings away from a full-strength side.

But overall, the first month has been successful upon reflection. The club needed to sell players this summer to be able to re-invest like they did last summer due to FFP, and we have smashed the targets needed already. By securing £3.5m profit on Malone in just 12 months, another £4m from Jozabed plus the fees from the likes of Burgess, LVC (Sad to see move on) & Stearman, all of which will bring us close to around £9-10m from sales.

An exciting number to utilise, considering it was only Malone that has been sold who was involved on a regular basis – and while he was good going forward, defensively he had his flaws, and his transfer means we somehow got £3.5m for Jazz Richards (considering Richards and Scotty swapped clubs last summer) and who would have thought that was possible!

As for the departure of Lasse Vigen Christensen, I was a little bit gutted to see him depart but after thinking about it, it shouldn’t really take anyone by surprise. He was the only bright spark under Kit’s reign and if he had avoided the injury problems he experienced shortly after his rise to fame, it could have been a different story but since injury struck him down, he has rarely featured and edged ever closer to that exit door.

But, I do wish him all the best for the future and will keep an eye on his development and especially to see what midfield role he plays in on a regular basis, as he featured in way too many different positions during his time at the Cottage, even as left wing back at times! But thanks for the moments of magic LVC, I hope you stay clear of injury and really get that opportunity to live up to the potential you have.

Finally, with the team now returning from their pre-season tour, I’d expect the next 14 to 20 days to be really busy for Fulham, and with the way the rumours are going, it would suggest that our favourite Czech defender, Tomas Kalas is on his way back to the club – which is definitely welcomed news.

Although, I do feel that his deal will be similar to Piazon’s with Kalas signing a new deal at Chelsea before being allowed to leave on loan. Which would be a shame considering most of us were hoping a permanent deal could be agreed, but regardless I will be happy however he returns to the Cottage because he is a player of the highest quality, and his partnership with Ream really began to blossom towards the end of the season.

There are also question marks around the future of David Button, and with another poor pre-season display, his long-term future is under scrutiny. With Nottingham Forest reportedly interested in the goalkeeper, I would expect him to leave, but with Fulham still trying to sell the goalkeeper at a profit, it may be hard to find a suitor. Reading were reportedly keen on the former Brentford stopper, but after being given the valuation by the club, they decided to pursue Vito Mannone instead – but I’m glad to see that our club are demanding much higher fees for players this summer, providing us with the opportunity to re-invest and balance the books more easily.

To conclude, we are still in the early stages of the transfer window, and I’m sure there will be more twists and turns between now and the end of the window, but there’s plenty of reasons to be optimistic, and with the board fully aware of how important this summer is to build on last year’s achievements, I am confident that they won’t let us down. Expect us to start getting more vocal in the next 14 days about business I’d imagine, especially with the kit launches and the squad returning from their pre-season tour. Just like last summer, targets would have been identified very early on, and there would have been a number of targets lined up should moves for key targets fail to materialise. Have faith, the club is back on the way up, we have all the right people behind the scenes and with Jokanovic wanting to build something special at the club, the future is bright.

Thank you ever so much for reading (I know it’s been a long one!) – But you can always contact me on Twitter - @ABronsSmith. It’d be great to hear from you!

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