Fruit of the Academy

Monday 11 February 2002

With Fulham's Academy side through to the FA Youth Cup quarter-finals after an enthralling victory over Ipswich Town, three of the players involved in last week's action at Kingfield have been awarded professional contracts.

Sean Doherty, Zesh Rehman and David Shevel all signed their first professional contracts on the Craven Cottage pitch during half-time on Saturday. For the three Academy players, it was a just reward for their hard work and progress over the last season.

Speaking to Fulham Today, Academy Director Steve Kean gave an insight into the White's latest professionals. Probably the most recognisable name of the three is young Sean Doherty who has put in a series of impressive displays this season.

"We would class Sean as a winger, he's a natural left-footed player who likes to go past people and put crosses in. Probably his biggest attribute is the fact that his delivery on the cross is very, very good. Not only that but he can also score on a regular basis as he's proven at international level.

"Zesh Rehman is a central defender who's very composed on the ball. We've done a lot of work with him and he's a very good technical player. He's improved dramatically and the next step is to make sure that he's aggressive enough as a defender. Because he's so good technically, he'll sometimes let a player come at him then take the ball off him, as opposed to asserting himself. But he has a lot of potential"

Winning goal scorer from last Wednesday's FA Cup match against Ipswich, David Shevel, makes up the last of the trio. Having already played in a number of reserve matches this season, regular attendees at Kingfield may be familiar with Shevel.

"David is a central midfield player who can also play on the right. He's a small, Dennis Wise type player, he's got very good knowledge of the game and you can see that he's a thinking player. Sometimes younger players can play passes either too firm or too soft, but David's got a very good weight of pass.

Kean revealed that praise for Shevel has also come from reserve team Captain Paul Trollope.

"Paul Trollope commented after one of the reserve games that for a young player he's as good as he's ever seen. David has done really well and has already played a lot of reserve games, which is a good sign.".

Now that these three players have made the transition into the professional sports world, one could be forgiven for thinking that their treatment would somehow differ to that of a non-profession Academy scholar. What exactly does their professional status mean in terms of their day-to-day life at the club?

"It doesn't change anything really, they won't go into any first team squads unless the manager wants them to and their training programs won't change in any way. We've seen that these three players have something special so we've given them their professional contracts slightly earlier than normal."

The next logical step for Doherty, Shevel and Rehman would be to challenge for a regular spot in the reserve team and then ultimately, the first team. Perhaps in signing their professional contracts so early, the impression could be given that first team action could just be around the corner yet Kean is mindful of their age.

"They're still a long way off a first team place. Even through they're playing at an under-19 level, they're still under-18 players. They've got all of next year to play under-19 football. This time next year we will have a better idea of how close they will be to a first team place."