Following his meteoric rise from Fulham’s U18 side to Martin Jol’s First Team, Academy Graduate Kerim Frei has impressed team-mates and supporters alike with his appearances in the UEFA Europa League and Fulham Academy Director, Huw Jennings, is delighted to see his former charge making the breakthrough.
“For Kerim the change to go into the First Team has come early,” Jennings told fulhamfc.com. “He’s 17 years of age and had always been an exciting prospect. The Club's involvement in the Europa League has really helped to show what he can offer at First Team level.
“He [Frei] doesn’t lack for confidence - he’s a confident boy in terms of his own ability. He’s not an arrogant person – he’s very humble in lots of respects but what you see with Kerim is someone who, when he comes onto the pitch, comes alive.
“He explodes when he gets opportunities to get on the ball and it’s great to see someone with his qualities being recognised and having a chance to participate.”
Frei was an integral part of Kit Symons’ U18 side that reached the Academy League Final at the end of last season and Jennings explained why he sees Frei as a classic number ten following his exploits for the Academy in recent years.
“Kerim was known to our recruitment team and we had some discussions with his representatives,” Jennings explained of the Frei's pathway to Fulham's Academy. “Kerim came for a visit and it was evident straightaway that he had great talent; we had good reports back from his club and the national programme in Switzerland. He wanted to come and join us which was terrific.
“He’s probably the classic number 10. If you look at the way our youth team has played in the last couple of seasons, we’ve often played 4-4-1-1, which has given him the opportunity to play just off the striker or in one of the wide roles, looking to come in front the touchline.
“Kit Symons has, at times, played 4-1-2-3, so that’s also given various options for Karim. With a player of his ability, it’s not so much about systems or positions; it’s about what he does when he gets the ball, what he does when the team has the ball and what he does when the opposition have possession.”
Frei has joined former Academy graduate Matthew Briggs in Fulham’s First Team for the Club’s recent UEFA Europa League Qualifying matches and Jennings is delighted to see Martin Jol giving the Academy’s most talented youngsters opportunities this season.
“We’re very positive about Martin Jol’s impact,” said Jennings. “He’s already commented on his desire to try and involve young players as often as possible – but they have to do it on merit. In Kerim’s case, he’s been involved in part because players have been on international duty – so he’s well aware that this is ahead in his progression."