To date it has been another positive season for the Academy’s Under-18s, Kit Symons’ side catching the eye with their attacking philosophy and exciting brand of football.
With no shortage of creative quality, Lyle Della Verde is one who has certainly attracted attention, the 17-year-old impressing so much in his first six months at the Club that he signed his first professional contract earlier this month.
Capable of operating on either flank, or off a front man, the youngster is his team’s set-piece specialist and a regular source of assists.
Whether it is cutting inside or sending teasing deliveries into the box, Della Verde has become an important player for the Under-18s. While still raw, there is no doubting his potential.
Released by Tottenham at the tender age of 12, Della Verde shone at subsequent club Southend, who he helped reach the Fifth Round of last season’s FA Youth Cup. So highly rated was he at Roots Hall, he even made the first team bench.
The youngster is now hoping to make a similar impact at Craven Cottage.
Lyle Della Verde: Midfielder
I joined the Club in August having spent three years at Southend, and I’m pleased with how things have gone so far. It has been a good season to this point, and I like to think I have played my part. I feel like I am progressing as a player, and I feel very settled here.
I’m originally from Walthamstow, but found my way to Southend. To be honest, it was a club that gave me a really good grounding and it’s one that actually has a very good youth set up. I learned a lot there, but I think Fulham can make me an even better player.
Fulham was a club that really appealed to me. I knew that they had a good reputation for developing young players. The Academy had been doing well and I wanted to be part of that. I know it’s been said before but the environment is so good here and from day one I have been made to feel welcome.
I would describe myself as a very attack-minded player. I suppose I have a bit of flair and like to get on the ball and make things happen. I can play down either flank and love to take the full-back on and get crosses into the box.
Luckily, the Under-18s are a very attacking team, so it’s been easy to fit in. Although you still have your defensive responsibilities, we have the freedom to push forward and be creative. Personally, it is great to be part of a team like that and it certainly gets the best out of me because I can express myself and show what I’m all about.
I know that I have a lot to improve on. Tracking back and winning the ball back when I’ve lost possession are definitely things I have been working on. I do like to take players on and dribble with the ball - I like to do the odd trick as well – I’m that sort of player. Of course, it can be difficult when you try things and they don’t come off because you can get a hard time sometimes. I just apologise and work as hard as I can to make up for it. I’ve always played that way though, and I just love to express myself with the ball.
It will come as no surprise that Mousa Dembélé is my favourite Fulham player. He’s been brilliant this season and a lot of the younger players enjoy watching him in action. Mousa has so much skill, and there are few that have his composure on the ball. Although he stands out for his ability, he also works really hard too and has a great attitude.
I’ve been involved in the majority of games so far. I’ve had good and bad games, but that is to be expected. At this level we’re developing every day as players and working hard to be the best that we can be. Thankfully I’ve had more better games than I have had bad!
The FA Youth Cup is a competition that I would love to do well in this season, and we did very well in the last two rounds. We’re in the Fifth Round now, where we face Manchester City and we know that will be a difficult game. They’re doing well in their respective league and will have a lot of good players, but that’s the same for us too. It should be a good game, and one that I hope we can win.
Having beaten Peterborough, we then went on to beat Chelsea last week. So it’s been a good period for the Under-18s, it shows that we are doing well. Even at Academy level, games with Chelsea are ones that we really want to win – and it’s important that we do. Results recently can give us confidence going forward.
It’s been a good start for me here. And it goes without saying that I want to make sure I see that through until the end of the season.Hopefully we can make it another successful season for the Under-18s and have something to celebrate at the end. A lot of the boys have featured for the Development Squad too, so I’d love to do the same because the opportunity is there for us.
This feature is an extract from the Fulham v Newcastle United matchday programme|.