Academy Director Huw Jennings believes the international debut of Under-16 midfielder Patrick Roberts underlines the excellent work that is taking place throughout Fulham’s Academy.
Roberts, who has been a key player for Mark Pembridge’s Under-16s, made his England Under-16 debut last week in a 5-0 defeat of Northern Ireland in the Victory Shield.
Goals from Liverpool duo Tom Brewitt and Jordan Rossiter, Manchester United’s Demetre Mitchell and a double from Middlesbrough’s Callum Cooke gave England the perfect start as they look to seal a 12th successive Victory Shield title, with Roberts himself going close on three occasions as a second-half substitute.
With a number of youth internationals within our Under-21 and Under-18 squads, Jennings is confident that Roberts’ involvement can serve as a benchmark for our schoolboy hopefuls.
“I think it’s a sign of how far we have come as an Academy – to see one of our younger players representing his country is absolutely fantastic,” said Huw to fulhamfc.com. “As we know, our Under-18s have performed really well over recent seasons and have shown that they can compete with the best.
“Mark Pembridge works our Under-16 players extremely hard and in terms of preparing them for the step up, I think he deserves a lot of credit. He will be pleased with Patrick’s involvement and perhaps we will see two or three more follow in his footsteps.
“We have some very talented players further down in the Academy, and this can only serve to motivate them. However, as always, it’s crucial for them to understand the importance of working hard and in Patrick’s case, realise that this is just the first step.
“There’s a long way to go, and while we take nothing away from this achievement because it’s a very special moment for the player and his family, it’s important to find the right balance.
“Patrick is certainly a player we have high hopes for, though; he’s bright, creative on the ball and makes things happen. He’s been involved with our Under-18s already this season, so he’s making progress.”
Roberts, 16, echoed Jennings’ thoughts and said he just wants to concentrate on developing as a player and doing well for his club, having only joined the Academy two seasons ago from Sunday League football.
“Playing for England was unbelievable, it’s something that I’ve always dreamed of,” added Patrick. “But I’m not taking anything for granted, and although I’d love to be involved again, it was only one game.
“I need to keep doing well for Fulham and train as hard as I can. I love playing in the Academy and over the past two years I think I’ve learned a lot here. I think this is a good place to be.
“I look up to players like Kerim Frei, who have come through the Academy and gone on to play for the First Team. He’s not the only one either, which shows that there are opportunities to do well.