Jack, first of all congratulations on the recent Dallas Cup success. How would you sum up the experience?
Well, the win itself was fantastic, but I have to say as well, that the week in general was just brilliant. The Dallas Cup is one of the best tournaments that I’ve played in as a young footballer – on and off the pitch, it was superb. A lot of big teams and big players have taken part in the competition over the years, so to come out on top as winners is a great achievement.
You guys turned heads in the process as well didn’t you?
The stats look good; we didn’t go behind once, we didn’t concede too many goals and, at the other end, we scored for fun. That may suggest that it was easier than it actually was, but the reality is that we worked extremely hard and played some quality football. At times, I don’t think our opponents could cope with that. We reacted well to the different styles and tactics, and always stuck to the game plan. Every player performed to the top of their game, and as a result we came home with the trophy.
A trophy you lifted as captain – did that make it even more special?
Of course, for me personally anyway. Throughout the whole week, I hadn’t really thought about lifting the trophy, but then when the whistle went at the end of the Final it really sunk in. It was a nice experience and a great honour. That said, it isn’t one player that wins a tournament – it’s the whole squad and coaching staff. From the off, we had such a good team spirit and I think that helped us through.
Academy Director Huw Jennings picked you out as one of the tournament’s standout players, highlighting your leadership qualities as vital components of the team’s success. That must be great to hear?
It is yes, it’s very pleasing. I felt a lot of pride when Steve Wigley named me as his captain, and with that role comes a lot of responsibility. I think all of the older players tried to lead by example, but perhaps we do have a little more experience than the younger boys and it was important to pass that on. I’ve always been a vocal player, and will talk to my teammates throughout a game. Playing at the back allows you to see the bigger picture of a match – it unfolds in front of you. It’s nice to receive praise, but at the same time, I’m happy to take criticism too – it’s part of the learning process. I was happy with my performances out in Dallas, but I’m also someone that thinks that they can always improve. I think it would be difficult to pick one player out, though, as there were so many that stood out.
The team’s philosophy is all about being creative and moving the ball. But at the same time there was also a real steeliness about the way Fulham played. Alongside the likes of Stephen Arthurworrey, Josh Passley and Sean Kavanagh the defence provided a great platform for the rest to play from...
Well I’ve played with those three a lot for the Under-21s, so that helps. We’re familiar with the way we all play, and know how to work as a defensive unit. We didn’t give a lot away, and when you don’t it always gives your team a chance. I think Solomon Sambou also deserves a special mention too - from the centre of midfield he offered the team great protection. Forget winning 50/50s, he wins the 70/30s that aren’t even in his favour! Our young goalkeeper Marek Rodak was outstanding as well, he made some terrific saves. I like to think that the players in front, the more creative minded, know that they have that safety and freedom to go forward. That said, I think the defenders can play a bit too, I don’t think there were too many players that produced more assists than Sean. Josh, Stephen and myself can bring the ball out from the back as well, so it was a very fluid team. Of course, though, first and foremost, we’re there to keep the ball out.
As an individual, what did you take from the tournament in terms of your own development?
Although I have captained my country (Scotland) at youth level, I’ve never been a captain for that length of time before. After an international game, you can possibly step away a bit, but in Dallas it was 24/7. I needed to be a leader on and off the field, so I learned a lot about communicating with my coaches and teammates. It gave me a lot of confidence, and in many ways, I feel like the experience matured me more as a person. On top of that, I have never played so many matches in such a short space of time – so you had to cope with your recovery, and things like eating and sleeping habits. It’s quite a full-on experience, it was a challenge. But I think we all came away better players for it.
You’ve been at the Club for little more than a year now, joining from Aberdeen last January. How would you assess your time at Fulham so far?
That time has really flown by, in fact, it feels like I have been at the Club for years. I think that’s a good thing, though, it means that I feel settled here. I’ve tried to keep my head down, listened to what my coaches have told me and worked as hard as possible. There’s no doubt that I’ve improved as a player in that period, and I just think the environment at Fulham is so beneficial to young players. I feel like a young man now, rather than a boy, living away from my family and on my own certainly makes that happen. But I’ve coped well. I’ve played a lot of football too, which is good and I’m very excited by the prospect of developing further.
That development and subsequent form for the Under-21s also saw you named on the First Team bench for the trip to Blackpool in the FA Cup with Budweiser Third Round replay...
That was a massive moment for me, and something that I’ve been working towards since I came in. Although I didn’t feature, it was still brilliant to be with the First Team squad. This is a club that gives young players an opportunity and it was a very special occasion. I’ve worked really hard and that was a nice reward, and a sign that my performances are being noticed which is also very pleasing.
Finally Jack, having not long celebrated your first year at the Club, what are your targets for the following 12 months?
More of the same really, I appreciate that I still have a long way to go and that there’s a lot of hard work ahead. It’s been an enjoyable season so far, and there’s still plenty of football to be played – so it would be nice to end the campaign strongly. As I’ve said, the first year went very quickly, and funnily enough it was something that I discussed with Luis Boa Morte recently. He just said that the career of a professional footballer is a short one and that I should make the most of it. That’s exactly what I want to do; I don’t want to look back with any regrets, I need to savour every moment.
Images by Matthew Visinsky.