I joined Fulham in July 2009 from Liverpool where I held a similar role. The role sees me have overall responsibility for the regional, national and international recruitment of players and staff for the Club.
With this in mind, my first two full-time staff were Gwyn James, who has responsibility for overseeing international recruitment, and John O’Brien, who has responsibility for overseeing London recruitment. Both Gwyn and John oversee hand-picked part-time/senior scouts. Everyone who works in the Recruitment department at Fulham are very much part of a team who have a common goal: namely, to identify and recruit young players, with quality (as opposed to quantity) being the key.
The main challenge on each is to continually improve the quality of the players that sign for Fulham, while ensuring we retain the quality players in the system. On a personal note, I am positive that my 30 years of full-time experience at youth level with Liverpool, Southampton, Swansea City and Oxford United make me well equipped to lead the department and meet the ever changing challenges ahead.
Fulham have, as a Club, met a massive challenge at the end of the 2011/12 season by securing Category One status under the new EPPP programme. This is a great achievement for the Club. Category One status will obviously bring with it expectations for everyone associated with the Academy and the Club.
As with all the other Heads of Department at Fulham, Recruitment sets its own expectations. As a team within a team, our aim is to be proactive in all areas of recruitment, turning proactivity into productivity.
In order to be productive, communication and co-operation at all levels of the Academy is key and that is without question one of the major strengths of this Club. It also helps to creative a second-to-none environment on and off the pitch, which I believe makes us an attractive proposition to a discerning player/family.
It’s all about the player at Fulham and when we recruit someone, I have the utmost confidence that we have the vitally important support structure in place to give the player the best opportunity to fulfil his potential. We have top-class people in key areas of the Academy, ranging from coaching, sports science, strength and conditioning, medical, individual player programmes and analysis. Other key areas for Recruitment include Player Liaison/Welfare, and the appointment of Dan Rice has transformed that essential part of the Academy programme.
Similarly, recruitment of host families is vital to the success of our programme and Lee Hagger, Corinne Clowes and Dan leave no stone unturned to get it right for the player.
Past and Present
In football you must never say never. When Huw Jennings (Fulham Academy Director), Steve Wigley (Head of Coaching and Manager of the Under-18s) and myself left Southampton to go in different directions, none of us thought that we would be together again as part of the same team. But we are delighted to be back together and part of a top team at the Fulham Academy.
The players we helped to develop during our time together at Southampton are well documented – the likes of Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have moved on, while Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana, Calum Chambers and James Ward-Prowse are Academy boys now playing in the Premier League for the club. We all have great pride in what we achieved as part of a team at Southampton.
We are determined and confident that with a pathway throughout the Academy to the First Team, we will have a similar sense of pride in the players who will play for Fulham in the Premier League. I left Liverpool to come to Fulham for job satisfaction and so far I have not been disappointed and I know Huw and Steve feel the same as part of the Academy here.
The Academy Under-18s have won the Barclays U18 Premier League title for the last two seasons in succession, having been runner-up the previous season. As Premier League champions we went to the Dallas Cup last Easter as the Premier League representatives and came away as winners of the prestigious trophy.
While everyone is delighted with these achievements and those of our players, our aim as an Academy is to produce players to play First Team football for the Club. Failing that, we hope that they are able to fulfil their potential and have a career in football.