There have been significant developments at Fulham’s Academy in recent years, as the Club continues in its quest to recruit players of outstanding potential that can be nurtured into future First Team regulars.
Fulham are one of the clubs leading the way at Academy level having won the Barclays Under-18 Premier League title for the past three seasons and the National Final for the past two. During recent campaigns Kerim Frei, Alexander Kačaniklić, Tom Donegan, Neil Etheridge, Alex Smith and Marcello Trotta all made their First Team debuts, with Charles Banya and Jack Grimmer also called up to the bench.
There is no doubt that Fulham’s Academy now possesses the infrastructure, facilities and pathway to success, to attract the brightest talents at home and abroad. The Academy provides the best coaching and facilities to maximise the opportunity of any talented youngster becoming a professional footballer.
In July 2012, the Club announced that the Fulham Academy had been awarded Category One status under the new Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP). The Academy is central to the Club’s current and future plans, highlighted by an aggressive recruitment drive which has seen the Club gain a wealth of experience and knowledge that will lead the Academy into arguably the most exciting era in its history.
At the start of 2009, Huw Jennings was appointed as the Club’s Academy Director following successful spells at Southampton and the FA Premier League, where he served as Youth Development Manager. Further high profile appointments followed in the summer of 2009, including former Liverpool FC Academy Director Malcolm Elias, who joined FFC as Head of Talent ID and Recruitment, and England Under-21 Assistant Manager Steve Wigley, who arrived in 2012 to become Head of Coaching & Under-18 Manager.
In recent years, the Academy has enjoyed great success and the 2011/12 season in particular turned out to be a truly memorable one for the Club. Fulham's Under-14 team won the 2012 Premier League U14 national tournament at the London Soccerdome in February 2012. They beat Chelsea 4-2 in the Final to secure their rightful berth in a three-way tournament in Barcelona, which was played at the Sant Joan Despi Academy, Barcelona, in March.
Then, on the 28th April, Fulham's U18 side secured the Premier Academy League Group A title for the second consecutive season after winning an exciting battle with Norwich City 4-3, before coming from behind a week later to defeat Leicester City in a Semi-Final Play-Off at Motspur Park to reach the Final. On Saturday 12th May, Fulham's U18 side were crowned 2011/12 Premier Academy League Champions after defeating Blackburn Rovers 2-0. Strikes from Cauley Woodrow and Ryan Williams secured the Academy title for FFC on an historic afternoon at Craven Cottage in front of Martin Jol, his First Team Squad and almost 1,000 supporters.
Building on their success, the U18s then sealed the inaugural Premier Academy Elite League Group title the following season, beating Sunderland on the way to their third National Play-Off Final in three years. There, Wigley’s side hammered Reading 3-0 with a fine hat-trick from French forward Moussa Dembele to secure back-to-back trophies and cap a remarkable run of success for the Academy that has placed them at the very top of the English game.