Richard is away and I feel a little like the neighbour who has promised to take the milk in and feed the fish but then decided to use the oven to bake a cake. Hopefully the cakes worth eating and I’ve not made too much mess in the kitchen.
This season sees the introduction of the new 25 man squad rule implemented as a first step towards reducing squad sizes and increasing the number of home grown players at the top level. This excellent article on TwoHundredPercent examines what this means for the Premier League and got me thinking about how the rule would affect Fulham in the coming season.
TwoHundredPercent suggest that the rule will have little impact. Initially this certainly seems to be true and very few teams will have to make serious changes to ensure their squads conform to the new regulations. Looking at our current team we have exactly 25 players over 21 of which 13 can be considered home grown. This is consistent with most of the Premier League. Only three teams (Bolton Wanderers, Manchester City & Wolverhampton Wanderers) have squads bigger than 25 and only one team (Liverpool) have more that 17 players not considered home grown.
This is no accident. You can be sure the Premier League studied the existing team squads very closely before ratifying any changes to the rules. A home grown player is considered any player who spends three seasons, up to and including the season when they turn 21, registered to an English or Welsh club, regardless of their nationality. For Fulham this means Nigerian international Dickson Etuhu qualifies alongside his English, Irish and Welsh teammates.
Clubs will also be allowed to supplement their squad with an unlimited number of players under the age of 21. The Premier League’s definition of “Under 21” is a player born on or after 1st January 1989. This is of more value to the big teams and means the richest clubs can continue to stockpile the very best youngsters.
The squads won’t even take effect from the beginning of the season. The first deadline for naming 25 man squads is 1700 BST on 1st September (24 hours after end of August transfer window). This is good news for Fulham as, thanks to the delays in sorting out our manager, we’re likely to be conducting our business right up to the very last minute.
Changes can be made only during transfer windows, although in exceptional circumstances (e.g. goalkeeping injury crisis) moves could be allowed. Players named in the squad who are subsequently loaned to Football League clubs cannot be replaced, but can regain their spot on return to parent club. Finally the rules apply only to Premier League matches, so any non-registered squad members who we retain would be eligible to feature in the FA Cup or League Cup.
There’s plenty of room for manoeuvre then with our current squad. The table below shows our existing 25 senior pros and highlights those who are home grown (HG) or not. I’ve also listed the current contract periods (thanks to White Noise at Friends of Fulham for a lot of this information). NB: I’ve seen no confirmation of either but Gera must surely have had a 2 year extension activated to take him through to 2012, and Simon Davies was hopeful of agreeing his own extension prior to the Europa League semi-final.
No. Nation Pos Name Contract 1 Australia GK Mark Schwarzer Not Final Year 2 R.Ireland DF Stephen Kelly HG 2012 3 England DF Paul Konchesky HG Final Year 4 Ghana DF John Pantsil Not Final Year 5 Norway DF Brede Hangeland Not 2013 6 N.Ireland DF Chris Baird HG Final Year 8 England FW Andy Johnson HG 2012 11 Hungary MF Zoltán Gera Not Final Year/2012 12 England GK David Stockdale HG 2013 13 England MF Danny Murphy HG Final Year 15 Senegal FW Diomansy Kamara Not Final Year 16 R.O.I MF Damien Duff HG 2012 17 Norway MF Bjørn Helge Riise Not 2012 18 N.Ireland DF Aaron Hughes HG 2013 19 Switz. GK Pascal Zuberbühler Not 2011 20 Nigeria MF Dickson Etuhu HG Final Year 21 U.S.A FW Eddie Johnson Not Final Year 22 Sweden DF Fredrik Stoor Not 2012 23 U.S.A MF Clint Dempsey Not 2013 25 England FW Bobby Zamora HG 2012 27 England MF Jonathan Greening HG 2012 29 Wales MF Simon Davies HG 2010 ? 34 SouthAfrica MF Kagisho Dikgacoi Not Final Year 35 Sweden FW David Elm Not 2012 — Switzerland DF Philippe Senderos Not 2013
Of the players with reasonable contract periods Hangeland and Dempsey seem the most likely to attract bidders. Having shown ambition in our choice of manager it would be a shame to lose any of our best performers now. Hangeland seems to be a man who knows his own mind and has been quoted as saying he would like to stay. If Roy comes knocking though I wonder if he could turn down the chance to play for Liverpool. Dempsey may also consider that this is his best chance to move up a level. If nothing else his agent is looking to capitalise on his current status. Should either go we would undoubtedly miss them but should at least recieve a decent transfer fee.
Mark Schwarzer has been heavily linked with a move to Arsenal. £2.5 Million is a good return on a 37 year old who we signed for free but we’d need to spend a lot more than that to find someone genuinely capable of replacing him. The arrival of Hughes may be enough to convince big Mark to stay but if he does leave we must hope to attract a quality replacement. The talk has been of Robert Green or Joe Hart which says a lot about our clubs current standing in the top flight.
Frederik Stoor has another two seasons on his contract but seems a prime candidate to depart. No doubt he sees Hughes arrival as a second chance but he may not have much time to impress. John Paintsil has rather wonderfully dismissed reports linking him with a move to West Brom and I would expect Hughes to be keen to tie down our Ghanaian hero to a extended contract.
Two more hot candidates to move on are Diomansy Kamara and Eddie Johnson. Both are in their final year and have not been involved in regular first team football at Fulham for some time. I suspect our attack to be the main focus for Hughes in the next few weeks. With Andy Johnson looking like a long term injury concern it will be a priority to find someone to support Bobby Zamora. AJ may even find himself out of the initial 25.
Assuming Hughes brings in 4 or 5 new players there may well be a couple of last seasons key contributors missing out. There are a number of players in their final year and not all of them will be highly sort after, however well they performed under Hodgson. I’ve stared at that list for so long now an image is burnt into my eyes. It’s not easy picking who else to leave out. Kelly, Greening, Dikachoi or Elm? Maybe (super utility man) Baird, (captain) Murphy or (heaven forbid) Simon Davies?
A lot will depend on who we bring in of course. Whilst the 25 man squad may not radically change English football it will certainly introduce a new set of problems for a manager to come to terms with.