Note: For those older readers, the use of ‘old’ in this article is purely in a footballing context
With club football finally about to get back underway after yet another asinine international break, I thought I would investigate one of the less heralded issues that Fulham currently have at the moment – the age of the squad.
To put it simply, Fulham have an old squad. Although over the last season Fulham have gotten younger, the average age remains over 30 years old. In fact you could put together a pretty good team by selecting over 30 players only:
This team would be the oldest ever fielded in the premier league with an average age of 32.4yrs old. Jol has consistently said that he wants to reduce the age of the squad and has so far been unable to achieve this. I have a fair amount of sympathy for him here – there was a definite move to replace key players with younger players until late this summer when Dempsey and Dembele decided to jump ship and Fulham were forced into panic signing the likes of Karagounis and Tavares. Despite letting go a fair few youngsters (Gecov, Sa, Dembele) the age of players brought in (28.7yrs) was almost exactly the same as those let go ( 28.6yrs).
So, is the old age of the squad a big deal? I’m not so sure. Firstly, football has changed so much over the last 10 years that being in your thirties no longer represents the terminal decline of your career. A good premier league professional should be able to perform to a very high standard up to the age of 33, and players being influential up to 35-36yrs old is no longer that odd, particularly defenders.
Secondly, Fulham may have an old squad, but look at the age of the Fulham bench in each game this season:
V Norwich – 26.8
V Man Utd – 26.8
V Sheffield Wed – 24.7
V West Ham – 25.5
V West Brom – 24.5
V Wigan – 27.1
V Man City – 24.7
V Southampton – 26.5
Overall AVG – 25.8
Encouragingly, much like with the over 30s, you can put together a good under 30s team with an average age of 25.5yrs old (although, unsurprisingly, defence is a bit of an issue):
Thirdly, and this is an important point, all of the players who are over 30 years old (except Berbatov) have only one year remaining on their contract. This is an important factor to take into consideration because it gives a high level of flexibility when it comes to lowering the age of the squad. The players over 30 who left (Johnson, Murphy) or were sold (Zamora, Etuhu) all wanted expensive multi-year contracts or already had them.
So is there an age problem at Fulham? I would argue that it is a concern, but Fulham are in a good position to continue with the squad overhaul and the introduction of younger players because of the flexible contract situations and young age of the reserve players.