Fulham announced their first signing of the January transfer window yesterday morning, with young Southampton full-back Matt Targett joining the Whites on loan until the end of the season. Jack J Collins sat down with Saints Marching‘s Chris Hughes to get the inside line on what Fulham can expect from Targett over the upcoming months.
JC: Let’s start broadly — what’s the overarching fan perspective on Matt Targett’s ability from a Saints perspective?
CH: The view of most people that I’ve spoken to is that Targett still has potential but he’s running out of time to be first-team PL quality. Naturally he’s only 22 but I don’t think there’s been any sign of obviously progression in a season or two, so a few Saints fans, myself included, are concerned he might be in a similar boat to someone like Jason McCarthy who we sold over the summer.
I think the fact that we haven’t had an alternative at LB (until Sam McQueen started playing there last season) has meant he’s been given a lot more opportunities. Overall, the general consensus is that the talent is very much there but having been in and around the first team for so long he needs to start showing it on a far more consistent basis.
JC: Obviously Matt Targett broke into the spotlight a couple of years back, but that first season in 15/16 under Ronald Koeman was the only one in which he played over 1000 minutes – what’s gone wrong for him since then at Southampton?
CH: I think the injury in the 16/17 season was the killer. He was out for the majority of last season and has still been absent from time to time with the same niggling problems. At such a tender age such a long term setback is bound to have an effect for a long time after the injury, both on his ability and mentally.
I think being behind Bertrand – who it could argued is the probably best left-back outside of the league’s big six – makes it tough too. Before his injury over Christmas Bertrand had been ever-present and so it’s out of Targett’s control in that regard.
JC: What can Fulham fans expect from Targett? Obviously we’ve had Ryan Sessegnon at LB this season, but he’s simply not a natural left-back, and I think fans are hoping for a more defensively aware player – is that what we’ll get?
CH: I think in Targett Fulham are definitely getting that. Its a win-win as Sessegnon will have more freedom to roam in a wide role whilst Targett can work and learn alongside a really high-quality midfielder. Targett is definitely stronger on the defensive end as sometimes he looks quite awkward going forward.
His dribbling isn’t quite at Premier League level for a full-back and he struggles sometimes with that aspect of his game – through injury we had to play our centre-back Jack Stephens at right-back over Christmas, and MT looked very similar in terms of attacking movement that Stephens did, playing out of position!
JC: Is Targett still seen as the long-term replacement for Ryan Bertrand or has the emergence of Sam McQueen put the cat amongst the pigeons in that regard?
CH: I think at this point in time if the Saints were to sell Bertrand we’d be better shopping for a replacement than relying on either Targett or McQueen. I don’t either, just yet, are ready to be starter for a team that’s aiming for top half (albeit not doing as well this season). McQueen has definitely offered a selection headache though.
When Targett and Bertrand were injured last season and Claude Puel deployed McQueen at left-back a lot of us were surprised, but he’s actually done a great job – his defensive game has taken leaps and bounds — Southampton have also thrived with attack-minded full-backs and his winger’s instincts mean he’s definitely above Targett in the pecking order right now, despite being younger.
JC: Slavisa Jokanovic is famous for taking umbrage with players without the right attitude, and isn’t afraid to leave players out of the squad if they don’t put the hard yards in in training – what’s Targett’s temperament like?
CH: Targett is definitely a passionate player as a local lad who wears his heart on his sleeve, but I don’t think he’s ever really had temperament issues. He’s been around senior football for a while now so he’s definitely level-headed for his age, so he should fit in with that kind of management style.
JC: In terms of this season, obviously first-team opportunities have been limited, but what’s Targett’s impact and attitude been like in the U23s and so forth?
CH: Targett’s featured for the under-23s, but again he’s had to compete with McQueen. The latter has also played down the left and in the #10 role but Targett hasn’t been a guaranteed selection for the entire season. I know he’s played well and he’s worn the captain’s armband on more than one occasion, but it’s not been all plain sailing.