10 players who made just one Fulham appearance

Drew Heatley 31st March 2021

Drew looks at a list of players who share the dubious honour of donning the white of Fulham just once.

One-hit wonders. Be it in music, or indeed sport, the world’s littered with them. Often, they become infamous – no one remembers a two-hit wonder, do they? Here are 10 of our very own; players who got to wear our famous white shirt on a solitary occasion. Some you’ll remember, some you may not.

1. Nathan Ashton

Ashton signed for us in the summer of 2007 from fellow London club Charlton Athletic. The young defender was Lawrie Sanchez’s eleventh signing in a hectic window that saw future Fulham legends Aaron Hughes and Danny Murphy join the club. Ashton, from Beckton, East London, had pedigree – and had represented England from under-16 to under-19 level.

He made his one and only Fulham appearance in a 3-1 at home against Reading in November 2007. Surprisingly, Nathan played a full 90 minutes at left-back as we picked up only our second win of the season.

The 07/08 season was, of course, the great escape, so it’s understandable that Ashton found further chances limited. He went on loan to then-Championship side Crystal Palace in March 2008, before joining League Two Wycombe Wanderers on a permanent deal that summer. He left a year later, languishing in non-league, and last played for Tilbury in the Isthmian League during the 2013/14 season. He was jailed for 15 years in 2016 for his role in several armed robberies across the south east of England.

2. Joe Anderson

Another East-ender, Anderson joined our academy from Chelsea’s in 2006 as a teenager. After impressing in the reserves, he was sent out to Blue Square Premier side Woking in 2008/09. But as we went on to secure our highest Premier League finish under Roy Hodgson, the Cardinals were relegated.

Despite this, the young full-back returned to Motspur Park and targeted the first team, as the club looked ahead to a busy campaign of European and domestic football. He told the official website: “European football is a good chance to get a game as there could be a lot of extra matches. So the fringe players may have more of an involvement and I’ll certainly be looking to get on the bench and help out the team”.

Anderson’s solitary appearance didn’t come in the Europa League, however – though he was an unused sub in games against Amkar Perm, CSKA Sofia, Basel and Roma. Instead, he came on against Manchester City at the Etihad in the League Cup. The midfielder was subbed on for Zoltan Gera in the 120th minute as we were dumped out of the competition to an extra-time goal from Kolo Toure.

January 2010 saw Anderson move to League Two Lincoln City, where he made 45 appearances, before – you guessed it – he played the rest of his career in non-league, notably racking up nearly 200 appearances at Bromley, many under the management of ex-Fulham midfielder Neil Smith. 31-year-old Anderson most recently played for Vanarama National League South side Welling United, but left in January 2020.  

3. Pascal Zuberbühler

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Perhaps the most well-known of our one-hit wonders, Zuberbühler was a mainstay on our bench during our most-successful Premier League season and subsequent march to the Europa League final. The Swiss goalkeeper had already achieved so much when he arrived in SW6 during the summer of 2008, aged 37 years old. Roy Hodgson knew the ‘keeper well from the Swiss national side, and knew he’d be a valuable understudy to new recruit Mark Schwarzer, as well as a decent teacher for young goalie David Stockdale.

Zuberbühler’s only Fulham appearance came in the 2008/09 League Cup against then-Championship side Burnley, as we fell 1-0 at Turf Moor (it was ever thus). He played the full 90 minutes in an under-strength side that included Frederik Stoor and Toni Kallio. Pascal would be on the bench in the Europa League final, and would stay at the club until the end of the 2010/11 season, before hanging up his gloves. He now works for FIFA as a goalkeeping specialist and museum ambassador.

4. Tom Donegan

Scouse midfielder Donegan joined our developmental squad from Everton as an 18-year-old in 2011. It wasn’t long before he found himself in and around the first-team squad, as the boys faced up to another busy European campaign, this time under the management of Martin Jol.

Donegan’s Fulham cameo came mid-summer in Belfast, as we took on Northern Irish side Crusaders in the Europa League second qualifying round. He came on for fellow midfielder Damien Duff with just four minutes to go, as the Whites saw out a 3-1 away win.

A loan stint at non-league Farnborough preceded Donegan’s Fulham exit in 2013. He went on to spend most of his career in Wales, notably for Rhyl FC. He’s still only 28, but his whereabouts now are less clear, with multiple sources stating he left the Welsh club in 2016.

5. Alex Smith

All in all, Alex Smith spent more than a decade at Craven Cottage, but only managed to make a single first-team appearance in that time. He joined the club’s academy at 11 years old in 2002 and signed his first professional contract in 2009, as a left-back.

It’d be another three years before Smith made his first-team debut. Now a midfielder, Martin Jol sent him on in injury time for Damien Duff in a 3-0 win over West Brom in 2012, after a Berbatov brace and Sidwell strike put us in the driving seat.

Just two months later, Smith was sent to League One Leyton Orient on loan, where he made a handful of appearances. He was sent to fellow League One side Stevenage Borough towards the end of the same season. So it was no surprise, then, when he was released in the summer of 2013. After several spells in the lower leagues, Smith most recently turned out for Hastings United in 2018.

6. Buomesca Tué Na Bangna

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Known simply as Mesca, the midfielder born in Guinea-Bissau, swapped the blue of rivals Chelsea for the white of Fulham in 2011, to a quiet murmur of excitement. Then 18, Mesca had joined Chelsea from Sporting, and had represented Portugal at youth level, though he was dogged by injuries.

Mesca’s only Fulham appearance came against – funnily enough – Chelsea in the 2013/14 season. He played the final 20 minutes of a 2-0 Premier League defeat at Stamford Bridge, coming on for Alex Kacaniklic. A couple of months later, Mesca was sent out to Crewe on emergency loan, linking up with fellow FFC player (and one-hit wonder) Neil Etheridge.

Despite our relegation in 2014, Mesca didn’t feature at all in our first Championship season, and left the club in 2015. He currently plies his trade in Cyprus for Doxa Katokopias.

7. Adil Chihi

Our fall from grace – and from the Premier League – in 2014 brought with it huge change and a raft of unknown faces. Adil Chihi was one of the more infamous ones. The German-born Moroccan international arrived in SW6 in the summer of 2014 after a short trial, as we prepared for life in the Championship.

We had no reason to think it wouldn’t be a decent move; the then 26-year-old had played more than 100 times for 1. FC Köln, and the German side had just returned to the Bundesliga. But the union wasn’t to be. Chihi’s one FFC appearance came in a 1-1 draw at home to Cardiff City in August 2014. He came on for Cauley Woodrow to play the last half an hour, but he was never to be seen again. He promptly exited the following summer, joining Persian side Esteghlal. He stopped playing in 2017. Describing his career, he said: “It was beautiful, interesting, crazy, then again brutal and sad. Unfortunately, I certainly did not exhaust what was possible in terms of potential”.

8. Stephen Arthurworrey

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Another one-hit wonder despite more than a decade’s service was towering defender Stephen Arthurworrey. He joined in 2005, aged 10, before signing his first professional deal six years later. Chances in the Premier League were always going to be limited, so when he impressed on loan at Tranmere Rovers as we plummeted out of the top flight during 2013/14, many thought the academy graduate was destined to help us return as the 2014/15 season rolled around.

However, it wasn’t meant to be. Stephen’s only first-team appearance came thanks to his old under-21s gaffer, Kit Symons, who played him at right-back against Derby in the League Cup. Despite going two up thanks to Moussa Dembele, we were eventually pummelled 5-2, as Symons attempted to undo the damage of the recently-ended Magath era. Arthurworrey would be loaned out to Yeovil just three days later, where he’d stay until he was released by Fulham in the summer of 2016. Still only 26, Stephen’s now out of the game, instead returning to university while working part-time as a sports specialist.

9. Larnell Cole

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“Where’s Larnell Cole?” was the question asked on Twitter almost daily from 2014 to 2017. Expectations were high when Cole arrived at the club, alongside fellow highly-rated Manchester United youth prospect Ryan Tunnicliffe, midway through our ill-fated 2013/14 campaign. The duo were both England youth internationals and had links to former United youth coach and current Fulham boss Rene Meulensteen (remember him?), so it’s fair to say fans had high hopes.

While Tunnicliffe went on to make more than 60 appearances for the Whites, Cole disappeared almost immediately – but not before making his only Fulham appearance. He came on for 10 minutes against his former club at Old Trafford in February 2014, as we nicked an unlikely point. A month after joining, Cole was sent out on loan to MK Dons by new boss Magath, in what was an absolute cluster of a season. Loan spells at Shrewsbury and Inverness would follow, before he was mercifully released in 2017. He was last heard of shacking up with long-time pal Jesse Lingard during the first Covid lockdown, before signing for non-league side Radcliffe Borough.

10. Thanos Petsos

Similarly to Chihi, there was no reason to believe the loan signing of Petsos in January 2017 be be anything but a solid move. The Greek central midfielder was an international, and had played the majority of his career in the Bundesliga, arriving from Werder Bremen. And we were a side on the up under Slavisa Jokanovic.

Petsos made his debut three days after signing, coming on for striker Chris Martin in the final 10 minutes against Premier League Hull City in the FA Cup, as the Whites saw out the final stages of a 4-1 win. But that’d be all she wrote – he’d return to Bremen that summer, before joining Rapid Vien on a permanent deal. He now plays for Austrian Bundesliga strugglers WSG Swarovski Tirol.

Make no mistake: these men didn’t distinguish themselves in the mighty white shirt of Fulham. But they’ve still lived the dream that each and every one of us has. How many do you remember – and I wonder who’ll be our next one-hit wonder.