Drew looks at some of the young talent set to tear up the league this year who could’ve been doing it in SW6.
We’ve all seen Harvey Elliott’s Instagram picture by now: “Just two boys from Motspur” he says below a picture of him and Fabio Carvalho turning out for Liverpool in pre-season.
It always hurts a bit to see academy graduates we’ve seen develop at the club move on so soon. But what about the ones who were never granted the full opportunity? Here are five young players who’ll grace the Premier League this term, but who were deemed surplus to requirements by Fulham’s academy system.
Djed SpenceEmbed from Getty Images
Spence has made the headlines quite a few times in recent weeks. Bombed out by Neil Warnock at Middlebrough at the start of last season, he helped Nottingham Forest get to, and triumph at, Wembley in the play-off final, before aiming a parting shot at his old gaffer on Twitter.
It was his activity on the pitch, rather than on social media, that attracted Spurs, though, who signed the right-back this month. Tottenham boss Antonio Conte revealed that it was a transfer driven by higher-ups at the club, and not one he’d personally earmarked.
But Fulham leaned more towards the Warnock end of the Spence scale than Spurs bigwigs, having released the player in 2018. He’d been at the club for two years, arriving as a 16-year-old, but never progressed beyond our PL2 side. He was picked up by Boro immediately after his release in July, and made his first-team debut just five months later.
Eberechi EzeEmbed from Getty Images
Eze started making headlines as a QPR player in 2018, having cut his teeth in League Two in a loan spell with Wycombe Wanderers. It didn’t take long for Premier League Crystal Palace to snap up the attacking midfielder in 2020, where he remains.
But the 24-year-old could’ve made it with Fulham, had the stars aligned. He arrived at Motspur Park in 2011 after five years in Arsenal’s youth system at various age levels. Then just 13 years old, he spent two years at the club, before a brief stint at Reading and then a scholarship deal with Millwall.
Despite not deeming Eze good enough in 2013, the Whites seemed ready to eat humble pie in 2020, when they reportedly tried to re-sign him ahead of our ill-fated 2020/21 Premier League campaign. But, of course, he opted for a fresh start with Palace.
Omar RichardsEmbed from Getty Images
Left-back Richards came to national attention when he signed for Bayern Munich last summer. Before that he was very much known to Reading and Championship fans, racking up nearly 100 appearances for the Royals before his 23rd birthday.
But it was at Fulham where he started his journey to the Allianz Arena and, subsequently, the City Ground. He joined our system at 10 years old and stayed for five years, playing most as a forward, before he was converted into a full-back.
Having made just 12 appearances for Bayern last term, we’ll all now be able to see if Richards has what it takes in the Premier League, as Forest recently shelled out €8.5m for him as part of their Fulham-esque summer spending spree.
Cody DramehEmbed from Getty Images
Drameh is the most recently departed of those on this list, and this season will be crucial to whether he actually becomes a Premier League wunderkind. A regular for our U23s, full-back Drameh left for Leeds United in the summer of 2020, leaving many of the Fulham Faithful annoyed.
A year later, he was mixing it up in the Leeds first team, running out in the EFL Cup and the Premier League. But the start proved a false dawn, as by January 2022, Cody was loaned out to Cardiff City amid rumours of discontent at Elland Road. By all accounts, he impressed in South Wales, picking up the young player of the year award.
With Leeds struggling to stay up last term, it remains to be seen if they’re ready to give the 20-year-old a prolonged run in the team, but a positive pre-season means he could well feature.
Declan RiceEmbed from Getty Images
This one is slightly contentious as we didn’t overlook West Ham’s midfield rock per se, but he certainly slipped through our fingers.
After being released by Chelsea at the age of 14, Fulham quickly got on the phone to Rice’s parents and the youngster was training just four hours after his exit from the Blues. However, the Hammers were also on the case, and Rice was in East London the following day to sample their academy.
It was a straight shoot-out between the Premier League pair, and Rice opted for a clean break from West London, progressing through the famous West Ham academy and into the first team. The Whites were left contemplating what could’ve been.