“We are, unquestionably, the best club in the country” – Huw Jennings to FST AGM 2021.
The Trust was delighted to be joined on Zoom for our 2021 AGM by Head of Football Development at Fulham Huw Jennings, and his opening line was only the start of what was an incredibly insightful look at the Fulham Women’s team and its growth, as well as a discussion about the Academy, our young players and the plans that are being made for a bright future for Fulham’s homegrown.
Opening the discussion on the matter of taking on the women’s team as part of his new role, which began ahead of the 2021/22 season, Huw clearly sees the new challenge as something to relish.
“It was time to look at some succession planning and I realised I had to be open to whatever the Club wanted to do with me. I continue to really enjoy working at the Club, and we are unquestionably the best club in the country. One of the things that we certainly felt that we needed to do was embrace our women’s programme, by bringing it first to the performance side of the Club. Mike McSweeney and his colleagues had done a sterling job at the Foundation, but women’s football is growing immeasurably…[and we were] conscious we weren’t doing what we should be doing to demonstrate the importance of the women’s programme.”
There is clearly a long-term growth plan for women’s and girls’ football for all, with exciting plans afoot from youth level upwards. Although the Club are currently unable to have a youth level team, the opportunities for girls to get involved in playing football are being nurtured and expanded across ages through the great work of the Fulham FC Foundation.
With open questions from our audience of Trust members, the discussion moved to insightful chat around the role of transitions for young players, and how this is being managed by the Club. As he explained the intricacies of the requirements needed to take a player through youth level to a professional contract, and the specific set of circumstances that need to align, it was a frank discussion about ways that it is done well, the support that is given to younger players, and the free will of players to make their own decisions when it becomes time to go professional. It’s something that Huw clearly has a great passion for given the time he afforded us all to provide an explanation of what happens now at the Club, plans for the future, and also in the past given some well-known cases of players not remaining after years spent with the Fulham academy.
It’s clearly an area that still requires building, and this is a strong reason for the new role that Huw has taken on with the Club, with his goal being to see more Fulham players rise through the ranks to play for the first team in the Premier League.
Many can see from the outside that for any club involved in three relegations and two promotions over eight years, planning and understanding the future is never easy. As Huw explained, however, the goal is and remains the same, the Premier League for the first team, and youth players to play a vital role in that. It’s something that Marco Silva has made clear to the current youth setup too, shown with the use of Jay Stansfield and Adrion Pajaziti this season.
We’d like to give a big thank you to Huw Jennings for joining us this year and for his openness during the evening, and also to his Cavachon Brinkley who provided a number of entertaining interventions!
To be able to participate in our next AGM, which we hope to have in-person too, and our other future plans for 2022, please consider becoming a Trust member if you’re not already. It’s always great to hear from new voices from across the Fulham family.