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Fulham: Manchester City’s “feeded” team?

16 August 2010

You often hear the term “feeder league” attached to the Eredivisie or (in what would be a compliment) MLS. Their status in the world soccer hierarchy leaves them as generators of young talent that gets sold off for profit to larger clubs. Then they take the proceeds, reinvest in more young players and complete the cycle.

With the looming new 25-man roster rule in the Premiership, though, there is an opportunity for clubs like Fulham — with limited youth prospects and transfer budgets — to sustain by vulturing the castoffs from clubs like Manchester City, picking up quality, established players for cents on the dollar. Much has been made about whether Roque Santa Cruz or Craig Bellamy will reunite (again) with Mark Hughes, but nabbing Shay Given on a loan to enable a sale of Mark Schwarzer to Arsenal would be very smart business, as well.

Fulham is in an interesting situation. They were the only Premiership side last season not to have a starter younger than 25 years old. While they’re not suffering the aging at multiple key positions yet like a Manchester United or Chelsea, the Cottagers also don’t have a wealth of quality in the reserves nor the inventory or budget to have a well-stoked youth pipeline.

While it would be nice to make more stealth acquisitions like 23-year-old Belgian Moussa Dembele, the Mark Hughes transition will be more one of triage than revolution, at least in the near term. Fulham is a team built to win (to their relative capability) now, and using City’s detritus to their advantage may be a very sound short-term strategy while the Abu Dhabi billionaires churn through talent to try to find the right combination at Eastlands.

The other part of the “feeded” strategy is that Fulham and other lesser Prem sides could be an interesting option for loans of youth players from teams like City. Budding stars like Vladimir Weiss have nowhere to go in City’s setup now that they have two international-level players at virtually every position. There aren’t even Cup games to be had for promising youngsters with so many quality senior players on the books and the club desperate for silverware to knock down the infamous “timetable” banner at Old Trafford.

At some point, Fulham is going to have to develop more David Stockdales or buy very smartly in the transfer market to get an infusion of youth into the club. In the interim, City can hand us their (not very) tired, their (not all that) poor, their huddled masses desperate for minutes. Fulham is not a reasonable competitor for City anymore, but if we can benefit from their largesse while helping them out a bit? I’m all for it.

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