Having a strong youth department at a football club is one thing, but having a first team management group ready to blood them is a completely different kettle of fish.
Fortunately for Fulham , Slavisa Jokanovic and his backroom staff have no problem in putting their faith in youth, something we've seen with the likes of Ryan Sessegnon, Steven Sessegnon, Tayo Edun, Matt O'Riley and Dennis Adeniran, to name just a few, all getting their debuts under the 49-year-old.
Huw Jennings , Fulham's Academy Director, has spoken very fondly of the relationship that the Academy share with the first team, revealing his feelings that the two departments are on the same page in terms of understanding what the Academy can bring to the senior team party.
The likes of Edun, O'Riley, Luca de la Torre all train with the senior side on a regular basis, while Jennings also revealed that one of the members of the U18 squad has been in for a couple of sessions with the first team - something that is vital for both a player's development and the ability to introduce them to a senior set up.
Speaking of the relationship, Jennings said: “We have a really good relationship with our first team staff.
“I think as they’ve grown to know us and I think they’ve grown to know and get a feel that we’re on the same page in terms of an understanding of our playing strength.
“One of the things they do exceptionally well is to involve a lot of the young players in the training programme.
“So in addition to those that are playing or involved in the squad from the playing side, there are quite a few who are training quite regularly.
“We've had an U18 player this week who has been in for a couple of sessions and that’s great for him and his development and I think they’re very accommodating when it comes to that.
“Slav also knows that you need proven men in the Championship and I think if you look at a few of our players then, the likes of Tayo Edun for example, who can play some games and hopefully will be involved more, Luca de la Torre is another example, but they’re probably not ready to start 10, 20 games in the season in the positions they play.
“Sometimes it’s tough, because the young players feel they’re so close, but also they’re quite a long way away as well.
“What the training regime is designed for is to ensure when called upon, they’re ready.”
If you're every fortunate to spend time around the Academy and with Jennings himself, pathways is something you'll hear a lot of.
It's something Jennings is keen to talk about, having pathways from the Academy into the first team is vital for any youth programme, and the early exposure that Fulham's youngsters have gotten as a result of Jokanovic is something the Cottagers have over their rivals in the south east.
The Championship is a tough league, the average age is 26.4-years-old and the pressure for success is high, meaning a lot of sides don't have any real pathway from their Academy to their senior side, and what Jennings hopes to achieve with Fulham's Academy is to show there is a consistency to the pathway they've established.
“We’re well aware that there are plenty of other clubs that have done very well with that, and if you look at London, Tottenham clearly have led the way recently with some very high profile players that have got into their team," he added.
“But we think that we compete favourably and particularly with the age profile of some our players, they have benefited from early exposure to the first team to get an experience.
“I think what we have to show is that there’s a consistency to this, it’s not something that will happen occasionally but it’s something that will happen consistently and hopefully we’re developing a body of players who will grow together into the first team group.
“In the Championship, you have to be realistic, the average age of the teams is pretty high and there aren’t many clubs that are blooding young players because the attritional nature of the competition means it’s very challenging for young players to be able to compete with that.
“The Ryan Sessegnons of this world are the absolute exception, to be able to play in every league game when we’re halfway through the season and already been competing in about 26 games, that is very much the exception.
“But if we can dip our players in and out, and hopefully over time a number can establish themselves, that is key for our success."
Junior tickets are just £1 when Fulham take on Burton Albion at the Cottage on Saturday, January 20. To book your tickets call the Fulham FC Ticket Office on: 0203 871 0810 or book online .
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