Nobody emerged from Fulham with much credit in what proved to be a disastrous 2018/19. With their backs to the wall throughout the Cottagers scraped together just seven wins from 38 and were relegated three weeks prior to Easter. It was to put it mildly a poor show all round.
It seems unfair then to reference this calamitous campaign and highlight a nagging concern regarding one player. It seems unfair to single anyone out. That discounts though the fact that this particular player was recently considered a phenomenon; a bona fide superstar-in-the-making no less. In that context his fall has been sharper than most.
At the tail-end of the season before last with Fulham in the ascendancy and promotion-bound, a 17 year old Ryan Sessegnon collected every EFL award going. He won the Championship Player of the Year, the Young Player of the Season, and even the Apprentice of the Year for good measure. He became the first teenager outside of the top flight to be nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year while his 14 goals – scored from left-back, left wing and as an attacking midfielder – was only two short of the collective haul bagged by every other teen in his league.
His confidence on the ball astounded for someone so young. He lightning pace and quick feet caused havoc against defences that had mostly been there and worn the t-shirt. He brought to mind the remarkable emergence of Gareth Bale only not as a 21-year-old at Spurs after several seasons of incremental progress but straight away, as a wide-eyed kid fresh out of the box.
In the build-up to Russia 2018 there were even calls for his inclusion in Gareth Southgate’s World Cup squad and this after the London-born flyer had made just 82 professional starts none of which were at the highest level.
Check out what the Pl>ymaker FC squad got up to at the Football Blogging Awards in the video below…
Nobody knew where his development ceiling was at that juncture and that truly excited. “We believe he’s going to be an important player in this country and in the future for the English national team.” That’s what his then manager Slaviska Jokanovic said about him ahead of January 2018.
Contrast all this hype to now and with a year remaining on his contract and with his club heading back to the Championship the big guns are circling for Sessegnon’s signature. Tottenham are reported to be leading the chase with a fee of around £45m said to be sufficient to secure the services of a player who so recently was viewed as our next big hope.
Only now the hype has dimmed. The estimation of Sessegnon has settled. Even a ceiling has possibly been spied. Last term the versatile star was unable to break up a Joe Bryan/Andre Schurrle duopoly down Fulham’s left and made just 26 Premier League starts. Few were of note.
This is not to suggest of course that Ryan Sessegnon has turned into a bad player over-night. It is perfectly normal for any youngster’s progress to momentarily stall before picking up again. This is especially true when playing for a relegation-haunted side.
Yet it is equally true to say that this summer Sessegnon heads to Italy for England’s participation in the Euro Under 21 finals with a certain pressure to perform. Do so and last season is dismissed as a blip. Fail to make any mark and doubts will set in.
Is Sessegnon a generational talent or a flash in the pan? Most likely his talents lie somewhere in between and very shortly we’ll find out where.