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Friday, 18 August 2017

Cauley Woodrow - a view from the Cottage

At first glance, the signing of a striker who can't get into Fulham's matchday plans may seem a strange one by Lee Johnson. After all, not only must there be a question over how capable he is based on that scenario, but despite the departures of Lee Tomlin and the pair of Hams this summer (Tammy Abraham and Aaron Wilbraham), City have what appears a top-heavy eight strikers on their books still.

However, that's not the full story. Famara Diedhiou and Bobby Reid have started the season together, with Freddie Hinds acting as cover. Milan Djuric, Matty Taylor and Arnold Garita (remember him?!) are currently injured. That's six, but half are injured. Then you have Gustav Engvall who has gone back to Sweden, probably for the last time, while under 23 goal machine Shaun McCoulsky is (rightly) learning his trade in League Two with Newport County.

The other reason Johnson would have been after an extra body is that although he is 'only' six foot tall, he's more of a target man option than most of the afore-mentioned list. At Brentford on Tuesday, Johnson had no choice available to bring on a physical, big option for the disappointing Diedhiou, and Hinds came on instead. You can argue we had to play differently than we might have otherwise, say if Wilbraham had been available to come on, which may have in turn helped us to equalise, but you can understand why Johnson wants a different option later on in matches and, with Djuric out for another two months, he had nowhere else to go.

By the way, before we leave our long list of forwards, many have questioned why we're bringing in a player when Gustav Engvall is scoring goals for fun in Sweden. It's a fair question, but quite simply, Engvall obviously isn't good enough. We might have spent a lot of money on him, but that happens to all clubs. Watching him in the Swedish league he may have looked quick, incisive, a physical threat but Johnson and his coaching team have now watched him in training for a whole year, and if he's not up to it at this level, then he's not up to it. End of.

So onto Cauley Woodrow. The first thing anyone looks for when a striker is signed is the goals record and in Woodrow's case it's safe to say that it's not spectacular. The positive however, is that his best spell was in the Championship on loan with Burton last season, so maybe he's maturing and, given the right service, can improve his overall goals to game ratio.

We all know fans of clubs can turn quickly when a player leaves them, but the reaction from Fulham fans on today's news was quite something else! It seems Woodrow is far from a favourite at the Cottage, and many were delighted and surprised we were willing to take him on. With that background, I spoke with Andrew Beck, @arbeck on Twitter, from Fulham fan site,Cottagers Confidential, and asked him why there was that sort of reaction.

"Cauley Woodrow isn't a bad player by any means. He's probably a fine striker at the lower levels of the Championship or League One.

He also isn't a great fit for Fulham's system. He's not small, but he's not really big enough to be your typical hold-up forward. He's not slow and unathletic, but he's not fast and mobile enough to be used on the wing.

He's got fairly good technical skills, and ideally he needs to be paired with another forward in a 4-4-2. If you have a speedier technical player Woodrow can combine well with him. If you have a bigger forward, he can float around and find space and combine with other players in the attack.

Part of the reason Fulham fans are down on Woodrow is that they had quite high hopes for him. He was a key figure in some academy teams that had a lot of success and played a lot for England youth teams. His development just kind of stalled after that.

I don't think you'll be able to win promotion with him as one of your two forwards. But I also don't think he would be the reason you get relegated if he's one of your two forwards.

There's also a chance he figures things out and takes a leap forward with consistent playing time, he's at the age where players often have things click and they start to reach their potential. I'd still bet against him becoming much more than he is now, but it's certainly worth a gamble."

Hardly effusive in his praise and all in all, on that reckoning, we appear to have a fairly 'average' player, but clearly the potential has been there through his youth career, and with a run of games, some goals and a bit of confidence, who knows what can happen?

One thing is certain, he sure can hit a ball. This was Fulham's goal of the season winner and you've got to assume it's not a one-off from the fact he even tried it. Very few of our players seem capable of hitting a ball from that distance so that alone would offer a different threat during games for the opposition defence to deal with.

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