by Mike Forrest

Most of the footballing world will have watched Uniteds’ game against Fulham last night and whilst everyone can name all of United’s squad and most of Fulham’s, there was one player who the majority will not have heard of; Kerim Frei.

Kerim Frei came onto the first team scene this season, his inclusion aided by Martin Jol’s mission to implement youth into a stagnating Fulham squad. Possessing pace in abundance, his willingness to run directly at goal and generally being a nuisance for defenders contributed to making him the stand out player in the Fulham Academy.

He has made sporadic appearances for the whites, with varying degrees of success. Frei announced himself as a player to be keenly watched with an impressive display against Chelsea in the League Cup and Odense in the Europa League, while also making successful cameos against Swansea and Arsenal.

Yet despite his undoubted potential, he has only featured 15 times in all competitions for the first team. 15 times sounds like a lot for an 18 year old, but Frei is at the stage where first team games are the only thing that will help spike his development.

Too many“Developmental” games with the reserves and youths will halt Frei’s progress from becoming the best player that he can be. Take for instance Wilfried Zaha. Zaha is 19. He has made over 75 senior first team appearances for Crystal Palace and absolutely tore Uniteds’ defence to shreds earlier on in the season, Frei although hardworking against United was spectacularly forgettable.

Zaha plays first team football week in week out. Every game he plays, he improves as a player. He is learning the senior game in a great league and will soon be good enough to play regularly in a higher league.

Frei rarely gets a regular run in the Fulham team and is left to languish in the youths and reserves league, levels that he is too good for. The problem for Frei is that Fulham don’t appear to have the patience to give him a regular run out, favouring experienced players instead.

So what now for the Swiss Under-19 international? How does he progress if Fulham are unable to give him consistent first team time? Fulham recently sent out Swedish winger Alex Kacaniklic on loan to Watford where he has flourished, notching up 4 assists and 1 goal in 11 games.

Frei recently extended his contract with Fulham until 2015. Next season should be the season where the club ship him out on loan – if they are unwilling to give him game time – to a club like Watford. First team football in the Championship will accelerate his development at a phenomenal rate, meaning we won’t be seeing too many more timid displays like that at Old Trafford when he returns.