There’s an old saying in football, that having competition for places can be a good thing.
It gives players that little bit of extra motivation to perform well, knowing that if their performance levels drop off, they’ve got someone waiting in the wings behind them to take their place. However, it isn’t quite as simple as that, as Fulham’s Cyrus Christie can justify.
Having first signed for the Whites in January of 2018, there has been no shortage of competition for the Irishman, with the likes of Ryan Fredericks, Denis Odoi, Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Steven Sessegnon all fighting for the same position at one time or another during his time in SW6.
And it doesn’t help when someone signs for a team that is going through a great run at the time they were brought to the club, and speaking to FLW, Christie says that it was something he was well aware of during his early days at the club.
“Obviously when I joined up [January 2018] I knew as he [Ryan Fredericks] was there, and obviously I was brought to come in and replace him. I knew the situation but I think at the time, they obviously thought that Ryan may have left in that January so I kind of knew what I was coming into.
Obviously, I would have wanted to start a few more games, but when you come into the team that stayed unbeaten until the end of the season you know you’ve got to come in take a chance and obviously the chances were limited.
When a team’s winning, you’d know most managers would like to stick to a winning team and it was tough coming from Middlesbrough where I was playing every weekend, playing some of the best football in my career. I’ve gone from there to not playing, but I kind of knew what was ahead in the future.”
But even when Fredericks eventually left the club at the end of that season having sealed promotion and Christie was given a chance to make his case to be a regular under Slavisa Jokanovic there were problems. A flurry of signings, many of them late in the window, meant that there was still a lot of work that needed to be done, and Fulham didn’t have the same settled side like they did during the unbeaten run in the latter half of their Championship campaign.
“Going into the Premier League season [18/19] I thought I played well, and I was feeling good.
And then all of a sudden, Slavisa Jokanovic changed the team and everyone was in and out. And then, you know, my chances were coming against the likes of Man City and the bigger teams where ultimately they’re the ones you expect us to get dominated and it’s tough when you don’t get a consistent run of games.
At the end of the day, you need three or four games to get up to speed running, it’s hard to jump in and out for six or seven games because you lose your match sharpness. It’s tough to replicate that in training because obviously, match fitness is completely different, you can’t replicate that.”
So going into his third different campaign under his third boss in Scott Parker, has a lot really changed for Christie? Not particularly, it took until December for him to get a consistent run of games together, and it certainly wasn’t easy for the 27-year-old, but there was one thing that he attributed to finally breaking into the team, and that was keeping himself mentally strong in the weeks and months leading up to it.
“At the start of this season it was the same you know, with this manager, I just wasn’t in the squad for whatever reason and, you know, mentally it was it was tough but, I kept myself in the same place and you know, I always believed that when you work hard and you do your exorcisms and do different stuff it will all pay off. It might not pay off straight away, it will at some point and then the opportunity came for me to come back to the team and I thought I played well, and I showed what I’ve been capable of.”
But that doesn’t mean things are going to be any different going forward, because there’s still a few names that are rattling around that could cause a few problems at that position.
“That’s been tough for me not being able to show my true full potential and capability at Fulham, and obviously the club and the fans and I think the managers know what I can bring to the table it’s just about getting in there, like I said is there is there is tough opposition.
In terms of obviously Dennis Odoi playing there obviously, he does see himself as a centre back. And you have Steven Sessegnon on as well who’s come in the season and done really well. It’s great and it helps the competition for places.”
This week sees the launch of Football Beyond Walls, an initiative that pairs young people and professional footballers for a game of FIFA and a meaningful conversation about their lives in lockdown.
The first footballer taking part is Fulham’s Cyrus Christie – who took on two teenagers at FIFA. You can see the results in this brilliant film. https://vimeo.com/415466197/45f135a012
Ahead of the launch, he spoke to FLW about his involvement in the initiative and his thoughts on mental health and Fulham’s promotion chances.