EXCLUSIVE BY YANN TEAR
Joe Bryan believes he is a better defender now under the guidance of Scott Parker than he has ever been – and says it more than compensates for his lack of goals.
The Fulham defender, now in his second season at Craven Cottage following a £6million move from Bristol City two seasons ago, has yet to find the net for Fulham in the Championship.
His only goal so far came in a League Cup tie at Millwall last season.
That might not be too surprising for most full backs, but it is for Bryan, whose marauding instincts led to spectacular goals for his previous club and he is a player with a keen eye for goal who also played at wing back at City.
He netted a blistering goal against Crystal Palace and another corker against Manchester United in a run to the semi-finals with the West Country Club.
But Bryan insists he is not bothered by the barren spell and happy to be improving the contribution he makes at left back. So far, he has played every minute of every game.
“I got something like one goal in 10 matches at City so I’m probably due a goal,” the 25-year-old told the London Weekly News.
“But we’ve got so many good attacking players and it’s probably best to just let them get on with it.
“I think the defensive side of my game has come on a bit in the last six months under Scott Parker and I feel a lot more confident. We do a lot more analysis work in training.
“I did play at wing back before, but I’m a left back and always seen myself as a left back. I’m much more comfortable in that role.
“I love it here at Fulham. I feel settled now and am enjoying my football. And I feel fitter than ever before.
“Fulham this season are playing a lot of possession-based football and a high tempo defensive game, which suits me.”
Bryan, who signed a four-year deal, with an option to extend for a year, when he moved to west London in August 2018, is convinced he made the right move last year, despite the disastrous brush with top flight football in his first season with the Whites.
“It was good, I really enjoyed it – or maybe not,” he said, making fun of the pain felt by everyone during a terrible campaign. “Such is life. I’m grateful to have had a chance to play in the Premier League but the aim now has to be to try and get back and do better.
“It doesn’t bother me that we are favourites to go back up. Maybe, when I was younger, that would have worried me, but we have a high-quality squad.
It’s a division where everyone can beat everyone and we can’t expect to pick up easy wins. We still have to run around a lot. But we have the quality we need.
“We dropped points in our last two games after the win against Millwall, but it’s still early in the season and the team is still coming together. It’s still a newish line up not used to each other.
“We’ll try to get back to winning on Saturday against West Brom. We know they are a good team who will be up there at the end of the season.
They’ve got a lot of quality – a lot of good players.”
Bryan is famously an avid reader and is currently ploughing through a book about leadership.
It begs the question of whether he has ambitions to one day take the captain’s armband. But he thinks that is a responsibility best shared.
“I think we all have good leadership qualities,” he said. “Scott wants 11 leaders out on the pitch. His view is that we shouldn’t rely on one person and also if one person is struggling, it’s down to the others to drag him through.”
Whatever the season brings, Bryan has one particular date to look forward to, when Fulham take on his old team on December 7.
He should get a good reception from Bristol City fans, whose pain at seeing ‘one of our own’ go was offset up and understanding that he was entitled to try his luck in the top flight.
Team-mate Bobby Reid will be met with a far more hostile reception, having defected to hated rivals Cardiff City to taste Premier League football.
“I’m looking forward to the game against Bristol City – Bobby maybe less so,” Bryan said.
“Ultimately though, without sounding rude, I’m not really too fussed about what reception I get from the fans.
Sometimes you have to leave to further your career. Bobby also left for a higher league and I don’t think anyone can argue with testing yourself.”