Musa striving for first team position

By Jared Smith,

It was just a week of sun literally just a week before over 20 hours in the plane back to the rain and snow in England.

But when he goes back, Wanganui's footballing export James Musa is determined to keep the light on him.

At just 20 years of age, the centre back has already known the harsh realities of professional football like his release from the Wellington Phoenix in 2010 and when his promising 2011 deal with Bradford City fell through due to the departure of manager Peter Jackson.

Now, a few months into his one year contract with Premier League team Fulham FC, Musa feels his current environment might be cold in climate, but nurturing in intent.

Despite his schedule, Fulham manager Martin Jol is always happy to have a chat with the member of his club's Under 21 (aka reserve) team which is usually a good sign.

With a deal that will be reviewed this January and can be optioned for another 12 months from the middle of 2013, Musa can see the path to the club's first team and becoming a staple of the Premier League.

"It was tough [in my early career] but I think football is an unpredictable sport, you have to take what comes," he said yesterday in his parent's Wanganui home, shortly before packing his bag in the knowledge he will be back on his London training pitch in just over two days time.

"I've been talking to agents and the vibe is that I'm doing well there, but you never know.

"They did say 'we're not expecting you to come in and be the best player in the league, we understand you're going to have to adapt'."

A student of the game, Musa recalls the case of Dennis Bergkamp the Dutch international who joined the Premier League in the mid-1990s and initially struggled before evolving into one of the league's great players.

Fellow New Zealander Winston Reid is another who had to adjust to the English-style game after transferring from his Danish club to West Ham United.

"Wherever you go it's a bit of getting use to," Musa said.

"But you wouldn't be there if you weren't good enough, you've got to keep that in the back of your mind as well."

His review this month will come during the transfer window in the English game where like the Old West the best guns for hire may leave their current employers for potentially greener pastures, or go temporarily assist another club in the lower level Football League when financial arrangement can be agreed between parties.

Like on the field, Musa can spot his opening there are three centre backs on the books at Fulham FC right now, one of whom is on loan.

The first team consists of both promising youth and cast-iron campaigners, yet lacks for young veterans.

Those guys with a few years at top level who are still coming into their prime are the backbone of any professional sports franchise and that's where Musa would eventually like to pitch himself.

"I've got internationals for New Zealand [Fulham's] got a lot of older internationals, but not a lot of young ones.

"It would be ideal to stay with Fulham but go out on loan for six months.

"Football's quite a selfish game, you've got to do it for yourself."

It helps the youngster has found his feet.

In those early days at Fulham he stayed in the Digs an academy-style setup where meals are prepared and drivers transport guys around until they get used to searching their way through London's bustling metropolis.

He now flats with a team mate who has a car and they travel to training together while Musa looks to build on the eight games he has played against the other Premier League's reserve teams over the past three months.

He's been lucky as well a bit of strapping on his foot after being kicked there twice against Chelsea and a slight groin injury which kept him out against Liverpool, despite wanting to play, are the only minor issues he has experienced in this crucial stage of professional development when you are trying to make your name.

Still, he has not been forgotten back in his home on the other side of the world, which surprised even Musa when he learned he was named International Junior Sportsperson of the Year at the Wanganui Sports Awards in November.

Last week was the first time he got to see his trophy.

"Dad text me when I won, I didn't even know they were on, it was good to get that."

- Wanganui Chronicle

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