Exclusive Interview With Ryan Sessegnon: "I Haven't Made It As A Footballer Yet."

It's easy to forget Ryan Sessegnon is just 18.

Last season the teenager scored 16 goals to help Fulham secure promotion to the Premier League from the Championship. He won the won the Championship Player of the Season, Young Player of the Season, Apprentice of the Year and was named in the Team of the Season.

He was also the first player from outside the top flight to be shortlisted for the Professional Footballers' Association Young Player of the Year Award.

Fulham
Fulham

While his mantelpiece creaked under the strain of his personal haul, the Sky Sports News ticker-tape scrolled across the screen speculating as to whether England manager Gareth Southgate would take him to the World cup in Russia.

In the end, Southgate decided it was too early for Londoner. His time will come, he just has to be patient.

Once the World Cup was over the ticker-tape was rolling around again: This time, speculating about a potential big-money move for Sessegnon away from Craven Cottage.

Again, it was too soon. He stayed in south-west London. While pundits and fans are busy mapping out a future full of fame and fortune for Sessegnon, his feet are firmly on the ground - displaying a maturity that belies his tender years.

"Even at this moment I haven't made it as a footballer," he tells SPORTbible. "Yes, for my age I've played a lot of games, but I haven't made it. I've got a lot of work to do."

He repeats the line, "I haven't made it as a footballer", two more times to emphasise the point.

Image: PA
Image: PA

Life back in the Premier League has been unforgiving. The Cottagers have lost their opening two matches to Crystal Palace and Tottenham - a stark reminder of how tough it is to establish yourself in England's top tier.

Sessegnon's individual performances have shown promise, typified by his assist for Aleksandar Mitrovic during Fulham's 3-1 loss to Spurs, but for now, he's not getting carried away with the excitement surrounding his potential, he has far more modest ambitions.

"This season I want play as many games in the Premier League as I can," he says. "There's 38 games in the season and hopefully I can play in every one. I have to take it step-by-step.

"I haven't set any targets in terms of goals and assists. At this moment I just want to stay in the team and play well.

"As a team our target is to stay up, we don't want to go back down to the Championship. If we can stay in the Premier League it will be a good achievement."

Image: PA
Image: PA

Fulham chairman Shahid Khan might have loftier ambitions than avoiding relegation after he laid out £100 million new players.

It will take time for Slavisa Jokanovic's new recruits time to acclimatize to life at Craven Cottage, but for Sessegnon, this is home.

A product of the academy, he grew up in nearby Roehampton, honing his skills inside the ultimate proving ground for skill, speed and swagger: The cage.

"There was a concrete cage where me and my mates used to go and play 5-a-side," he recalls, speaking at the Nike Phantom 5-a-side tournament. "We would play against anyone who was around."

Image: Nike
Image: Nike

Whether he's playing as a full-back, a winger or a hybrid of the two - a wing-back - the guile and trickery he learned on the concrete pitches of the capital have served him well.

"When you play street football, you play in tight areas, you take a lot of touches and you have dribble. As a pro, I've taken those skills into 11-a-side against better players," he explains.

"I started as an attacker, but when I reached the under-18s the coaches at Fulham pushed me to left-back because they thought I had endurance to run up and down. Since I've been in the first team the gaffer saw I could do it as a winger too.

"I don't know (what my best position is), but at this moment I prefer playing left wing because last season I was able to make such a difference playing in that position."

Image: NIKE
Image: NIKE

When he walks out at Craven Cottage to take on Burnley this Sunday he'll be hoping he can be the difference between the two sides and help Fulham pick up their first points of the season.

If he plays a starring role, the hype train will shift into gear, but don't expect Sessegnon to get too carried away - he's too focused on developing the nous and talent to succeed.

PhantomVSN Raised on Concrete and Black Op is on pitch now and available at nike.com

Jack Kenmare

Jack Kenmare is a writer at SPORTbible. He's interviewed some huge names in the world of sport, including Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Pele, Carles Puyol and Tim Henman. He dabbles in all things sport, but football is his biggest passion. He was once hit in the head by a wayward strike from Nicky Butt and lived to tell the tale.

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