Fulham’s Slavisa Jokanovic has no intention of giving Harvey Elliott regular first-team football this season, despite making him the club’s youngest ever player on Tuesday at Millwall.
The winger came on, aged 15 years and 174 days, during the final 10 minutes on an evening when they eased to a 3-1 victory and has since attracted significant interest.
His use of Ryan Sessegnon has demonstrated Jokanovic’s willingness to select young players if their talent demands, but for all of Elliott’s promise the manager believes he has to continue to develop and focus on his education before featuring as he may hope.
Jokanovic has not even seen Elliott — who he called “Harry” at Thursday’s press conference — since Tuesday because the teenager has been at school, and he said: “I don’t want anybody to be confused about this situation.
“He’s definitely a talented player – the club know it – but I found a moment in a game when we were more or less in a comfortable situation for one really young man. He played well, and that’s it. We don’t need to shake his hand and make him confused.
“There’s a long way in front of him for improvement; we gave him a chance to test himself, and that’s it. It’s better talking less about it because we expect in a few years he’ll be a really important player for Fulham; in this moment it’s better for him we don’t mention this situation so much.
“We’ll try and check the schedule of this kid, because he has an obligation with school, with Fulham too, and when we have the opportunity we’re going to keep going, check him, and keep working with him.
“We’d observed him and believe the kid’s strong enough, and shows enough personality to not be under any pressure. He showed quality on the field, and personality.
“I don’t want to talk about big benefits for the player — it’s not especially, it’s only 10 minutes in his life. We expect there’s going to be more important afternoons for him in a Fulham shirt.
“I’m thinking about (Saturday’s opponents) Everton, not about Harry Elliott. Now he must be thinking about homework and working with Fulham, and I’ll try and find a space for working with him.
“Sometimes I must protect especially young players. It’s better, especially for him, that he’s focused on daily work and daily life, and what’s ahead of him.”
Fulham travel to Goodison Park on Saturday hoping to secure their first away league victory of the season, but they do so with Neeskens Kebano still absent through injury and Alfie Mawson also a doubt with a back problem.
“(Everton) are a good team, we are talking about top six English team,” the 50-year-old Serbian said.
“It’s a really complicated away from home game, like the Etihad or Wembley. They are strong and experienced and we know there will be problems there and our job is to find a solution.”