Will Adam Taggart succeed at Fulham?

ANALYSIS: He's taken on the former holders at a World Cup but an even bigger challenge awaits the youngster as he seeks to carve out a career in England
Adam Taggart's wish of a shot at the big time was granted this week when the striker sealed a transfer to Fulham, but will it afford one of Australia's brightest attacking talents the best chance to develop and grow as a player?

Ange Postecoglou wants his new generation of Socceroos to be playing at the highest level possible by the time the 2018 World Cup comes around and signing a three-year deal at Craven Cottage is certainly a step in the right direction for Taggart.

The 21-year-old faces several challenges, some of them common to any young Australian player taking the plunge overseas, others unique to the situation he will face at the west London club.

A level-headed, determined and hard-working young man, Taggart flourished after uprooting himself from his native Western Australia to play for the Newcastle Jets, where he won the A-League's golden boot last season.

It's another big leap again to relocate to the UK, but he should have no trouble adapting to London, particularly with fellow Aussie Ryan Williams at the club and national team captain Mile Jedinak across the city at Crystal Palace.

The same can't be said for Fulham themselves after their painful recent change in circumstances. It's never easy adjusting to the harsh reality of life in the second tier after any length of stay in the Premier League, particularly when you've been there for as long as Fulham, who were promoted in 2001.

Taggart's former Jets colleague Ruben Zadkovich, now with Perth Glory, can attest to the challenges facing a new player with a low profile arriving at relegated club. The midfielder joined Derby County in April 2008, a month after their pitiful demotion - the earliest in Premier League history - had been confirmed.   

Zadkovich struggled for fitness before seeing the manager who signed him, Paul Jewell, quit eight months later. Largely ignored by Nigel Clough, he left by mutual consent to join the Jets in 2010.

Now 28, a potential move back to the UK with Millwall failed to transpire last year and the three-cap Socceroo looks likely to end his career in Australia, an indication of how difficult it can be to 'make it' in football's fiercely competitive heartland.

It's also difficult to predict how Fulham - who rarely looked up for the relegation dogfight last term - will fare in the physically demanding Championship under Felix Magath. The German coach with a reputation for strict discipline bordering on cruel eccentricity is deeply unpopular with some of his former players. Brought in to save the team from demotion, he couldn't pull off an escape act. If they start the 2014-15 campaign badly, how long will he stick around?

Assuming they stick around, among those barring Taggart's path to a first-team berth at the Cottagers is Bryan Ruiz, the Costa Rican who helped his team stun Italy and Uruguay en route to the World Cup's round of 16.

The other strikers on Fulham's books are last season's big-money signing Konstantinos Mitroglou and Colombian Hugo Rodallega, both experienced internationals.

If he does get an opportunity to play, Taggart will find the level a significant step up from the A-League, where forwards enjoy far more time and space than Europe's top divisions. The Championship is played at the furious pace befitting English football's best traditions, but with significant advances in technical quality made in recent years.

He won't face defenders of their calibre away to Brentford or Bournemouth, but we saw the Socceroo newcomer totally negated by Sergio Ramos and Raul Albiol in Australia's 3-0 loss to Spain at the World Cup.

Taggart lacked the height or physical strength to trouble a defence made to look utterly incompetent by the Netherlands two matches earlier. While still someway below that elite standard of competition, these are the circles the 21-year-old will be moving in now.

Pace and a poacher's instinct can serve Taggart well, but he will need to become even more clinical in front of goal, as well as stronger - physically and mentally - to have any chance of making a lasting impression.

The odds are against him, but if he can overcome them and thrive in such a cut-throat competition, it will prove a major boost to the Socceroos in the years to come and show the way forward for other young players emerging to excel in the A-League. We wish him luck.