Tomas Kalas is the latest subject of our interview series talking to our players who are developing out on loan.
The defender enjoyed an excellent start to the season with Fulham before a hamstring injury tempered his progress, but the 23-year-old is now close to a return and is hoping to help the Cottagers emulate what he achieved at Middlesbrough last season, promotion to the Premier League...
Tomas, first of all, what was the thinking behind you going on loan to Fulham?
To play games, that’s what I need. That’s the first point.
The second point is to win something. I got promoted with Middlesbrough and I think Fulham have the squad to get promoted as well. The season has been a bit up and down so far, but we are close to the play-offs and there are so many games things can turn very quickly.
At Middlesbrough you were often deployed at right-back but at Fulham you have been playing in the centre of defence. Does that position suit you better?
I have always been a central defender and I got the offer to play centre-back at Fulham. I said it didn’t matter where I played, I knew the most important thing is to play.
I was alternating between right-back and centre-back at Boro, but if I could choose I prefer to play centre-back. I told that to Slavisa Jokanovic, the Fulham manager.
"We are playing more football and so I need to be calm on the ball and use it well."
You mention Jokanovic, who of course used to play for Chelsea. What is he like as a manager?
Every manager has something different. He has his own way on how to manage the team, like all managers. We have a good relationship. He was calling me before I joined Fulham so I knew of the interest from the manager and not just the club, and that was important.
Before injury, you had developed a good relationship with Michael Madl at the heart of the Fulham defence. How do you complement each other?
That’s true, and also Ragnar Sigurddson when I have played with him. I think I will get on well with everyone. It’s just about getting to know each other, their style of play and working out who prefers what: if he is more muscular and going in to challenges then I can cover him, or whatever. I had the feeling it was working in our defence very well.
You had a long spell, a season-and-a-half at Middlesbrough before going to Fulham…
I really liked the club and I really enjoyed my time there, together with the boys. The dressing room was really strong in terms of spirit and that’s probably why Middlesbrough got promoted, aside from the quality that was there. The strong spirit was the main part in the promotion chase. I think I was a big part of the squad and I helped a lot hopefully.
The Championship is always a highly competitive league. What qualities are needed as a defender?
Everything. It depends on how your team are playing. We are playing more football and so I need to be calm on the ball and use it well. When you are playing against a team who are just kicking long balls, as many teams do in the Championship because they have strong players up front who can hold the ball up, you have to be strong as well. There’s no doubt about it.
It’s a mix of everything as a defender. You can’t be slow as a central defender because some strikers are fast, so you have to be fast as well. You can’t really focus on one thing.
You can be strong but if it takes two weeks for you to turn then it’s difficult because a player will be past you and shooting while you are still turning. Everything has to be balanced.
You have also established yourself in the senior Czech Republic set-up now…
We have a new manager now and I feel I have got on well with him. It’s really unfortunate I got injured otherwise I would have been there over the international break and fighting for a position in the team.
The central defenders are getting older and I was playing regularly for my club, which helps, so it’s a real shame I got injured.
Finally, Tomas, what goals have you set yourself for the rest of the season?
With Fulham, try to chase the play-offs at least. That would be perfect. With my international team, try to get as many caps as I can. Looking at my own game, I want to keep learning, developing and improving.