Early morning at Fulham’s training ground in Motspur Park and breakfast is being served in the canteen. The room is far from full and the smell of tea and coffee fills the air. On a nearby table, a couple of academy players are carefully spreading honey on their toast. They talk among themselves, loosening up before training begins, and the thought occurs this must be a pleasant place to come to work every day.

It helps Fulham are upwardly mobile again after spending a couple of years flirting with the idea of becoming another club gripped by decline following relegation from the Premier League.

They went down in 2014 and were bottom of the Championship by the time they ended Felix Magath’s brief but bizarre reign in September 2014. They finished 11 points and two places above the bottom three last season, which is why it might be difficult to understand why Marcus Bettinelli turned down Chelsea two years ago and jarring to hear the goalkeeper describe Fulham as a “great, really well-run club”.

But during an era of upheaval, there was one source of comfort: the academy. Bettinelli is a product of a system overseen by Huw Jennings, Southampton’s former academy director, and the 24-year-old speaks with affection about a place he has called home for the past 11 years. “A family club,” Bettinelli says, “with a lot of good people in it.”

Fulham’s academy has earned a reputation as one of the best in England and Ryan Sessegnon, a 16-year-old defender, is likely to be in the side who play Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup at Craven Cottage on Sunday. “I always had good, firm, hard coaches who taught me good morals,” Bettinelli says. “This is what I needed to do to be the best and if I wasn’t going to do it, they were going to let me know.

“The academy is great. It’s really well run on the educational side. It’s good to have the academy boys in the same building as the first team. When I was growing up I trained with them if the first team needed a few people. If they needed a goalkeeper, I was only on the other pitch to come across and train. Fulham will always produce players. You can see that in young Ryan Sessegnon. There are a lot of talented players coming through.”

Jennings had a role in the emergence of Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott and Adam Lallana while at St Mary’s and he arrived at Fulham in 2008, having spent two years at the Premier League as youth development manager. The Southampton influence is strong in this part of London, with Jennings joined by two of his old colleagues, Malcolm Elias and Steve Wigley.

During that disastrous relegation season of 2013-14, there were glimpses of the talent coming through. One of René Meulensteen’s final acts during his 75 days as manager was to start Muamer Tankovic, an 18-year-old forward, and Dan Burn, a 21-year-old central defender, in a 2-2 draw at Manchester United.

Their encouraging performances offered hope for the future and relegation gave Fulham the chance to promote their young players, having seen their under-18s win three successive titles and their under-21s reach the FA Youth Cup final. Some have gone on to bigger clubs. Patrick Roberts caught Manchester City’s eye in 2015 and two more talents left last summer. Bournemouth have since loaned Emerson Hyndman, an American midfielder, to Rangers, while Moussa Dembélé’s goals for Celtic have made him a target for Chelsea.

Yet others, such as Cauley Woodrow, Sean Kavanagh and Lasse Christensen, have headed out on loan, and Burn and Tankovic have left. Showing promise at youth level is no guarantee of success and Fulham were often callow during their first two seasons in the Championship. Slavisa Jokanovic, who replaced Kit Symons in December 2015, has since built an experienced side who sit in eighth place.

Sessegnon is making a name for himself in Fulham’sdefence, however, and there have been opportunities for Dennis Adeniran, Luca de la Torre, Tayo Edun and Jack Grimmer.

Will they make it? Some will. Others will discover that football is a harsh business. “A lot of friends I grew up with aren’t playing football any more,” Bettinelli says. “You need goals, determination and desire.”

Bettinelli, released by Crystal Palace when he was 12, had a trial at Arsenal before joining Fulham, where his father, Vic, coaches. He remembers a warm welcome from John Murtough, Fulham’s former academy director, and being thrown in at the deep end when he trained with the under-16s.

Bettinelli was never the most gifted in his younger days but he had hunger, role models in Mark Schwarzer and David Stockdale and a fine mentor in Martin Brennan, who became Leyton Orient’s goalkeeping coach last summer. Brennan told him to go out on loan and he toughened up during spells with Dartford and Accrington Stanley.

“You go from playing academy football where everything is very nice and set-up, not soft, but both teams try to play the same way,” Bettinelli says. “You go on loan to the Conference and you’re playing with lads who have kids, wives, families, and the difference is they’re playing for a win bonus which might be £150 or £200. You feel it straight away: ‘I need to win this.’”

Bettinelli turned down Chelsea because he did not want to sit on the bench. Then came a moment of misfortune, an injury that kept him out for most of last season. Now he is Fulham’s No2 behind David Button, restricted to appearances in the FA Cup. “That’s football,” he says. “It’s never a straight line but I don’t regret the decision to stay here. It’s a club I love being at.”