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Wednesday Fulham Stuff (12.05.10)

Started by White Noise, May 11, 2010, 09:37:59 PM

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White Noise

Diomansy Kamara's Europa League dream

Posted on Wednesday, 12th May 2010

by Joe McHugh

Loan Celt Diomansy Kamara will be in the Hamburg Arena tonight cheering Fulham on against Athletico Madrid.

Fulham's run to the final of the Europa League has caught the attention of the uncommitted with the words Athletico and Madrid always causing anger and distress for anyone at Celtic who witnessed the European Cup semi-final clashes between the clubs in 1974.

Kamara joined Celtic on loan in January from Fulham and played in four matches of their epic Europa League campaign and scored in the Olympic Stadium against Roma as Roy Hodgson's side fought their way through the group stages.

The 29-year-old striker has watched from afar as his team-mates battled past Juventus, Shakhtar Donetsk, Wolfsborg and Hamburg to reach the final but will be in Hamburg tonight hoping to see the Londoners become the first side to win the Europa League.

Kamara told the Celtic View:  "I think that everyone is a bit surprised to be in the final because of the teams that they have been drawn against but they are a great team, have a good spirit and a good coach.

"I am very happy for my team-mates, I think that they deserve to be in the final and I will be going to the game.

"My best friend is Dickson Etuhu and I was talking to him recently about Celtic and Fulham, I've a lot of friends at Fulham after spending three years there.

"They deserve to be in the final after beating teams from Germany and Italy, now they need to beat a Spanish side.

"I think that Liverpool would have been harder to play, when you play a big team like that in a final in can get harder.

"Against Athletico there is no pressure, Fulham are a small club and I think they have a good chance of winning."

Fulham have doubts over the fitness of Damien Duff and Bobby Zamora but both players trained last night after flying in to Germany yesterday.

Roy Hodgson had asked for the game to be postponed on Sunday rather than face another 600 mile drive when flight cancellations threatened the club's travel plans.

After a marathon campaign stretching back to July Hodgson is hopeful of having his side at full strength for tonight's clash.

The Fulham boss said: "Duff and Zamora trained on Monday and that was very, very positive.  I've been given no indication that they're suffering from a reaction so my hope is that they'll be available."

Hodgson lost out in the final of the 1997 UEFA Cup when Schalke 04 beat Inter Milan on penalties in the San Siro with the Fulham boss looking to fare better tonight.

He added: "This is a greater occasion (than in 1997) because it's a one-off final. Playing the final at home and away wasn't the same.

"Of course, my memories of that final are very vivid. If you lose on penalties in front of your own crowd the memory will stay with you – and it won't be a happy one.

"I'm proud of reaching that final but I hope Inter Milan will forgive me for saying that I'm even prouder of this

"If we lose then I hope it means we've been beaten by a better team and not that we've been very unlucky or been hit by some decisions that are controversial.

"At the moment we're planning not to be second best, we're planning to try and win the competition.

"Whatever happens it's been a very good season for us and we're determined to crown that season by winning the trophy."

White Noise

Fulham defender John Pantsil: Administrative error allowed me to play in the Europa League

Full-back hoping for European silverware...

By Adithya Ananth

12 May 2010 08:25:00

Fulham defender John Pantsil has revealed that an error in administration has allowed him to play a part in the club's fairytale run in the Europa League.

The former West Ham United full-back sustained a knee injury during the derby game against Chelsea last December, and was expected to be sidelined for several months - which was supposed to keep him out of the European squad.

But an administrative error coupled with a quick recovery enabled the 28-year-old to play in the second leg of the semi-finals against Hamburg.

Now the right-back is hoping to make the most of his luck as the Cottagers prepare to lock horns with Atletico Madrid on Wednesday.

"I was worried I might miss the rest of the season, but even when I did recover, I thought I wasn't going to be able to play in Europe," Pantsil said, according to The Fulham Chronicle.

"Everyone thought they had taken me off the squad list because of my injury, so I missed the first leg in Hamburg. But, fortunately, they forgot to take me off, so it's fate."

He added: "The semi-final was a special day.

"I did two laps because the fans deserve it - time will tell how many I do if we win!"

White Noise

How Hodgson did it

by Dan on May 12, 2010

When Roy Hodgson took over at Fulham, it was seen by many as something of a left-field appointment. The grey-haired tactician, something of a throwback to a bygone era, might have had an impressive CV and accumulated trophies across Europe and plaudits in the international arena but English journalists remembered how he failed to spend Sir Jack Walker's millions at Blackburn. They felt there was little hope of Hodgson saving Fulham from relegation – and how wrong they were.

Nobody anticipated what happened next. A summer of rebuilding followed by a sventh placed finish was extraodinary and Hodgson's next miracle was to take Fulham from a side just happy to be in Europe to the final of the first Europa League. Their dramatic shift of priorities, from a side delighted to reach the group stages, to one that placed progress in the knockout rounds ahead of their remaining league fixtures, was a testament to Hodgson's navigation past supposedly superior opponents and a cloud of volcanic ash.

Nobody thought when Fulham kicked off their European campaign in early July in the sleepy summer sunshine of Vilnius that the Whites would still be going 62 games later in Hamburg as the city prepared to host a major final. The evolution of Fulham's ambition is evident in Hodgson's team selections. Fulham fielded a shadow side for their first fixture in the group stage, an ardurous trip to Sofia, prioritising an away game at Wolves that followed three days later (which they lost), but by the time Juventus where swept aside at the Cottage in a never-to-be-forgotten comeback, Hodgson's eyes were firmly fixed on the prize.

How Fulham lined up against Vetra in July

The alterations in tactics have had much to do with Fulham's unexpected run to the final. Hodgson started the campaign with the conventional 4-4-2 that had brought such success domestically last season. In an impressive home victory over Amkar Perm in early August, Bobby Zamora and Andy Johnson looked to be striking up the sort of rapport that Hodgson envisaged when he paired them together the previous pre-season after Brian McBride's departure. Both looked lively and potent in front of goal, until Johnson's evening was ended by a crude challenge by an uncompromising Russian centre back. Such was the damage that the former Crystal Palace forward's season never really got going after that.

Diomansy Kamara had a fleeting run in the first-team after that but Hodgson hit on a winning formula almost by accident. Zamora, still shot-shy and perhaps shaken by a lack of goals in his first season at the Cottage, revelled in the chance to become the focal point of the Fulham attack when asked to lead the line on his own. This showcased both his endless work ethic and his ability to unsettle defenders both in the air by also with his fine first touch and vision. Hungarian Zoltan Gera seemed a different player when installed just behind Zamora in the 'hole' rather than out wide – and both have contributed heavily to Fulham's success.

Hodgson's line-up for the must win game in Basel still saw key player rested but also included Zamora as a lone striker with Gera in the 'hole'

Hodgson's side have only failed to score twice away from home – once in a rearguard action in Russia against Perm and then in the semi-final first leg in Hamburg. It's quite an achievement for a side whose domestic travel sickness is well documented.

The run to final has also been built on the back of a miserly defence. John Pantsil has returned at right back in recent weeks, but the performances of the likes of Chris Baird – who also had an excellent spell as a makeshift central midfielder – Stephen Kelly and Chris Smalling served to underline the fact that Fulham's fringe players have not let anybody down. Fulham's defensive organisation memorably frustrated a gifted Shakhtar Donetsk side in their first knockout assignment while they brushed aside Wolfsburg without too much bother as well.

The spine of Fulham's side is full of European experience. Mark Schwarzer went all the way to the final of the UEFA Cup a few years back with Middlesbrough, Aaron Hughes reached a semi-final with Newcastle and Brede Hangeland has plenty of continental games under his belt. Captain Danny Murphy has won the UEFA Cup with Liverpool whilst Damien Duff has plenty of fond memories to call upon and the likes of Dickson Etuhu and Clint Dempsey have relished playing at this level.

White Noise

Postcard from Europe: Fulham supporters over the moon about Dempsey

Fans gush about the onetime Revs star ahead of Europa final

Greg Seltzer May 11, 2010
Stateside fans are proud as peacocks with U.S. star Clint Dempsey set to wage battle against Atlético Madrid in the first-ever Europa League final on Wednesday in Hamburg, Germany. But they're far from only the Fulham watchers beaming over the Texas native these days.

The 27-year-old attacker has become a bona fide fan favorite since arriving at Craven Cottage midway through the 2006-07 campaign. But don't take my word for it.

"Everyone loves Clint, I think," Richard Allen, season ticket holder and author of the annual Fulham Review book, told "There seem to be more No. 23 shirts in the crowd than any other number, certainly."

"I think this because of how he plays the game," Allen continued. "He works as hard as anyone, but has that glint in his eye, too -- you know that he could come up with something special at any moment. It's a powerful combination."

Diehard Fulham fan Dan Crawford, co-proprietor of Cottagers blog Hammy End, concurs.

"The short answer is that Fulham fans love Clint Dempsey," he said. "He's clearly benefited from the success of Brian McBride and Carlos Bocanegra down by the Thames."

"He scored a massive goal against Liverpool to secure our Premier League status [in 2007] and quickly became popular with the supporters for his desire, work ethic and the ability to produce a brilliant a bit of skill out of nothing."

Crawford says Dempsey then became even more popular in West London for fighting back into the lineup after the "Great Escape" goal against Liverpool that spring.

"Clint lost his place," he recalled. "There were rumors that he might move on. But, instead of sulking about it, he knuckled down, scored goals from the substitutes bench and proved his worth to Roy Hodgson. He's become an automatic selection when fully fit and is probably the most popular member of the first team with the fans--just listen for how loudly we sing his name."

The American's Cottage song fulfills the two basic grandstand requirements: It rhymes and it slurs archrival Chelsea.

He scores with his left,

He scores with his right,

That boy Clint Dempsey,

Makes Drogba look sh---!

It's a hearty claim, but Dempsey's flair for the big exploit is what gives these singers full voice. If the relegation-beater three years ago made his name and consistent effort strengthened it, the sublime comeback capper to oust Juventus from the Europa League in March put it in lights.

"The Liverpool goal was hugely important for us and also for him," compared Allen. "The Juventus goal might just be the single greatest thing 20,000 Fulham fans have ever witnessed."

"I was overcome with emotion," said Crawford of the devilishly crafted diagonal chip shot. "I started going to Fulham in the early 1990s when the club's entire existence was under threat and we were losing to non-league clubs in the first round of the FA Cup.

"If I'd have told people that the team that was at the wrong end of Division Three in the 90s would be beating Juventus and heading to a European final, they would have thought I was mad!"

"Dempsey's chip was without doubt the best moment of my Fulham-supporting career," he insists. "It all seemed to happen in slow motion and we held our breath as the ball headed towards the far post. It underlined what Fulham fans have known for a while: Clint's class and England better watch out in Rustenburg in June."

Not all proud Cottagers hail from London, mind you. Will Lytle, an American living in Malta, was in the house when Dempsey's inclusion sparked the semifinal rally against Hamburg.

"He immediately had an impact on the game and the guys around him," said the club member, who makes it over to London when he can. "I cannot say I thought we'd come back, since two goals in 30 minutes against a team like Hamburg is very difficult, but you got the sense that that fans were all much more optimistic once Dempsey entered."

"After [Simon] Davies knocked in that first goal with a brilliant first touch, I don't think there was anyone at the Cottage that evening who thought the second goal wasn't a sure bet," Lytle continued. "It was an incredible change of atmospheres that night, and a big part of that was attributable to Dempsey.

This spark should come as no surprise; the American captures Fulham spirit while lending some needed moxie to a club playing in Europe for just the second time.

"I guess he embodies Fulham '09-10 in that he is a talented player who has worked hard under the manager and taken his game to a new level as a result," offered Allen.

Added Crawford, "His confidence is vital, too, because he will try things that others just wouldn't dare and he has such natural ability that they often come off."

With plenty of show-stopping moments already to his credit and Wednesday's final the next stage, it's seems to fair to ask if Dempsey could actually go down in Fulham history alongside 2006 World Cup teammate McBride, ranked last year by The Times as the 10th-best Cottager ever.

"Put it this way," posed Allen. "In years to come, when people look back on this golden age of Fulham FC, they'll remember Clint Dempsey's contributions. One of the greats? That's hard to say, but he's been here a while now, and keeps on improving. So you never know. Come back in five years and we'll see where we are."

Greg Seltzer will report from Hamburg for Wednesday's Europe League final. His "Postcards from Europe" appear every Tuesday on

White Noise

Fulham FC: Sticking IT in the goal

Fulham FC hasn't just been seeing great results on the football pitch - its IT department has been producing good results too.

By Tom Brewster, 12 May 2010 at 09:30


It has been a great season for Fulham FC, with a decent finish in the Premier League, manager Roy Hodgson receiving an abundance of praise and now a Europa League final.

As the team gets ready in Hamburg for the biggest game in the club's history, one man going over to cheer them on will be Fulham's IT manager Nicholas Pendlebury.

IT PRO caught up with the man himself to talk about why it isn't just on the pitch where the club has been enjoying success in recent times.

Out with the old

In both football and IT, when things are not working, they need changing. For the latter, the cost of not making alterations to the infrastructure can prove disastrous. Fortunately for Pendlebury and his small team, the problems were noted and suitably addressed in time.

The area that the IT manager was experiencing problems with was the local area network (LAN) and Ethernet switches in particular. Around a year and a half ago, the club had switches from a variety of vendors, meaning there was no standard across the board and the IT team was "very limited" with what they could do, Pendlebury explained.

The switches in place were not capable of delivering the technologies that the organisation wanted to help improve performance, benefit customers and reduce costs.

Pendlebury was also seeing increasing demand for LAN bandwidth from the ticket turnstiles, television networks as well as media commentators.

Both the capacity and resiliency of the network had to be enhanced so that match days, when traffic is significantly higher, went smoothly. Video and data traffic crossing the LAN needed to be prioritised as well so that visiting media companies were given a top service.

And it was not just Craven Cottage that needed attention, as the Cottagers' training facilities required an improved network infrastructure as well.

In with the new

It was for these reasons that Pendlebury and his team decided to bring in a new LAN infrastructure deployment using Juniper Networks EX3200 and EX4200 Series Ethernet Switches.

"We went to tender, we ended up with two vendors, with Juniper being one of them. We chose Juniper due to the switch specifications, [which offered] more than anyone else," Pendlebury explained. He also pointed to the power consumption of the switches, which the IT manager said were lower than anything else on the market at the time.

"A key driver for me was the single Junos operating system across all the different switches we have, whereas the other vendor had three different operating systems for their solution. So, it is a lot easier for myself to manage the things that we do manage."

Pendlebury also called on Scalable Communications, Juniper's preferred partner and a convergence solutions provider, to help implement the new infrastructure. The tech was rolled out at both the training facilities and the ground in just two days.

Results on and off the pitch

Following the introduction of these services, the IT operations at Fulham have been especially fluid, much like the team's smooth passing game on the pitch.

While it used to take more than two hours to produce a video replay of the match for player analysis, it now takes only 15 minutes. Match days, meanwhile, are considerably less stressful for Pendlebury and he claimed there has not been a single failure since the Juniper equipment was installed.

Since the implementation of the new infrastructure, the team has also achieved an average cost reduction of £30,000 a year, which had gone on operating and maintenance costs for the old system, according to Pendlebury. "For us, this was a massive saving," he explained.

"The new system has given us a lot more stability, which we didn't have. We were having a lot of network problems and downtime. It's made a huge difference."

Fulham's IT future

The change in switches has also enabled Pendlebury to look into other areas for future development. "We are now looking to implement IPCC TV, which will give us £160,000 saving over three years from our current system," he said.

He is also looking to bring in a new Wi-Fi network with power over Ethernet (POE). The current Wi-Fi is somewhat dated and other POE technology is needed to help power it, Pendlebury explained.

Fulham FC is close to achieving PCI Compliance in the near future as well, Pendlebury said, and the new Ethernet switches have been essential in this. "There are a lot of changes you have to make – securing data, monitoring – and Juniper has helped us with the tools it offers in its suite to achieve compliance."

IT – the great enabler

IT is a key enabler for business success in numerous ways and football clubs are no exception, with Fulham being a case in point. Leaving systems alone can result in a plethora of problems and the alterations at the club have shown how being brave and making changes can provide two of the most valuable business commodities around: time and money.

Whether the team can defeat Athletico Madrid tonight or not, it can rest assured that the IT set-up at the club will have its back for the foreseeable future.

White Noise

Fulham Hope For Europa League Glory

9:14am UK, Wednesday May 12, 2010

Ian Dovaston, sports news correspondent

Striker Bobby Zamora is hoping to make history by firing Fulham to an historic Uefa Europa League win.

The striker is looking to overcome his disappointment at not being selected for England's World Cup side.

And the club's manager Roy Hodgson is "hopeful" Zamora will beat his recent injury curse to take on Athletico Madrid at the Hamburg Arena.

Hodgson refused to comment on his player's England disappoinment, saying only: "I haven't seen the England squad and I'm not here to make comments on it.

"If he's missed out I'm very sad, but I'm not here to talk about that."

Hodgson reported that both Zamora and Damien Duff - who has been troubled by a knee injury - had trained Monday and had suffered no reaction.

If Hodgson can guide Fulham to Europa League glory, then he'll be the first English coach to win such an honour since the late Sir Bobby Robson won the Uefa Cup Winners' Cup with Barcelona 13 years ago.

"It would be very special to follow a man like Bobby Robson. We were friends for many years," said Hodgson, the newly-crowned League Managers' Association Manager of the Year.

Hodgson is hoping to "expunge" personal memories of a two-legged Uefa Cup defeat when he was the manager of Inter Milan in 1997 that lost to Schalke 04.

At that time Fulham were playing in English football's fourth tier, highlighting how remarkable their journey to Hamburg has been.

They are the first English club to have risen from that level of football to take part in a European final.

It is the biggest game in Fulham's 131 year history and they will have 12,500 fans cheering them on among a crowd of around 51,500.

"The support we've received has been amazing," said Fulham's former Liverpool midfielder Danny Murphy.

"On the difficult journey we had to make to the semi-final in Hamburg, they managed to get there and that says everything about them."

This final will be Fulham's 19th game in the Europa League competition this season, which started with a qualifier in Lithuania on July 30 last year when 192 clubs were in the running.

They have travelled around 17,000 miles to seven different countries but their finest hour came at their Craven Cottage home, beating Italian giants Juventus 4-1.

Howard Kendal is the last English coach to have won a major European final with an English team, when he led Everton to the 1984/85 Uefa Cup Winners Cup

White Noise

Final Test

Wednesday 12th May 2010

Fulham FC News

With Fulham preparing to take on Atletico Madrid in the final of the UEFA Europa League on Wednesday evening, the scenario of a major European final will be a familiar one to goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer.

The Australian custodian reached the final of the UEFA Cup with Middlesbrough back in 2006 where his side were beaten by Sevilla on the night. But with the prospect of another grandstand occasion drawing closer, Schwarzer is hoping to be on the winning side this time around.

"It's very difficult to compare to the two adventures between Middlesbrough and Fulham in a lot of ways," explained Schwarzer. "However there are similarities because they've both un-fancied Club's to get to a European final.

"To be here at this stage of my career with Fulham is something I never thought was possible. It rates up there with the major accomplishments in my career. It adds that extra special value to the occasion.

"It's a European Cup Final and obviously I haven't got the best memories of the last time out - I'd like to think that this time around I can have fonder memories.

I'll feel very good. I'll feel very fit and fresh. We've had such a long and important season that has taken us on an amazing journey. Hopefully tomorrow night we can finish that journey and have a successful season. I'm fully focused on the Final."

Read more:

White Noise,19528,11096_6147482,00.html

Fulham's final route

Fulham will play the biggest match in their history when they take on Atletico Madrid in the Europa League final in Hamburg on 12th May.

Last updated: 12th May 2010   


BOBBY ZAMORA VTOMAS UJFALUSI: Zamora has been in sensational form this season, proving a brilliant target man capable of scoring from long range. Ujfalusi may have seen better days but is a dogged defender who can fill in at right-back.

BREDE HANGELAND V SERGIO AGUERO: Fulham's defence has been solid all season with Hangeland their most formidable presence. He is a great tackler and comfortable on the ball. A deadly finisher from Argentina, Aguero has attracted attention from big clubs across Europe. Likes to drift wide and is a major threat.

DANNY MURPHY v SIMAO SABROSA: The creative force in Fulham's midfield, Murphy may play on ageing legs but offers vision, composure and leadership. Simao is deadly at free-kicks and will be Atletico's main threat out wide where his dribbling skills are effective.

Take a look back at the Cottagers' route to the final.


FK Vetra 0 Fulham 3

Third qualifying round first leg

The Cottagers made their first European game since 2002 one to remember as goals from Danny Murphy, Bobby Zamora and Seol Ki-Hyeon gave Roy Hodgson's side a significant advantage over Lithuanian minnows Vetra.


Fulham 3 FK Vetra 0 (Fulham win 6-0 on aggregate)

Third qualifying round second leg

Dickson Etuhu got the ball rolling in front of over 15,000 fans at Craven Cottage before an Andy Johnson brace ensured that Fulham went through to the next round.


Fulham 3 FK Amkar Perm 1

Play-offs first leg

Johnson was ruled out for a month following a horrific shoulder barge halfway through the victory which came courtesy of a strike from the former Crystal Palace man, Clint Dempsey and Bobby Zamora.


Amkar Perm 1 Fulham 0 (Fulham win 3-2 on aggregate)

Play-offs second leg

Locals dressed in Grim Reaper costumes to try to scare the Fulham team upon their arrival but the 1-0 defeat ensured that Fulham scraped into the group stages.


CSKA Sofia 1 Fulham 1

Group stages

Hodgson was accused of neglecting the competition by making wholesale changes for their first group match, but they still came away from Bulgaria with a creditable draw thanks to Diomansy Kamara's 65th-minute leveller.


Fulham 1 Basel 0

Group stages

Hodgson's side moved to the top of Group E with a cool finish from captain Murphy.


Fulham 1 Roma 1

Group stages

Brede Hangeland's towering header gave Fulham the lead but Marco Andreolli struck in the 94th minute to deny Fulham, who had been reduced to 10 men after Stephen Kelly was dismissed in the second half.


Roma 2 Fulham 1

Group stages

Hodgson was left fuming with the officials as his nine-men side were beaten by John Arne Riise and striker Stefano Okaka, who would go on to join the Cottagers on loan in January.


Fulham 1 CSKA Sofia 0

Group stages

Zoltan Gera's first European goal of the campaign meant that a victory in Basel in their final group match would seal Fulham's passage to the last 32.


Basel 2 Fulham 3

Group stages

Zamora continued his fine form in front of goal to put Fulham ahead. The Swiss hit back to level at 2-2 before Gera grabbed the winner to put Fulham through after finishing the group stage in second place.


Fulham 2 Shakhtar Donetsk 1

Last 32 first leg

Calls for Zamora to be given an international cap gathered more pace after he rifled a 20-yard shot in off the woodwork to give Fulham the edge against the holders.


Shakhtar Donetsk 1 Fulham 1 (Fulham win 3-2 on aggregate)

Last 32 second leg

Brede Hangeland's first-half header was enough to stun the Ukrainian side, who despite their dominance, could not find the crucial second goal required to take the game to extra-time


Juventus 3 Fulham 1

Last 16 first leg

Fulham's European adventure looked to be over as they were outclassed in Turin by a Juventus side blessed with attacking flair and clinical finishing.


Fulham 4 Juventus 1 (Fulham win 5-4 on aggregate)

Last 16 second leg

Possibly the most memorable night in Fulham's history. David Trezeguet's second-minute opener gave the Cottagers a seemingly impossible task but Zamora and Gera (2) found the net before Dempsey's delicate chip dumped 10-men Juve out.


Fulham 2 Wolfsburg 1

Quarter-final first leg

Alexander Madlung's last-minute header left the tie delicately poised after Zamora and Damien Duff had put Fulham ahead against the Bundesliga champions.


Wolfsburg 0 Fulham 1 (Fulham win 3-1 on aggregate)

Quarter-final second leg

Twenty one seconds was all it took for Zamora to extinguish any lingering hopes the Germans had of making the last four as Hodgson's team notched up yet another creditable scalp.


Hamburg 0-0 Fulham

Semi-final first leg

Fulham drove for 17 hours aboard a bus to Germany and then parked it in front of the Hamburg goal to come away with a solid platform going in to the second leg.


Fulham 2 Hamburg 1 (Fulham win 2-1 on aggregate)

Semi-final second leg

Fulham had to come from behind once more to secure their progression. They went behind to a Mladen Petric free-kick before Simon Davies levelled and Gera hammered home with 14 minutes remaining to guarantee Fulham their place in the final.

White Noise

We can win it, say Fulham's Northern Ireland stars

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Aaron Hughes is ready to take a final step to European glory.

And the Northern Ireland captain is convinced that Fulham's amazing Europa League story is set up to have a happy ending.

Roy Hodgson's side have battled against the odds to reach tonight's Hamburg decider against Atletico Madrid.

They have overcome such star studded teams as Italian giants Roma and Juventus, German champions Wolfsburg and last season's UEFA Cup winners Shakhtar Donetsk to reach the final.

And Hughes insists he and his Craven Cottage team-mates — which includes his Northern Ireland colleague Chris Baird — aren't going to let the dream end now.

"There's no reason why we can't win it," said Hughes.

"We've done the same things all the way along in Europe, whether it's been Shakhtar Donetsk, Juventus, Wolfsburg or Hamburg.

"We'll be going out in the final with those same things in mind. That's what got us here and there's no reason to change anything now.

"When you get to a final of anything in any sport you know that the opposition is going to be good — otherwise they wouldn't have made it that far — but we're confident in how we go about things and we believe in our style of play.

"We're in a position where we can win the Europa League, we want to win it and we believe we can win it."

It is 35 years since Fulham last reached a final, when despite having Bobby Moore in their team they lost the FA Cup to West Ham.

Atletico ruined Liverpool's hopes of making it an all-English final when they knocked the Anfield side out in the semi-finals, thanks to a goal in each leg from former Manchester United striker Diego Forlan.

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Fulham planning £2million swoop for Piquionne

Published 23:00 11/05/10

By Alan Nixon

Fulham boss Roy Hodgson is ready to sign Portsmouth striker Frederic Piquionne in a £2million swoop.

Hodgson is set to use some of his Europa League windfall on the Lyon hit man who is desperate to stay in the Premier League after a season on loan at troubled Pompey.

Piquionne helped Avram Grant's side reach the FA Cup final and he has caught the eye of Hodgson who wants to beef up his attack for next season.

Hodgson faces competition for Piquionne from Blackburn, but Fulham pay better wages and also have more financial muscle.

White Noise

Zamora misses training ahead of final

Published 23:01 11/05/10 By Pa Sports

Bobby Zamora missed training on Tuesday night as Fulham sweated over the fitness of their star striker for tomorrow's Europa League final against Atletico Madrid.

Zamora is a doubt for the biggest match in the club's 131-year history with the Achilles injury that required a pain-killing injection two weeks ago.

Fulham's top scorer with 19 goals trained on Monday but failed to join his team-mates for the eve-of-match run-out at the Hamburg Arena.

Other than Zamora the whole squad participated, including in-form winger Damien Duff, who has been battling with a leg injury.