One thing is for certain, you don’t consider Fulham as the biggest of clubs in the capital of England, the big boys in Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur provide enough in weight and reputation as the big players in London and sometimes you can’t help but feel if Fulham are really that class to be a Premier League side based in London. After sealing their top-flight status way back in 2001, Fulham has established itself as one of the Premier League’s has ever presented, mid-table obscurity in the midst of surprisingly high finishes and relegation dogfights. With new ownership coming in the form of Pakistan-born American tycoon Shahid Khan’s takeover from the Egyptian enigma Mohammed Al-Fayed, better times could be around the corner for the Cottagers, as with new owners, we have seen clubs literally explode and take the game by storm. As the Premier League season kicks off in about 10 days’ time, Martin Jol and Co have been scouring the market for players to supplement the mercurial Dimitar Berbatov and his peers and if they can get it right this time, we could well be in for a surprise this coming season.
After making relatively less noise in the early parts of the summer, Fulham has suddenly found its groove in the market and look well poised to add to their wafer-thin squad. Maarten Stekelenburg, Derek Boateng, Fernando Amorebieta and Sascha Reither were the early arrivals, and in all four of them, Fulham has gone for quality rather than quantity which is not the case too often for the low-key clubs of their like. Martin Jol, with all his experience of leading the top clubs in Europe, the likes of Tottenham, Hamburg and Ajax, is a shrewd manager and if he is given a free run, we could just see his Fulham side better the achievements of Roy Hodgson over the coming years. With deals in principle agreed to bring Moroccan star Adel Taarabt from QPR on loan and Darren Bent’s arrival also inevitable, Fulham suddenly looks like a contender for the European spots. Amorebieta looks a great signing, with the former Bilbao man joining on a free and only 28, the Basque defender will be one to watch over the coming season. Stekelenburg has all the makings of a top keeper and if he can put his focus right and work his socks off unlike his time at AS Roma, he could be the star in the Fulham back line. Reither was on loan last season and Fulham fans have witnessed what he is capable of producing, and the not too flashy defender can bank on his solidity and work-rate to appease the Craven Cottage faithful. Derek Boateng may be on the wrong side of 30, but the Ghanaian holding midfielder looks a valuable addition, and Jol will be tasked with molding all the four seamlessly into his setup. The flashy yet erratic Taarabt could be the catalyst for glory this season and after a disappointing last season at QPR which eventually led to relegation, Taarabt will be looking to impress in the new surroundings. The fact that he remains in London is a positive for Jol and Co, as a phenomenon like Adel Taarabt needs stable environs to flourish and in Dimitar Berbatov, he has got an able ally, and what the magnificent duo can bring to Fulham is something that all our fans are waiting with bated breath. Darren Bent maybe a player who is not the most wanted in all quarters, but the 13-time capped England international can bring valuable experience and goalscoring pedigree to the feeble front line. And that he could cost as less as 5million pounds makes the deal a win-win for Fulham, as Aston Villa’s 24million pound record-signing looks set to move on the cheap. Bent won’t have too hard a time to adjust, as he has already played under Martin Jol at Tottenham and Jol know all too well how to integrate the 29-year-old into his setup. A tasty prospect for Fulham fans, but with Newcastle also on the prowl, a tug-of-war may well be on the cards for Bent.
With new arrivals set to compete for places with the likes of Berbatov, Bryan Ruiz, Damien Duff, Hugo Rodallega, Ashkan Dejagah and many more, Craven Cottage suddenly seem like a happy place to be, and if the club can get everything right on the pitch, we could well see the other club from London standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the aforementioned big three. And that is a big if, and the big issue will be how Jol can manage all expectations and his squad perfectly. Rest assured, Fulham looks well on course for a European push and if things come to pass smoothly for the Cottagers, Fulham Football Club will be the name on everyone’s lips next May.