At long, long last the fallow summer period is over and the Premier League season returns and what a way to start Fulham’s season with the return of our former boss Mark Hughes with his new…oh right, yeah that never really happened did it.
But Fulham have a new gaffer in Martin Jol, and although our season is already some six competitive games old this will be the toughest test for him so far with his new squad. Some four years after getting the sack from Spuds Jol makes a welcome return to English football by welcoming Aston Villa to Craven Cottage.
It’s been all change for Villa over the summer too. Making the short trip across the second city has been Alex McLeish. And there’s been a few changes on the field too. Replacing the Spuds bound Brad Friedel has been Man Citys bench warmer from last season Shay Given. With Young and Downing moving on to new pastures McLeish recruited Wigan’s French winger N’zogbia for £9.5m. Bent will be hoping he’ll be able to supply him with ammunition from the wing to continue his good run of form he’s discovered since he moved to the Midlands last January. It’s looking like Villa may have to make do without midfielder Makoun for their visit to the Capital. And while James Collins is also a doubt he’s hopeful he’ll be able to feature in the clash.
We currently have no major injury worries and with only minor changes to the Fulham squad it could be that former Fulham hate figure John Arne Riise is the only new face in the starting line up on Saturday afternoon.
Given our record last season it might not surprise you that we drew both our meetings with Villa last season. It took a last minute header from Brede Hangeland to rescue a point at the Cottage after Albrighton gave the visitors the lead. While up at Villa Park we once again had to come from behind after John Paintsil scored his third own goal of the season on what would be his final outing in a Fulham shirt.
Fulham haven’t lost an opening day fixture since we travelled to Hull back in the 2008-09 season and although our recent success has been built on a bedrock of a good home record, we’re not so hot against the Villains. In fact we have only come away with the full three points on three occasions out of 20 Premier League meetings.
Welcome back football, we’ve missed you. Never go away again.