The Cottagers Return: A Look Back At Fulham's All-Time Premier League XI

Soccer - FA Barclaycard Premiership - Charlton Athletic v Fulham
Adam Brown

Fulham's promotion to the Premier League in their play-off final victory against Aston Villa means that they will return home after a short four-year absence from England's top tier.

Their last promotion to the Premier League was in 2001, where goals from Louis Saha were the beginning of the Cottagers 13-year run in the top flight.

Fulham are a club with tremendous history. Despite only managing to win a UEFA Intertoto Cup over their previous Premier League period, the club have enjoyed success through notable high finishes and cup runs, such as their unfortunate FA Cup semi-final defeat in 2002, or more recently, their 2010 UEFA Cup final defeat against Atletico Madrid.

Aside from some misfortune in cups, one of Fulham's most memorable campaigns was in the 2007/08 season, where Roy Hodgson took over and produced 'The Great Escape'. Fulham were almost certain to be relegated before winning four of their last five games to survive, including a 3-2 win over Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Manchester City v Fulham - City of Manchester Stadium
Simon Davies

Some of the history created by Fulham has embedded a reputation for the club, a respect amongst the top flight teams. Much like the Cottagers previous campaign in the Championship, the side has always looked to play football in the right way and, as a result, has been home to some of the Premier League's most memorable players.

"For us we want to get promoted and have a strategy where we stay there for the long haul, and do it in a sustainable manner so it's there long after we've gone" Shahid Khan

Positively for Cottagers fans, they appear to be in good hands - sustainability is key for success in England's top tier. As Stoke found out across the previous season, the Premier League is ruthless and failure to transition could spell relegation for even the most seasoned of teams.

2018 EFL Championship Football Playoff Final Aston Villa v Fulham May 26th
Ryan Sessegnon

Whilst Fulham would love to be able to call upon some of their former players such as Edwin van der Sar, Moussa Dembele and Clint Dempsey, they will instead have to rely upon their up and coming talent, such as Ryan Sessegnon. Which of those players are worthy of a spot in Fulham's all-time Premier League XI?

The team has been set up in a classic 4-4-2 formation.

Goalkeeper: Edwin van der Sar

Fulham v Charlton Athletic
Fulham v Charlton Athletic

No contest. The Dutch legend is not only Fulham's best, but also one of the best goalkeepers to have played in the Premier League. The former Cottagers goalkeeper went on to become a Champions League winner after 127 appearances for Fulham.

van der Sar's big saves helped Fulham to UEFA Intertoto Cup glory in 2002. In the same year, Fulham came close to reaching their first FA Cup final since 1975. Despite van der Sar's efforts, The Cottagers were narrowly defeated in the semi-final by local rivals, Chelsea.


Right-back: Chris Baird

Aston Villa v Fulham - Premier League
Kyle Walker (L) and Chris Baird (R)

The versatile defender was deployed in multiple positions for Fulham and enjoyed his most successful spell for Fulham under Roy Hodgson, narrowly missing out on UEFA Cup glory in 2010.

Of course, the Northern Irish man will be fondly remembered by Fulham fans for his brace against Stoke City, which included an incredible volley from 30 yards and a free-kick; two strikes that you'd usually expect from defenders like Roberto Carlos or Alex.

Centre-back: Brede Hangeland

Manchester United v Fulham - FA Cup Fourth Round
Brede Hangeland (R)

Hangelaand appeared over 200 times for the Cottagers. Almost like a more agile version of Per Mertesacker, the defender was part of one of Fulham's most successful eras as a Premier League club where the Norweigan formed a solid partnership with Aaron Hughes.

The colossus defender's campaign of 2011 was his best; finishing as the highest scoring centre-back in the Premier League and Fulham's 2nd highest scorer as he registered six goals across the 2010/11 campaign.

While the Scandinavian was unable to repeat his 2011 heroics, he maintained his defensive consistency for the Cottagers, which lead to being linked to clubs such as Arsenal.

Centre-back: Aaron Hughes

Hamburger SV v Fulham - UEFA Europa League
Aaron Hughes

At 38, Hughes is still yet to retire, most recently playing for Hearts in the Scottish Premier League. It's clear to see why Northern Ireland's most capped outfield player is able to play on for so long when seeing some of his performances for Fulham - displaying the intelligence associated with only the games best defenders.

Like his teammates, Hughes was also highly versatile and could be used anywhere across the defence without any noticeable drop in performance. This is a quality that managers such as Jurgen Klopp highly value in today's game.

The Northern Irishman was unfortunate to not win any trophies at Fulham after a solid showing throughout the 2010 UEFA Cup campaign, establishing his partnership alongside Brede Hangeland as the best of the club's history.

Left-back: John Arne Riise

Fulham's Norwegian defenders John Arne R
Fulham's Norwegian defender, John Arne Riise

To round off the defence, at left-back is, of course, the former Liverpool man and Champions League winner. Assured for the Cottagers in both attack and defence. Interestingly, Riise's signing continued Fulham's tradition of acquiring Norweigan players - a strategy that appears to still be successful for them today when looking at the performances of Stefan Johansen.

While John Arne Riise wasn't able to register any goals for Fulham, he was generally consistent; despite that not being enough in 2014 where the Cottagers were relegated.


Right-midfield: Steed Malbranque

Soccer - FA Barclays Premiership - Manchester City v Fulham - The City of Manchester Stadium
Steed Malbranque

The midfield wizard who broke Fulham's transfer record in 2001 for ÂŖ4.5million - a fee that would be given to agents in today's inflated game. Malbranque scored 32 goals for Fulham in the Premier League.

It's not hard to see why the Frenchman was a fan favourite for the Cottagers. But for being placed on the transfer list in 2006 after internal issues, the midfielder would likely have stayed at Fulham for much longer than his 5 year period.

Centre-midfield: Clint Dempsey

Fulham v Southampton - Premier League
Clint Dempsey

Fulham's all-time top Premier League scorer and, arguably, the United States best player to play in England's top division. Dempsey had all the attributes of a top-level attacking midfielder; pace and power with tremendous technique.

The American's performances in the white of Fulham lead to being awarded back-to-back Player of the Season awards in 2011 and 2012.

Arguably, the former Fulham man went to the MLS too early - joining the Seattle Sounders in 2013 where he still plays today.

Centre-midfield: Danny Murphy

Fulham v Tottenham Hotspur - FA Cup 4th Round
Danny Murphy

Whilst it would have been good to go all out attack with this XI, it's important to add balance for a little bit more realism.

Danny Murphy is potentially underrated, as he was never as a frequent goalscorer as Clint Dempsey, but his leadership from the midfield, as well as defensive contribution was paramount, especially in Fulham's journey to the 2010 UEFA Cup final.

Still, the former skipper registered a respectable 28 goals in 201 appearances for the Cottagers.

Left-midfield: Luis Boa Morte

Chelsea v Fulham
Luis Boa Morte

A style which wingers can still emulate today. Boa Morte possessed the Portuguese flair that you would commonly see with players like Luis Figo. Composed yet, skillful, carrying limitless flair, with finishing instincts of an accomplished striker.

The Portuguese winger was vital in Fulham's promotion season and proved his class over his 7 years at Craven Cottage where he scored 26 Premier League goals, winning the Fulham player of the year award in 2004/05.


Striker: Brian McBride

Fulham v Manchester United
Brian McBride

4-4-2 always works best with a strong, hard-working, target-man - Brian McBride fits that role perfectly.

With unrivaled heading ability, the American was twice named as Fulham's player of the year - scoring many important goals for the club, including one which secured the Cottagers first victory over Arsenal in 40 years during 2006.

Striker: Louis Saha

Fulham v Everton
Louis Saha

Combining quickness with deadly finishing, a perfect complement to Brian McBride.

The French forward was vital in Fulham's promotion to the Premier League and marked his entrance to the Premier League by winning the 'Player of the Month' award in August 2001. While Saha didn't always produce throughout his time at Fulham, it was clear that he had the quality to play at the highest level.

Arguably, in terms of potential quality and variety of goals, Saha is Fulham's best front-man of the Premier League era. After his flying start to his final season at Fulham, Saha scored 10 goals in half a season which led to a January move to Manchester United.

Manager: Roy Hodgson

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Fulham v West Bromwich Albion - Craven Cottage
Roy Hodgson

While sometimes underrated for his style of play and unsuccessful tenure as England manager, Roy Hodgson's time at Fulham is a reminder of his elite coaching calibre. You could say that he proved his managerial quality in his most recent season at Crystal Palace.

Famously, Hodgson helped Fulham to their "Great Escape" of 2008, winning four out of the teams last five games to secure Premier League safety.

After securing the club's Premier League status, Hodgson then guided the Cottagers to a top 7 finish, before the Cottagers UEFA Cup journey in 2010. Unfortunately, Hodgson was unable to end his time at Fulham with a trophy, joining Liverpool shortly after the cup final disappointment in Hamburg.

Edited by Nishant Jayaram


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