Fulham not in top flight to make up numbers

Monday 13 August 2001

BBC Sport Online insists Fulham will not be making up the numbers in the Premiership.

Fulham will not enter the Premiership with the tag of relegation favourites that attaches itself to most promoted sides.

More than a match for the top-flight teams they met in cup competitions last season, Jean Tigana's side were a class above in the First Division.

And the Frenchman wasted little time in completing the overhaul of his squad in the close season.

As the club has climbed through the divisions in the last few years so the squad has changed regularly to cope with the differing demands.

Tigana could have been forgiven for putting faith in the same players to survive in the Premiership after their success last season.

But with Mohammed Al Fayed's millions to spend, survival was always going to be the very least of Fulham's ambitions.

While they cannot compete with the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal in the transfer market, the Cottagers appear to have more spending power than many established Premiership names.

Several of the players that helped Fulham in the lower divisions were released during the summer.

Paul Peschosolido and Terry Phelan went to Sheffield United while Simon Morgan moved to Brighton.

In came more familiar names, the most recent of which was Jon Harley from neighbours Chelsea.

The fact that Claudio Ranieri was prepared to let the young Englishman go highlights the gap to be bridged to England's top clubs, but Fulham have already made an impact on the transfer market.

After missing out on Carsten Jancker, Oliver Bierhoff and Jan Koller, Tigana finally landed a world name in Edwin van der Sar.

The signing of the Dutch international goalkeeper from Juventus for £7m said everything about Fulham's transition from lower division strugglers to Premiership players.

Moroccan defender Abdeslam Ouaddou has arrived from Nancy and France Under-21 midfielder Steed Malbranque has also been signed for £4.5m.

The millions available have clearly strengthened Fulham over the summer but Tigana had already built a strong squad at Craven Cottage.

Sean Davis, Lee Clarke and Louis Saha are ready to take on the best of English football and Fulham look more than capable of finishing in the top half of the table.