John Salako is a man at home in London. After making his name as a youngster with Crystal Palace, the winger went on to represent the Whites, Charlton and Brentford. Additionally, he also spent a significant period of time 30 miles outside the capital with Reading.
Fulham make the journey along the M4 to face the Royals on Saturday and John believes all the pressure will be on the home side as they go in search of a first Barclays Premier League win of the season.
“Reading will be looking at the match as an opportunity to get three points,” he told fulhamfc.com. “But there are never any easy games in the Premier League and, when you look at the players within that Fulham squad, it’s going to be daunting for them. But that’s why you play in this league, because every week is a challenge.
“But, without a doubt, Brian McDermott will be targeting Saturday and saying ‘we need to get our season up and running; we need a win’. It’s amazing what a win can do, it can bounce you up the league probably two or three places and it gives everyone the feel good factor. When you’re not winning it can get demoralising and it just becomes a weight on your shoulders.
“It was always going to be difficult for Reading coming up but I’m absolutely delighted that they’re back in the Premier League. Getting [Pavel] Pogrebnyak was a massive coup because the lad can score goals, and goals are going to be vital for them this season.
“They’ve got some good players with a bit of experience in there but they’re going to need a fair bit of luck and, by hook or by crook, if they can just finish in 17th place then they’ll be happy. Brian McDermott is still building there, they’ve got a new owner and they’re looking to build a new training ground, so it’s a really exciting time for Reading.”
After making more than 100 appearances for the Royals, Salako understandably has an affinity towards the Berkshire club, but the former England international looks back on his time in SW6 fondly, too, and is delighted to see how Fulham have prospered in recent times.
“Fulham are doing brilliantly,” John enthused. “Martin Jol has really steadied the ship after losing a few players. It must have been disappointing to lose Mousa Dembele, Danny Murphy and Clint Dempsey, and you wondered what the reaction was going to be. But people like Hugo Rodallega have come in and are settling well, so things are evolving at the Club.
“The Club’s just gone incredibly well since Mohamed Al Fayed came in and we saw the likes of [Kevin] Keegan and [Paul] Bracewell in charge, and then obviously [Jean] Tigana. So it’s been upwards and onwards and now Jol’s hoping to push on and maybe sneak in a European place again.
“There’s been an absolutely incredible job done at Fulham to make them a steady, Premier League club and you hope that maybe they can win a trophy. If they strive for that then there could be exciting times ahead. From a Fulham point of view, it’s just fantastic and all the fans must be absolutely delighted with the situation there.”
Keen to see both of his former clubs flourish this season, Salako was diplomatic in his response when pushed for a match prediction, although he was inclined to highlight the Whites as slight favourites at the Madejski Stadium on Saturday.
“I suppose my heart would probably say a draw,” John said. “It’s a tough one to call. I do think Fulham have got a great chance of winning but, from Reading’s point of view, it would be great if they could pick up at least a point.
“I think Reading need the points more than Fulham. Reading desperately need the win but I think it could be 1-1 or 2-2. I know Brian McDermott well and it would be great for him if he could get that first win but I think Fulham are going to give them a very good game and I can’t see Fulham losing there, to be honest.”