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A mid-season break is a luxury enjoyed by much of Continental Europe but denied to the English football Premier League. Elimination from the FA Cup, England’s famous knock-out competition, can therefore be a blessing in disguise at this stage of a long, grinding season. The first team squad of Fulham, one of London’s many football clubs, have been able to capitalise on FA Cup weekend to get away from the frenetic marathon of English soccer for a mini-holiday.

Having been embarrassingly ejected from the cup by second division Leyton Orient in the last round, Fulham players can rest easy this weekend, refreshed by a 5-day stay in Abu Dhabi. It is believed to be the first time a club from English football’s top flight has graced the emirate.

There is no doubting the purpose of the trip is to recharge batteries, with no more than a few light training sessions. “We came here for some R and R (rest and recuperation),” says Chris Coleman, Fulham’s affable Welsh manager. We wanted the lads to get away from the everyday (routine) that we have on the training ground because, with 12 games left, it is important to have a good push at the end of the season. We have not done anything tactically. The guys have been in the gym. They have had a little kick of the ball.”

Watching his players enjoy a kick-about with children from local British school Al Khubairat, Coleman looks fairly happy with the surroundings — a mood no doubt helped by jetting out on the back of a 6-1 thumping of West Bromwich Albion.

“I think we have chosen the right place because it is fantastic. The facilities have been the best we have ever had. We are staying at the Emirates Palace which everybody has said, to a man, is probably the best hotel they have stayed at. We’ve enjoyed ourselves and hopefully we will come back.”

Lying 13th in the table but, crucially, well clear of the relegation zone, Fulham need to start notching up some wins away from home. With 10 defeats in 13 away games, they are the only team in the league to have not bagged three points on opponents’ turf. “We are 12 points away from the bottom three,” Coleman says.

“We are (five) points away from the top 10. We have got one eye on the top 10 but we have got one eye over our shoulder because you know what football is like, it has got a habit of coming up and giving you a scare. “We know that Birmingham and Portsmouth will be pushing as hard as they can until the end of the season. So, we have to make sure we maintain that 12-point gap. And if we can, we have to try to catch the likes of Manchester City and Everton who are sitting in that top 10 — which is where we want to be.”

For a club like Fulham, Coleman acknowledges it would be hard to break into the top six. “If you look at Wigan, they have had a great season. Everton last season got in the top five, investing a lot of money. For us, maybe we could have a one-off season where we could break into that top six. That would be a fantastic achievement for us. But it’s very difficult. First and foremost, we need to stay in the league and hopefully we can finish mid-table, top 10. That is a successful season for us.”

The Cottagers’ boss was busy in the January transfer window, signing England left-back Wayne Bridge on loan from Chelsea, along with Spurs midfielder Michael Brown and Southampton’s Finland goalkeeper Antii Niemi, both for undisclosed fees.

With a willing and wealthy chairman in Harrods boss Mohammed Al Fayed, the transfer coffers are set to be delved into again this summer. “Already this season we have added three of four very good players to the squad. And again we are looking in the summer. We have got to be careful. We need to keep our best players and try hard to get more quality and more strength in depth.”

Though Bridge is only at Craven Cottage for the rest of the season, Coleman is clearly enthusiastic about having such a player in his starting eleven. “We have been very impressed with Wayne. We knew when we signed him that it was going to take him one or two games to get his fitness. He’s obviously got one eye on the World Cup.

“Of course, Ashley Cole is an excellent player but Wayne will no doubt be in the squad (too). He needs to play games. He has been out a long time with his injury. But for us he’s been absolutely superb. I think Sven (Goran Eriksson) or Tord Grip (Eriksson’s assistant) came to a few games to watch Wayne play. He wouldn’t have been disappointed because every game he’s played for us he’s been outstanding. He will not have done his World Cup hopes any harm.” Now back home, Fulham have another week to prepare for a trip to Bolton. They will need every ounce of energy stored up from their overseas trip to salvage some points against Sam Allardyce’s workaholic side.