It looks like our Premier League opener at Fratton Park will be a chance for the travelling Fulham fans to say hello to a couple of old friends.
Antti Niemi has come out of retirement to be the number two to David James at Portsmouth. His serious wrist injury – and the complications caused by that horrible clash with Carlos Bocanegra in the home game against Watford a few years ago back – appeared to have ended his career when he retired at the start of last season. Niemi was a loyal servant at Fulham and a worthy replacement for Edwin van der Sar when he signed from Southampton in January 2006. The Finnish international made 63 appearances for the Whites and saved countless points.
His surprise return also gives us a good reason to dig out this splendid little clip from Talksport a few years ago:
Steve Finnan’s return to England was less of a turn up for the books. He’d endured a difficult spell with Espanyol after his departure from Liverpool, which always seemed a little odd to me. Finnan wasn’t helped by picking up a serious knee on his Espanyol debut and – had we not secured the services of John Pantsil this time last year – I think most Fulham fans would have taken him back in a heartbeat. He was one of the finest right-backs I’ve seen in a Fulham shirt and deserves a rapturous reception from the travelling support in August.
A whole-hearted performer, comfortable in position and a man who loved to get forward (and could deliver splendid crosses), Finnan was rightly voted the best right-back in the Premier League in his debut season by his fellow professionals. Versatile and willing, he was a regular in the Republic of Ireland side that withstood the loss of Roy Keane and did so well at the 2002 World Cup. Finnan made 209 appearances – scoring seven goals – in five years at Craven Cottage before joining Liverpool for £3.5m in 2003.