Mark Schwarzer typifies the confidence flowing around the Fulham camp at the moment.
There are some very good sides left in the draw, and some unbelievable ones dropping out of the Champions League, so it’s only going to get tougher, but we can take heart from our performances in Europe so far. Basel have a good pedigree in European competitions, and a very strong home record, so it’s a tribute to our performance that we not only beat them but we’re disappointed we didn’t score even more.
Let’s not beat around the bush – you would rather be doing well in the top half of the Premier League than doing well in Europe if it comes at the expense of a relegation struggle. With the squad we’ve got, we are able to go about our business quietly and efficiently in Europe, and the manager did an excellent job in deflecting pressure and attention away from us in terms of progressing beyond the group phase.
The Australian also offers a little insight that is a devastating riposte to all those who claim that Europe will inevitably damage your league standing.
At Middlesbrough, we never found playing in Europe detrimental to our League position – we finished seventh in the League, the club’s highest-ever position, while reaching the last 16 one year and when we reached the UEFA Cup final in 2006 we were comfortably-placed in mid-table. We reached an FA Cup semi-final as well that year, and for a club like Middlesbrough that was an unbelievable achievement, so I can only recommend Europe.
The teams who complain about long treks into Europe are probably the ones who are spoiled because they expect to be there every year, but we are genuinely excited about it. It’s a new challenge, and now we’re in the knockout phase it’s going to get even more exciting.
It would be great to meet a team like Juventus, especially another couple of rounds down the track, but the way we’ve been playing in the Premier League we won’t fear anybody. It would be great to meet a team like Juventus, especially another couple of rounds down the track, but the way we’ve been playing in the Premier League we won’t fear anybody.
We like ambushing the big teams at the Cottage – it’s an old-style ground where the crowd are right on top of you, and right at you, and we’ve tried to create an atmosphere there which is a bit different to its genteel image. Our home form has been invaluable and what we need to do now is to win more games away from home – by turning in performances like the one in Basel.