Jol’s new side qualified for the Europa League by virtue of a high placing in England’s Fair Play League last season, a route which means they start in the very first round of the Europa League, against NSI Ranovik of the Faroe Islands next Thursday at Craven Cottage. Jol has resisted the temptation to recall all of his squad to pre-season training this week, insisting that the league remains his first priority:
This is only the second or third time Fulham have been in Europe. I could have said, ‘let’s start early in June’, but I thought it was a bad idea. You could consider it a friendly game with a serious touch.
We will get the information we need and do the preparation for the game. However, it is not a good combination the Europa League and Premier League, so we focus on the Premier League.
It is Premier League safety first, then you want to try to do well in the cups, because it has been a long time since Fulham played in a final. Hopefully we can do something there and also finish as high as possible in the league, to build a young team for the future.
We were eighth last season and hopefully we can get into the top 10 because four points could be the difference between seventh and 11th. With English players as a good base, hopefully we can do well.
Roy Hodgson quickly had to reassess his ranking of the two competitions as Fulham progressed in the Europa League two years ago. Jol may yet need to do the same. For the time being, though, it will be very interesting to see what side he fields in the early rounds. With opposition like Runavik and Crusaders, it might be an ideal opportunity to offer some of our youngsters their long-awaited first-team opportunity.