John Arne Riise has only needed a few weeks with Fulham to be convinced that he made the right decision in leaving AS Roma this summer.
The Norwegian left back has made an impressive start to his Fulham career – even if he might have crowned his league debut with a goal against Aston Villa ten minutes in and is delighted to have returned to English football.
I thought it was time for a change in my career. When Fulham came on board, and after speaking to my brother and Brede [Hangeland], it was quite an easy decision to make.
I’d spoken to my brother and Brede about Fulham a long time before they were interested in signing me. I’d heard so many good things about the Club and that’s been confirmed to me during my time at the Club so far. It was the right decision.
Everybody around the Club, from the physiotherapists, to the doctors to the media department – they’re all very nice people and great to work with. I’ve played with a few of the guys at Fulham before and I feel that they respect what I’ve done in my career so far. On the first day I arrived here I felt at home and I never felt like an outsider.
Riise also spoke about how he turned down Fulham in 2001 to join Liverpool having appeared close then to making the switch to Craven Cottage.
I was very close to joining Fulham before, but when you’re that young and you get the chance to play for Liverpool, where we won the treble in 2001 – I couldn’t turn that opportunity down. Ten years on I’m here now and I’m very happy with my decision to join Fulham. I’ve been here for five weeks and I’m really enjoying it. I’m here for at least three years and hopefully longer.
A football career is very short and I want to enjoy my football and make sure my family is happy. Performing to my best level is what matters. I’ve never focused on the city I’m living in because I’m only focused on my football.
He also is enjoying playing alongside his younger brother, Bjorn.
I’m very close to my brother and I love the fact that I’ve got the chance to play with him but mainly I like the Club. I live close to my brother but the most important thing is I’m happy with my job and family are happy.
We are brothers and best friends and he means everything to me. I’m the older brother so naturally I want to take care of him.
Riise believes that his time in Italy has made him a better player, before defensively and technically.
I would never change those three years for anything and I was very happy when I was there. It’s totally different from playing in England and I went there because I wanted to improve as a player. I wanted to do something more.
It made me a better play. I’m better technically and tactically in terms of my awareness. It was a great experience with Roma and I’ve been lucky enough to play in France, England and Italy.
The 30 year-old says he’s been let off the leash by Martin Jol in terms of going forward.
He’s [Martin Jol] letting me go on the offensive so that suits me. I’m here to do a job with the team and I said to Martin when I joined, ‘I’ll play wherever you want me to play’. I’ve always been a team player and I’ll do whatever he wants me to do. I go into every game the same – to do my best and give 100%.
Martin is an offensive thinking manager but what’s important for him is that the team pulls together and works together. This team is so strong defensively and he wants us to score more goals whilst keeping clean sheets.
The trip to Wolves – and others – have him talking in effusive terms about the English top flight.
I look forward to these tough away games in the Premier League. It’s been a long time for me. I’m still living off the buzz of being back and I look forward to every game.
The ambition this season is to improve on last season and Europe is also a big target for us. We finished eighth last year and maybe we can get seventh place this season.
It’s going to be tough because there are a lot of good teams but a good start to the season is vital. Around Christmas will be tough because we’re playing a lot of the big teams.
We struggled away from home last season but picked things up after the Christmas period and finished in a good position. The away form is important but when you play at home you want to win, entertain the fans and score more goals.