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Czech defender hoping to prove his fitness by end of August

Perhaps the most pleasing part of my afternoon in the Craven Cottage sunshine yesterday was meeting Zden?k Grygera.

The Czech defender has shown tremendous courage and professionalism in recovering so swiftly from his horrible anterior cruciate knee injury sustained during the defeat by Tottenham last November that so cruelly cut short an impressive start to his Fulham career. Gygera, who has undergone two operations on his injured knee, has made brief substitute appearances during the club’s pre-season campaign and, at half-time during the first team’s final friendly against Charlton, he told me that he was hoping to build on that with 45 minutes at Walton Casuals this afternoon.

At 32, a serious injury – as well as the setbacks he has suffered since after two visits to see Dr. Richard Steadman – might have persuased some players to hang up their boots. Not Gygera, who willing chatted and signed autographs yesterday, and is eager to return to the first team picture after his promising introduction into Martin Jol’s side last season. A matter of days after concluding a deal to arrive from Juventus late in the transfer window, Grygera made an assured debut at home to FC Twente in the Europa League and then was a commanding presence having been switched to the centre of defence for the League Cup clash at Stamford Bridge.

It is no coincidence that Fulham kept four clean sheets in his seven appearances before that anguished scream on the stroke of half time in front of the Riverside Stand and I certainly hope the experienced defender is pushing for a place in the first team squad sooner rather than later. His longevity in the game – and a stellar international record that includes representing the Czech Republic at three major tournament – as well as Gygera’s cool confidence on the ball make him a really valuable asset.