Steve Sidwell highlighted the return from suspension of Brede Hangeland as a key factor in Fulham ending their lean run of seven without a win on Monday night.
The Whites failed to win during the three-game absence of the Norwegian, but once more looked a more solid outfit at the back as they overcame Newcastle 2-1.
The performance of the Fulham skipper also emphasised just how much his team-mates appreciate him and how much they want him to sign a new contract to keep him at the Cottage.
Obviously, he’s a real stalwart for the club,” said Sidwell, scorer of the first goal in a vital win.
“I’m not sure how many games he’s missed in his time here, but when he doesn’t play, he’s sorely missed.
“Just having him around lifts the players and having him on the pitch, being the skipper, gives everyone a buzz. He defends from the back, pushes us up and I thought he was brilliant again.
“His partnership with Hughsie [Aaron Hughes] has been instrumental to the club’s success in the past few years and you want to keep your best players to progress as a football club.
“Brede’s a natural leader on the pitch. When we lost Murph [Danny Murphy] as skipper, it was natural for him to get it and you rarely see him have a bad game.”
Sidwell said victory over Newcastle was a big moment in the club’s season.
“We got together before the game and said tonight’s massive and we have to get three points. We put ourselves under pressure to deliver and we did that today.
“It was a performance we needed really, because the table before the game showed a bit of a gap opening between us and the teams above, so it was important that we got three points to stick with them and start creeping away from the teams below us.
“We’ve been unlucky not to score in the last few games, so it was coming and I was delighted for Hugo today, because he’s worked his socks off in training and he deserved that goal.
“Now we’ve got this win and two goals under our belt and hopefully we can kick on now. “