Denis Odoi is relishing his opportunity to play Premier League football this season – especially after being told by his school teachers that he no chance of becoming a professional footballer.
The Belgian international insists that he was never out looking to prove wrong a PE teacher who was trying to encourage him to concentrate on his education and doesn’t regret making the move to Craven Cottage two summers ago – even though it might have looked like a backward step at the time. Odoi told Football.London’s Ryan O’Donovan:
To get the chance, it’s not like I was out for revenge for anything. I just played and started in the second division in Belgium and went one step higher, then higher at Anderlecht and I took a step back and came to Fulham to play in England – it didn’t matter if it was Championship. It’s not like I felt I was too good to play in the Championship and then we had two good seasons. The first year was a good one and it matured us as a team and then the second season we got to the final and made it.
I think because you’re playing in [the] Championship you don’t get the recognition because you’re in the second tier but now everyone is in the Premier League so it’s up to them to show everybody that they’re worthy of playing in that league.
Odoi is adamant that Fulham should stick to the style of football that earned them promotion from the Championship, despite being under no illusions that this season will represent a stern test of the Whites’ footballing principles.
I think the experience we had from last season, playing in semi-finals and finals, play our game because that’s the way we know how to play. It’s the way we will take points. If we try to play a different style that we aren’t used to then it’ll probably turn out bad.
I have some friends that play in the Premier League and they say our style will suit it, but it’s still up to us to show it. We know that we’re better with the ball than without it and we won’t be dominating the game all the time so that’s where we need to work hard.
The level will be higher and we need to dig in and stick together and realise that we won’t be playing the same football as we played last year and that we won’t be dominating every game with 60% to 70% ball possession. So we also need to work hard off the ball and that will be the biggest lesson for us and that’s where we need to get better.
We need to keep faith and remember last season that we had a bad start and we finished near the top. So if the start isn’t the way we planned, we still know that things can turn around – it’s a higher level, but we need to be patient and work hard and hopefully we will get the points we deserve and work for.
The utility man will miss Fulham’s Premier League opener against Crystal Palace next weekend through suspension after being sent off in the play-off final at Wembley, but Odoi’s versatility means he is likely to be a key part of Slavisa Jokanovic’s squad throughout the campaign.