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To those not immersed in it, football can seem very strange. In the modern game, players are commodities – traded here and there and, as we’ve seen ourselves of late, managers are fast becoming the same. Only the fans are loyal these days and it would be wise not to develop too close a connection to whoever’s wearing the shirt this week.

We can’t help ourselves, of course. Sometimes people just fit and you grow to love them. Every club has cult heroes. Often they are celebrated as much for their eccentric as their achievements on the field. It can happen with the ones you least expect. The news that Luis Boa Morte was returning to Craven Cottage was a welcome boost at the end of a forgettable Fulham year. The Portuguese winger’s ebullient character, his genuine love of the club and an almost unique connection to the fanbase allowed us all the glimpse a period on the horizon where the distance between the supporters and the side they are following had vanished.

It is entirely emotional, of course – but the game is about feelings first and foremost. Boa Morte is a trusted lieutenant of the newly appointed head coach Marco Silva, having worked with him at Goodison Park. It is absolutely right that the new man in charge should have a sounding board he trusts and, in this case, it helps that Boa Morte can offer some historical perspective as well as working relationships with some of the key figures at Motspur Park, like Steve Wigley and Huw Jennings, whom he worked alongside if only briefly when he was taking his first steps into coaching.

Boa Morte is no longer a coaching novice of course. He’s held various roles since assiduously pursuing his coaching credentials after calling time on his playing career in 2013 – progressing from reserve and youth team manager at Sporting Lisbon, where Silva was the manager, to a brief managerial spell in charge of Sintrese whom he saved from relegation. There were stints as an assistant at Maccabi Haifa and a half a year in charge of Portimonese’s under 23 side – as well as scouting assignments for Arsenal – before Silva took him to Goodison Park.

The bubbly Boa Morte has always wanted to return to Craven Cottage, having previously applied to join the backroom set up, and his arrival comes at an opportune time with Fulham preparing to retool for another Championship campaign and with talent to bring through from the club’s academy. He’ll be an additional reference point for the confident Silva, of course, but players who have worked with him before stress how he puts time into improving their technical ability whilst retaining his breezy and light-hearted demeanour, which isn’t necessarily common amongst the modern coaching fraternity.

Members of the British media also recall Boa Morte making an impression when they took part in a press day for coaches taking their UEFA pro licenses. In exercises designed to prepare candidates for the fevered scrutiny that comes with a top job, the coaches were asked to imagine a scenario where they had been pictured leaving the property of the chairman of a big club, who were recruiting for a managerial replacement. The trainers encouraged the interviewees to trot out a bland non-denial denial to decrease any speculation. Boa Morte, as ever, charted his own course. He said the chairman was an old friend and said he wouldn’t comment on his own future. Such disarming honesty, accompanied by that flashy smile, made even the cynical hacks raise an eyebrow or two.

Boa Morte will be determined to make an impact as well. His playing career might be in the distant past now, but the tenacity with which he played and even secured his path to Craven Cottage is worth recalling. Frozen out by Glenn Hoddle at Southampton, the winger was desperately searching for a new home and, with pre season coming to a conclusion, decided to see if Arsene Wenger would ring his old friend Jean Tigana. The Arsenal manager’s intervention worked out well for everyone concerned as Boa Morte became a crucial cog in that sumptuously stylish promoting winning side. The winger still had to take matters into his own hands to convince Rupert Lowe that his future was in west London and not back on the south coast at the end of the season and that set up five more memorable years on the banks of the Thames.

Perhaps the highest compliment you could pay Boa Morte, who was mercurial and not always consistent, was that defenders dreaded playing against him. Gary Neville tells a story of scanning the Fulham teamsheet and dreading finding the lively left winger’s name. He wasn’t the only full back driven to distraction by Boa Morte’s combination of pace, power and desire. Those two magnificent individual goals against Blackburn and Charlton will live long in the memory. Not even the centre backs were safe as Marcel Desailly famously found out when lead a merry dance late on as Luis lashed in that lovely equaliser at Stamford Bridge. Of course, that wasn’t even the most significant goal Boa Morte put past the boys in blue. He still greets Paulo Ferreira with a thank you for slamming a clearance into his shins and securing arguably Fulham’s most famous Premier League victory.

Boa Morte’s time at Craven Cottage was full of vivid moments of joy. Several of them came as the Whites roared back to the top flight after an absence of more than three years. None was perhaps as emotional as when he secured promotion with what he made look like the simplest of finishes at Huddersfield. But the clinching goal against Liverpool, made by intelligent interplay with Steed Malbranque, on that day that Fulham said goodbye to Johnny Haynes had plenty of us in floods of tears at the Hammersmith End.

It shouldn’t be forgotten that Boa Morte had plenty of chances to leave Fulham before he eventually departed for West Ham in 2007. Graeme Souness began a public campaign to bring him to Newcastle – but Boa Morte stayed loyal to the side that had saved his career. He gave us plenty of brilliant moments on the field, but my fondest memory of his time at Fulham came from when I was at Motspur Park for a open day organised for disabled fans. Long after the engagement with the players was supposed to be over, Boa Morte was kicking a ball around with young children, making sure they all scored a goal, laughing and joking, posing for pictures and signing any item to give the youngsters a memento of the day. I know that he became a fixture at events designed to raise money for charity, donating personally on more than one occasion. At a time when it is fashionable to cynical about ridiculously wealthy footballers, that shows the measure of the man.

None of this means that Boa Morte will be a success. That will largely depend on factors out of his control at present. But we can all count on his commitment and know that he’ll bring smiles to Fulham faces again.