League the priority for Fulham

Damien Duff, Murphy and Andrew Johnson netted the all-important

goals as recently-appointed manager Martin Jol enjoyed a 3-0

victory over Faroese minnows NSI Runavik in his first match at the

helm. Fulham have seemingly already dispatched NSI with a clinical

display in the first leg of their first qualifying round clash, but

a further 22 matches remain if they are to repeat the heroics of

2010 and make the final. Thursday night’s game also marked the

start of an 11-month season for Jol and his men, which some fear

could see them struggle for form and fitness in the Premier League.

Murphy admits competing in Europe has the potential to have a

detrimental effect on their domestic campaign, although he insists

the Cottagers will always put league success first. “I think last

time we did it – if I remember correctly – we put ourselves in

quite a safe position (in the league) quite early on,” he said. “We

were never ever in any trouble and I think the problems come if you

are trying to fight a relegation battle. “Or like last season where

there were 10 teams up until probably the last month of the season

fighting week-in, week-out. “If you’re trying to play European

games as well then it could be problematic but let’s hope we’re not

in that position. “The squad is as healthy as it has been in a long

time in terms of quality. We are lacking a few numbers – that’s

true – but they know that upstairs and they will be addressing it.

“But we’ve got to be careful not to get too focused on the Europa

even though that is the focus at the moment, if you know what I

mean? “The Premier League is your bread and butter and the last

thing you want to be doing is losing silly games and points because

you’re trying to progress in this competition. “It is a fine

balance but the manager gets paid big bucks for (making decisions

like this).” After seeing off NSI with relative ease at Craven

Cottage, senior players like Murphy could be rested for next week’s

jaunt to the Faroe Islands. And while the 34-year-old midfielder

admits that progression is not yet a done deal, he expects Jol to

blood a few youngsters in the second leg. “It is a difficult one at

3-0,” he said. “If it was five than it would probably be a little

bit easier. “I would expect one or two of the younger lads to play

maybe. Of course you need a spine [of senior figures] but the

difference when you play away is that it can be a bit of a dodgy

pitch, a bit of a different atmosphere and so on. “It can only take

one mistake and you’re a goal down after 10 minutes and all of a

sudden some of the younger lads might be like ‘what is going on?’

so you have to be a bit careful. “Whatever team he plays, let’s be

honest, we should be comfortable with a 3-0 lead. They’re not

particularly good and as the game went on we should have wrapped it

up more really. “It will be used as a fitness exercise I imagine

and I don’t know whether he will take everyone or not. He will

obviously be having a think about that over the next few days.”