Sidwell eager for Euro place

There is an extra place available for an English side in the Europa
League qualifiers via UEFA’s Fair Play League. With Chelsea and
Tottenham already in Europe, Fulham could be given the opportunity
once all the final calculations are complete. However, Sunday’s red
card for Zoltan Gera against Arsenal may yet see relegated
Blackpool finish with a higher placing after UEFA delegates reports
on attitudes towards referees and crowd behaviour are taken into
consideration, as well as on-field disciplinary matters. Fulham
reached the Europa League final a year ago under Roy Hodgson and
Sidwell – signed by Mark Hughes during the January transfer window
– sees no reason why the Cottagers should not enjoy another crack
at the competition, even if it means added strain on the squad. “It
tests yourself, playing in Europe at any stage of your career is a
highlight,” said Sidwell, who headed to Stamford Bridge on a Bosman
free transfer from Reading in July 2007. “I have been fortunate
enough to taste Champions League football when I was at Chelsea. It
was a great experience. “I also played the Europa League at Villa,
it’s a good competition and with the achievements that Fulham made
here last season, I am sure we will want to go far in it again.”
However, Sidwell understands all too well the additional pressures
not having a full summer break could bring, with the Europa League
first-round qualifiers set for the end of June. “Coming back early
doesn’t help because the demands of a Premier League game itself
are very tough, let alone a Premier League season,” he said. “There
is no hiding the fact that the Premier League is the hardest league
in the world – to go into that you need a fit squad, you need a big
squad. Then to add the Europa League, it does take a toll on the
squad itself. “There is the chance of burning out towards the end
of the season, but whatever the outcome is we are professional
enough to take it in our stride and give our best in every game.”
Sidwell, 28, was on target against another of his old clubs when
scoring the opener in the 2-2 draw with the Gunners. The point saw
Fulham finish eighth after Hughes’ men slowly climbed the table
over the closing months of the campaign having begun 2011 in the
relegation zone. “You can imagine what the start of the season was
like with the new manager coming in, a transitional period, players
getting used to different ways,” Sidwell said. “It took it’s time
and when I came I fitted in to that mould, and we have done well.
“Now the manager is going to want to kick on again.”