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.”