Dimitar Berbatov’s class has been the key to making Fulham entertaining in the Premier League, according to team-mate Steve Sidwell.
Having lost last season’s top scorer Clint Dempsey and powerful midfield playmaker Moussa Dembele to Tottenham last season, a difficult season appeared in prospect for the Cottagers.
But Martin Jol’s men find themselves ninth in the table through 12 matches – five points better off than at this stage last season – with their tally of 25 goals scored only bettered by Manchester United.
Key to the Fulham revival has been Berbatov who, having arrived from Old Trafford on transfer deadline day, has netted five times and thrilled fans and neutrals alike with his skill.
And Sidwell is in no doubt as to the impact the elegant Bulgarian has made since his summer move.
“After losing Clint, our top scorer last season, and Moussa, with the type of player he is, the fans thought ‘This is going to be a tough season’, and us players thought it too,” he told Goal.com.
“But we brought in quality too. With Berba, people can see what he’s done already in games, and the class that he brings.
“In games he’s been immense. He’s scored five goals, and his assists and chances created are going to be up there with the best in the league.
“He’s got that class, and he shows it day-in and day-out in training.
“As a footballer you know that if you get the ball into him it’s going to stick, and if you make runs off him that he’s going to make chances.”
Sidwell himself has played a significant role in Fulham’s impressive early season form, scoring three times and being ever-present in a dynamic and expansive midfield.
It is something of a personal renaissance for the 29-year-old after difficult spells at Chelsea and Aston Villa, and the man himself credits the welcoming atmosphere at Craven Cottage.
“My time at Reading was fantastic, and I enjoyed every moment of it,” he continued.
“In truth, I’ve enjoyed myself at every club I’ve been at, because it’s been a good experience, whether good or bad.
“Sometimes you go to a club and it just doesn’t work out. Unfortunately that happened at Chelsea, and it never really got going at Villa.
“But as soon as I stepped through the door at Fulham it felt like being home. It’s a good, family club, and I hit the ground running because I felt comfortable.
“Being back in London was good too. As a footballer, when your life is settled off the field then your football takes care of itself.”
Earlier this month Everton midfielder Leon Osman was awarded his first England cap against Sweden at the age of 31 – the fruit of over a decade of consistent service at Goodison Park.
Sidwell, himself uncapped, is heartened by the call-up, and believes it shows the international door is always open for those who perform consistently at club level, regardless of age.
“It gives any player hope. When a new manager comes in, it’s a fresh start for everyone,” he said.
“As far as Leon Osman was concerned, I think it was quite long overdue. He’s been one of the most consistent midfield players the Premier League has seen.
“But it goes for any player. If they perform consistently for their club, and they’re playing well, then they’ve got a chance to play for their nation.”
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