Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer says the Cottagers are looking to make their mark in Europe after a strong domestic campaign last season.The Australia international has been a key presence in Fulham’s blossoming in the English Premier League after joining at the end of their disastrous 2007/08 campaign.
Since then, the Cottagers have gone on to record two top-10 finishes in the past three years, as well as taking Atletico Madrid to extra time in the final of the 2009/10 Europa League.
Fulham are on the long road back to Europe, having been granted a berth in the first qualifying round of the 2011/12 Europa League through UEFA’s Fair Play rankings.
The club has already cleared the first hurdle – Faroese club NSI Runavik – with a 3-0 aggregate, and locked in a tie with Irish League side Crusaders in the second qualifying round.
Schwarzer says Fulham are determined to prove they belong in Europe just as they do in the Premier League.
“We’ve just got to keep backing up what we’ve been doing over the last few years,” he told Fulham’s official website.
“The last three seasons have been, for Fulham Football Club and a lot of us personally, fantastic. It’s possibly been the best three years in a lot of our careers. We need to continue that run.”
“We believe that we belong in the top half of the Premier League and we like to think that we can mix it in Europe every couple of seasons.”
Those expectations are not limited to the players. Schwarzer acknowledges Fulham fans are also anticipating improvement under new manager Martin Jol.
“The expectation levels are always higher,” Schwarzer said.
“When I first came here, the club had just avoided relegation with 15 minutes to spare so anything above that was a bonus.”
“To then finish seventh, then have such a great run in Europe and finish eighth last year means the expectations are there.”
“We, as players, acknowledge that and we know that we need to live up to them. So far it’s been a great challenge.”
“If you look at the history of the club and how much has been accomplished, particularly in the last three years – it’s been outstanding.”