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Fulham's best XI of the Premier League era, including Dempsey and Saha

Louis Saha - Fulham

Here's a lineup of Fulham's best players since they first competed in the Premier League in 2001.

Louis Saha and Sean Davies celebrateLouis Saha and Sean Davies celebrate a goal for Fulham

It took Fulham some time to reach the promised land of English football.

They won promotion to the Premier League in 2001 as champions of Division One and by some distance with 101 points.

The Cottagers would then stay in the Premier League for 13 consecutive seasons before succumbing to relegation in 2014 and playing in the Championship ever since.

Here is a selection of the best players to have played for the club in the Premier League:

 

Edwin van der Sar (GK)

Edwin Van Der Sar - FulhamEdwin Van Der Sar - Fulham

Part of Ajax's golden generation that featured Edgar Davids, Patrick Kluivert and Clarence Seedorf among others, van der Sar would go on to be a legend at Fulham as well. 

After a spell with Juventus, the Dutchman was displaced by a young goalkeeper from Parma named Gianluigi Buffon. His next move was to West London with the Cottagers where he spent four seasons before his transfer to Manchester United.

Known for not just his shot-stopping but also a calm demeanour, fancy footwork and being a penalty saving specialist, van der Sar was one of the best goalkeepers of his time, and certainly in Fulham's history.

Steve Finnan (RB)

Picture Supplied by Action ImagesSteve Finnan in action for Fulham against Blackburn's Damien Duff

It was Kevin Keegan who brought a young Steve Finnan to Craven Cottage in 1998 from Notts County.

In his early years at the club he was part of two promotion winning teams and his name was seldom not on the teamsheet.

Finnan's fine form at right back saw him voted Fulham's Player of the Year and into the PFA Team of the Year. He also became a regular in the Republic of Ireland team before getting a move to Liverpool in 2003 where he won an FA Cup and a Champions League with the Reds.

Aaron Hughes (CB)

Picture Supplied by Action ImagesAaron Hughes challenges for a ball against Manchester City's Edin Dzeko

Northern Ireland's second most capped player behind Pat Jennings joined Fulham in 2007. He followed his former manager with the national team there, Lawrie Sanchez.

Hughes had already enjoyed successful spells at Newcastle and Aston Villa, but his seven years with the Cottagers were his best. He was part of the Fulham side that painfully lost the Europa League final to Atletico Madrid in extra time in 2010.

Brede Hangeland (CB)

Fulham's Brede Hangeland in action against QPR's Stephane M'BiaFulham's Brede Hangeland in action against QPR's Stephane M'Bia

His career before joining Fulham was mired in relative obscurity playing for Viking and FC Copenhagen, while his career after Fulham ended following an unsuccessful stint at Crystal Palace. 

Signed during Roy Hodgson's tenure, the Norwegian made 217 appearances and was a rock at the back in defence, often alongside his partner in this XI, Hughes.

Hangeland was the player who was subjected to Felix Magath's bizarre medical 'expertise', such as placing a block of cheese on his thigh to alleviate an injury.

Rufus Brevett (LB)

Picture Supplied by Action ImagesRufus Brevett playing for Fulham

His dreadlocks always made him a recognisable figure to fans around the country, but his performances as a left back with a sweet left foot endeared him to fans at the Cottage. 

Brevett joined Fulham from Queen's Park Rangers after their relegation from the Premier League, and proceeded to win promotion with his new club. He was their first choice for almost six seasons and his commitment among other things made him a fan favourite, including one occasion when he was sent off for a diving save, with his hands.

His subsequent move to West Ham was initially promising but unfortunately injury-ravaged.

Clint Dempsey (RM)

Picture Supplied by Action ImagesClint Dempsey goes up for an aerial challenge with Chelsea's John Terry

The part-time rapper became Fulham's third American in the squad in 2006, alongside Carlos Bocanegra and Brian McBride.

Dempsey had often been deployed as a midfielder in his career before Fulham and was used there for the Whites at first, but was thrown in upfront after injury ruled out McBride.

The Texan flourished in the position and became an invaluable member of the team, netting 50 goals in his 184 appearances before moving to Spurs and later his current club the Seattle Sounders.

Moussa Dembele (CM)

Mousa Dembele - Fulham in actionMoussa Dembele in action for Fulham

His namesake has been the big news lately after scoring a hat-trick for Celtic in the Old Firm derby. Both players were even teammates briefly at Craven Cottage before the Belgian moved to Spurs.

The powerful midfielder was a instant hit in West London after arriving from Dutch side AZ Alkmaar in 2010. 

Dembele was a much more forward thinking player at Fulham, encouraged to drive through midfield and use his potent combination of skill and athleticism to create openings.

Indeed it was an scintillating solo goal against Spurs, running from the halfway line, that may have gotten him noticed by his future employers. The goal was voted Fulham's goal of the season.

Danny Murphy (CM)

Fulham's Danny MurphyDanny Murphy during his time at Fulham

The former Liverpool star captained the side from 2008 until 2012 and was a key player, especially under Hodgson. 

He skippered one of Fulham's greatest period in their history, including the Europa League run which saw them defeat Wolfsburg and Juventus before losing in the final.

A gifted passer of the ball, he still created the most chances of any player in the Premier League in his final season at Craven Cottage before being released.

Luis Boa Morte (LM)

Watford's Alhassan Bangura in action against Fulham's Luis Boa MorteWatford's Alhassan Bangura in action against Fulham's Luis Boa Morte

After being overlooked by Arsenal and struggling to break into the team at Southampton, Luis Boa Morte finally settled at Fulham. 

A volatile character, his often visible emotion struck a chord with the supporters, even if his passionate style didn't always translate to such an impressive footballing performance. His rapport with the fans was strengthened when he once gave away all of his kit at the end of season, all of it.

He helped Jean Tigana's side to promotion in 2001 while on loan, and then went on to make a further 156 appearances until 2007, scoring 27 goals. 

He was Player of the Year in 2004-05 and made captain the following season before eventually departing to West Ham in 2007.

Brian McBride (ST)

Brian McBride - FulhamFormer Fulham captain Brian McBride

The American is a something of a cult hero in West London. His scoring tally on 33 goals in 140 games seems at first to be quite modest, but the goals came a steady pace for most of his time in a Fulham shirt. His scoring record for his country was more impressive, with 30 in 95 caps.

The 2006-07 campaign was possibly his best, top scoring for the club with 12 goals and winning the Player of the Year award. He was rewarded for his performances at the start of the next campaign, with the captain's armband.

An unfortunate injury less than a month later ruled McBride out for a year. However, but his commitment to the Cottager's cause was such that he was Player of the Year again a season later after returning to the lineup.

If his popularity among the fans wasn't demonstrated enough by his awards, they named a stadium bar McBride's after his departure in 2009.

Louis Saha (ST)

Picture Supplied by Action ImagesLouis Saha in action for Fulham against Spurs

Possibly the best outfield player in this team, Louis Saha seemed to be an exceptionally talented striker and overall footballer.

Relatively unknown before arriving at Fulham, he quickly became a force to reckoned with, scoring 32 goals in his first season to help the team to promotion.

Another 31 in the next two and half Premier League seasons got him on Sir Alex Ferguson's radar and landed him a January move to Manchester United for £12.4 million in 2004. In fact, his two goals against Manchester United at Old Trafford are thought to have convinced Ferguson to sign him.

His career threatened to kick on from there for the Red Devils, with call-ups to the French team beckoning as well, but injuries severely stunted his progress for almost the whole remainder of his career.

In spite of the injuries, Saha still scored 28 and 27 goals for United and Everton respectively.

At 35, Saha called time on what must have been a frustrating albeit still fruitful career.

Subs: Steed Malbranque, Bryan Ruiz, Bobby Zamora, Dimitar Berbatov, Chris Coleman, Mark Schwarzer, Carlos Bocanegra

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