Former Fulham winger John Salako believes the Cottagers’ “inhibition and adventure” could be the telling factor in tonight’s Championship play-off semi final second leg against Reading.
The two teams meet at the Madejski Stadium with the score tied at 1-1 following last week’s stalemate at Craven Cottage.
It’s sure to be a tense and tight contest between the two sides with a place in the final at Wembley at stake. One mistake could be the difference between reaching the Premier League and another season in the Championship.
But Salako, who spent the 1998/99 season with Fulham and enjoyed three years with Reading, feels Slavisa Jokanovic’s side will have the edge.
Speaking to Football Whispers at their FW:2 event in Milton Keynes last Thursday, he said: “Fulham have been incredible. I saw them earlier on in the season, they were playing good possession football but weren’t always hurting the opposition.
“But they’ve done so well. They’ve got some good quality in their team. Tom Cairney is one of those players that everyone’s looking at, he’s got so much quality.
“He perhaps lacks that little bit of pace, so I’m wondering if he steps up to the Premier League how will he do. But they’ve got some really good young players, [Ryan] Sessegnon is just sensational.
“You need those fresh, young legs. It gives you that inhibition and adventure, and that’s what Fulham have got. They’re firing and are the in-form side.”
Although tonight’s away side arguably carry more momentum into the second leg, Salako believes Reading’s home advantage will be a big factor.
The Royals lost just two games at the Madejski during the regular season, claiming 53 points from their 23 games.
“The first leg [was] at Fulham and the second is at Reading – I was speaking to Nigel Howe, the Reading chairman, and he is happy about that.
“I think you always want the second leg at home. And then Wembley’s a lottery. It’s a one-off cup game for £200million – it’s always been the most valuable single game.”
Salako is also a great admirer of how Jaap Stam has transformed the Royals and believes former Manchester United defender even has the potential to someday assume the Old Trafford hot seat.
“Huddersfield have had an incredible season and Sheffield Wednesday are strong,” he told Football Whispers . “But Jaap Stam has done an incredible job with Reading.
“He started in the academy at Ajax and has done things the right way – they do it so much better abroad. When Jaap takes a big job, he’ll have the experience of the Ajax Under-18s, Ajax Under-21s and now Reading.
“He will heave learnt about himself with every job and learnt about everyone else. If he was to get a big job, like the Man United job, he’s been there and done it. He’s learned from his experiences.
“That’s what (Jose) Mourinho did, that’s what (David) Moyes did and that’s what (Antonio) Conte has done. Sir Alex Ferguson did it too – you get on a track where you learn to manage, rather than getting thrown in at the deep end."
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