Stephen Kelly keen to defy wrist break for Fulham finale
Wednesday 25 April 2012
Fulham's Stephen Kelly is hoping to end the season in style before turning his attention to Euro 2012 – even if he has to end it playing in a cast over the wrist he broke in the Cottagers' impressive 1-1 draw with Chelsea earlier this month.
Fulham have enjoyed an impressive season under Martin Jol and currently lie ninth in the Premier League, within reach of a record-equalling seventh-place finish. They have secured 10 points from their last four matches and Ireland defender Kelly is looking for more before he switches his focus to the European Championship.
"If we can continue our good form, and the good performances that we have been putting in, then there's no reason why we can't get to 50 points and then build on that," he said.
"We'll be looking to finish in the top eight, which is definitely achievable with the points we're on and the games coming up. Then once the season has finished, I'll have an eye on the Euros.
"It's a major tournament and I'm so lucky and so privileged to be involved – I can't wait for that to start. The season is coming to a close and having that to look forward to is amazing."
Dublin-born Kelly, now 28, is enjoying his best season for Fulham since joining from Birmingham on a free transfer in 2009. He has made more than 30 appearances this term, but missed last Saturday's 2-1 defeat of Wigan with the wrist injury he picked up in the derby draw with Chelsea – the only game Fulham have not taken maximum points from since last month's 1-0 defeat at Old Trafford.
"It was obviously disappointing to miss the game," he said. "Things have been going really well recently and I've been enjoying my football. Hopefully it won't be too long before I'm back playing. I sustained a slight break to my wrist but it's something that I can hopefully get over and play with a cast on it.
"I got through the match against Chelsea and finished the game after it happened in the first half so that's a good sign and, fingers crossed, I'll be back soon. I'll be looking to get back into training this week and get the confidence built up again.
"It's a matter of getting back into training and hopefully it will feel good and I'll be available at the weekend for the game against Everton."
Newcastle United, meanwhile, seem set to lose two key players to the Olympic tournament this summer. The Senegal Football Association president, Augustin Senghor, yesterday confirmed that Demba Ba and Papiss Cissé were in line to be selected. The national coach, Alou Cissé, said after Monday's play-off win over Oman in Coventry that he was still considering whether to draft in reinforcements to an already impressive Under-23 squad.
However, after today's draw, which confirmed Senegal as Great Britain's first opponents, at Old Trafford on 25 July, Senghor sounded more definite.
"If we can strengthen our young team with famous players from great championships like the Premier League, we should," he said. "We need top scorers like Papiss Cissé. If you leave players like that at home, it is a big mistake."
Neither Cissé nor Ba has been contacted yet, but Senghor is certain they would not turn down an invitation.
"If we call them, they will come," he said. "It is a privilege to participate in the Olympic Games. There are many great players who regret not playing in the Olympics. They are patriotic guys. They will come if we ask. Also, it will be a very good thing for them to play against their colleagues in England. It will create a lot of focus around the game and the stadium will be full."
There was some encouraging news for Newcastle fans yesterday when it was reported that the Netherlands left-back Erik Pieters would be interested in joining the Magpies this summer.
The 23-year-old PSV Eindhoven defender – who is currently sidelined with a foot injury – has been linked with a summer switch to Tyneside and although it is understood there has been no formal approach as yet, the idea is already interesting Pieters.
"He was interested last year," said the player's agent, Piet van der Pol. "Newcastle United is a fantastic club and I know that Erik follows them because of his friendship with [the goalkeeper] Tim Krul. If they come in for Erik of course he will be interested in talking to them, but right now the main thing that he is focused on is getting fit for Euro 2012."
Pieters was a target for Newcastle last season after the departure of Jose Enrique, but delays in the deal led to the Magpies signing Davide Santon instead. However, Pieters' ability to play centre-half as well as left-back has meant the club kept their interest alive.
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