Fulham set to win Steve Sidwell chase

Fulham manager Mark Hughes wants Steve Sidwell to rejuvenate his career at Craven Cottage and bring drive to the midfield after apparently capturing him from under the noses of Premier League rivals.

Sidwell was set to sign for Fulham from Aston Villa in a long-term deal understood to be around £3.5million after passing a medical this afternoon as Hughes wound up his attempts to bring reinforcements to west London.

But Hughes insisted there was no way Damien Duff would be allowed to leave the club in the January transfer window.

Sidwell, 28, who has played only four matches for Villa this season, had been tracked by Wolves and West Ham. He even underwent a medical at Upton Park, but his family live in south-west London and Hughes appears to have been most persuasive.

Hughes said: "We are just waiting for a little bit of documentation. He has passed his medical, no problems there. It's just ticking all the boxes really.

"He is a player I have admired for some time. We moved quickly when we felt there was a possibility that we might lose Steve.

"This was his first choice. He is a young man who wants to get back on track, start playing football again. He has a good reputation in the game, well admired, a box-to-box player who can get you a goal. He'll be fine for us.

"His family are based around here but it is not a lifestyle choice. He wants to be part of what we are doing here. He wants to get his career back on track."

There is no chance of Sidwell playing in the FA Cup against League One side Peterborough tomorrow but Duff is likely to be in the side and Hughes issued a hands-off warning to clubs such as Blackburn who have shown interest.

"He's not available," Hughes said. "He's very much part of what we are doing. Allowing a player of the quality of Damien Duff to leave would be bad management. I'm not about to do that."

Instead Hughes, with Bobby Zamora a long-term casualty, Andrew Johnson suffering with a hamstring tear and Moussa Dembele doubtful for tomorrow's game, will step up his search for a striker.

He admits to being an admirer of Tottenham's David Bentley, who he worked with at Blackburn, but believes the transfer fee would rule Fulham out. Ditto Robbie Keane.

But he said: "We are still looking. We're a bit light (on strikers) and we have to address that."

Hughes also spared a thought for such as Liverpool's Roy Hodgson and West Ham's Avram Grant, whose have come under intense pressure recently.

He said: "Every manager at Premier League level is a guy who works his socks off and thinks about the job 24/7.

"It's not nice when criticism comes your way. You have to stick to your philosophy and what you know works and that comes from experience.

"I've been through the situations the managers at the moment are experiencing. You have to be strong and stick to what you know.

"But it's a fantastic job and a Premier League manager is in a very fortunate and coveted position. We're working in the league that is the best in world football.

"Few people get the opportunity. It's a privileged position and I think every manager is grateful to ply their trade at this level."

Hughes also suggested those who want to change the format of the FA Cup, such as abolishing replays, should leave well alone.

"I am averse to changing the FA Cup," he said. "It's been a big part of my career.

"It is arguably the best domestic cup competition in world football and a it is revered around the world. Why change it?"

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