Five years ago today, Steve Sidwell and Bobby Zamora scored late goals for Fulham in a 2-1 win against Arsenal at Craven Cottage.

A hip injury has forced Zamora to retire, but former Fulham and Albion team-mate Sidwell remains an important part of the Seagulls' push for the Premier League.

Just turned 34, the midfielder is on 399 career starts. Craven Cottage would be an appropriate place to reach a landmark, but Sidwell will probably have to wait to bring the 400 up with Northern Ireland international Oliver Norwood an emerging influence.

Either way, Sidwell (below centre) is looking forward to a nostalgic return to old ground by the Thames.

The Argus: When he joined Fulham in January 2011 from Aston Villa, it was initially on a six-month contract. He ended up staying for three-and-a-half years, scoring 14 goals in 92 Premier League appearances and playing for them in the Europa League.

"It's good to go to back to one of my former clubs," Sidwell said. "I've done it several times now.

"It will be nice to go back and I have very fond memories of playing at the Cottage, it’s a lovely place to go. But I'll be in the away dressing room and fully fighting for the cause.

"I can picture it now, Brighton fans taking that whole section behind the goal. It will be a good game, taking place at the turn of the year, and I have been very impressed with them.

"I've been to see them a couple of times this year and I thought they were one of the best teams we've played this year football wise."


At the end of November at the Amex, Albion mounted a second half recovery, goals by Sam Baldock and Glenn Murray turning a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 victory against a Fulham side that sparkled for 45 minutes.

Sidwell said: "In the first half it felt like I was playing back in the Premier League and if they had taken their chances they could've been 3-0 up.

"So we know that we need to be on top form defensively and attacking wise as well.

"They had a really good start to the season and they probably showed to people that last year (finished 20th) was a blip for them. They went on a really good run of playing good football and people said Fulham could be a force this year.

"Then they slowly tailed off and are coming back in. From what I've seen and performance wise, they've been relatively sound throughout the season and not taken their chances."

The same cannot be said of Albion, another comeback from 1-0 down to win 2-1 in the last away game at Birmingham providing a prime example.

The Argus: If Fulham are to inflict a first defeat in 18 league matches they must find a way past a resilient back four and Sidwell's fellow Fulham old boy David Stockdale (above).

Sidwell said: "You look at the way we've gone about our business, there have been games where we haven't been great.

"You look at Birmingham, but we took our chances. We've got Glenn Murray up front, who can do that, and, as well as that, the defensive clean sheets, which has been the basis of success the year, have not got enough praise.

"The back four and David Stockdale have all been magnificent for us. Dave has set the tone for us to go on and win games."

Links with today's opponents abound in the Albion camp. Chris Hughton's assistant, Paul Trollope, helped Fulham to the Premier League in his playing days.

Hughton's coach, Paul Nevin had a "watershed moment" under Jean Tigana as he worked his way up through the academy system to become reserve team manager, alongside current Wales boss Chris Coleman.

Nevin said: "He (Tigana) had a major influence on my coaching career and my philosophy towards football.

"The methodology of training, his highly technical approach, working with sports scientists and nutritionists, it was all new in this country and made a big impression on me.

"Things that are now second nature at most clubs, he was doing all those years ago."

Nevin has an unconventional background. His playing career at different ends of the country included a spell with Carlisle and was over at Yeovil by the age of 24, due to a back injury.

He has a degree in communications, was a social worker in South London and managed in Qatar and New Zealand before linking up with Hughton and Trollope at Norwich.

Nevin, who succeeded Nathan Jones at the Amex in June, said: "Coaching and playing are very different. While I might not have played Premier League football, I am a real student of the game and have worked alongside some great coaches and managers.

"I would like to think I have developed a healthy understanding of top-level football from a coaching perspective.

"It can be frustrating at certain clubs where your work with the group and individuals is inhibited, but Chris has always given me a lot of leeway to have my input on the training ground.

"The whole package is fantastic and what excited me was seeing the joined-up approach, from the many communtiy projects the club undertakes right through to the first team.

"There is a unity and common goal. It's been said many times, but there really is a feeling of togetherness here which you don't necessarily get at other clubs."

A togetherness which will be sternly tested today on territory familiar to Sidwell, Stockdale, Trollope and Nevin.