PB - Home advantage important


Bracewell previews clash of former clubs.

Former Sunderland and Fulham midfielder Paul Bracewell believes home advantage will prove vital to the Black Cats when they host the Cottagers in their Barclays Premier League opener on Saturday.

Bracewell had three stints as a player on Wearside, racking up 270 appearances, whilst he also had spells as both a player and manager at Craven Cottage towards the end of his career.

And the former England international feels that the Sunderland fans can edge their side towards the three points in the season opener.

“As with most opening games, it will be a tight match and a tough one to call but I think Sunderland’s home advantage, and the fantastic fans, could prove to be the match-winner,” Bracewell said.

Bracewell, who won the European Cup Winners Cup and two league title with Everton, says he always looks out for how all his previous clubs are doing.

And he feels that both sides will need their new signings to make an instant impact if they are to have successful campaign.

“I think on paper the two sides are very even,” he added. “Obviously both sides have bought in players, Fulham less so, and they’ll need time to settle in.

“Unfortunately with the nature of the league players don’t get that time to settle as it’s so important to get off to a good start.

“Fulham have new owners as well so they’ll be looking for a good start.”

Bracewell managed the Cottagers during the 1999-00 campaign and was reasonably successful as Fulham maintained their Division One status following promotion under Kevin Keegan.

However, Bracewell and Fulham parted company in March 2000; Jean Tigana came in and the Heswall-born man is full of praise for the progress the South-west London club has made since.

“I played and coached for Fulham under Ray Wilkins and then was assistant manager to Kevin Keegan,” he continued.

“I was always told to try and plan on as long as I could and I played until I was in my late 30s before I was manager in 1999.

“After my time at Fulham they have had Jean Tigana, Chris Coleman and many other successful managers who have taken the club to the next level.”