Smertin aims high for Fulham
By Alex Dunn. Last Updated: January 1, 1970 1:00am
Alexei Smertin believes Fulham are capable of qualifying for European football within the next two seasons, despite their current predicament that sees them much closer to the drop zone.
The former Chelsea man has impressed at Craven Cottage since arriving on a two-and-a-half year deal in the January transfer window and he is looking forward to his time in West London with genuine optimism.
In spurning the advances of the likes of Blackburn, West Ham and Middlesbrough, in electing to join Fulham, Smertin has shown plenty of faith in the ambition Chris Coleman holds for his side.
The 31-year-old Russian midfielder is convinced he made the right choice in returning to the capital but it is a return to the European stage at the forefront of his thoughts for the future.
"There were many, many reasons why I chose Fulham but I think the main one is that Fulham is a good, very stable team in the Premiership," he said.
"I don't think it's going too badly for us at the moment despite the results and the fact that we haven't won.
"The atmosphere is still very good and I am very happy in this team. I would like to get into Europe with Fulham.
"That's important for me and for the club, but first of all it's important to finish as high as possible in the table."
In the interim period between quitting Chelsea and joining Fulham, Smertin had a year-long sojourn back in his homeland with Dinamo Moscow, only for the lure of the Premiership to prove too tempting to resist.
"There is a very good atmosphere in the dressing room and that's what I missed when I was in Russia," he added.
"I missed the atmosphere on the pitch, in the dressing room and in training.
"I started to play in Russia but I said to myself, `It's not my football'. I quit Russia six years ago and my mind and my football changed.
"I've lived in Europe for six years and I've got used to the type of football here.
"As soon as I came to the UK I said it was my type of football because it's aggressive and dynamic."