Fulham to travel to Australia for preseason
English Premier League club Fulham will travel to Australia to face both the Perth Glory and the Melbourne Victory in July ahead of the start of the A-League season.
Australia's premier football competition begins in August and traditionally has been preceded by a preseason Cup competition between A-League clubs.
The tournament has been scrapped this season, however, and the lure of Fulham seems to have vindicated that decision by Football Federation Australia (FFA), which will hope that July's friendly matches will set a precedent for years to come.
Fulham will first face defending champion Melbourne at Etihad Stadium (Docklands) on July 11 before traveling to Western Australia four days later, where it will line up against the Glory at Members Equity Stadium.
It adds to an already English-flavored A-League preseason, with Wolverhampton Wanderers -- which will be in the Premier League next season -- set to face the Glory on July 10 before completing a double-act in Perth when it takes on Robbie Fowler's North Queensland Fury on July 15.
"This is an historic and momentous occasion for Perth Glory and football in Western Australia," said the club's owner and chairman, Tony Sage. "We've achieved something no other side in Australia has been able to do and that's to arrange two matches against Premier League teams. It has been more than a decade since a top-flight European side has played in Western Australia and now we're delivering two of the best in a week.
"I've made a commitment to give something to Western Australia, enhance the profile of football in this state and take Perth Glory back to the top, and this is just part of that commitment. There are still many more key announcements to come for the club, it's an exciting time to be involved with Perth Glory."
It marks a conscious move by the Glory to re-establish themselves as a force on the Australian domestic scene this season after four disappointing A-League campaigns.
The former National Soccer League giants are looking to reconnect with their fanbase and appear unafraid to spend lavishly, having been linked with a number of high-profile names over the past couple of months.
Fulham's arrival in Australia could see the return of Socceroo Mark Schwarzer, alongside the likes of England internationals Andrew Johnson and Danny Murphy and American Clint Dempsey.
Manager Roy Hodgson, though currently occupied with the conclusion of the Premier League season, said he was looking forward to the London club's Australia trip, where his side will prepare for an August start to its next season.
"I am very pleased that we can announce our early pre-season plans and, although this season is yet to end, I am looking forward to our trip to Australia," Hodgson said. We have an opportunity to play three teams of quality who I am sure will want to put on good performances against us, which of course is what one hopes will assist the team in both their personal preparations, but also of course collectively."
After the success of a friendly match with Serie A giants Juventus last season -- the first of its kind since the inception of the A-League -- Melbourne will be looking to further establish itself as one of the country's more forward-thinking clubs with another big-name friendly.
"Following the success of the Juventus game last year, we're committed to bringing more of the world's biggest clubs to Melbourne and Fulham will undoubtedly provide an entertaining spectacle," Victory chairman Geoff Lord said. "These games show the global nature of our sport, and give the people of Melbourne and Australia a real taste of it."