Fulham and DR Congo star Neeskens Kebano: 'I never gave up'

By Babacar DiarraBBC Sport Africa, Senegal
DR Congo's Neeskens Kebano celebrates with the Enlgish Championship play-off trophy
DR Congo's Neeskens Kebano scored several crucial goals towards the end of the season to help Fulham earn promotion to the Premier League

If there was a change in fortunes during Fulham's final push to Premier League promotion which was hard to ignore, it was the one enjoyed by Neeskens Kebano.

During the last five fixtures of the Championship season, the former France youth player and now DR Congo international, managed to grab five goals, having not scored once before that this season.

“Prior to the lockdown, I was just entering games for four or 10 minutes or so but since the restart, I began more games," the 28-year-old told BBC Sport Africa.

"So obviously with more time on the pitch, you have more chances to score."

When the Covid-19 hiatus happened in March after 37 games, Fulham’s manager Scott Parker had only started him once, for an away game against Brentford.

Things changed on the restart for the former Paris Saint-Germain player as he began the crucial last five games.

"Maybe he felt that it was my moment, that I deserved it for my effort," he explained.

"I never gave up, I always worked hard and I took the opportunity when I had one. This is how I earned my place."

As an unexpected hero, the midfielder scored away to Cardiff City and then again at home in the semi-finals of the Championship play-offs.

He then played 81 minutes in the play-off final at Wembley, that saw his team beat west London rivals Brentford 2-1, with all the goals coming in extra-time.

It was his second Championship play-off final after they also won in 2018 by beating Aston Villa.

“We are so proud of getting a promotion right after going down," he added.

"Our season was far from perfect but we fought like animals and we got what we deserved.

"This is why we had crazy celebrations. Fulham is back to the place it belongs."

Neeskens Kebano
Neeskens Kebano joined Fulham in 2016

Kebano, who was born in the Paris suburb of Montereau-Fault-Yonne, has been rewarded with an extension to his contract until 2022.

“In this club, I have my habits here, my family is happy. This is why I feel great in this club," he explained.

Now that this extended season is over and after a short break, it will be time to focus on the Premier League season which starts on 12 September.

During the 2018-19 season ,which was their last campaign in the top-tier, the Cottagers spent the last 30 fixtures in the bottom three before being relegated after just one season in the Premier League.

“I think one of the mistakes was to include too many new players in a team already in place," he continued.

"I am not a football teacher but it’s definitely the mistake to avoid. Last time, it could have worked but it didn’t.”