Fulham boss Marco Silva says it feels “good” to welcome Aleksandar Mitrovic back after the Serbian striker served an eight-match ban.
The Cottagers have been without their top goalscorer since he grabbed referee Chris Kavanagh during the FA Cup loss to Manchester United in March.
Mitrovic, who has trained every day with the team since his ban started, has scored 11 times in 21 Premier League games on Fulham’s return to the top division, following his record-breaking haul of 43 in last season’s Championship.
“Mitrovic is back and it’s always good to have him back,” said Silva, whose side travel to bottom-club Southampton on Saturday.
“It’s been tough, I won’t hide it from you. His behaviour has been really good all this period, with support from ourselves. He knew from the first day it was going to be different from a normal ban or normal injury.
“He was always working with the team. It was a tough period for him, of course. It will be good to have him back.
“It was a strong feeling for us, it’s clear it was an exaggerated thing. We admitted as a club that you cannot react in that situation. It’s clear, he did it, he admitted the mistake but the number of games, if you compare with other situations, is completely different. We as a club keep strong and we keep supporting him.”
Silva has rotated who he has used in the central attacking position in the Serbia striker’s absence, with Carlos Vinicius taking on the role during Monday’s 5-3 win against Leicester and scoring his fourth of the season.
Daniel James and Bobby Decordova Reid have also been deployed as strikers as the Cottagers maintained the push to break their record top-flight points tally of 53, which was set by Roy Hodgson’s side in 2009.
Silva was especially impressed with Vinicius’ performance in the rout of Leicester.
“It’s what any manager wants really,” Silva added. “It was the reason why we signed Carlos. Of course with more game time, and making good things, bad things, mistakes, make the players grow of course with some important goals.
“It’s given (him) the confidence he needs. It’s nice to see him performing better and better the last few games.
“It’s important to have a player like Mitro, a player like Vini, and I have to say even we won two games with Daniel James as a striker and Bobby as a striker. Different profile and we were able to win that game against Everton and Leeds at home.
“That shows that everyone knows his role, everyone is fighting for the club and can pop up in certain moments of the season.”
Silva declined to comment on whether negotiations had begun with the club over a new contract, with his current deal expiring at the end of next season.
“Nothing new,” he said. “It’s a moment of the season when everyone is going to talk about managers, about players, about everything. There are rumours around everything.
“When you do a good season of course, it’s a consequence of the performance, the way the team is playing. It’s a normal situation. If there’s something new, we’re going to announce it.”