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Jol full of praise for 'Bairdinho'

MARTIN Jol hailed 'Bairdinho' for giving Fulham's midfield a new identity following the summer departures of Clint Dempsey, Danny Murphy and Mousa Dembele.

Chris Baird, a converted defender, scored the late winner in Fulham's 1-0 Premier League victory over Aston Villa with a deft touch at the near post worthy of a Brazilian striker.

Dempsey, Murphy and Dembele left big shoes to fill at Craven Cottage and, with Mahamadou Diarra having been out injured, Baird has answered Jol's call for help with aplomb.

"This is a new role for Chris. I explained to him that we needed a new identity in midfield and that he could help," Jol said. "He certainly did that. He is a good football player and he is becoming more and more important for us.

"Last season he played right-back and centre-back and I am very pleased that he is so versatile and that he could do that job for us. He is playing for the national team in midfield now too which is good and they got a good result against Portugal.

"He is probably on top of his game and that was exactly what we needed."

Baird's goal, from a low John Arne Riise corner Jol described as "the worst ever", was only the sixth of his career on his 200th league appearance.