Showtime

Thursday 16 August 2001

Just days before Fulham's big Premiership kick off the Club's Captain Chris Coleman has given his team-mates a boost by insisting that they are good enough to make a big impact on the top flight, even without his own services.

Coleman will be a spectator at Old Trafford on Sunday but still expects the lads to take something from the fixture that everyone fears.

"The lads are ready. The Manager and his assistant have made sure of that. We have such quality in the team that I expect us to come away with something. I have no doubt about that."

Steadily recovering from his injury, Chris Coleman is once again a regular at the club's Motspur Park training ground.

Following a successful spell of rehabilitation in France, Coleman can be seen casually walking around with no sign of any hindrance - a remarkable testament to the central defender's mental resolve and determination.

Speaking to Fulham Today, Coleman spoke of his progress:

"Things are coming along really well, in the last three or four weeks it's come along in leaps and bounds.

"I'm now joining in with the lads, although obviously I'm not running around. But I'm doing bits and pieces.

"My leg's feeling much stronger, it's important that I keep up my current work rate. I don't want to try too hard and possibly overdo it. But at the moment I think the balance is just about right." Said Coleman.

Whilst Coleman has embarked on his own personal pre-season training programme, the rest of the squad have been going about preparing for the big kick-off against Manchester United on Sunday.

Even though he might not be directly taking part in the training sessions, Coleman's mere presence adds a tangible air of reassurance, humour and familiarity to the squad atmosphere.

This charismatic factor did not go unnoticed last season, as both Jean Tigana and Christian Damiano were eager to reintroduce Coleman back to the squad. Despite his absence from the playing field, Coleman is equally as excited as any squad member at the prospect of a new season.

The club's Premiership status comes as a result of years of hard work, both on the pitch and off it. Back in Division Two, Coleman was one of the first multi-million pound signings made by Fulham. Reflecting back on the move, Coleman said:

"Some people asked me why I decided to move down to the Second Division. The answer was simple. I could see the ambition and potential the club had, and it didn't take too much imagination to see that once the momentum got going, it would be hard to stop."

It's sadly ironic that one of the first players to commit to the Fulham cause is set to miss out on part, or almost all of the club's first season in the Promised Land. Looking at a possible comeback date, Coleman disclosed his options:

"I need to have an operation on my knee. The surgeon reckons that it's strong enough and told me that I could get away with not having it operated on. If I don't have the operation, I could be looking at coming back by February.

"But I'm going to have it done, because once I get back, I want to be 100 percent sure in my mind that there's nothing wrong down there. It will probably put me back five months but I'm going to have it done anyway just to be sure."

Given that Coleman will be watching much of next season from the sidelines, the Welshman was characteristically upbeat at the prospect of Fulham playing against some of the best sides, and players in the world.

"We were a fantastic side last season, which we proved not only in the league but in the cup competitions also. The signings we've made over the summer can only strengthen the squad and increase competition for places, which is always healthy.

"The lads have had a hard pre-season and have faced some very good opponents in the friendly matches. Playing in the Premiership is by no means going to be easy, so it's important that the team were brought up to speed with the right quality of opposition.

Coleman explained:

"There's no doubt this pre-season has been far tougher than the last on the lads. Judging from what I've been told and have seen; the training intensity has been increased a lot and whilst it's been hard work, the lads are now starting to feel the benefits."

The return of top-flight football to Craven Cottage has been long overdue, and Coleman is looking forward to having that big match atmosphere back at Craven Cottage. Over the past few seasons the Fulham faithful have had a few tasters, with matches against Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Southampton the most notable.

"It will be great for the fans, every game will be a big game, I'd imagine it will be a full house every week. The atmosphere at a packed Craven Cottage is unique and the fans will be able to enjoy that more often this season.

"As we get further into the season and more midweek matches start to crop up. We'll also experience that special atmosphere that night games bring to Craven Cottage. I'm sad to be missing out on that, but I know for sure that the supporters and players will give it their all and do the Club proud."