Melville happy

Thursday 30 August 2001

Fulham star Andy Melville will find himself Wales' most experienced player when they stride into their World Cup showdown this weekend.

Melville will win his 47th cap and because of injury to captain Gary Speed will be the senior man and might even end up as captain when Wales take on Armenia at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

Melville claims, meanwhile, to be constantly stunned by the amount of money Mohamed Al Fayed is throwing at Fulham, where the tough Welsh defender will find himself with another new team mate - £11.5million Steve Marlet - when he finally gets back to club football in a fortnight.

Fulham have spent £33m since the summer, and it means the old guard like Melville are being forced to hang on grimly to their places.

Melville said: "We are still buying good players. We've now spent another £11.5million on a striker and brought in Edwin van der Sar in the summer. It shows that the people who run the club know what they are doing and know what they want.

"But now I actually think we are under more pressure than most sides that come up. Nobody was predicting we would be going straight back down, which is unusual for a promoted team.

"That doesn't help because everyone thinks we are going to just finish in the top 10 or higher because of all the money being spent. But as players we know there's a lot of hard work for everyone."

Wales duty comes as a welcome change from the new-found pressures of the Premiership high life for Melville, and he reckons his country can clinch their first win in group five against the Armenians.

He said: "This is a good chance for us to win. We have threatened a lot in this group but ended up drawing a lot. "We should have beaten Armenia away. Their equaliser was a shock goal, so we are looking forward to going one better this time. "Just like at Fulham, I'm really enjoying my football at the top level - and I'm satisfied that people are saying I'm holding my own in the Premiership. That can only help in internationals."

Swansea-born Melville - who has been playing for his country for almost 12 years - is delighted with life in the top flight at Craven Cottage, despite the pressures.

He said: "It's gone really well - we have started fine. Manchester United away was a good performance even though we lost, and three points from Sunderland showed what we can do.

"As long as we know and understand that it's going to be very hard this term then we will be okay and not get over-confident.

"But there's not much chance of that with the knowledge that you could find yourself replaced at any moment by another big-money signing. It has been the same at Fulham for the past few years because players are always looking over their shoulders at people who continually get brought in whenever we make some progress.

"Every day you hear of new names linked with the club. The old guard just have to get on with it and see what happens."

But he added: "People must not get carried away. We have come a long way in a short space of time and we have to make sure first and foremost that we are still in the Premiership come next May. Anything else is a bonus after that.

"I can't say we are going to finish in the top six because reality tells you it's going to be a lot harder than that."