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Saturday 15 December 2001

Fulham Boss Jean Tigana has told his players to take a leaf out of his book at White Hart Lane on Saturday by chilling out and playing passing football.

The Cottagers' French coach is the top-flight's least-stressed manager - even continuing to calmly chew his trademark toothpick as last Saturday's match with Everton exploded into a 22-man brawl that resulted in red cards for Luis Boa Morte and Everton captain David Weir.

Tigana extols the virtues of the beautiful game, and the Fulham boss has urged his men to relax as they weave slick moves and try to nudge their eight-match league unbeaten streak towards double figures in north London.

Tigana's assistant Christian Damiano has already warned of the problems posed by Teddy Sheringham and the other Spurs stars, who beat the Cottagers 2-1 in the fourth round of the Worthington Cup just over a fortnight ago.

And now the manager himself has spoken out in a rare interview, saying: "My players are getting more confident on the pitch and are always try to play, which is the main thing.

"The primary thing is that I want them to play a bit quicker offensively - and it is important that we relax when we play on the big occasions."

Wednesday's 0-0 draw with Barclaycard Premiership leaders Liverpool at Anfield was another large advance on the Division One champions' sharp learning curve.

Fulham's scrooge-like rearguard - who have kept four successive clean sheets in the league - will have to be on top form again to shut out a Spurs strike force that thumped Bolton 6-0 to reach the Worthington Cup semifinals on Tuesday.

In contrast, the Cottagers have hit the net only twice in their last 360 minutes of Premiership action, prompting Tigana to demand a greater cutting edge up front.

The manager knows more goals are essential if the unbeaten run is to be kept intact at White Hart Lane.

Tigana said "Louis Saha and Barry Hayles need to score more goals. I'm sure my team has progressed a little bit - it's a question of our players getting used to all the different levels that they come across.

"We play Tottenham on Saturday. I think it will be a very different game to the Liverpool match, but we also need to go there and get a result."