John Collins Exclusive

Monday 5 November 2001

Ian McCulloch writes for Fulham Today...

With a performance that belied his thirty-three years, John Collins showed that he is back on the stage where he truly belongs. Masterminding an outstanding Fulham performance at Upton Park on Saturday, Collins was everywhere, leading by example and showing off his superb range of skills. And it wasn't just his incisive and creative passing that caught the eye, but also his ferocious tackling.

Speaking after the game, the Scottish international emphasised that this was a result that had been coming for some time. "We've been playing well in games but not scoring the goals. At the end of the day you've got to score goals to win the games, and that's been our weakness. But we've been playing well."

With their first away win under their belt and a run of victories finally underway, self-belief amongst the players is surely no longer a problem, but Collins conceded that the longer the team went without that elusive second Premiership win the more that confidence was affected.

"As a team we knew we had been playing well and creating chances," he said, "But in football it can harm you if you don't take those opportunities, and you can maybe lose a little bit of confidence. But we kept on playing football the way we believe it should be played, because we knew we would still be making chances. But the longer you go without that victory, little doubts can creep in here and there. But now we've won two on the bounce those doubts have gone, and I believe we'll go on from strength to strength.

"It was vital for us to get an away result. It was a tough place to come, it was their first home defeat of the season, they'd been playing well and they'd won three straight games, so they were playing with a lot of confidence. But we've come here and taken the game to them, scored two goals and could probably have had a lot more."

What's important now is that fans and pundits don't get carried away by this run of success and expect the Whites to sweep imperiously to the top of the Premiership. That was the word coming out of Upton Park all last week after their own recent run of good form, but the Hammers were quickly brought down to earth by a Fulham team still learning that they've needed to add a measure of steel and grit to their silky skills. Collins was quick to stress that the team's performance was not yet the finished article.

"There's still a lot more to come from us," he said, "But we're playing well enough at the moment. There's no doubt that we can only get better. We've new players in the squad who are still adapting to their new team mates and their new surroundings, and I think we're just going to get better and better."

For most of the Fulham fans who left Upton Park after the game on Saturday, it was difficult to believe that life could get any better, What a mouth-watering prospect for the rest of the season. Bring on the Magpies!