High Toon

Sunday 11 November 2001

From Fulham Today's Ian McCulloch...

Lee Clark is battling hard this week to sort out the knee problem that has prevented him playing in the last two games. With the long awaited match against Newcastle coming up, Lee is desperate to play against his old club.

Remaining in England to continue treatment while his team-mates travelled to France for the friendly with Sochaux, the influential midfielder spoke about how difficult it has been for him over the last few weeks.

"It's been quite a frustrating one. The injury came on a couple of weeks ago in training, and I had it scanned and they found there was a bit of bone bruising and a bit of a problem with the medial ligament. But the peculiar thing is I don't really know how it happened; I don't remember getting kicked or anything.

"It was gradually getting worse and worse and in the end it got so bad I had to stop training. I thought I'd be all right for the Southampton game, and then when I missed that I thought it would just take another couple of days, but it still wasn't improving and now two matches have gone by, which is hard for me because I'm not really used to missing many games."

Watching him lap the Motspur Park training complex several times, perhaps Lee was finally starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel?

"It's started to improve now, I'm back doing a bit of running and it's all about what sort of reaction I might get now. It's not the sort of injury where if you get pain you can play through it, it won't improve by working it which you can in some cases, it will just get worse.

"So I've just been having the usual sort of treatment from the physio's, and Roger Propos has been doing his rehab work keeping me fit so when I do recover I'm ready to play immediately.

"My target is to be ready for selection for Saturday, and hopefully I will be fine by then. I haven't gone to France so I can get a bit of fitness work in, but it's really a case of waiting and seeing what sort of reaction there is."

Of course, it's not just any old game for Lee on Saturday. His love affair with Newcastle is well-known, but just how important is this match to him?

"It's a game I'd love to play in, a massive one for both Clubs. Both teams are coming off the back of good results and good performances so it's a big game anyway, but it's extra special for myself, so I'm really hoping to be fit and available for selection.

"But on the park there's no question of any divided loyalties. I'm very professional. When I go out and play for teams I always do my best. I've had to buy a few tickets for family and friends, but I'll be going out there to get Fulham the three points, there's no worries on that score.

"Newcastle are playing very well at the moment, they've really gelled. They've had a good start to the season so it's going to be a very tough game, but they all are in this division. I think they'll come down and try and win the game, they won't come and pack the defence and hold out for the draw like a lot of Clubs. They've got some very exciting players, good attackers and they'll be looking to get after us, so it promises to be a very good game."

With the way things have been going recently, the Whites shouldn't be frightened of anybody. The Magpies might be flying high at the top of the table, but Fulham are in the middle of their own excellent run, and as Lee says, after the last two games, the spirit in the dressing room must be sky-high.

"I don't think we'd lost confidence really, but on the back of our two victories we haven't got any problems there. We knew we hadn't been playing too badly, but we just hadn't been getting the goals. Now with the two wins buoying us up, we're definitely a match for anyone. I think it all points to a good game, and I'm really looking forward to it."

With a fit again Lee Clark out to show Newcastle what they're missing on Saturday, it promises to be a mouth-watering encounter. We're all keeping our fingers crossed here that Lee's mysterious injury clears up in time for the game, and that Fulham come away with those three vital points.