Welsh incentive

Thursday 29 November 2001

FULHAM'S captain Andy Melville has three big reasons for wanting to beat Tottenham in the fourth round of the Worthington Cup today and continue all the way to the final.

The competition is possibly newly-promoted Fulham's best chance this season of securing the silverware - and the place in Europe - craved by glory-hungry club owner Mohammed Fayed.

Melville would also love nothing better than to hand the trophy to Chris Coleman, the man he succeeded as captain, who is bravely trying to recover from horrific leg injuries which threatened to bring his career to an end after he was cut from the wreckage of his crashed car.

Last but not least, with the final being played at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Melville and the rest of Fulham's Welsh contingent want to go back to the land of their fathers for the final. While many footballers consider the final has lost some of its gloss since it left Wembley, Melville said: "It would be brilliant to get there.

"It's a brilliant stadium with a great atmosphere, and there are a few Welsh lads at the club. If you ask people who have played there they all tell you how really good the atmosphere is."

Melville, as to be expected, is cautious and the first to warn: "We have a lot of hard games before we think about getting there."

A Tottenham team currently enjoying something of a revival provide a stiff test in the fourth round.

Two years ago Fulham, then in the First Division, knocked Spurs out of the competition, beating them 3-1 but, despite their new Premiership status, Melville expects progress to be harder this time.

"We played really well and were on top of our game. We know it's going to be difficult this time because they are on top of their game. Nobody is going in as favourites," he said.

The veteran Tottenham strike-force of Les Ferdinand and Teddy Sheringham could be a cause for concern and Melville acknowledged: "They are a handful. They are both quality players, who have performed at the highest level and if they are on top of their form it will be a real challenge."

With no replays, and a penalty shoot-out if necessary, home advantage could be crucial to Fulham, and the captain said: "Having the fans behind us will be a help."

Melville, a naturally reserved man on and off the pitch, has settled into the captaincy well, despite having a totally different approach to that of the larger-than-life Coleman.

"I hadn't really spoken to the press until this year, but it's not been a problem. Everyone is different but I've enjoyed it, and we will see how it goes until the end of the season," he said.

He accepts - and hopes - that he is only doing the job until Coleman, another member of the Welsh contingent, wins his battle for fitness.

"He is progressing well and the medical staff are very pleased with him," said Melville.

"He's in early every morning and is probably doing more training than anyone at the moment. He is around the dressing room more and more which helps the lads.

"He is a big character and the fact he is back is good for him and the rest of the squad. If we were to get to the final, Chris would be there as part of the squad and that would be great."

And right alongside him would be Mohamed Fayed. "The chairman is ambitious. We have his full backing, and he's shown that with the money he has spent."