Edwin van der Sar

Thursday 4 April 2002

Ian McCulloch talks with Edwin van der Sar

The big man had frustration etched all over his face. If anyone had doubted Edwin van der Sar's commitment to the cause, they only had to see his expression as he came out of the dressing room on Monday to know how much the result hurt.

And they only had to witness his forays into the West Ham penalty area at the end of the game. His determination to salvage something from the match was there for all to see as he added his formidable frame to the attack in the last desperate moments, and if it hadn't been for Steve Marlet just sneaking the ball off his head, the big Dutchman would have probably thumped Steed Malbranque's corner into the back of the net. What a fairy tale finish that would have been.

But a fairy tale finish it wasn't, and clearly upset and disappointed with his team's performance, van der Sar struggled to make sense of what was happening to the team as he addressed the assembled media after the game. As he said, whatever it is that's going wrong has been going wrong for quite a while now.

"The problem is not just today," he said, "It started a few games back. This weekend we've played two matches in three days, and we had a good feeling that if we got one win from those games that we could have been out of danger. But we didn't do it, a draw against Southampton and a loss here just wasn't good enough.

"I thought we played better today than we did last Saturday. We played better football and we worked harder than we did against Spurs. We had the first chance of the game and missed it and the only chance that they got in the whole of the game they punished us for it. That was the difference between them and us and really that sums up our whole season; that's the difference between us and other clubs.

"We had the first big chance and if you want to perform properly you have to take the chances and then you can play to your level. One goal would have been enough for us, but we didn't take our chance, and then we got punished one minute before half time."

The number of matches played in such a short space of time clearly did take it's toll, with the two games at the weekend coming hard on the heels of the internationals with all the travelling and extra pressures that they bring. But the team now find themselves with seven clear days before the next match away to Newcastle, a rare treat and the opportunity to rest the niggling injuries and make sure that their mental attitude is exactly right. Van der Sar made it clear that the squad will be concentrating on their own game - if the team play to the potential that everyone knows they can, then it doesn't matter who the opponents are.

"We haven't thought about Newcastle yet," he said, "We'll just take a good look at ourselves and focus on getting our own game right.

"We have to be confidant. We've got five games left, three away and two at home, and we have to win those two home games at least. But we'll start at Newcastle next week and get a result there and not wait for the home games."

If things continue to go against Fulham and boss Jean Tigana feels compelled to resort to desperate measures, perhaps we may yet see van der Sar playing at centre forward this season. After failing to entice the likes of Carew and Koller to the Cottage, he may feel the Dutch international is the man to get on the end of some of those Finnan and Brevett crosses. It's about time someone challenged big Jim Stannard's record!