Marlet's our lucky charm

Thursday 11 April 2002

If Fulham fans are searching for a good omen ahead of Sunday's FA Cup semi-final with Chelsea at Villa Park they need look no further than Steve Marlet.

Last season, the striker helped Lyon beat Monaco in the French Cup Final, to give the club its first trophy in almost three decades.

Marlet, 28, left Lyon for Fulham in an £11.5million deal last September and he is now preparing for the London club's biggest Cup game for 27 years.

He said: "The French Cup Final was very important because Lyon had been waiting 28 years to win something and really wanted a trophy.

"That's a long time for the fans and the club to wait and it is a similar period since Fulham made a final so it would be good for us to win something in our first season in the Premiership."

Although Fulham have never won the FA Cup, they did reach the Final in 1975, when they lost 2-0 to West Ham.

Another appearance this season would be a partial vindication of the vast sums of money spent by the club.

A bad run has seen Fulham dragged into the relegation battle and Marlet's first spell in England has been frustrating.

"I have mixed emotions about the season because I started badly with a knee injury and then got another one," said Marlet, who was promoting a series of Nike football training sessions in London schools.

"I was playing again in January, was starting to score and was picked again for France.

"Personally, things were better then but collectively at Fulham we started to lose some games and went on a bad run.

"Maybe people's expectations of us were not realistic. We've had some nice things said about us but I think we lost the focus.

"The most important thing is the team stays up and to get to the FA Cup Final as well would be very good."

Fulham's creditable 1-1 draw at Newcastle on Monday helped their self-belief and they go into Sunday's game in good spirit.

But if they lose, Marlet says it will have social implications next time he is in the French squad. He said: "Playing against my national team-mates Marcel Desailly and Emmanuel Petit will make the game special.

"If we beat them I don't know what we'd say if we were together with France. But I really don't like to lose and if that happens we won't be talking about it. We could talk about the World Cup but nothing else."