Cup final Tigana's target

Friday 12 April 2002

Jean Tigana is quite clear about what Fulham's FA Cup run will mean if they lose to Chelsea in Sunday's FA Cup semi-final - nothing.

The Fulham manager, who was a World Cup star for France, said: "For me, it is not an achievement to reach the semi-final. The achievement is to win it and to be in the final."

Tigana has never watched a video of France's epic World Cup semi-final in 1982 against West Germany. Then, his side lost a 3-1 lead in extra time and were beaten on penalties.

Tigana explained: "As soon as the match was lost, that was the end of it for me. You have to move on."

Tigana has tried to instil the same tough-minded approach into his players before their semi-final game against their West London neighbours. After Monday night's draw at Newcastle, Premiership survival is now within touching distance for Fulham and that is something Tigana is willing to smile about.

He said: "If you stay in the Premier League, that is a good season". But now Fulham are in the last four of the FA Cup, he wants to win it.

"I like the compliment that people say we play good football, but I also want us to win. What we have needed this season is to score goals, we miss too many chances. But many of my players have not played at this level before and they have had to learn quickly because Premiership football is so different."

Tigana accepts that Chelsea will not feel the pressure at Villa Park on Sunday. "Why should they?" he said. "It should not be a problem for them. They have players like Marcel Desailly, they have stars who have played at the highest level for many years. They are used to this kind of attention.

"They have played in important international matches and European Cup finals. This kind of game is not new to them whereas for many of my players it is a discovery process."

One who is finding out what life in the Premiership is all about is Steve Marlet. Signed for £11.5 million from Lyon, the French striker was ruled out for two months with a knee injury after joining in September.

Tigana said: "He is now beginning to show what he can do. He is back."

Tigana's message to his team before they go out will be a simple one. "Just be yourselves, just be normal and play your usual game. Good players, they can give their 100 per cent performance in tough matches. That is what we must try to do and I will try to make my approach as normal as possible."

Tigana has no new injury worries for the semi-final but Chelsea have to give late fitness tests to Jesper Gronkjaer, William Gallas, Graeme Le Saux, Celestine Babayaro and Mikael Forssel, who all missed Wednesday's 0-0 draw at Blackburn.

Gronkjaer is confident of being fit after a foot injury but if Le Saux and Babayaro are ruled out, Albert Ferrer could again be asked to fill in as an emergency left-back as he did against Blackburn.