Marlet's dream

Tuesday 30 April 2002

From Fulham Today's Ian McCulloch

The way that this season has gone it's a wonder that the Tigana's hair hasn't turned grey. The Fulham manager admitted recently that having to watch one of his sides endure such a long losing streak was a very new experience for him, as was having the prospect of relegation staring him in the face.

Saturday's soporific goaless draw with Leicester would have had Tigana tearing his hair out, regardless of the colour. Typical of many of the Whites' performances this year, it was frustration personified, and would have left the Frenchman deeply disturbed that his expensively assembled team could not break down what was basically a poor, if committed, Foxes side. The number of times that Tigana came out of the dugout to give one of his famous Gallic shrugs spoke volumes for the game.

Striker Steve Marlet had more reason than most to regret the fact that the match was such a dismal affair. With only one more League game left to press his claim for a berth in the French World Cup squad, the striker would have been hoping that he, and the team, could have put in a more convincing performance.

"It was a tough game," said Marlet after the match, "There wasn't any pressure because Leicester are relegated and we are safe, and I think that showed; there wasn't very much pace to the game. We tried to play, but it just didn't happen. We had some chances, but it was a difficult game for us, and for Leicester as well."

To be fair, Leicester didn't really make much of a game of it. They defended in numbers, played it tight, and generally put themselves about a bit if the going looked like it was getting a bit tough. At one stage, Marlet started to get very agitated as he saw yet another set of flying studs inches away from ending any hopes he had of catching the plane to Japan. He admitted that he had been surprised that there had been that sort of edge to the game.

"They played with three central defenders which makes it very difficult for the strikers," he said, "But we knew that was the way they were going to play and we knew that it was going to be hard.

"There were some strong tackles going in out there, but I've got used to this sort of tackle in the game, it's part of football now, and you just have to learn how to avoid them. I don't understand why there were so many yellow cards; it was a strange game for this to happen when there was no real pressure on either side.

"We tried to stay focussed before the game. There was less pressure on us than there was at the previous game, when we were still playing to stay in the Premiership. But this was a chance for us to play without pressure and to do well for the fans on what was a very special day. We are disappointed that we didn't do that, and all we can do is make sure we go and win at Blackburn.

"We still have a chance of qualifying for the InterToto Cup. It's a way of getting into Europe, a difficult way, but still worth it. If there's a chance of getting there that way, then we'll take it."

It hasn't been the easiest of seasons for Marlet, but it's ended considerably brighter than it started.

"I had a difficult start to the season," the French striker said, "But I finished better, although it would have been difficult to have done any worse! I've enjoyed playing in England and with Fulham, and now I'm looking forward to next season and hopefully I can start properly at the beginning and play regularly.

"I don't know when the World Cup squad is announced, but obviously I hope that I will be picked, it is my dream. All I can do is play my best and hope that the manager thinks that is good enough."

For the sake of Marlet's World Cup dreams, we can only hope that manager Roger Lemerre gave the Leicester game a miss, and instead has the memory of the striker's fabulous goal against Bolton as his final recollection when he contemplates the make-up of his squad.