Bolton preview

Friday 16 August 2002

With the Intertoto Cup campaign already seven matches old, it's difficult to say whether the Whites' season is about to start, or has already done so.

The matches against FC Haka, Egaleo, Sochaux and Bologna have resulted in four draws and three wins.

Whilst those stats might not be so impressive to the average victory-hungry supporter. The early draws came from a side thrown into competitive football with only a couple of week's pre-season training under their belts.

Speaking to Fulham Today, Christian Damiano admitted that this season's preparation resembled a baptism of fire rather than the usual gentle breaking-in.

"The Intertoto Cup pushed our team into competitive football much quicker than friendlies," said Damiano.

"We started on 6th July and we immediately had to play for the win. We have now played seven games in the Intertoto, so I think we are well prepared for the Premiership.

"I don't know if the situation will pay off when we get to October or November. We have one advantage in that we're ready for the Premiership but we have only used 14-15 players so far. The rest of the squad has only played reserve friendlies."

It will be interesting to see what shape the Intertoto run has left Fulham in. Much has been made of the fact that teams competing in the competition have started their seasons with a flourish in the past.

However, if last season is anything to go by, the Trotters will be expecting to get off to another flying start. Something Damiano was all too aware of:

"I hope Bolton won't make a similar start to last season. They had a great run at the beginning and I sure that protected them when it came to the end of the season.

"The are a very strong team and it's very difficult to play against them because they defend very well and like to break on the counter-attack."

Is Damiano expecting a repeat of the 3-0 victory at the end of last season?

"Every game is different but I think Bolton now have a greater capacity to attack since they signed Okocha. He is a player who is able to create and finish off moves."

Of course, all eyes will be on Fulham's new signing, Junichi Inamoto.

After scoring, what must surely be a contender for goal of the season in Bologna, Damiano is hoping that the Japanese international midfielder will be able to continue his World Cup and Intertoto form.

"Inamoto is a player who can play very well in our system. He gave us a new spirit when he came on the pitch against Bologna.

"He was very aggressive; with his first tackle he won the ball, went past a few players and scored immediately. He came to us with a fantastic temperament, and if you combine this with his technique - you have a very good player," explained Damiano.

"Our attitude to the Premiership is the same. We have the same desire to play good football. The spirit in the dressing room and on the pitch is fantastic. It really is a pleasure to work with this squad of players.

"We know why we missed some important points last season, we needed better finishing or a better final ball. By the middle of the season, we had the best defence in the division but we hadn't scored many goals. We are definitely a more solid and stronger side this season and that will help us in attack."

Supporters of both Fulham and Bolton are able to purchase match tickets right up until kick off at Loftus Road on Saturday.

All tickets are now on general sale and are available from the Ticket Office at Loftus Road from 10am and at the ticket booths around the ground. (subject to availability).

Away supporters can purchase tickets directly from the turnstiles at the School End Turnstile Block 2.

Supporters are advised to arrive early to avoid congestion on the day.