Legwinksi Exclusive

Monday 19 August 2002

From Fulham Today's Ian McCulloch

On a baking hot day in the Loftus Road suntrap, Fulham won a scintillating game against Bolton Wanderers to go top of the Premiership and give a resounding answer to the many learned pundits who have confidently predicted that the White's lack of goal power will make them favourites for the drop this season.

The referee, Mr Wiley from Burntwood, had obviously decided that it should be a handicap game, and gave the Wanderers a goal start while most of the Fulham faithful were still trying to find their way round the unfamiliar stadium. Those who were in their seats were desperately applying the factor 50 in an attempt to keep out the rays in what must have been one of the hottest days of the summer so far.

It was a generous gesture by the referee, and made a contest of the game for the first ten minutes. Once Louis Saha had converted his own penalty, after being scythed down while bearing down on goal, the game was in no doubt. Fulham went to be worthy winners, and the sight of Bolton still keeping ten men behind the ball even when they were three goals down, spoke volumes for the gulf in class between the sides.

There were many candidates for man of the match - the large oriental contingent in the crowd would surely have voted for World Cup star Junichi Inamoto - but with Luis Boa Morte running him very close, the official vote went to midfielder Sylvain Legwinski, who rounded off a sublime performance with two goals of the highest quality.

Speaking after the game, Legwinski described how it was especially pleasing to get a big win after the team as a whole struggled in front of goal last season. It's been something like sixteen months since Fulham last scored four goals in the league.

"It was the perfect start for us," said Legwinski, "The first game is always very important in setting the tone for the rest of the season. We won the game and scored some goals, and when you think about the number of times that we didn't take our chances last season, then you can say that it was a very good start.

"The performance is the most important thing, and we played very well, but because of the problems we had in scoring goals last year, to start the season by scoring four goals is going to be very good for the spirit in the team."

There have been mixed feelings about the Whites' participation in the Intertoto Cup - a team might hit the ground running, but are they going to pay the price later in the season? Legwinski thought that it probably gave Fulham the cutting edge against Bolton.

"I think it worked for us," he said, "We have played seven competitive games more than Bolton, so I think that helped - perhaps we were fitter or a bit more focussed competitively. It is possible we will see the other side of that in November or December when teams who have played in the Intertoto can sometimes start to suffer physically, but hopefully we can be strong enough and have a good enough squad to come through that."

Most of the fans there on Saturday seemed to be pleasantly surprised by the Loftus Road experience, and there was a growing feeling by the end of the game that this will be a good place for the Whites to spend their two years in exile. It seems the players are of the same view.

"The team have enjoyed playing at Loftus Road." Legwinski said, "The crowd is closer and so it seems to be a lot louder, and the atmosphere is very good. Of course, Craven Cottage is our home, but it is good to play in a stadium like that while the Cottage is being rebuilt.

"We're top after one game, but that means nothing. If we're there at the end of the season then that will be different, but at the moment we won't even think about it."

Of course he's right, but I've never known Fulham statistically be the number one team in the whole of England before. It might only be for one game, but I've got bragging rights down the pub at the moment, and you can be sure I'm going to be making the most of it!