Double's vision

Tuesday 20 August 2002

Well it was great while it lasted and I've got the cutting to prove that Fulham were top of the league! Of course, it means absolutely nothing at this stage of the season, but I'd rather be there than where Bolton are!

I have to say I'm bemused by all the chat about us struggling this season. It's as if the so-called experts have gone to court, looked at the goals scored last season and announced their verdict without actually taking a look at the evidence.

Sure we had a problem in front of goal last season, but we were also very unlucky on a number of occasions and I can honestly say that only two teams outclassed us last term - Arsenal at home and Arsenal away but we weren't alone there!

There's much to learn from the whole experience and both the management and the team will have gone to school on our first season in the top flight and if Saturday is anything to go by, we're already putting those lesson into practise.

I've had an ongoing debate with some mates about how we'll do this year and I really think we're in for a good season. The defence was the most solid part of our team and not only will they have that whole experience behind them, but they've been strengthened by not only the arrival of Wome and Djetou both internationals but also the likes of Knight, Ouaddou and Leacock pushing for places.

In the middle, both Sean and Steed will be on the verge of full international call-ups and getting stronger and better for a few years to come yet, Ina's arrival and the comeback of Clarky will see real competition for places in the creative role, something we lacked last season. Just giving Steed a rest, either for part or a whole game, will make him a fresher player and also give him a reason to play at his peak as much as he can.

Also, love the comment on the MB about Leggy needing a drugs test! He does look very sharp and reminds me of a Poyet-type player. He's great in the air and strikes a very clean ball from the ground. His first goal on Saturday showed great composure and awareness and came at the end of a really good passing move, which TV cut short.

Up front is where we are going to be judged, but both Bob, Barry and King Louis now know what they have to do to make it at this level. Boa's pace down the left as an out and out winger will cause trouble for defenders as we saw on Saturday. Sava also showed some nice touches and got himself into a good position with the header that went just wide let's give him time.

Looking back on Saturday, it was like turning the clock back a couple of seasons to our First Division domination. Breath-taking pace, one touch passing and, at last, superb finishing! And what a din!

Much as I miss the Cottage, the volume and surround sound created an electric atmosphere that gave us a huge advantage and the players definitely responded to this.

We used our pace up front to brilliant effect with both penalties caused by players running at defenders. This was something we saw little of last season and is our biggest asset up front.

Boa was a constant threat down the left and the link-up play between Finns and Leggy down the right was very exciting to watch. Finns really is world class and offers so much down the whole right half of the pitch.

Looking ahead to Saturday's match at Middlesborough brings back bad memories from last season where our bad run really started the club's fall down the table. How we didn't win that one I still don't know. They're a stronger outfit this time out and have bought well in the close-season.

The young Italian lad will need watching but Melv and Alain will cope with him and Boksic I'm sure. They'll miss not having Juninho to pull the strings in midfield and I think this is where we can control the game.

I expect us to play a little like our away games in the InterToto, coming from deep with quick counter-attacking football. As I said earlier, our pace can really hurt teams and with Boro being pretty strong in the middle of their defence, we'll need to release Boa down the left and let Finns and Leggy do their stuff down the right.

Tiggy has hinted that Ina may start this match, but it would be harsh on Steed to make way. The Premiership teams will keep a loser check on Steed than last year when they didn't really know much about him.

That's why having Ina playing in the same role may well cause a surprise or two. He does offer us something a bit different, and he can also score goals as we saw in Bologna. If he does start it may also be in order to rest Steed for the InterToto match in midweek.

A draw at Boro will be a good result, but with eight goals in our last three matches and four of those away, my prediction is that come Sunday morning I'll once again be adding to my newspaper cuttings as the whites look down on the rest of Premiership!