Together we can do it

Sunday 25 August 2002

It's been a turbulent few weeks for Fulham Football Club, or so they say... There's been a move to Loftus Road, rumours of in-house feuding and pundits galore telling anyone silly enough to listen that Fulham are for the drop. You could be forgiven for thinking that all in the garden is not rosy.

But spend any time at the Motspur Park training ground or talk to any of the players and staff as they go about their preparations for the next game and, contrary to rumour, you will find an organisation and a set-up that is absolutely buzzing. And no wonder; firmly written off as relegation favourites by some 'experts', Fulham sit proudly in the top three of the embryonic Premiership table and for added good-measure have reached the final of the Intertoto Cup. Clearly there is nothing wrong with moral and attitude here.

Like most things, it is easy to get the media hype and innuendo out of proportion. The truth of the matter is that the club is in remarkably good shape.

One of the changes of the last few months has been the appointment of new Chief Executive Officer, Bruce Langham. In an exclusive interview with Fulham Today, he took time out this weekend to give a message to Fulham fans everywhere, and the message he had was a simple one - let's all get behind the team and cheer the lads into Europe.

He began by talking briefly about his role at the club.

"My objectives here at Fulham are very straightforward," Langham said, "In the short term it's looking at the non-football side of the business; how organised we are, how pro-active we are, how professional we are, and I and the other directors have been doing a lot of work on that side of things in the ten weeks that I have been here.

"The results of that work will hopefully become apparent very soon - we have a lot of very good people here, we've perhaps just needed to be a bit more organised for success.

"The long term goals are all about making Fulham an established Premiership club and playing European football on a regular basis in a brand new stadium. Everyone knows the situation with the stadium and really there is nothing else to say about that at the moment, but I hope to be able to give a definitive statement about what's going to happen very shortly.

"I have to say that I've settled in very well and quickly, largely because of the tremendous staff we've got here at Fulham and the magnificent support that they've given me."

On the football front, some of the disquiet that was being felt in some quarters has been replaced by something approaching unbridled optimism. Some outstanding performances in the Intertoto Cup were followed by the humbling of a hard-working Bolton team, and then, up at Middlesbrough, just as everyone was thinking here we go again, Fulham produced one of the most incredible fighting come-backs in their history.

Langham was hardly able to conceal his excitement as he described what a delight it has been watching the team over recent weeks.

"Last week against Bolton was terrific," he said, "We were absolutely flying, and it looked like we'd just come off the park at Bologna where we also played some excellent football, and we just carried on where we had left off. I thought it was a tremendous performance and we could have won by more than we did.

"Against Middlesbrough we again showed our fighting qualities and our fitness, as we did against Bologna, and once again we came back after going behind - in fact, in our last three games our opponents have scored first but we've ended up unbeaten in all of them.

"I'm looking forward to continuing that kind of performance on Tuesday night in the second leg of the Intertoto Cup. It promises to be a fantastic occasion, and in many ways could prove to be one of the most important nights in Fulham's history. It's one that every Fulham fan should be there to share.

"I'm in the fortunate position of having been to see every Intertoto game. I'd be the first to admit that the game against FC Haka was not the most exciting game of football or the most exciting performance that Fulham have ever given, but after that you could see the gradual improvement, game-by-game, culminating in a terrific performance away to Bologna. And Bologna are not a bad team, I can tell you.

"So it wasn't a great surprise that the team did what they did against Bolton because I've seen it building up. And that really has been the greatest benefit of playing in the Intertoto in that it has made us really match fit, and I thought we looked a yard quicker than Bolton in every department, and then to finish as strongly as we did against Middlesbrough after really being out of the game was phenomenal.

"When you look at it dispassionately, this is a team, that if they had won their final game of the season last time out, would have finished ninth. To that team we have added five new players to improve the squad, so I would definitely expect us to finish higher than last year. Certainly, relegation is not in anybody's thoughts.

"I think that the atmosphere at Loftus Road on Tuesday will be fantastic for Fulham - don't forget that there won't be two and a half thousand Bolton fans there this time. It will be full of Fulham fans making a huge amount of noise. The Italians certainly gave us a hot reception when we went to Bologna, so I'm hoping to repay them with interest on Tuesday."

Langham then went on to talk about some of the other issues of the moment.

"People will have read that Franco Baresi has resigned and gone back to Italy," he said, "Personally I would like to wish him every success in whatever he does next. Franco arrived a week before I did and basically it was an experiment that did not work. Everybody realised this, including Franco, and it was decided it was best to call a halt to it at an early stage.

"What it does do however, is demonstrate the enormous ambitions the club and the Chairman have. Franco is a huge international figure, and to attract someone of his standing is fantastic; it was worth a try but now we need to move on.

"The new transfer window closes on the 31st of August. It's possible that there might be new players arriving before that deadline, but we have made additions already and now have a very strong international set of players. The bottom line financially for the club is that we have now assembled a very expensive squad; there is no endless supply of money and the club needs to be run as a business, so it might mean that there have to be one or two departures before there are any new arrivals.

"Look at how few transfers there have been in the Premiership this year compared to previous seasons; it is a very good indication of how clubs are tightening their belts at the moment and we are no different from anybody else."

Finally, Langham went on to give a heartfelt message to the fans - without the supporters a club is nothing, what better time to show that support than on Tuesday against Bologna.

"A football club is at its strongest when everybody is pulling together," he said, "That's the players, the staff and the fans. This is a big year for Fulham and we need to have that solidarity now more than ever. I know there has been some disquiet at having to move to Loftus Road, and I understand that, but we need everybody to really get behind the team and that means buying tickets for Loftus Road.

"In particular, it means buying tickets for the Intertoto Cup Final. This is the first European Final that Fulham have been involved in and we need a big crowd there to get behind the team.

"Certainly the team who work at Fulham are pulling together - we know what our strategy is, we know where we want to go and we are all working very hard to move in the right direction - we need the fans to get behind that as well.

"My message to everybody is simple: get behind the team - get down to Loftus Road on Tuesday night and really shout the lads on to victory."

*Please note the Ticket Office is closed on Monday 26th August. The Ticket Office will re-open on Tuesday 27th August at 9.00am.

Tickets for our match v Bologna will be available from the Ticket Office at the club shop until 4.00pm on Tuesday 27th and from QPR after this time, right up until kick off at 7.30pm

Home fans will be able to purchase their tickets from the various ticket booths around the ground. Away fans can pay at the turnstiles.