Willocks Dream

Wednesday 18 December 2002

From Ian McCulloch

It was quite an eventful Sunday afternoon for young striker Calum Willock. Making his first Premiership appearance of any significance, and against a Birmingham side who, with their one goal advantage behind them, were making life as difficult as possible for the opposition forwards, Willock was then involved in the incident that saw Darren Purse sent off for a second yellow card.

It wasn't the best of results of course, and Willock shared his team-mates' frustration at not being able to finish off the Blues, but at the same time the twenty-one year old couldn't conceal his pleasure at finally making the team. Speaking at the training ground in mid-week, the prolific striker described the thrill and excitement of running out in front of the fans.

"This was my third appearance as a substitute, but obviously my first this season," he said, "The other two were only for a few minutes each, so this was the first time that I'd been on the pitch for any length of time.

"It was like my dream coming true. I've always wanted to be a footballer and to come on and play in the Premiership is the most incredible experience. I feel that to have done that at my age is a real achievement.

"The first few times that I was on the bench, I wasn't coming on, and that gave me a taster of what it was going to be like, so that when I did come on I was able to keep a check on my nerves. I was nervous at first against Birmingham, especially considering the tempo of the game, but after about ten minutes I thought I got into it all right and then I really enjoyed it.

"I didn't have time to think about coming on, as soon as Inamoto got injured the manager told me to get changed straight away. I was very pleased about that as it showed me that I was in the Gaffer's thoughts."

It wasn't the easiest of games to join late. Willock acknowledged that it was always going to be difficult for him to make his mark on the match, but he was already looking forward, and focussing on the future.

"When I was watching the game, it looked very difficult," he said, "Obviously it was great for me to come on, but they're the sort of team who stop you playing football, so I did find it hard to find any room and get my game going, but hopefully there's more to come from me, and I'll be able to put a run together.

"I was pleased with the way it went overall. It's completely different to playing in the reserves; you need to be much sharper and much more aware, you just don't get any time at all. Hopefully if I can come on a few more times, I can build up my confidence and start to show what I can do. I think that the manager has faith in me, otherwise I wouldn't be in the squad, and that helps give me confidence that I can make the step-up."

How did Willock see the sending-off?

"I'd been watching Steed Malbranque," he said, "And I'd noticed throughout the game that he'd been doing these quick flicks for the player in front of him, so I was expecting him to do it again. And when he did, I knew that I could get to it before Purse, and I knew that if I could knock it past him I was through, but as I got to the ball I could see his boot flying towards me and I couldn't get out of the way. He caught me just above the knee, but fortunately it didn't do any damage.

"It was quite an eventful appearance for me really, and that incident pretty much summed up what sort of game it was."

Willock of course has just come back from a loan spell at QPR. He appreciated the opportunity to play first team football, but wasn't sure how much real benefit he got from his time there.

"I was away for a month," he said, "But I only managed to play three games and for two of those they had me playing on the left wing. I enjoyed it because I was in the first team, but really and truly I wasn't getting a lot out of it because I wasn't learning any more about playing up front. I've gained some experience of first team football and getting used to the pace of the game which was good, but I think it was of limited value to me.

"Really I would prefer to get my experience here at Fulham. All I want to do is make as many squads as I can, even if I don't play, just to build up my experience. I know that I can score goals, I have done all through my career, and I've got confidence in my ability to do that at a higher level."