Andy Melville

Thursday 28 February 2002

A resolute Andy Melville spoke on Thursday about the team's determination to put the Arsenal result behind them and show the Fulham fans, and the rest of the Premiership, that they are a better side than the one that was outclassed on Saturday.

There has been a good bit of soul searching going on this week, and one of the most encouraging aspects of the aftermath of the game has been the honesty of everyone involved. The fact that Fulham just weren't good enough on the day has been readily acknowledged, as has the fact that there are things that have to be done better.

"Our last two results have obviously been very disappointing," said Melville, "The way that we lost against Arsenal was unsatisfactory; we didn't really go about the game properly. We gave the ball away too much and you just can't do that against top quality sides.

"We knew all about Arsenal, the pace and the quality that they've got through the side, but on the day we just didn't give as good an account of ourselves as we have done throughout most of the season. We are still learning as a club and as a team and hopefully we will have taken a lot out of that game.

"It might be time now for a little bit more hard work, especially against Liverpool on Saturday, if we don't work hard against them, then we're liable to be overturned because they've got so much quality in the side.

"We've had a good week in training, we've put that result behind us, and now we're really looking forward to the game on Saturday."

In an incredible couple of weeks, with three games against top six sides and then the Quarter Finals of the FA Cup to come, the team are really up against it. For Melville, it means facing Thierry Henry, Michael Owen and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink in a space of just eleven days. He concedes that it's a daunting prospect, but one that he and the team are ready for.

"It's a challenge all right, but I'm looking forward to. It's going to be a big test for the whole of the back four. Our defensive record hasn't been too bad this year, apart from the last two games, and we urgently need to get back to keeping clean sheets again.

"We've got two massive games coming up, against Liverpool and Chelsea, two of the best sides in the League, and it's a great chance for us to show how far we've come. We didn't do it against Arsenal, so we've got a point to prove to everybody.

"We kept a clean sheet up at Anfield which was nice; Michael Owen had a few good chances in the first half, but hopefully we can put a stop to that in this game. We played a little bit deeper in the second half, which meant that he didn't get so much room. They've got quality and experience right through the side, plenty of international players, and they're still fighting for the title, so it's going to be a very hard game, but one we're determined to do well in."

It may have been a bad day at Highbury for Melville and the team, but the season so far has been a personal triumph for the likeable Welshman. The Whites still have one of the best defences in the league, Saturday's result notwithstanding, and Melville has been a key part of that, despite confident predictions that he would struggle at this level.

"This season has been ok for me," he said, "It's nice to play in the Premiership - everybody said when I left Sunderland that I wouldn't play there again -it's come late in my career, but I'm really enjoying it.

"This club is only going in one direction, it has ever since I've been here, and it's important to keep the momentum going and fulfil the ambitions of the Chairman and the manager. The supporters have been really brilliant, they've been right behind us, and they deserve success as well after all the troubles they've had over the years.

"Hopefully we can raise our game this Saturday, because last week just wasn't good enough."

Arsenal's Champions League performance against Bundesliga leaders Bayer Leverkusen this week perhaps puts Fulham's performance into some sort of perspective. Arsenal were absolutely stunning against the Germans, tearing their defence to shreds and could have scored a hatful more goals than they actually did. This clearly is a team full of world-class players who are absolutely at the top of their game - at home and on this sort of form they are simply irresistible.

The management and the players at Fulham have all acknowledged the gulf in class that exists between the two sides, but they have also reiterated their desires to get Fulham up to the level where they are able to compete properly with the likes of Arsenal.

Fulham may not be there yet, but as Andy Melville says, everyone is determined that they will get there. If hard work and determination count for anything, then the comeback starts on Saturday.