Tigana's final goal

Wednesday 9 January 2002

If anyone had any doubts about Jean Tigana's feelings about the FA Cup, they should see his eyes light up when he talks about his love for it. Fulham's manager has competed as a player for France in the final stages of the 1982 and 1986 World Cups and has a European Championship winners' medal from 1988.

He was also in charge of Monaco when they reached the Champions League semi-finals in 1998 and he is rightly proud of these and all his other achievements in the game.

But when asked how much he cares for our premier cup competition, his answer seems to put a little of that in the shade.

Tigana said: "The FA Cup is very important, especially for me. When I played, my dream was to play in a final at Wembley. It was always a very exciting place and in France we always saw the finals and everyone talked about them.

"I watched many finals at Wembley and I hope it becomes a big new stadium because all the stories associated with it are very important."

For those who have not kept track of every twist and turn in the Wembley saga, the Football Association's last plan in December was to push ahead with a £715million development of a national stadium on the site of the closed ground.

Tigana's support will be welcomed at the FA as proof of Wembley's international appeal, but for him the matter in hand is to realise at least part of his original dream and get Fulham to an FA Cup Final.

Last term Fulham were knocked out in the third round, 2-1 by Manchester United at Craven Cottage.

At Wycombe last night, Tigana's team were on the other end of the David and Goliath storyline.

He said: "We have big teams against little teams in cup competitions in France all the time as well.

It is very difficult because sometimes the team plays at their best and sometimes they arrive and think it is easy, but it is not."

Wycombe boss Lawrie Sanchez made sure of that and his team came agonisingly close to adding another scalp to those they collected on the way to last season's semi-final.

His team were the hungrier of the two and despite going behind to Sylvain Legwinski's 46th-minute goal from Steed Malbranque's pass, they never looked like being over-run.

Wycombe set out to stop Tigana's side from settling into its normal passing game and Jermaine McSporran's pace in attack gave Fulham's defence problems all night.

So it was no surprise when the 25-year-old striker got Sanchez's side back in the game when he earned a penalty on 55 minutes by racing into the area and tempting Alain Goma into a challenge. The Frenchman appeared to have made a clean tackle, but the penalty was given and Steve Brown despatched it successfully via both gloves of Fulham keeper Maik Taylor.

McSporran then put Wycombe ahead on 65 minutes when he squeezed his near-post shot past Taylor after Dannie Bulman's pass gave him a sight of goal.

Sanchez said: "I was looking at the next round against Grimsby or York and beyond that then. We made Fulham resort to playing the ball long and hoping for knock downs after that. It was quite a novelty."

It was, but with Tigana introducing Barry Hayles alongside Louis Saha and Steve Marlet up front with 20 minutes left Wycombe were always going to be vulnerable. They held out until the 87th minute when Steve Finnan's cross was misjudged by keeper Martin Taylor, whose poor punch was crossed back into the six-yard area by Hayles for Marlet to equalise at the far post.

Sanchez and his players were understandably deflated and the FA Cup winner with Wimbledon in 1988 thinks their luck in the competition has finally run out.

The money from last night's sellout crowd of nearly 10,000 will come in handy, but losing defender Paul McCarthy and striker Andy Rammell to injury during the game did nothing to lighten Sanchez's mood as he looked forward to next Tuesday's replay at Craven Cottage with no money to replace them.

Tigana, however, looked like he had enjoyed a small lottery win. Today, he can return to his search for a new striker to add to the £16 million-worth of talent he has in attack and his FA Cup Final dreams.