No 'spirit'

Friday 11 January 2002

Fulham have ensured they do not suffer from drinking scandals by imposing a draconian booze ban so strict that any player abusing alcohol would never perform for the club again.

Midfielder Sean Davis revealed on Thursday the full extent of manager Jean Tigana's anti-alcohol regime after a series of incidents stained the name of the game over the festive season.

PR-conscious Fulham are determined to keep stories about their players on the back pages, and England Under-21 international Davis knows Tigana achieves this by being a ruthless disciplinarian.

The 22-year-old, who has played in all four English divisions during the Cottagers' steep rise to the top flight, said: "On the manager's first day at the club, he said he didn't agree with drinking.

"If a player did go out on the lash, the gaffer would know it by the way they train. He's really strict - and if he found anyone going out drinking, they would be in big trouble. I don't think they would play for the club again.

"We didn't even have a proper Christmas party as that is a big period for us. There was no drinking over Christmas whatsoever.

"We're professional footballers, and if the manager doesn't like it, you don't go behind his back and do it. There are a lot of good things about being a professional footballer - but you have to stay focused.

"When your friends are going out, you have to try and say 'no' and stay in. You've got training the next day, so you have to stay in and get an early night behind you.

"If I'm not going to drink, I'd rather not go out. There's a time to have a drink and a glass of wine, but you just can't go out now - as if you get caught by the media or the fans you're in big trouble."

Davis' absence from the pubs and bars of Raynes Park, the south London suburb where he lives, means he has been having plenty of quiet evenings in with flat-mate and team-mate Zat Knight.

There has been fierce competition between the talented duo for the first-team shirt this season, with both keen to secure a starting place for Saturday's clash with Middlesbrough at Craven Cottage.

Davis, who has been out of favour in recent weeks, said: "My position is to pick up the pieces, hold it and lay it off. But the reason I haven't played recently is because my defensive attributes haven't been up to scratch.

"I didn't play in a few games. It was a shock and has been frustrating, but the manager keeps telling me to bide my time.

"Zat played in my position against Derby - when I thought he was probably man of the match - and he thoroughly deserved to play against Wycombe, while I was on the bench.

"However, I don't think he enjoys playing there as his best position is centre-half. When he gets his chance at centre-half again, I think he'll take it and hopefully stay in the team until the end of the season."