Knight wants glory

Friday 25 January 2002

From Fulham Today's Ian McCulloch

As recently as the 1998-99 season, Fulham and York City were rivals in the same division. Three short years later and while the Whites are pushing for a place in Europe, City are second from bottom in the Third Division and perilously close to going out of business.

In February of 1999 Fulham went to York and won 3-0 with goals from Horsfield Hayles and Peschisolido. From the team that day, goalscorer Hayles is suspended, Taylor, Finnan and Brevett are likely starters on Saturday, Chris Coleman is still on the injured list, Trollope and Betsy are in the reserves and the rest have gone. Symons, Hayward, Peschisolido, Smith, Horsfield, Brazier and Albert have all moved on to pastures new.

A young player brought in from non-league football by Kevin Keegan was at that time still trying to find his feet at Fulham. Zat Knight, earning rave reviews this season for his assured performance against Premiership opposition, now finds himself preparing for one of the classic David and Goliath encounters that the magic of the Cup continues to produce.

After being on the receiving end of a full-bodied display from Wycombe in the previous round, The Whites will be under no illusions as to what to expect up at Bootham Crescent. Knight dispels any notion that manager Jean Tigana may be preparing the team any differently for the trip up to York.

"He is just preparing in the same way as he would for any other game," he said, speaking before the team made the trek up North, "He is treating it no differently. We'll all sit down before the game and look at some videos and the manager will talk to us a little bit about York, but at the moment we've just been concentrating on our own preparation and our own game and that's what's important really.

"We all know it's going to be a tough game for us, but we're preparing in the same way that we would if we were going to be facing a Premiership side on Saturday."

In a display reminiscent of the Wimbledon team of old, Wycombe clearly set out to disrupt Fulham's flowing style of football and test the mettle of some of their foreign stars who may not have experienced the brutal side of lower league football before.

"I think some of our players were a little bit surprised about how rough it was against Wycombe last week," said Knight, "We didn't think it was going to be an easy ride but it did open our eyes as to what this sort of game can be like.

"I think we know what to expect now, so hopefully we can pull our socks up and put in a really convincing performance on Saturday. I wasn't really surprised at the way Wycombe approached the game, it's always going to be the same in the FA Cup. When a big team plays a smaller team it's always going to be a tough game.

"It can be a real heartbreak when you lose against a team from a lower division, and hopefully it won't happen to us. It is exciting, but it's a big test for us as well, a test of our ability. We might have to change our style of play a little bit, it might turn into the sort of game where we are going to have to battle it out, perhaps play it long a little more.

"We haven't actually all sat down and talked about how important it is to do well in the Cup, but we all know what a big chance this is for us, and a trip to York is better than a trip to Manchester United at this stage of the season."

For the last few games, Knight has been playing in the holding role just in front of the defence, a position traditionally associated with his close friend and flatmate Sean Davis. Did he have mixed feelings when he heard the news that Sean had broken his nose in the previous night's reserve game.

"No, not really, we're not in competition, I'm just filling in while we've had some injury problems and suspensions. Sean was a bit upset when he got home last night, he's going to be out now for ten days or so, but hopefully he'll come back from that fitter and stronger.

"I played a few games in that position last season, and basically the Gaffer has got me playing there to quicken up my feet. It's not really where I want to play, I prefer centre half, but I'll play anywhere as long as I'm in the squad. I've been playing at the back all my life and it's a completely different game in the middle, you don't have so much time on the ball, it's a bit quicker and you're not always facing the way you're playing. It's made me appreciate the midfielders a bit more, even Sean!"

The big games are coming thick and fast at the moment, after the Cup match come Ipswich and Villa, and two positive results from those games will put Fulham right up there challenging for a European spot. For Knight, the games can't come quickly enough.

"I'm looking forward to the next few games," he said, "We've three big matches come up and hopefully we can get the win on Saturday and then get the six points in the league - I can't wait.

"Ipswich are doing well, they've got a really good side. I watched their reserves last night, they had a few first team players like Titus Bramble playing and they looked good even though we beat them.

"It's going to be tough going there and getting three points but I think we can do it. We played quite well on Saturday, we were unfortunate not to get the three points, but hopefully we can get all the points on Wednesday. There's also a lot of determination in the side to do well in the Cup and a good result against York on Saturday will really set us up nicely."