No pressure

Wednesday 10 July 2002

Read any paper over the last few months and you could almost be mistaken for thinking that Steve Marlet had his Christian name changed to '£11million striker.'

It almost goes with the territory that any mention of Fulham's record signing will be shortly followed by his price tag.

But Marlet has come to live with the expectation that his move from Lyon has brought.

Hoping to hit the ground running, his Fulham career hardly got off to the best of starts.

Plagued by injury and with the weight of that price tag on his shoulders, Fulham fans hardly saw the best from Marlet as he was not only fighting to reach full fitness but, at the same time, trying to adapt to a new lifestyle in a foreign country.

Nonetheless, Marlet knows all too well that, at times, the pressures of being a record-signing put him in a situation were he can never win.

It could almost be guaranteed that a spectacular goal from Steve would be accompanied by a terrace comment along the lines of "...for £11million, it could have been more top corner" or, "...the 'keeper almost got a finger to that one."

Speaking from Fulham's Motspur Park training ground, Marlet was looking ahead to the new season without the pressures of the 2001/02 campaign.

"The pressure was on me last season because I was the new player. This season I don't think there will as much pressure on me.

"For me the pressure is in the past, this season I am looking forward to playing my way and showing the fans my true ability."

Having only been back in training for only two weeks before last Saturday's match against FC Haka came around, Marlet could have been mistaken for thinking that last season was repeating itself in earnest.

Despite having the vast majority of possession, Fulham could not convert their time on the ball into goals. The situation must have seemed familiar to Marlet. Not being fully fit, coming up against a highly defensive opposition and coming as close as you can to scoring a goal without actually putting the ball in the back of the net.

"Our performance against Haka wasn't bad," said Marlet. "We played well considering we are at the beginning of our preparations for the season. Everybody was a little bit tired and stiff.

"I was very close to scoring but to be fair, the 'keeper was very good. He made some very good saves. It's good that we are creating chances at this stage of the season but it was frustrating that I didn't score.

"Haka played well but they only played at the back with one striker up front. They were not very dangerous on the attack, but they had a good defence and a good goalkeeper."

As Marlet and the rest of the team prepare for Sunday's return leg, surely Haka's goal won't be leading such a charmed life.