Abdes has his chance

Saturday 9 March 2002

Having spent what feels like almost an eternity playing reserve football following his move to Fulham from Nancy, Abdeslam Ouaddou finally made the breakthrough into the first team.

Regarded as the Moroccan Rio Ferdinand, Ouaddou has looked cool and assured in central defence despite being thrown into the fire with matches against Liverpool and Chelsea.

With 'Abdes' mentioning that he needs at least five or six first team matches to fully become match fit; his performances have done little to suggest any lack of sharpness.

However, despite acquitting himself well, the likeable Moroccan defender refuses to accept any praise for his performances.

"We lost against Liverpool and Chelsea, as a defender you can't say you played well if you let in two goals against Liverpool and three against Chelsea."

For many Fulham fans the tall figure of Ouaddou is a relatively new sight on the pitch. Whilst he has made numerous reserve appearances, the majority of supporters are now getting their first look at Ouaddou - a full seven months after he first moved to the club. Quite a delay.

"I have been here for seven months and I expected to get a chance earlier than now, I'm pleased to have this chance now because there is two months left of the season. I think the manager didn't give me a chance before because we had a good defence, one of the best in the Premier League, so I can understand why he didn't change the defence.

"I don't know many of the French players in the Premiership personally but I know players like Hadji and Kachloul. They encouraged me to come on England, when they knew Fulham wanted me they said the move would be good for me.

"During the seven months it was difficult for me but they told me not to give up. In England you have to always work hard so when the manager gives you a chance, you can take it. When you haven't played for seven months, you start to ask yourself questions, it was really difficult."

Sunday's FA Cup Quarter Final against West Brom looks set to be a special match, as no doubt the Fulham faithful have started recalling memories of 1975. With a mean defence and a reputation for playing some resolute football, the Baggies will be far from a walk in Bishop's Park.

For the players, the prospect of playing in an FA Cup Final is motivation enough. However Ouaddou has another reason for wanting to do well in their particular Cup competition.

"I was very disappointed that Morocco didn't qualify for the World Cup. In the last game, we played against Senegal and needed only one point, but we lost 1-0. It will be compensation to do well in the FA Cup."

"For me the FA Cup is a prestigious cup. In other countries like in France they don't take the cup seriously.

And what of West Brom? Ouaddou confesses that he isn't the world's greatest authority on Nationwide Division One football, but at this late stage of the tournament there is no such thing as a lucky team.

"You have to respect West Brom; they are third in Division One so it will be a big game.

"There are no small teams in the cup. We played against third and second division teams, they were able to win so you can't take consider any team a small team. At this stage of the competition you have to take the Cup seriously because if you win two games, you're in the final."