Hayles the fighter

Saturday 23 March 2002

From Sports.Com

As the end of the football season draws ever nearer, Barry Hayles isn't just fighting to keep Fulham in the top flight: he's fighting for his future as well.

Hayles has had to make do with a place on the bench at Craven Cottage over recent weeks, with Louis Saha and Steve Marlet getting the starting nod up front from coach Jean Tigana.

The former Bristol Rovers striker has still managed to weigh in with 11 goals this season, but Hayles would dearly love a strong finish this campaign in order to remind Tigana of what he can do.

"I've been left out for the last four or five, which is a bit frustrating," said Hayles, whose last goal came in the FA Cup win on March 10. "But the manager has been chopping and changing the whole season.

"Personally I think I've done alright, but I want to be playing and scoring, naturally."

With transfer deadline day next Thursday, there has been speculation linking the west London club to a new forward, though Hayles does not know how much truth there are in such rumours.

"I'm not really sure to be honest," Hayles continued. Such rumours do little to ease the pressure, though during talks held on Wednesday, Tigana made it known he felt the strikers currently at the club could still deliver the goods.

"When we had the meeting he said people are saying to him he is going bring another striker in. He said he's got a good enough strike force that aren't putting the chances away.

"Our squad isn't that massive to be honest. The manager will be bringing in a few new faces in the summertime I think. The players know what the manager wants from us."

But with Hayles left on the bench, there is little the forward can do about his current predicament: "I'm getting nowhere at the moment, because I can't play," he grinned.

"You know that players will be coming in. I don't want to think that because he didn't buy me personally and he bought two other lads, that if he brings someone in, that leaves me fourth in line.

"I want to try get back in the side as soon as possible and hopefully stay there, so that come summer I'm still in his plans."

Despite the fact that Fulham have lost their last five games, Hayles can expect to be back on the bench on Sunday for the derby with Spurs.