Battling Brevett

Tuesday 26 March 2002

From Fulham Today's Ian McCulloch...

Manager Jean Tigana came up with a new look team against Spurs on Sunday, introducing a new formation and leaving John Collins, Andy Melville, Luis Boa Morte and Rufus Brevett on the bench. Evidenced by his little altercation with goalscorer Teddy Sheringham, Brevett showed some of the much-needed aggression that had been missing for most of the game when he came on in the second half.

Fulham Today caught up with Brevett after the game to find out whether his first half absence was due to injury or was purely tactical.

"No, there's no injury," he said, "The manager just shook things up a bit. He's in charge and nowadays it's a squad game, I've got no problems with that at all.

"I thought Jon Harley did really well in my place, and I thought he was very unlucky to be taken off. I don't think he did much wrong. I think he can be pleased with the way he played."

Having missed only two league games previously, Brevett admitted that he finds it very difficult watching the side instead of playing, especially when things are going badly.

"It was very disappointing obviously," he said, "Two silly goals and then we're chasing the game - very disappointing all round. But since we've been on this bad run, it's been the same old story. Really it's unbelievable what's been happening to us - we just get punished for any half-mistakes or not even mistakes at all, and we make lots of chances and can't take any of them.

"We should have come away from some of our recent games with at least a point. But football doesn't always go the way it should, and we're obviously not getting the rub of the green at the moment. Our luck will change. We just need that one win to stop the rot. Even if we play really badly and the ball goes in off someone's knee for the winning goal, we'll settle for that."

Brevett talked about luck. At the end of the day, teams have to make their own luck, but there is no doubt that Fulham have been getting more than their fair share of misfortune, and the longer it goes on, the more difficult it becomes for the players, either individually or collectively, to do whatever it takes to get out of the downward spiral.

The Spurs game was a perfect example of how important it is for Lady Luck to smile down on a team. Take just two crucial incidents:

For Tottenham's first goal, the initial free kick should probably have gone Fulham's way, and Sheringham had more no more awareness that the ball was going to hit him and go in than he had of self-preservation when he put in that two-footed lunge on Brevett.

And when Steve Marlet's superb second half under-pressure header hit the post, the ball bounced three quarters of the way over the line and then spun out. The reverse spin on that must have been incredible and very, very difficult to achieve. It's on incidents like these that games are won or lost.

Brevett conceded that there was an improvement in the second half, but that it still wasn't good enough. The Southampton game on Saturday now takes on enormous proportions - the importance of the game is not lost on either Brevett or his teammates.

"We were chasing the game in the second half," he said, "So we had to do something, and there was a bit more fight about the team. But by that time Spurs could afford to sit back and just soak up the pressure.

"It's serious now. We've gone six games without a win and we know that we're in for a battle. But it's only as serious as we make it. Every game coming up is massive now, and Saturday's match is huge, but it's up to us to get something out of it.

"If you look at us a few months ago when we were sitting in ninth place in the league, you just couldn't imagine us being in this position. But it's a crazy division, two wins and you're right up there again, two defeats and you're back in trouble. But we don't like what's happening to us. It's not good and we know it.

"The way out of this is to work hard, and believe in ourselves and each other. The atmosphere in the dressing room was really down after the game, but we're determined that everything will come right in the end."

And finally, what was the friendly little word that Brevett had with Sheringham after the Tottenham captain's tackle on him?

"I couldn't possibly repeat that," said the inspirational left back with a smile on his face.

After being given the freedom of Craven Cottage for an hour, it was nice to see Sheringham not getting everything his own way. With the light of battle in his eyes, it must be a very reassuring feeling to know that when things are getting a bit sticky you've got someone like Rufus Brevett on your side.