In Melville's defence

Wednesday 27 March 2002

Andy Melville is determined to prove a point to his Fulham manager Jean Tigana when he leads out Wales for the first time tonight.

In the absence of the injured Gary Speed, Melville is certain to be handed the captain's armband on the occasion of his 50th cap, moving the defender into Wales' all-time top 20 international appearance holders. For Melville, such an honour will represent the high point of his career, days after the low of being on the bench at Craven Cottage for the match with Tottenham on Sunday.

Melville feels he was made a scapegoat for a run of five Premiership defeats, which stretched to six with the 2-0 loss to Glenn Hoddle's side, leaving Fulham three points off the relegation zone.

"Sitting on the bench is not something I am used to, but I am hoping playing will persuade Jean I should be back in the team," the centre-back said. "He knows what I can do, but it will be nice to go out there and prove a point to him as well.

"Maybe he thinks I am to blame because defensively we have not been too clever of late. We were the best in the Premier League a few games ago, but now we are down to ninth or 10th best. We are obviously doing something wrong, and I am bearing the brunt of it, but I have just got to take it on the chin and hopefully I will come out better for it."

Melville believes he should not be the only player to carry the can for Fulham's current demise and urged the team to "get back to basics" if they are to avoid the drop. "We now need some of the senior lads to stand up and be counted and get a few results," he said.

"We are in a relegation battle now - definitely. The gap is only three points to the bottom three so if results go against us and we lose our next two games then we will find ourselves in there.

"The lads do realise we are getting dragged into it and we have got to do something about it. I think we have to get back to basics. We maybe need to grind out a 1-0 win, and that might help us turn the corner, even though we are perhaps not looked upon as the kind of team which grinds out results.

"I don't know if he is coming to the game or whether he will have somebody watching me, but I can use it in my favour and go out and give a positive performance."