Young stars to shine?

Saturday 4 May 2002

Once described by Kevin Keegan as the best midfielder he'd seen at his age. By his own admission Sean Davis' first season in the Premiership did not start the way his First Division campaign ended.

His attacking awareness, which saw him score a number of vital goals last season, appeared to have been temporarily put on the back burner as the young midfielder acclimatised to life in the Premiership.

However Davis now looks to be getting back to his best after having turned that corner. Perhaps his early-season form shouldn't have come as much of a surprise for seasoned football fans. After all, season-long consistent performances are usually only reserved for players at least past their mid-20s.

Nonetheless, speaking to Fulham Today, Sean looked back over his first Premiership season and gave his assessment.

"It started off a bit slow but for the last 15 games it's gone well. The manager has brought in a lot of players and it's been hard to gel but overall we've done well.

"Obviously we had a bad period where we didn't win for a long time but we deservedly stayed up this year.

"Our problem has been scoring goals. We'd dominate teams, make a mistake and they'd go straight down the other end and punish us. At Leeds we had the reverse scenario, where they dominated us but we snatched a goal and got the three points."

The apparent change in Fulham's style of play, which subsequently led to the draw at Newcastle and the win at Leeds, caused many to speculate whether Tigana had decided to stray from his initial footballing philosophy.

Indeed there was much misinterpretation after Tigana said that he wouldn't change his philosophy even if it meant relegation for Fulham.

Of course it's easy to be wise after the event, but perhaps what the Fulham faithful were seeing on the pitch at the time was not a fair representation of what Tigana's actual philosophy was.

With the Tigana on the lookout for new players in the summer, it could be argued that he'll be looking for players who will be able to provide a more accurate interpretation of the way his brand of football should be played.

This would naturally lead to some nervous looks over the shoulder from the existing squad. Did Sean see himself as a player who'd fall in to that particular group? His response was typically assured:

"I'm always confident, if I'm playing well I expect to be starting so if the manager brings in new players it's not going to be a problem for me. If he brings in top quality players and they're playing well when I'm not, I'd have no arguments.

With only one game of the current season remaining. It's perhaps most apt that Davis will be returning to the scene of the most memorable moment thus far in his career - Ewood Park.

Fate has certainly dealt Fulham a mixed, if not fitting set of circumstances recently. The last match at Craven Cottage not only saw Jean Tigana's 100th match in charge of Fulham but also the return of the man who ignited the Fulham revolution, Micky Adams.

Who can say that the return to Ewood Park won't lead to another memorable Davis moment?

With most of the attention beginning to turn to what players the Whites could be about to sign, Davis was keen to point out that a vital part of Tigana's managerial philosophy has largely been overlooked.

"I'm looking forward to the last game of the season. Hopefully the Gaffer will put some of the young lads in and show the fans what we've got. If beating Blackburn means we'll be sure of getting into the Intertoto Cup then we'll have to go there looking for the win.

"I personally think the Gaffer might bring some of the young lads in just so we can see how they've progressed. We've got a lot of good young players like Zat Knight, Luke Cornwall, Calum Willock, Elvis Hammond, Mark Hudson, Tom Hutchinson and plenty more. If he gives them a run out, you never know, they might produce the goods."

It's a fair point that Davis raises. Throughout his managerial career Tigana has been well renowned for developing younger players and giving them their first crack at first team football. As a player who has directly benefited from Tigana's youth policy, Davis naturally took a positive approach to the subject of introducing new players to first team action.

"People will naturally say that they're too inexperienced to play Premiership football. But they won't get that experience if they don't play in the Premiership."

Up to now, the Fulham's fans have not yet seen that facet of Tigana's management on a large scale. And who could blame him for not wanting to baptise a young player in the middle of March's terrible run of results.

But with Premiership safety now in the bag, who's to say that Tigana won't give his younger players a chance? Certainly not one Sean Davis.