Up for the Cup

Sunday 5 May 2002

England's young sensation Katie Chapman goes into Monday's FA Cup Final against Doncaster Belles hoping to put the pain of last year's defeat against Arsenal behind her, but she knows it will not be easy.

The game will be shown live on the BBC for the first time and also broadcast on Radio FiveLive, which Chapman appreciates. "It's nice to have the media attention. Not only are we hoping to have a lot of people down at Selhurst Park but also to have a lot watch it on TV to see what the women's game is like and to then get involved in it."

Chapman played against the Belles when at her previous club, Millwall Lionesses, and remembers that it was tough going. "They were hard games, they are a great side." Fulham, however, will be going into the game full of confidence at the end of an amazing season in which they have won the AXA FA Premier League Southern Division, the AXA FA PremIer League Cup and the London County Cup, scoring an incredible 340 goals in the process.

But the Belles are also going into the final in a rich vein of form, recently hitting four goals past Arsenal and pushing them all the way for the National Premier League title. They will also prove to be more physical than Fulham have been used to this season and the professional outfit will have to up for the battle. Fulham have only really been tested once this season, in their 3-2 League Cup semi-final win against Arsenal, and this lack of competitive games may play into Doncaster's' hands. But Chapman is confident her and her team will be ready. "They are a very physical side and they like the ball over the top, but for every ball that drops, we'll be challenging for it."

The combative Chapman has been a key component in the phenomenal success of Fulham this season and her performances for England in The Algarve tournament in March certainly caught the eye. Her manager, Gaute Haugenes, said after her superb performance in the Premier League Cup Final that she could star in any national side. "It's nice for him to tell you things like that," said Chapman. "But I'm keeping my feet firmly on the ground and just enjoying my time with Fulham and England."

If Fulham are to win the AXA FA Cup on Monday, then the ability of Chapman to win the physical battle in midfield and utilise her wonderful range of passes is vital. Chapman is well aware that Monday will present perhaps the biggest challenge to Fulham's dominance this season, as Doncaster Belles will be well prepared and up for it. "I think they will work hard and work together. They are a great side and they've probably been training more leading up to this and they'll go out there and play hard for the whole 90 minutes."

For Chapman and many of her Fulham teammates, the game will see them up against fellow England colleagues and she singled out England captain Karen Walker as the Belles biggest threat. "Karen Walker is very strong in the air and is a very strong player. She'll battle all the way to the end". However, there certainly won't be any love lost when the two sides line up against each other and Chapman will need all her physical qualities if she is to earn the right to play her usual composed game.

If Chapman produces the kind of display that she is capable of, then those watching at Selhurst Park and on the BBC will be in for a treat. The pressure will be on her on Monday, however, but if she shines then Doncaster could be in for a miserable afternoon. When Chapman plays, Fulham play and when Fulham play, goals are guaranteed.