Swiss Cottagers

Friday 10 May 2002

From Fulham Today's Ian McCulloch

It's not all that long ago that the nearest Fulham would ever come to international representation was if they brought in some aging star on loan who might once have made a second-half substitute appearance for his country's under seventeen side.

It's all changed now somewhat. With Finnan and Lewis actually going to the World Cup Finals, a few others sweating on call-ups, and some others like van der Sar and Ouaddou who would definitely have gone if their countries had qualified, Fulham's national participation is incredible.

What's even more exciting is the number of young players being called up by their national teams. The announcements this week were for the summer's Under 21 tournament in Switzerland and Fulham are providing no fewer than three players - Sean Davis and Zat Knight for England and Steed Malbranque for France. This is a fantastic achievement and speaks volumes for how good the future of the Club is looking.

Zat Knight was still struggling to take in the news of his call-up on Thursday. Despite featuring in only a handful of games for Fulham and making only two appearances for his country, he has quickly become a key member of David Platt's squad.

"I'm really delighted," he said, "In fact I'm over the moon at the moment. I've been called up three times for them now and I'm just glad that David Platt has had enough faith in me to take me to the tournament.

"I played for about twenty-five minutes in my first appearance against Slovenia, and then started the game against Italy, and I thought I did myself justice in that game. I was a bit disappointed to only be on the bench against Portugal, but obviously David Platt had seen enough of me by then to know I could do a job for him.

"Hopefully I can give a good account of myself when we get to the training camp and make it hard for the manager not to pick me.

"But I'm really looking forward to it, and I hope I can do well."

It's quite a special thing for the fans that there are two Fulham players in the England squad and Knight admits that it adds a certain something for him too.

"It's very special for the two of us," said the tall defender, "And for the Club as well. We're good friends so it's nice to go away together to do this. But to play for England has been something I've wanted to do since I was a schoolboy and now I feel like I'm living a dream."

Sean Davis might be an old hand at the international game now with ten caps to his name, but to be called up to this tournament is still obviously a dream for him too.

"I'm very excited," he said, just before climbing onto the coach for Blackburn, "I would have been disappointed if I hadn't got the call, but there are a lot of good young players in the Premiership and there's a lot of competition for just a few places. I haven't had the best of seasons with Fulham so I didn't think my place was guaranteed. I think I've got better the longer the season has gone on, so hopefully I can take that form into the tournament.

"Zat really deserves his chance as well. He hasn't had a lot of opportunities this year, but whenever he has been called on he's done really well. I think he'll play some games out there, which will be fantastic experience for him, and I think he'll do well."

And how good are England's chances?

"We've got a really hard group," said Davis, "But if we can get through that then we've got a really good chance of getting through to the Final. We've already played a lot of the top teams, and we've nothing really to be frightened of. What would be nice would be to get through to the Final and beat France and perhaps play against Steed!

"So it's not going to be much of a break this summer, but I'm really looking forward to it. It should be a very exciting time for us."

When the next World Cup comes around, these two lads will be in their prime. Imagine how good it will be to watch them swapping the white jerseys of Fulham for the white of England as they to try and lift the trophy in Germany. Here's wishing them the very best of luck in Switzerland, I'm sure that they will do themselves and the Club proud over the next couple of weeks.

England begin their campaign on 17 May against hosts Switzerland, before facing holders Italy and Portugal.