The professional

Monday 13 May 2002

Abdes Ouaddou has had a disappointing season by his high standards. A summer signing from Nancy, the promising central defender is reckoned to be the next Rio Ferdinand by many. And when watching Abdes play it's easy to see how the comparisons have been made.

An ice cool player on the ball, he also combines a good knowledge of the game with a professional work ethic. Having played only a handful of games this season, Abdes has been constantly pushing for a first team place, keeping himself ready should the call come.

In fact, come to the training ground on any non-training day and the odds are that you'll see Abdes in the gym or doing some additional fitness work. The extra hours he puts in are a side of his game that the fans don't see, but as Abdes puts it, he can never rest.

"There are always things to work on," said Ouaddou. "When I have a free day and I haven't played for maybe two or three weeks I always feel like I have to work a little bit more. If I don't feel tired I'll go into the gym and do some weights or jogging.

"Every player is different, some players might go home because they have done enough work during training. If we have two days off I will usually come in and do some extra work."

As a person, Abdes is instantly likeable. He has taken very little time to come to terms with the English language. It's certainly something to hear his thick French tones punctuated with a sprinkling of 'mate' and 'innit.'

With Fulham's foreign contingent increasing this season with the signings of Sylvain Legwinski, Steed Malbranque, Edwin Van der Sar and Steve Marlet. There has been no doubt that a period of bedding in has been necessary for some players.

In the case of Marlet, his acclimatisation wasn't helped by the fact that he suffered a fractured leg in his early days at the club. However, others have made the transition more easily, as has been the case with Edwin Van der Sar.

As a French-based player coming to new surroundings, Abdes has acknowledged that it's the player who has to make the adaptation rather than the club.

"In each country the style of football is different, it's normal that you have to adapt to English football.

"You also have to adapt English life, you have to learn the language and the culture. When you come from another country you have to adapt, having a French management team only helps you a little bit in the beginning."

Speaking to Abdes as he looks back on his season, the overriding sentiment he conveys is one of frustration at not being given an extended run out in the first team.

For a player who so highly values fitness and match preparation, Abdes also appreciates the harsh reality that no matter how hard he trains - in order to obtain the required level of match-fitness a run in the first team is a necessity.

"I played some games this season and I think I did well, but it's difficult to go two or three weeks without playing, then have to play in the first team.

"I need four or five consecutive games in the first team to get to my level. I was very happy to play during the season but I didn't get enough time in the first team. I have played at about 70% of my capability the season.

"Last year I played around 55 games with my old club and my national team. All professional footballers have to play regularly, not only for physical reasons but for match confidence as well.

"I'm still learning the game, I'm not Franz Beckenbauer but I like to play the ball out of defence on the floor.

"I would like to be involved in the first team more next season. I don't like getting paid and feeling like I'm not doing anything for the club."

With such an admirable attitude there can be few fans who wouldn't begrudge Abdes his chance.