No regrets

Wednesday 22 May 2002

By his standards Kieran McAnespie has had a poor season. Whilst many of his team-mates made their Premiership debuts, McAnespie spent much of the campaign playing for the reserves.

It's all a long way from his promising debut performance in a pre-season friendly against Barnet at Underhill at the start of the 2000-01 season. Fast forward nearly two years and McAnespie is looking back on a season which saw him make no first team appearances for the Whites.

"I played all of my first team games at Bournemouth this season, and even then I only played a handful of games," said a disappointed McAnespie. "It's been very frustrating, it gets to you now and again but you've just got to get on with it.

"No matter where you go there's always a massive difference between training with the reserves and the first team. At Fulham, the first team are playing at the highest level so they're getting their match fitness up to an equally high standard.

"If you get a chance to mingle with the first team players their experience rubs off on you. Fortunately we've got a few experienced players like John Collins, Andy Melville and Chris Coleman."

Despite not making an impact on the first team, McAnespie showed some excellent form in his final few reserve matches before moving out on loan to Bournemouth, where the difference between first team and reserve matches became apparent.

"It wasn't the same level but it was still different to playing reserve team football. When you look at Fulham's reserve side there's usually at least half-a-dozen internationals in there. First team matches are always quicker, it doesn't matter what league level you play at.

"I went down to Bournemouth and started a couple of games but unfortunately they were going through a few difficulties on the pitch. They changed from their usual tactics to a more direct style, unfortunately for myself, I wasn't part of the new game plan. But it was good to join a first team situation, they are a great bunch of guys.

"For the last five games of my stay there I was sat on the bench. At the end of the season the manager there told me how pleased he was with me and commented on how professional I was. But there's only so much you can say. I was a little bit disheartened, but you pick up experience wherever you go.

"My first aim for next season is to get back into first team contention. It's very difficult because of the league we're in. You've got to be on top form every week, but at the end of the day who plays is down to the manager.

"The Club has the advantage of being in the Premiership which makes it a lot easier to attract players, which is good on one hand but on the other you want to be playing. But I've got no regrets over joining the club."

One of the players who was on the verge of making his first team breakthrough last season was young Calum Willock. Having played and trained with Calum for the last couple of seasons, McAnespie has nothing but praise for the striker.

"I think the manager rates Calum really highly, most people can see that. In reserve football we see a different side to Calum. He's unbelievably quick, powerful and will score goals from all over the place.

"A lot of strikers who are that quick have never been taught the other side of the game - they just use their natural ability. The manager will help Calum to progress and I think he'll become one of the best strikers this club has seen. He's got so much potential it's frightening.

"I wouldn't say he's too far away from starting a first team match. I don't want to compare him to Darius Vassell but he's certainly in the same mould.

"But he's still got a lot to learn, I think he'd be the first one to admit that. In the next couple of years we'll really see the best of him."