Steed's final countdown

Tuesday 28 May 2002

Steed Malbranque appears to have come of age in the European Under-21 Championships currently being held in Switzerland. After a demanding inaugural season in the Premiership, it appeared that his involvement in the Championships was going to be nothing more than a hindrance to Steed's close-season recovery.

The stats speak for themselves with Steed having made 42 starts for Fulham last season and netting 11 times. In a season where goals have been hard to come by, Steed's contribution was vital in keeping the goals for column ticking over.

In an age where Premiership experience is seen as a key factor in being a successful top-flight player, Malbranque's first season in the Premiership has been nothing short of a resounding success.

Having joined Fulham last season at the age of 21, hardly speaking a word on English and having never played in the Premiership - his all-action style instantly made him crowd favourite at Craven Cottage. Whilst the talk concerning the rest of Fulham's new foreign acquisitions centred around their ability to acclimatise to the hectic pace in the Premiership, Malbranque made little fuss over his new surroundings.

A key figure in Steed's development, as well as being instrumental in his move to Fulham, was assistant manager Christian Damiano. Speaking to Fulham Today Damiano explained how he's always been one of Steed's biggest fans.

"I coached Steed at every level from the age of ten up," said Damiano. "In every age group he was the best player and I think he has to potential to be a very big player for Fulham and France in the future."

With France's success in the under-21 Championships, Steed has been one of the revelations of the tournament, something that came as a pleasant surprise to France's under-21 coach Raymond Domenech, as Damiano explains.

"We knew Steed was a good player but we had to develop him. In France he was very raw, I told the under-21 manager, Raymond Domenech that after a season at Fulham we would turn him into a different player.

"When Domenech worked with Steed again, he could not believe the change," said Damiano.

Malbranque looks set to face the Czech Republic on Tuesday evening in the final of the European Championships. With both sides reporting no injuries, the smart money is firmly on the French.