Big respect

Tuesday 10 September 2002

From Ian McCulloch

Fulham's record against other London teams last season was poor. West Ham were the only side to have been beaten, at Upton Park, and apart from draws against Charlton (twice), and Chelsea, Fulham lost the other eight games. The worst record of all was to Tottenham, who in addition to inflicting a couple of thumpings in the league, also knocked the Whites out of the League Cup.

Time for a change in fortune then against the North London giants, and the match on Wednesday provides the perfect opportunity. Assistant Manager Christian Damiano, speaking at the Motspur Park training ground, was clearly looking forward to the game, but confessed to not quite knowing exactly what to expect from the current Spurs side.

"Tottenham are a team we lost to three times last season," he said "And there is no doubt that we are going to have to play a lot better against them on Wednesday if we want to get something out of the game.

"They are in a fantastic position, top of the table. They are a team I respect, and have done very well so far to collect the number of points that they have done.

"There is no doubt that after the games last season they have a big psychological advantage over us, and the mental side of the game is very important. But fortunately for us, the game is not always logical - you can easily lose a game you are confident that you are going to win.

"I would say as well, that things are different from last year. We are playing differently and Tottenham didn't finish the season as well as they had started it. But they are looking very strong now, and at the moment you have to consider them in the same light as Liverpool and Arsenal and Manchester United - they are playing at the same level.

"So perhaps they are stronger than they were last year, and that is the problem in trying to predict what they are going to be like - it's never easy!"

Damiano went on to talk about his hopes for the team this season - how their play needs to be more flexible and how they need to be more able to adapt to different circumstances. Key to this of course, is having the personnel able to do it, and new players like Junichi Inamoto and Martin Djetou give the squad that many more options.

The Fulham faithful are yet to see Djetou in the flesh, but according to Damiano, it's going to be worth the wait.

"He is a midfielder," said Damiano, "He plays defensive midfield, but he can also play as a central defender. He is a strong player, physical, and he has the potential to be able to express himself very well in English football.

"He also has a lot of experience; he has played for the National team, and many times in Europe with clubs like Monaco and Parma. There's no doubt that he is going to be a very good addition to the squad.

"Of course it's always possible to have two players of the same style playing together; he could play with Sean Davis, in the same way that Malbranque could play alongside Inamoto or Lee Clark, they're not just competing for the same position. But this is the way we are trying to build the team; it gives us more options and we are now in a better position to do that than we were before. It means that things are looking better and better for the future."

Three points against Spurs on Wednesday will make the future look even better still. And here's to Fulham finishing top of the London League this season!