Hayles ready for Hajduk

Tuesday 17 September 2002

For a player who was feeling unsure of his place in the starting line up at the beginning of the season, Barry Hayles' goal at the Stadium of Light on Saturday gave Jean Tigana a gentle reminder of what the former Bristol Rovers front man is capable of.

If there was ever a goal that typified Hayles as a player, Saturday's effort must surely be a cert for Barry's footballing CV. Having received the ball from Inamoto following a poor clearance from Sorensen, Hayles bustled his way past Stephen Wright before calmly slotting the ball inside the near post.

Speaking at the Club's Motspur Park training ground before flying out to Croatia, Hayles was clearly pleased get amongst the goals.

"It was my first league start of the season so I was definitely happy to score a goal," said Hayles. "The manager had chopped and changed the strikers before and I was the only one who didn't get used, so it was a case of just sitting back and waiting."

Talking us through the goal, Hayles said, "It was a good through ball from Inamoto, so all I had to do was hold the defender off and slot the ball home. Hopefully the manager will keep his faith in me."

Of course, it was only a matter of time before the topic turned to Fulham's Japanese midfield dynamo. With Inamoto scoring the first and playing the final pass for both of Fulham's subsequent goals, Hayles was quick to heap praise upon his team-mate.

"He's a brilliant player to be honest," said Hayles. "He's got good all round ability and never seems to get phased by the size of the game. No matter the occasion, he always puts in the same display. He's popping up with some vital goals and he's just a pleasure to play with.

"Last season we struggled to score goals but having a player like Inamoto, who's not only scoring goals but setting them up, helps to take the pressure off the strikers."

Thursday night's UEFA Cup encounter with Hajduk Split marks Fulham's first match in major European competition.

After enduring a challenging Intertoto Cup campaign, the Whites are now back at square one, albeit at a higher level.

Having had his first taste of European football in the Intertoto run and following his weekend goal, Hayles was optimistic of being in the starting eleven.

His style certainly seems to have ruffled a few European feathers along the way as many a defence have struggled to deal with his hard-but-honest approach to the game. Surely an approach that's perfectly suited to a tricky away leg?

"Away from home it's always good to have someone who can hold the ball up and bring players into the game, so hopefully the Gaffer will keep me in the starting eleven," said Hayles. "Having those strengths plays a big part in being successful away from home.

"Hajduk Split have a big name in European football; it's certainly not their first jaunt in Europe. They're clearly a very experienced side, so we've got to go there and hopefully keep a clean sheet and maybe nick a goal.

"At the end of the day it's a game of football, the boys know that. I've never played in a game of that magnitude before but I just look at it as being eleven players against eleven. We've just got to go out there and do the job.

"That's the secret; it's a bit like when you're playing against the biggest sides in the Premiership. You don't even think about your opponents, you just play your normal game and hopefully do yourself justice."

This Thursday BBC London 94.9 will be bringing you exclusive FM commentary on Fulham's UEFA Cup 1st Round tie at Hajduk Split.

BBC London 94.9's Nick Godwin will be joined by former Spurs and Palace defender Gary O'Reilly to bring you all the action uninterrupted live from the Poljud Beauty - "The Beautiful Stadium."

Juliette Ferrington hosts the BBC London 94.9 Thursday Sport show from 7 and will be taking your calls after the game on 020 7224 2000.