In the Community

Wednesday 18 September 2002

What a perfect week of football. A thrilling fightback against Spurs, a resounding win at Sunderland and then the funniest derby victory in history as my boyhood team, Birmingham City, beat Villa 3-0. Could things get any better?

The momentous week started with as passionate 45 minutes of football as I can remember from a Fulham team. Trailing 2-0 to a Tottenham side looking to go top of the league, the lads turned it round with a display of raw pace, power and passion.

Spurs were blown away and left looking distinctly second rate. And the catalyst for our fightback? Some may point to Inamoto's goal, to Malbranque's introduction or even the linesman for disallowing a possible third Spurs goal. But for me the man who started the revival was our very own Sean Davis.

He took the game by the scruff of the neck and dominated the midfield. His continual flow of through balls kept the Spurs defence on the back foot and his powerful presence allowed Inamoto and Malbranque to run riot.

I think his performance showed how much Sean's character has developed and that he is turning into one of the best young midfield talents in the country as well as the heartbeat of the Fulham team. And, of course, we are very proud to say he came through the Community scheme!

The whole team responded to Sean's promptings and Pierre Wome made an excellent debut. He proved just as competitive as Rufus - just ask Chris Perry!

The confidence and belief gained from the Spurs victory shone through in the performance at Sunderland. After a dodgy opening half-hour the team grew in stature and completely dominated the second half. Some may point out that we were up against a very poor side but the fact remains it was Sunderland's record defeat at the magnificent Stadium of Light.

For the first time since retiring I felt my feet twitching on Saturday and wishing I was out there on the pitch. The reason was the inspiring music played over the tannoy at the Stadium of Light before the teams come out. Prokofiev's Dances with Knights is played at ear-splitting volume and the tune certainly has the desired effect - the hairs on the back of my neck were standing up.

I would have loved to be part of the team as they stepped into the stadium. I leant forward to whisper in Bill Muddyman's ear that I would love to be out there playing but his quizzical look in reply said it all - thank heavens you're not!

Sunderland obviously have their problems at the moment and I cringed as their supporters hurled abuse at the Chairman, directors and Peter Reid. Speaking as an ex-player though I couldn't condone the booing directed at Michael Gray. He is the captain and a long-serving member of the team and didn't deserve the criticism leveled at him.

Not that the Fulham fans helped matters, with their chants of "Reid Out"! I have never seen a stadium empty so quickly as when Steve Marlet scored the third goal. Twenty thousand fans must have simultaneously got up and walked out.

The big worry for the Mackems is that the fans anger and frustration is turning to apathy and the huge banks of empty red seating may become a familiar sight unless they arrest their slide soon. A derby win over Newcastle next Saturday is now essential.

It was great to see Barry back in goalscoring form. Note how he used the biggest backside in football to hold off the defender before scoring! Barry is incredibly strong and has phenomenal upper body strength.

Funniest event of the day was seeing Jean limping to the touchline wearing his cast every five minutes. The boss has had an operation on his ankle and it would have to coincide with the match where the pitch is furthest away from the dugout! Can I put an end to the rumour that I inflicted the injury during the Thursday afternoon staff match!

I was up in Sunderland on a reconnaissance mission as the Mackems have one of the best Community schemes in the country and I spent a couple of days swapping ideas with them. I also took in the under-17 academy fixture between the two teams which ended 1-1 and then enjoyed a bit of Northern hospitality before the main event. This job is really tiring me out!

Back in the office we have launched the October holiday soccer courses which includes Kingston for the first time. Up until then we will be busy with our Autumn school programme and this week the Community department are delivering coaching in over 75 schools.

One topic not on our coaching list is how to do an Enckleman! The poor old Villa suffered one of the most horrendous personal nightmares I can ever remember on a football pitch against the Blues on Monday. Being a Blues fan it was also one of the funniest moments I have ever seen on a football pitch. The poor lad has already been voted as Birmingham's player of the season!

The third goal was scored by a certain Geoff Horsfield - or Sir Geoff of St Andrews as he now calls himself!

Finally, this article has been all about how positive the last seven days have been. If we just take a quick look forward at the next seven days it gets better starting with our first European adventure on Thursday with a trip to Croatia to meet Hadjuk Split. I wish I was able to go but somebody has to stay behind to keep the club ticking over!

Then its our local derby against Chelsea - 6th versus 4th. It promises to be a wonderful occasion and maybe we can follow Birmingham's lead and put one over our nearest rivals. Take it from me, beating your near neighbours is a magnificent feeling!