UEFA Cup history for Fulham

Wednesday 18 September 2002

Jean Tigana has marked the eve of Fulham's historic first ever UEFA Cup match by outlining his ambition to take the Whites into the Champions League inside two years.

The Cottagers take on Hajduk Split in the first round, first leg on Croatia's Adriatic coast.

Fulham breezed through this summer's Intertoto Cup to clinch their debut match in major European competition, against the team who finished second in last season's Croatian championship.

And, encouraged by his team's excellent domestic form - with the thrilling 3-2 comeback victory against Tottenham followed by Saturday's 3-0 thrashing of Sunderland - Tigana spoke of his plan to continue Mohamed Al Fayed's fairytale success story.

Former France player and Monaco manager Tigana, asked if he had missed top-level European football, said: "Yes, because Europe is like a gift.

"When you have a good season, it's a bonus for the club. The game is important, as it's Fulham's first in UEFA Cup.

"Now I want to play in the European Cup this year or next. That's my target."

Fulham have started this season impressively - in stark contrast to their up-and-down campaign last year which culminated in a nervy relegation battle.

Tigana, on crutches with his right shin and foot in plaster after an operation, added: "The players have progressed in a year at the higher level.

"And our midfielders have scored many goals this season, which is the difference from last season. When we started in the Intertoto, the aim was to play in this game.

"We got through many stages to get here - but there's no target now as it's a discovery for me and the players. It's very important for the players to get experience at a higher level."

Split boss Zoran Vulic today acclaimed Fulham for their barnstorming start to the Premiership season.

The home team's manager admits the English side are on a much better run than his team. "Tigana has excellent technical players," said Vulic. "Fulham are very strong and in great form."

Fulham will encounter some familiar faces tomorrow night, with former Derby and West Ham star Igor Stimac expected to feature and Split's head coach - ex-West Ham and Everton man Slaven Bilic - giving instructions from the dug-out.

Vulic exuded quiet confidence when considering the match, adding: "We aren't in great form ourselves, but I'm always optimistic when we play in Split, because of our fans."