Rise to the challenge

Friday 27 September 2002

Edwin van der Sar had called for Fulham to rise to the challenge of improving on last season's Premiership position.

With the Whites already having made an impressive start to the season, only losing one match out of the previous fifteen. Van der Sar told Fulham Today that he expects to see Fulham's form continue throughout the season.

Speaking from the Club's Motspur Park training ground, the big 'keeper said, "Last season wasn't a good success for us; the main achievement was reaching the semi-final of the FA Cup. This year we have to improve on that. The first priority is the league but we also have to concentrate on the UEFA Cup."

Before the second leg of the UEFA Cup match comes around, Fulham face a testing trip up to Goodison Park to face Everton.

David Moyes' reign as Everton manager got off to a good start last season as Fulham fell victim to a typical 'new manager' performance from the Toffees. However this season has seen a rather mixed start for the boys in Blue.

After drawing at home against Birmingham on the opening day of the season, Everton suffered two consecutive defeats on the road, to Manchester City and Southampton.

Having returned to the winning trail at home against Middlesbrough, they lost their last match to Aston Villa in dramatic fashion after Dion Dublin secured a 3-2 victory for Villa with five minutes remaining.

Their form so far this season suggests that Goodison Park could well turn out to be their major source of points.

But with a clear threat coming from Polish hitman Tomasz Radzinski, Fulham will do well not to overlook the danger posed by Everton's up-and-coming striker, Wayne Rooney. Possessing a keen eye for goal as well as truly fearsome shooting power, Rooney could well be stinging the palms of van der Sar, given the slightest opportunity.

Fully aware of what Everton's front line are capable of, van der Sar remained focused, stating that Fulham will have to build on the last league away win at Sunderland.

"These are the matches that we have to win," he said. "We had a good result against Sunderland two weeks ago so we're going to try and do the same on Saturday. It's going to be a big test for us to get the points away from home, and not only at Loftus Road.

"This year is going to be a challenge and I hope that the players are going to be able to meet it. The loss against West Brom wasn't really expected so we'll need to pick up some points on Saturday."

Having been made Captain recently in the absence of Andy Melville, Saturday's game could see Edwin don the armband once more, should Melville not make the starting eleven. Not that it troubles the stopper.

He said, "I was Captain at Ajax and I was once wore the armband for the Dutch national team. It nice and it makes you an important player. But I don't think it makes a big difference to me because I'm always talking to my team, so it doesn't matter if I have the armband or not.

"If the Gaffer decided to make me Captain if Mel isn't playing, that's alright by me."