Goal of the Season

Friday 28 May 2004

One of the most compelling memories of the freshly completed season has to be Junichi Inamoto's superlative strike that sealed the 3-1 victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford back in October of last year.

It was Fulham's first victory at the home of the Reds in more than forty years, and the performance that day showed a doubting world at large what a good side new manager Chris Coleman was putting together.

Inamoto's goal came at the end of a superb passage of play from the Whites, and typified the quality, skill and passion that was witnessed that afternoon. It was a fine team display capped off by some wonderful individual performances.

There were many good goals scored last term, but for sheer emotion, theatre, and exhilaration Ina's must surely rank among the best, and his strike deservedly won the Goal of the Season Competition at the recently held Gala Dinner.

Despite having achieved almost God-like status amongst his fans, Ina has managed to remain remarkably down-to-earth about his rise to stardom, and in his own unassuming way he expressed his delight at receiving the award.

"If the fans have voted for my goal that makes me very, very happy," he said this week, still in training for his nation's game against England in two weeks time. "That is great because it is one of my best memories of the whole season.

"I think it was a very good goal, and it made me feel very happy. 3-1 was a very good, result for Fulham and a very historic one."

The issue of the moment, of course, is whether the Japanese international will still be at Fulham next season. Chris Coleman has said he is keen to make Inamoto a permanent member of his squad. Ina for his part is in no doubts about what he would like to happen.

"I hope I will still be here next season," he said. "I really want to stay here because there are great players and great staff so, yes, I'd love to stay here."

Ina pinpointed the newfound attitude in the team as the key factor behind this season's success.

"We have a great team spirit here," he said. "We all help each other, so this season it has helped us play good football.

"This has been a successful season for us. We targeted finishing in the top half of the table and we have done that so it has been a very good season for us.

"Tactically I think we got it right. If we carry on playing the same way next season, win a few more of our away games, then we will have a very good chance of finishing in the top five or six. That should definitely be our target for next season."

And that is definitely something that Ina would like to be a part of. He feels that he has improved season on season since coming to England, and that he is now ready to play a major part in helping Fulham push on next year.

"I have had a good season in that I think I have played better than last year," he said. "And I have scored a few goals so that has made me happy.

"I have felt good this season and I hope that I can keep my concentration and carry that on to next season. I think that there will be good things happening here and it would be great to be part of it. There is a lot for everybody to look forward to."