Opposition View

Friday 30 October 2015 12:30

Hibernian defender Liam Fontaine progressed through the Fulham Academy to make two First Team appearances for the Whites before going on to play 294 times for Saturday’s opponents Bristol City. He looks back on his time at both clubs and gives his prediction for the weekend’s Ashton Gate encounter.

How did you find your time at Fulham?

I loved it – I thoroughly enjoyed Fulham as a club. I was playing for Bromley Borough and when I was 13 I got scouted by Fulham who asked me to come along to the Academy for training. There was a great set-up and they were really focused on bringing the younger players through, people like Sean Davis and Elvis Hammond were getting chances in the first team. They were a few years older than me but when I signed my scholarship at 16 I was actually playing up an age group with people like Dean Leacock and Zesh Rehman and that sort of generation of the Academy.

How good a moment was it to make your First Team debut?

It was great. Chris Coleman was the manager at the time and I’d spent a lot of time with him when he was doing his recovery from his accident. He’d trained and played with us in the Reserves and I was lucky enough to get a Premier League debut under him, albeit just for a few minutes at Southampton. Then I played in the FA Cup when I made my full debut as a starter against Watford away.

Why did you leave Fulham?

I got offered the chance to stay but I was at the age where I had to make the decision as to whether I stay and be just a squad player, or I go out and start building a reputation and a career for myself, which is why I went to Bristol City. I’d already been on loan there under Gary Johnson, who’d also taken me on loan to Yeovil when I was 17. I enjoyed it there, I liked playing under Gary, so it was an easy decision to join them permanently.

You played almost 300 games for City – how do you look back on your time there?

I’ve got great memories, Bristol’s a great club. I spent nine-and-a-half years there which is quite unheard of nowadays in football, and I had great times. In my first permanent season we got promoted after finishing second in League One, and then we had some really successful years in the Championship. Our first season there we got all the way to the Play-Off Final and then got beat by the Dean Windass goal for Hull. I was fortunate enough to go on to captain the club as well, which was great for me.

How did your departure in 2014 come about?

I was coming to the end of my contract and it was time to move on. The last few seasons City had been battling in the Championship and did get relegated, so it was time for a change and to freshen up the club again. So that happened and I was unfortunately one of the ones that had to go. I was out on loan when the new gaffer, Steve Cotterill, arrived and when I went back in January he was fantastic with me. He told me his plans and explained that I would be moving on at the end of the season, but I thank him for that because he was up front with me. I trained well and got on with him for the rest of the season, which was good while I was there.

What sort of manager is Cotterill?

He’s a very passionate manager, very passionate. He wants to win and he wants every player to do well. He gets his team playing some great football with a high tempo, and you can see he kicks and heads every ball on the sidelines. So you can see his passion for the game is there, and I’d say that’s his main thing.

How do you see Saturday’s game going?

I’ve seen City’s last couple of games that have been on TV and they’re playing some good football, but Fulham have picked up recently. I think it will be a tough game for both teams. City were unfortunate not to win against Cardiff, and that’s what their season’s been like – they’ve played some great stuff but they’re not getting the points on the board at the moment. At home they play well and the pitch is lovely there, so I’m going to sit on the fence and go for a 2-2 draw.

And how are you enjoying life in Scotland now?

It’s good up here. Hibs is a great club and we’ve got a very good young manager in Alan Stubbs. He’s got us playing a way that we enjoy and it’s going well. We’re trying to get back up to the SPL and we’ve got a good game ourselves this weekend against Rangers. It’s going to be a battle until the end of the season, but it’s going very well.

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