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Fulham the team for purists

last updated Thursday 20th March 2003, 9:38 AM
I'm finally getting round to showering praise on a very beautiful but scandalously unadmired thing, namely the first team of Fulham FC.

From a betting perspective I should hate their guts. It has taken me nearly 2 years for me to learn the painful lesson that attractive football does not equal successful football.

Fulham Manager Jean Tigana
Fulham Manager Jean Tigana
Jean Tigana Stories
The losses I have incurred backing the Cottagers to outplay technically inferior but ultimately more rugged sides have been heavy, although they have been offset by the tactic of backing the magnificent Steed Malbranque to score the first goal. It is only in recent months that the oddsmakers at Coral in particular have awoken to the fact that the French maestro frequently pops up with the opener.

From a purist's viewpoint, however it is impossible to knock Fulham.

My son asked me the other day who I would support if there was no Crystal Palace. Despite the Eagles abysmal display against the Dons (another admirable football team) in the deadpan atmosphere of the Selhurst derby on Tuesday, this is essentially a daft question, but if I had to answer I would not hesitate to say Fulham.

Those who say the League tables don't lie and that Fulham are therefore not a significant team are wrong. The Loftus Road lodgers have provided huge enjoyment for football lovers both in their romp to the Div 1 title 2 years ago and in their subsequent spells in the Premiership.

And yet the papers continually run stories of Tigana's imminent departure. This baffles and saddens me. Tigana is a great coach and a grossly under-rated one. The brand of football his side produces is a credit to him.

Tigana's unwavering commitment to a fluent pass and move, keep it on the deck style offers us a glimpse of a football utopia in which sophistication rules and the route one method is consigned to history.

What makes Tigana so special is his ability to take average players and improve them out of all recognition.

Take Rufus Brevett. We all remember him as a modest yeoman full back in the days when QPR were quite good, but by the time Tigana had finished with him he was a class act who could just as easily done a job for England as Chris Powell.

Fulham would probably be further up the League had they developed an alternative gameplan that involved cutting the average attacking move from 27 passes to 2 when the need for late goals turned desperate. But Tigana would quite clearly rather drive one of his toothpicks through his left eyeball than resort to such crude tactics - and his devotion to his principles is to be applauded.

We have seen nothing like enough of Fulham on the telly this season, either live or in terms of extended ITV highlights, but thankfully they are on our screens on Saturday when they venture to Old Trafford.

This is a repeat of their first Premiership fixture, on the opening day of last season. On that day they frightened the life out of Man U losing a compelling match 3-2.

They may not have gone on to achieve anything like as much as promised that day but Fulham remain a team I have the utmost respect for. And anyone having a bet on Saturday's game would be wise to respect them too.
Source Racing Post by Bruce Millington

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