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Chris Coleman is getting on fine

last updated Friday 02nd March 2001, 12:38 AM
Chris Coleman
Cookie Coleman on the road to recovery
Fulham defender Chris Coleman's career was in jeopardy following a terrible car accident in January that left the Welsh defender in hospital. 'Cookie' has been through the worst and is now working every day to get back to full fitness. As February drew to a close he gave Dean Gripton of Sky sport.com an update on his recovery and spoke about Fulham's success this season.

Chris "Cookie" Coleman underwent five operations in six days, one being major plastic surgery, as he began the long road to recovery after his car spun out of control in Bletchingley, Surrey, in January.

He was in the best form of his career as Fulham had continued their marvellous start of the season into the New Year. Promotion to the Premiership had looked a certainty all season for the Cottagers, and Coleman had his sights set on a return to first-team action in the top division.

Now with his foot in a brace and still having to walk with crutches, Coleman's spirits seem high despite his setback. He admits that he goes to Fulham for treatment every day in a bid to beat the original target of one year's absence from football.

"I won't be playing until next year really," he told skysports.com "The doctor told me that I would be out for 12 months, if I'm lucky. I've had two so far. I was in hospital for three and a half weeks. "I have known in my heart that I would be a long time out. I'm very positive and I've no doubt in my mind that I will be back."

The repair-work to his shattered right leg is complicated, due to the multiple injuries received. But Coleman reveals that the medics are happy with the progress so far.

"It's going to be a long road. I can't have the operation on my knee until I get my ankle sorted. It's just getting the timing right, once all that fits into place I can get back. The doctors are very happy with the way it is going so far. I've got to go back to have x-rays on my tibia and my fibula, which is the next move."

He is working hard back at the club - both on his injury and on the footballing side.
Chris Coleman
Cookie Coleman captaining Fulham

"I have been exercising the bad knee. In the last three weeks I have been in every day except Sundays doing five or six hours of physio work each day. I have also been watching videos of opponents to come, which is interesting."

This season is former French midfield star Jean Tigana's first in English football, but contrary to popular thought Coleman stresses that Tigana's management style is not that different to the previous regimes at Craven Cottage.

"It's not been that different here, to be honest," said the centre-back.

"We need to put this to bed because everybody's been saying we train twice a day but we don't. We probably train twice a day just once a week. We train in the afternoons and at different times but we train much longer. Not harder, but longer.

So, where it is widely held that Tigana's side are the best footballing outfit outside the Premiership, Coleman insists that it is good old fashioned fitness that is the key to the Fulham success story.

"That hard work has paid off physically for us and we are probably the fittest team in the league. In the last half an hour - that's where we win most of our games - we're fitter. If we do get promotion - and something has to go drastically wrong for us not to now - it can be put down to us being fitter."

The facts do bear this out. From the first month of the season, when a late Luis Boa Morte goal won a tight game at Norwich, to the most recent win at Gillingham through two more late goals, Fulham have scored late on to gain key wins, one of the most eye-opening was in the Worthington Cup, when Louis Saha's 90th minute goal beat Premiership strugglers Derby.

Tigana can be seen pacing the sidelines chewing on his trademark toothpick during games, and Coleman blows away another preconception about the former Monaco manager.

"The manager's given us licence to play football over the whole pitch, and it's breathed fresh air into the team. And he can get his point of view across now.

"At the start he couldn't speak a word of English and spoke through his interpreter. Now he talks very good English. He doesn't talk to the press but he never did in France. His English is very good and he gets his feelings across.

"To be fair he never says a lot. Maybe at half-time he speaks for about two minutes maximum.

He has changed the diet - we had a dietician last year but it is taken that stage further in what we eat. We are blood tested, fat tested, alcohol tested, and we don't know when it is coming it is random and regular. You cannot cheat it like we used to when we knew it was once a month!
Jean Tigana
Jean Tigana Fulham's Manager

Fulham have encompassed the diamond formation beloved of Ossie Ardiles in the nineties, and despite the tactic being a new one, the players eased into the system with ease.

"To be fair to the lads - we knew we could play that way because we had the personnel. Tigana brought in two or three really good players, such as John Collins and Louis Saha.

"I remember the first couple of games we beat Crewe 2-0 and Birmingham 3-1 and people we saying that we wouldn't be able to play like that all season because teams would get used to the formation. But we are still top of the league and obviously doing something right."

On Sunday Fulham are set to show the watching Sky public that they are fit for the Premiership, and a win in the lunchtime home game with closest rivals Bolton will surely secure promotion. Coleman agrees. No Fergie-style denials for the Welshman, who can see no other outcome if Fulham win their next two games.

"If we beat Bolton and can win at Ewood Park then we will go up. Bolton will be a tough game as they were beaten 4-1 at home last week so will want to bounce back and keep in line for promotion."

But since Coleman has been out Fulham have had somewhat of a sticky patch.

Four defeats in nine games had the critics returning, but the 30-year-old insists that the form that Fulham had shown before would make a few ordinary results stand out.

"They've been talking about us having a sticky patch but as we were winning everything before it then when we draw a couple that gets regarded as a sticky patch. It just goes to show what a good season Fulham have had. We are still 12 points clear with only 13 games left."

Ipswich and Charlton have shown the way to all Nationwide League sides with their top half performances in the Premiership this season, and Coleman knows that Fulham will have to spend to match those feats.

"They have done brilliantly but had to spend a lot of money and I would imagine that we would too. Louis Saha and Barry Hayles could have the same effect as Marcus Stewart, who is top scorer in the Premiership. I don't see why not. I know it is a different level and that we will strengthen when we go up.

"Any team that goes up must strengthen really, unless you are really lucky and have a big squad of very good players. Blackburn are well-equipped to stay up if they were to reach the Premiership," he says.

It would be a marvellous moment if Coleman could return to action in a big Premiership game next season. His quiet determination is evidence that he will be back, instigating more patient Fulham attacks from the back and adding an element of class to the art of Premiership defending. 

Chris Coleman Chatlines
Cris Coleman
Cookie Coleman favourites and facts

Favourite team
Swansea City.

I watched the game against Northampton on Tuesday (Feb 27) for Sky and was gutted for the lads after the last minute defeat.

Gardening. I have a vegetable plot at home and that is a great way to unwind. My wife mentioned in the Fulham programme once that I was a bit of a 'Percy Thrower' and I got so much stick from the lads.

Our four kids take up all of my time now. They have been larking about with my brace and are delighted that dad is around for them to play with. My wife, Belinda has been absolutely brilliant

Cookie has appeared on Gillette Soccer Saturday on Sky Sports, when he watched Derby play Aston Villa. "I'm enjoying it. I did Soccer Saturday and was nervous because I'd not done it before but it was nice to be asked," he smiled.

Young player to watch
Fulham defender Mark Hudson. Mark's usually a centre half, so I'd better keep an eye on him - he's certainly one for the future.

Chris Coleman factfile
* Born in Swansea, June 10, 1970
* Welsh international, with 31 caps and four goals.
* Made 480 career League appearances.
* Scored five goals last season but did not net in 29 appearances this term.
* Signed a four year extension to his contract over the summer, keeping him at the club until 2004.
* Signed from Blackburn for £2.1million in December 1997.
* Won Division One with Crystal Palace in 1994.
* Won a Division Two championship medal with Fulham in 1999.
* Selected for the PFA Division One team for 1999/2000, after being in the Second Division select side in the previous two seasons.
* Spent two years as a Blackburn player between December 1995 and December 1997 and made 32 appearances.
* Won promotion with Swansea City from Division Four as a 17-year-old in 1988.
Source skysport.com by Dean Gripton
Since 1998
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