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French revolution by the Thames

last updated Friday 30th June 2000, 2:30 PM

Fulham's new manager Jean Tigana has begun his bloodless revolution at Craven Cottage. Typically, he has begun it early.

Jean Tigana  Field Marshal of FulhamThe Frenchman, with a glorious playing and coaching past across the Channel, does not start his contract at Fulham until tomorrow, but he told the players they would have to cut their summer break short by 10 days and get used to training twice a day, starting this week.

So while it is a bloodless revolution, it is not painless.

The good news for the players of the First Division club, however, is he wants the early start to pre-season to be the last shock they suffer.

"I will change things gradually so then we can get collaboration with the players. That is very important. I don't want confrontations," he said.

"First of all, I want to get to know the players, work and train with them and then they will understand my approach. Then they will be with me."

That will be a relief for the mainly British squad who would have been forgiven for fearing Tigana's reputation as a hard taskmaster.

As coach at Monaco he became known for his iron will, but at Fulham he has been laughing a lot. His players will have been left in no doubt things will not be the same as they were under previous manager Paul Bracewell.

One of the first changes has been the introduction of health and fitness tests for the first-team squad.

Staff from the British Olympic Medical Centre have been checking the players for vitamin and mineral deficiencies, fat levels have been measured, and a dentist has been hired.

The influence of new French fitness coach Roger Propos, formerly of Paris St Germain, is also clear. Nearly all the equipment in the club's gym is being replaced with state-of-the-art technology. Trampolines are being used for heading practice and to improve players' balance.

The club have even constructed a hill in one corner of the training ground to allow muscle-strengthening exercises.

"You need to test things and then you can see progress," said Tigana.

"We have an image for the player and then we work towards it. We may have to change the food or the training but we will discuss it with the player. It is all about the details. When you concentrate on them all, you progress."

Progress is a word Tigana uses a lot and something he has been left in little doubt by chairman Mohamed Fayed he must achieve.

He left Monaco because he thought they had become a selling club but Fayed had his work cut out to persuade Tigana to leave his work with the French Football Federation and as an agent to return to management.

Tigana said: "After my experience at Monaco I wanted to stop because I was very sentimental. Many young players went: Emmanuel Petit, Lilian Thuram, Thierry Henry. After we won the title (in 1997), 10 players left and that made it very difficult. I said that's it, stop, finished.

"But when Mr Fayed contacted me it was an interesting proposition. Kevin Keegan had been in charge here and I was interested to see why.

"I saw two games and spoke to Fayed three times, but had not decided. I wanted to see if it was possible to build a good team, because that is my philosophy. I wanted to see the structure and the facilities.

The project here will be different to Monaco and the players will stay, it is a different vision. When I left Monaco I didn't think I would be a manager again. I wanted to come here because they are a good team but not the top team. I refused many teams in France, Spain and Italy because only the top teams wanted me."

Now that he is moving to this country, Tigana is obviously diplomatic about England's dismal Euro 2000 campaign. He said: "I am sure England can come good again because the mentality of the players here is very good. I think after a few years it is possible for England to win a competition.

"Over a period of time it is normal for the national team to have a bad spell. In France in 1986 the new generation had many problems but now they are very good."

Tigana, 45, who has been taking English lessons, is looking forward to life in London with his wife Carole and children Yannick, 20, Julien, 14, and Canelle, five, although he may not see them too often.

"My first ambition is to get Fulham promoted," he said. "We have good players at Fulham, but I want three or four very good new players to get promotion.

"I like stars but it may not be possible to get them now. They don't want to play in the First Division. I will get younger players and maybe some older players because they are very serious and set a good example. I want players that look after themselves."

One of the older players he hopes to sign is Scotland international John Collins, who played for him at Monaco and is now at Everton.

He has already signed 21-year-old Louis Saha for £2.1 million from Metz, a striker of great potential.

Tigana the player did not become a professional until he was 23 but won the European Championship with France in 1984 as part of a classic midfield containing Michel Platini and Alain Giresse.

He went on to win 52 caps and was still playing for Marseille when he was 36, because of the way he looked after his body. He then coached Lyon before taking charge of Monaco and was targeted by the FFF to take over as national manager after the 1998 World Cup. But he knows his CV will count for nothing.

"My job is now and other people will see if I make a difference. Fulham were ninth last season and in one year, who knows?"

Source thisislondon by Leo Spall
Since 1998
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