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Fulham play hardball with Malbranque

last updated Tuesday 11th July 2006, 9:59 AM
Steed  Malbranque
Steed Malbranque

STEED MALBRANQUE has been banished from the Fulham first-team squad and suffered the humiliation of being forced to join the youth team for a pre-season trip to Austria.

The French midfielder has infuriated boss Chris Coleman by refusing to sign a new contract. He can leave on a Bosman free transfer when his current deal expires next year.

Coleman has responded by ordering Malbranque to train with the youngsters and taken the extreme step of packing him off to Austria.

A Fulham spokesperson said yesterday: "Steed obviously is not part of the first-team plans until he wants to sign a new contract.

"It is not acceptable for the club so the manager has had to make contingency plans."

Fulham's fear is that Malbranque will see out the final season of his contract and then be free to quit the club.

That would leave Fulham without any compensation for a player who has arguably been their top performer over the past five years following his £5million move from Lyon in 2001.

His representatives declined to comment yesterday, but it appears unlikely Malbranque, 26, will back down to Fulham's hardline tactics.

Source Martin Rogers at The Mirror
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