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Match Preview - Fulham v Southampton 25.09.04

last updated Friday 24th September 2004, 5:11 PM
Fulham boss Chris Coleman

Fulham manager Chris Coleman wants "no red cards and three points" from Saturday's Barclays Premiership home clash with Southampton - but not particularly in that order.

Coleman is anxious to avoid further disciplinary trouble after having three players sent off in the last two matches but the crucial issue for him is ending a run of four top-flight matches without a victory.

Fulham's young boss took the media flak for backing Andrew Cole and Papa Bouba Diop after they received their marching orders in last week's battle at West Brom. He then saw 20-year-old right-back Liam Rosenior dismissed for two bookable offences on his senior debut in this week's 4-1 Carling Cup victory at Boston.

But Coleman, facing a disciplinary charge himself for his verbal blast at the referee the previous week, has taken positives from seeing Fulham adopt a tougher attitude and shed something of their "nice little club by the river" reputation.

"I'll back my players any time," he said.

"I made emotional comments, maybe because I'm a young manager and a little bit naive sometimes. I wasn't backing Andy Cole or Papa Diop for their reactions, certainly not. We have got a strict code of conduct and everybody has to abide by that.

"What I was saying afterwards was, I was a player myself and I've fined players at this club before but it doesn't seem that the money really hurts them to be honest.

"They are going to miss matches and that hurts them more. The club have said they are going to fine the players and I stand by that.

"Both players, in the dressing room after the game, apologised to myself and their team-mates. They knew they had done wrong. The first thing Andy Cole did when he came off the pitch was hold his hands up because he thought he'd cost us two points."

But Coleman insists: " We're not a dirty team, on the contrary, we're too nice I think.

"Fulham have got that tag and we've had it for three or four years.

"When Jean Tigana came in and turned the club on its head with new training regimes we played magnificent football but when we got into the Premiership, when we played against teams which were just as good at passing the ball but a lot stronger, then we were found wanting.

"When it came to rolling our sleeves up we had too many players who weren't prepared to do that. That's why I brought certain players into the team who can do that.

"We've still got that tag that it's a nice little club down by the river - which it is - but now we have a winning mentality and sometimes when you have that a little bit of emotion comes into it and people step out of line which is what happened last week, unfortunately."

But Coleman admitted: "That's not to say we can go round raising our hands. We know we can't do that.

"Last week we did it and got punished and rightly so, but we draw a line under that. We just want to move on and concentrate on the games coming up."

He believes, however, that the indications from the battle at The Hawthorns are that his side have the determination to arrest their recent poor run by overcoming Southampton at Craven Cottage on Saturday.

He added: "We have new players in the squad and we are still trying to gel a relationship but we came out against West Brom needing to get a result and we got a result. We got a point.

"Rather than taking the negatives out of it we had to take the positives.

"At the end our formation was four-four, we had nothing up front, but the guys kept going and we stopped that losing run. I found out a lot about my team last week.

"They stuck at it, they kept working, they kept fighting and they kept believing. We need to have that because we haven't come that far yet and sometimes we need to grind it out. I can't ask for any more from them."

Apart from three points - and no red cards.

Steve WigleySteve Wigley goes looking once more for his first Premiership win as Southampton travel to Fulham - and he may ask opposite number Chris Coleman for some reassurance while he is there.

Wigley's future as Saints boss is still in doubt as he needs a UEFA Pro Licence to be able to manage a top-flight team.

He has a three-month period of grace to acquire the licence but his problem is he cannot complete the course, which does not carry an examination, until next July.

Coleman, though, found himself in a similar position when he took over as Fulham manager from former French World Cup star Jean Tigana last year. He was given special dispensation to continue as team chief and finished the residential part of the UEFA course this summer.

So Wigley is confident he can take advantage of a precedent also granted to former Leeds manager Eddie Gray, and despite his troubled start as successor to the sacked Paul Sturrock, the the issue does not appear to have affected the players.

Midfielder David Prutton, hero of Wednesday's Carling Cup win at Northampton, Wigley's first victory, said: "He is a fantastic coach.

"The lads have a lot of faith in him and we are determined to come through for him as much as the fans and ourselves."

Prutton, who scored an own goal in last Sunday's 2-1 home defeat by Newcastle, went some way to making amends with a superb left-foot strike against Northampton - after a high bouncing ball caught him full in the face.

Unabashed, Prutton - like Wigley a former Nottingham Forest midfielder - let the ball drop before volleying home from 25 yards and admitted: "I don't shoot much with my left.

"It is a bit of a swinger but it was great to get that one as it made it 2-0 so soon after Kevin Phillips got our first.

"Hopefully the result has turned a corner and we can push on again from here in the league."

Neil McCann added Saints' third at Sixfields Stadium, his first since Gordon Strachan paid Rangers £1.5million for him 14 months ago.

The Scot, who netted with a sweet drive, said: "The new gaffer says he still has confidence in me and that's good to hear.

"He gave me my chance and hopefully I took it. Now I'm aiming to establish myself in the team although I accept it might not happen straight away."

Southampton should have star striker James Beattie back for the trip to Fulham after he rested an Achilles strain on Wednesday night.

Graeme Le Saux should also return after a foot problem. Anders Svensson was only on the substitutes' bench for the cup tie but Wigley needs his creativity and industry in midfield for Premiership action.

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