0 users online

OOH! Aah! Promoted - Sunday Times

last updated Sunday 15th April 2001, 12:46 AM
OOH! Aah! Tigana! Jean Tigana's first season as a manager of an English club still has three weeks to run, but his slick-passing Fulham side are already promoted to the Premiership.

When, at the final whistle, Fulham's playing and coaching staff congregated in a celebratory huddle at the end of the McAlpine Stadium that was a sea of black and white, their fans had just one chant.

"Tiganaa, Tiganaa!" they sang, over and over again, paying homage to the Frenchman recommended to Mohamed al-Fayed by Eric Cantona.

From last August, Fulham have made promotion look easy, but attempting to choreograph teams from a touchline can be a stressful business and has produced some bizarre behaviour on the part of managers. While Ruud Gullit used to chomp on a crucifix and John Gregory went through a lollipop-sucking phase, Tigana, a reformed smoker, manically chews toothpicks.

You fear for him if he accidentally swallows one, but Fulham fans insist the the toothpicks are all part of Tigana's "genius". DeconstructingTig- ana the "genius" is not easy. Admittedly, his side look a bit iffy down the left where Andrejs Stolcers, a Latvian international, seems a weak link prone to drifting infield.

Otherwise, Fulham are impressively assured, particularly in central defence where Andy Melville and Kit Symons looked poised in possession.

Tigana's lofty coaching reputation is evidently deserved. Fulham contributed all the football during a first half punctuated by superior passes from Lee Clark. Unfortunately, Louis Saha and Luis Boa Morte failed to make the most of this service.

Maybe Fulham might have menaced a little more if they had managed to whip in some crosses - centres are not really part of their armoury - against a newly tightened Huddersfield defence. Still far from safe from relegation, Lou Macari's side began the game unbeaten in their last five. This form appeared in peril when Stolcers found Boa Morte advancing into the area courtesy of a beautifully timed through pass.

When Chris Lucketti sent Boa Morte crashing, the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot. Saha took the kick and although it was not the best executed of penalties, it proved too good for Nico Vaesen. After that Fulham upped their tempo, with Clark quickly missing two simple, close-range chances.

Clark was not the only Fulham player to see his game falling apart in the penalty area. Boa Morte missed a simple chance in the air, the shock of actually heading the ball perhaps spoiling his aim.

That miss seemed to galvanise Huddersfield and they swiftly equalised. Symons was caught in possession by Delroy Facey and the striker powered forward, bursting beyond Melville, before defying Maik Taylor with an unstoppable, high-velocity shot.

Parity was short-lived, though, as Boa Morte swiftly restored Fulham's lead after running on to Steve Finnan's astute pass down the right.

With Vaesen having dashed out to the edge of the area for what seemed a 50-50 ball, Boa Morte attempted to round the keeper but semi-collided with him before somehow curling the ball into the net from the tightest of angles.

Media-wise, Tigana cuts something of a Garboesque figure and has failed to attend a post-match press conference all season. Yesterday proved no exception with Clark left to address journalists.

"The manager doesn't really allow us alcohol," he grinned. "But I might have a half tonight . . ."

Huddersfield Town: Vaesen, Heary, Lucketti, Dyson, Jenkins, Thornley (Gallen 69min), Armstrong, Holland, Gorre, Facey, Baldry.

Fulham: Taylor, Finnan, Melville, Symons, Brevett, Sahnoun (Davis 80min), Clark, Stolcers, Goldbaek (Riedle 72min), Saha (Moller 89min), Boa Morte.

Scorers: Huddersfield: Facey 78

Fulham: Saha (pen) 66, Boa Morte 85

Booked: Dyson, Lucketti, Gallen

Referee: K Hill (Royston)

Source Sunday Times by Louise Taylor
Since 1998
"It's been updated!"