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Prematch Comment - Fulham v Charlton

last updated Friday 04th March 2005, 5:39 PM
Fulham boss Chris Coleman

Fulham Manager Chris Coleman has no regrets about describing Fulham's home fans as "mutes" - and is ready should they decide to vent their anger at Craven Cottage on Saturday.

The Fulham boss gave his controversial assessment following the 4-2 FA Cup victory over Derby three weeks ago, criticising supporters for being too quiet at a time when he expected their full backing.

Coleman is remaining defiant, however - claiming he has every right to make his feelings known should the crowd's noise levels not correspond to efforts on the pitch.

"If our supporters want to give me a bad reaction then that's up to them. I voiced my opinion after the the Derby game - you can't tip-toe around people," he said.

"I'm not trying to fire them up; I'm just saying what I saw at the Derby game. I'm being honest. I'm the first to criticise my players if they don't play well.

"The fans pay their money and are entitled to their opinion. But when we're winning and the guys are having a go I expect to have their support."

That, he contends, was not the case against the Rams.

"We were 4-2 up against Derby, and you could hear a pin drop in the stadium," Coleman recalled.

"They've expressed their feelings in the past when they've been unhappy, and I'm going to do the same.

"I will be delighted if they give the team a good reception. The fans we take away are brilliant, no matter where we go or how many we take.

"It's always been a nice little atmosphere at Craven Cottage, but why can't we have a noisy ground when we're playing well? The players need to hear the fans."

Denmark international Claus Jensen will make his first appearance against Charlton since his unexpected summer move across London for £1.25million.

A troublesome hamstring injury has restricted the 27-year-old midfielder to just 10 appearances since his arrival at Craven Cottage, and Coleman is sure the best is yet to come.

"Claus was a bit off the pace against Tottenham last week, but we're running out of games and we need him in the side. He has to get his match fitness, but I think we'll see a better Claus Jensen on Saturday," the manager predicted.

"We haven't had him for five months of the season, which was a blow. I had big hopes for him when we signed him, because he's such a good player. There are 10 games left, and I hope he'll figure in all of them.

"I was delighted when he first came to the club. The players were talking about him, because they've played against him and know he's quality. We've certainly missed him."

Charlton Manager Alan CurbishleyAs far as he has taken Charlton during his near 14 seasons at the helm, Alan Curbishley believes guiding them into Europe would be his greatest managerial achievement.

The Addicks boss would, though, feel "let down" should his squad not give their all between now and the end of the season to achieve that common goal.

Charlton head into the final 11 games of the Barclays Premiership campaign with a real chance of securing a place in European competition for the first time, and victory at Fulham on Saturday would put further pressure on their rivals for a top-six finish.

Talk of regular top-flight football, though, let alone qualifying for Europe, was nothing more than a pipe dream to Addicks fans when Curbishley was appointed joint-manager, along with Steve Gritt.

The Addicks boss reflected: "In the last eight years, this club had had two promotions and six years in the Premiership - that, I think, has gone sort of unnoticed.

"If we finish in the top 10 this year, then over the five years, that record is a lot better than some of the bigger clubs."

Curbishley added: "There is nothing more I would like to do than have a cup run and finish high up enough in the league to qualify for Europe.

"But we have got 11 games left, a lot of points and anything could happen.

"I would feel let down if we don't put the performances in to give us a chance - that is all I ask for.

"I don't ask to go to Craven Cottage, win 3-1 and play brilliantly - what I do ask is that they give me a chance that we can get something from the game.

"In the last 11 games, if they set their stall out and give me a chance of getting something from the game, that is enough for me.

"Where we end up is where we end up.

"We are taking 20 players over to Fulham tomorrow and four of them will be sitting in the stand.

"We come into the run-in with a fully fit squad and with some people who have not had a lot of football for one reason or another and are not happy with life, maybe when they get their chance they will be nice and fresh."

Whichever match-day squad Curbishley selects, he accepts a lot may depend on whether Chris Coleman's men will be on their game, or produce another below-par display, too many of which have blighted their season.

"When Fulham get it right, they are a match for anybody in the Premiership. I think they know that, and that is what has frustrated Chris," said the Charlton manager.

"They have been very inconsistent, have not put the performances in and have been beaten.

"We know they could turn up tomorrow and give us a right game."

Source Sporting Life
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