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Style and class at The Cottage

last updated Monday 14th August 2000, 7:34 AM

Fulham chairman Mohamed Al Fayed wore the self-satisfied look of a man who knew he had finally found the natural successor to Kevin Keegan after Saturday's 2-0 win over Crewe.

His choice, in personality and the nature of the football he preaches, could not be more different to the England coach. Yet, in Jean Tigana Fayed appears to have found a man strong enough to impose a style and commitment to justify Fulham's status as favourites to win promotion to the Premiership.

While Keegan was all punchy enthusiasm, rousing words and fiery beliefs, Tigana keeps his own counsel. He leaves the public talking to others and the footballing deeds to players whose heads he has filled in the unending sessions on the training pitch.

Pass and move, pass and move and pass again appears to be Tigana's motto. Indeed, the ball spent so much time fizzing along the Craven Cottage pitch you feared it would end up with friction burns.

Of course, the ever-present toothpick sat more easily in Tigana's mouth once he had figured out that pretty football in England is nothing without goals.

When he did, his actions were swift and decisive. Off came the baffling Luis Boa Morte, whose tricks on the ball were more than counterbalanced by stagefright in front of goal.

On went Barry Hayles. Raw, certainly, but with an instinct for goal which put Fulham ahead within five minutes as he slid home Lee Clark's cross.

Add a second after 73 minutes for Tigana's £2.1million summer recruit from Metz, Louis Saha, and the new boss had captivated his audience.

His players, too. One who lived through the Keegan era was left back Rufus Brevett, whose dynamism typified Fulham's effort on Saturday.

'I can't believe how patient we were before the goals came,' said Brevett. 'Last season we'd have got impatient and started pumping the ball upfield. But it's how it's got to be. We've got to keep passing and passing and let the opposition keep chasing us.

'I've never worked so hard in pre-season training as I have this year, but then I've never enjoyed it more either.'

Tigana's talking, both on and off the pitch, was done by John Collins, the former Scotland midfielder who played under him at Monaco.

The 32-year-old has dropped down a division before his time - Everton were desperate to keep him - and it shows. Visitors Crewe tried to man-mark him only to find Collins too elusive.

In the first half, he was content to patrol the area in front of the Fulham defence. In the second, he pushed forward and produced the pass of the match - 40 yards into Saha's path - for the second goal.

'It was a pleasant afternoon knocking the ball about,' said Collins, who offered an insight into Tigana. 'He's an unbelievable professional. He's on the training ground from morning till night and he expects his players to be disciplined and professional as well.

'He wants football to be played on the ground, like the best teams in the world.'

Source soccernet by Ivan Speck
Since 1998
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