Cottage gears up for Tigana's style trial

Fulham's manager exudes quiet confidence as he brings methods that flourished in France to the First Division
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The Independent Online

Silence is golden right now for Jean Tigana at Craven Cottage. The man who, in one swift coup by Mohamed Al Fayed last April, suddenly became Fulham's most illustrious manager - arguably even more so than Kevin Keegan - has not been talking to the press before the First Division season begins today. Nevertheless he is clearly getting his message across to his new team, which he only took control of in late June.

Silence is golden right now for Jean Tigana at Craven Cottage. The man who, in one swift coup by Mohamed Al Fayed last April, suddenly became Fulham's most illustrious manager - arguably even more so than Kevin Keegan - has not been talking to the press before the First Division season begins today. Nevertheless he is clearly getting his message across to his new team, which he only took control of in late June.

That much was clear as they had by far the better of a goalless draw against a near full-strength Tottenham in a testimonial for their long-serving defender Simon Morgan last week. A mixture of short, tidy passing and the occasional more expansive and sweeping move showed that this Fulham team will be a far more attractive proposition - and harder to beat - than last season's dour outfit managed by Paul Bracewell. This change of style has been enhanced by the arrival of signings such as John Collins from Everton.

Still, what else would you expect from Tigana, a man who wherever he has played or coached has been a success? He has never compromised the need for flair and has combined it with a fierce determination to win. Tigana, now 45, was part of the unforgettably gifted French midfield, which also included Michel Platini, Luis Fernandez and Alain Giresse, who together won the 1984 European Championship and reached the semi-finals of the 1982 and 1986 World Cups.

All of his midfield teammates have since tried management but only Tigana has won a league championship, something he did with Monaco three years ago with a side that featured Thierry Henry and Emmanuel Petit. Two years ago he was in charge when Monaco beat Manchester United in the European Cup quarter-finals. With a CV like that you may be forgiven for asking why has he ended up at Fulham, especially when he has claimed that some of France, Italy and Spain's biggest teams were after him, but if he has a superiority complex he is not letting that show. He is simply getting on with turning Fulham into a promotion-winning team.

Karlheinz Riedle, the former European Cup winner, with Borussia Dortmund and World Cup winner with Germany who joined Fulham last season from Liverpool, is convinced Tigana has already made a big difference. He said: "The game against Tottenham was one of the best performances Fulham fans have ever seen at Craven Cottage. From a technical and passing aspect, it was a brilliant game.

"John Collins was a big buy because he was organising things. But every player was involved in the game and tried to ask for the ball - that was very important.

"He wants to have a lot of movement and short and long passes. That's what we are about." In addition to Collins, Tigana has also brought in the quick centre-forward Louis Saha, briefly of Newcastle, as well as a very nimble and alert French Under-21 midfielder, Fabrice Fernandes, who made a good impression in just 20 minutes against Tottenham. And Riedle, who was briefly caretaker-manager last season after Bracewell's sacking, says Tigana has changed the way Fulham work off the pitch, even if it is not what some of the squad are used to.

He has even brought in a dentist, which certainly was not the order of the day on Stevenage Road before. "We have exactly the same type of diet and training methods that Arsÿne Wenger uses at Arsenal," said Riedle. "We have a diet plan and training is very good. Training is not hard but we have had seven weeks of pre-season.

"You don't have to train hard to be top fit and get players sharp for the beginning of the season. For Fulham it is a change and maybe it was a little bit strange for some of the players early on but now you see the results and it is a completely different style of play."

But the players are alert to the fact that pretty and progressive football may not be enough in the further-flung outposts of their division. As Bjarne Goldbaek, the Danish midfielder, explains: "I think we are on the right way. It is important to try and play this sort of football at home and dominate. It is difficult to play Crewe away and keep the football style but at least we can go back to the other style."

Goldbaek sums up neatly the aims of the Cottagers in this season of high expectation, adding: "It would be crazy to say we would be happy to be seventh in the league. Sixth would be OK but I think the top three should be the target." But Tigana is not saying that.

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