Coleman risks job with stand against Malbranque

Manager refuses to compromise principles in dispute with French midfielder
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The Independent Football

Chris Coleman says that Fulham need to make a stand against player power, and that means Steed Malbranque will never appear for the club again, even though that decision could spell the end of the Welshman's own career as manager at Craven Cottage.

Fulham want to sell Mal-branque during the transfer window in order to recoup a transfer fee, but the French midfielder is determined to see out the remaining year on his contract. The Cottagers paid £5 million for the 26-year-old in 2001 and will not allow him to leave for free, so Coleman has announced Malbranque no longer has a future at the club. Coleman understands that his stance could ultimately cost him his job, but he will not abandon his principles.

"We've said for six months this is not the best way for us or Steed," said Coleman, who is preparing his side for today's match against Manchester United. "If we have a bad start and people are calling for Steed to be back in the team when he's fit and they're saying I should get the sack, I still won't pick Steed Malbranque.

"If it costs me my job then so be it. I've made a decision which I believe to be right for the club. The easiest thing for me to say would be that if I don't play Steed the fans will go bonkers, so I'll pick him. It's important to make this stand."

Coleman says Fulham have done everything possible to accommodate Malbranque, and claims to have the support of fans at the moment. "What we said to Steed is, if you're hellbent on leaving the club, we'll sell you in this transfer window, it's as simple as that. We get something and you get what you want. But he wasn't interested in that. We offered Steed a new lucrative deal, but he wasn't interested. We agreed to sell him, and have agreed prices with other clubs.

"We agreed one price with one club and he wouldn't even talk to them. We had to slash his price with another club in order for him to get what he wanted and it still hasn't happened. We can't do any more."

United have the opposite problem in their attempts to sign Owen Hargreaves. His club, Bayern Munich, have told United that no matter what they offer the England midfielder is not for sale, because Bayern have already sold another midfielder, Michael Ballack, to Chelsea.

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