Chris Coleman, the Fulham manager, has been basking in the shade cast by the imposing figure of west London neighbours Chelsea this summer.
Chris Coleman, the Fulham manager, has been basking in the shade cast by the imposing figure of west London neighbours Chelsea this summer. While the rouble-funded Stamford Bridge behemoth casts its eyes - and its net - far and wide to capture the cream of world football, Coleman has kept his cool and has strengthened his squad with equal determination, but without forking out too many of his chairman's hard-earned millions.
Coleman has added proven goalscorers Andy Cole and Tomasz Radzinski to his front line, signed Denmark international Claus Jensen to bolster his midfield and secured central defensive linchpin Zat Knight on a four-year deal. The signings have not revolutionised the club but, like the lick of paint applied to Craven Cottage to lengthen its life, they should extend Fulham's Premiership time.
News that Luis Boa Morte will miss the start of the Premiership after a call-up to Portugal's Olympic squad will not help his cause, but Coleman's shrewd additions to a strike force already featuring Brian McBride, Facundo Sava and the promising Collins John show that fearsome frontlines can be assembled without fearsome spending.
After his side tasted defeat in a sleepy encounter with Rangers, Coleman said he is confident his spit-and-polish squad will build on last season's ninth place finish in the Premiership in his first full year in charge. "We are still missing important players and have the likes of [Steed] Malbranque and [Lee] Clark to come back in. We want to get off to a good start in the league and I kind of have a first 11 in my mind already. We have a decent team and now we have good strength in depth and have to be looking forward to the new season."
He added: "The days are gone when we can shell out £10 million for a player. So we have to be careful and look to the academy. The price has to be right for any signing. This club ... is looking strong and like it can stay in the Premiership for many years to come."
His side's performance suggested that his summer additions will add a cutting edge to the team's undoubted enthusiasm and resolve. Knight was outstanding at the back and Cole was impressive after coming on in the 65th minute for John, who had excelled. But change has also been the order of the day at Rangers, coming off the back of their worst campaign in 16 years, and ultimately they stole the show.
Alex McLeish, the Rangers manager, fielded four summer buys - Dado Prso, Alex Rae, Nacho Novo and Jean-Alain Boumsong - and they bristled with organised intent, hinting ata tooth-and-nails fight with Celtic. They should have been in the lead by half-time but Peter Lovenkrands and Novo were both denied one-on-one by Fulham goalkeeper Mark Crossley. Lovenkrands also rattled the crossbar with a powerful snapshot.
The second-half looked like tailing off into mediocrity until a 10-man confrontation sparked by an innocuous John challenge stirred Rangers. With Fulham rattled, the visitors took the lead in the 68th minute when Prso hit home an acrobatic and powerful overhead kick from six yards. Knight's 80th-minute header, well saved by Stefan Klose, was the closest a spirited Fulham came to an equaliser.Reuse content