Fulham boss Chris Coleman today hailed the performances of former Newcastle United favourite Lee Clark, with the Geordie once again a fixture in the Cottagers’ team.
Clark has overcome injury problems to become one of Fulham’s most consistent performers and the midfielder will play his first game at St James’ Park tonight since leaving the Magpies for Sunderland in the summer of 1997.
The 31-year-old will line up against United as Fulham club captain, having assumed that role last week following the departure of Andy Melville.
Melville has joined West Ham, with Ian Pearce moving the other way in a swap deal between the two London clubs.
“Lee is a tenacious guy and not afraid to speak his mind,” said Coleman. “He leads by example and is a good motivator. He has been in outstanding form this season as well so he’s the best man for the job.
“It will be good for his first game as skipper to be against Newcastle as well. He scored against them last season and it would be great to see him do that again tonight.”
Meanwhile, Coleman has challenged his team to improve the club’s away record.
The Cottagers have taken just a point from their last five matches away from Loftus Road.
But before they went on that disappointing run, Coleman’s men beat Manchester United at Old Trafford thanks to goals from Clark, Steed Malbranque and Junichi Inamoto.
The weekend before last, Fulham beat Everton 2-1 at home and Coleman says his team are over their dip in form.
“Beating Everton was a great result,” said the rookie manager. “We’d had a bad patch and needed to bounce back with a good performance.
“Now we must build on that against Newcastle. Our away form hasn’t been what it should. But it was not just down to the players – I have to share the blame for the dip. I’ve picked the wrong team on occasion and the tactics haven’t always been right. I’m still learning.
“We’re still sixth in the table, though, so I must be doing something right. I’d rather be in our position in the Premiership with all the problems that entails rather than fighting against relegation.”