Chris Coleman thanked the Fulham faithful for coming out in their numbers as the Whites made an emotional return to Craven Cottage on Saturday and roaring the team on to victory over Bolton Wanderers.
The Fulham boss had implored the fans to get behind us side after their two-year exile at Queens Park Rangers ended and, although he was disappointed with the size of the crowd, felt their influence was crucial to getting the first win of the season. Coleman told the club’s official website:
“It definitely helps the players. The crowd are a massive factor, especially for us. We’re not one of the big clubs; we’re one of the smaller clubs in the Premiership we know that, but we are competing with the big lads, and when our fans are screaming and shouting like that all the way through the game and it’s a carnival atmosphere, it spurs the boys on.
I’m starting to think that perhaps we’re only going to get 18,000 fans at the moment. Maybe that’s all we’ve got. I know we’ve lost a few generations to Chelsea, and that means it’s going to take a bit of time to get a few more fans through the gate. So perhaps we have to accept that 18,000 is our lot for a while, and if it is, that’s fine – as long as they keep singing and shouting for us like that, because they were magnificent.
They made a lot of noise for us and that’s a massive help for the players. The lads appreciate it when there’s an atmosphere like that and it really spurs them on.”
Coleman also spoke about how he has come to trust his 4-5-1/4-3-3 hybrid formation as the best fit for this Fulham side.
“I played it with Wales. Mark Hughes used it with John Hartson up front – he had Giggsy on the left and Bellamy on the right who’ve obviously got a lot of pace. When I took the job over at Fulham I had five games to go. I liked the system and I had to nothing to lose, the pressure is off when you’re caretaker manager – really you’re just babysitting.
So we went for it. We put five in midfield and tried to make ourselves hard to beat, and it worked for us. We’ve adapted it a little bit this year. It’s not so much 4-5-1; it can be 4-3-3 or 4-2-4 depending on whether we’ve got the ball or not. With the squad of players we’ve got now we could go back to 4-4-2 or the diamond if we want. Because we’ve got good players, and more depth and a stronger squad, I can play different systems every week if I like.”
The Fulham manager also had words of praise for new signing Papa Bouba Diop after his home debut.
“I think he’s built for the Premiership. I don’t want to put too much pressure on the lad, but he’s a quality player. He’s an international, he’s six feet four, he’s got good pace, he’s very strong in the tackle, he’s physical, and he’s got good feet. He’s got a good engine, and if you look at most of the top midfield players in the Premiership they’re all big and athletic and good on the ball, and I think Bouba certainly comes into that category.
I’m not sure that I want to keep him on a leash. The Premiership is fast and furious and physical. I think we’ve been accused in the past of playing pretty-pretty football and having no bite but we’re a different team now. He might upset a few people, but I think that’s what it’s all about.”