After putting in two sterling performances in the centre of Fulham’s midfield, Mark Pembridge is just delighted to be back in the side and finally free from all the injury problems that have dogged him since his arrival from Everton.
“It’s taken a long time,” he said, speaking at Motspur Park this week. “I’ve had to wait to get my chance, so what I’ve been concentrating on is being ready, so that when my opportunity came I could take it.
“Back in April I had an operation on both legs – I had problems with my calf muscles. So I kept working through the summer so that I could be ready for pre-season, and since the start of that I haven’t missed a day’s training, so I’m very pleased with that.
“Then it was a case of just trying to force my way into the team, and now I’m there of trying to stay there.”
Pembridge’s main problem was that every time he came close to making a comeback, the calf would let him down again.
“It was on/off all the time,” he said. “And when it’s like that you can never get any match fitness. It takes you two or three games to get sharp and back into it, and as soon as I was getting those games under my belt I was breaking down again. But hopefully that’s all behind me now.”
Chris Coleman has changed things around over the last few games, and Pembridge has slotted effortlessly into a new look midfield.
“We’ve been playing 4-4-2 recently,” he said. “So it’s been a case of matching up in midfield. For the last two games it’s been me and Bouba, and it’s been a simple two versus two in there.
“It’s the job of the midfielder to break things up and get into the box and that’s what I’ve been trying to do.
“Obviously the results have been disappointing, but from a personal point of view I’m pleased with the way I’ve performed in the two games. But if we keep playing the way we have done, I think the points will come.
“On Saturday the team spirit was great – we had to dig out a result and stop the rot, and that’s what we did.”
It’s a break from the bread and butter of the league on Wednesday night with a visit to ninth placed, League Two side Boston United in the Carling Cup.
“It’s going to be a typical cup-tie,” Pembridge said. “They’re going to be really up for it, but if we go about it in a professional manner there’s no reason why we should hit any problems. They had a good result in the last round, but hopefully we can be strong enough to beat them up there.”
For Pembridge, Wednesday night will also provide the opportunity to meet up with an old mate – Paul Gascoigne. The two played together at Everton, and the Welshman has fond memories of that time.
“He’s texted me a couple of times,” he said. “And he’s already started taking the Mick. It will be nice to see him face to face and be able to give him a bit of stick back. He’s a fantastic player, and you can really learn a lot from him. And he’s a great character to have around the place, especially when things aren’t going so well. He could really keep the place going and stop anybody getting down. He would really keep everybody battling.
“I’m really pleased to see him back in football. He’s seemed very settled since the start of the season, and now he’s into that coaching role, he’ll start seeing the rewards of what he’s doing and he’ll really get a lot of satisfaction out of it.
“I think he’ll be very successful. He’s a very determined person, always has been, and once he’s decided what he wants to do and set his stall out, he’ll go for it one hundred per cent.”
Of course, Fulham haven’t enjoyed the best of campaigns in the League Cup recently, but there’s no doubt that in many ways this competition offers the Whites their most likely chance of silverware.
“I think it’s a case of getting through these early rounds,” Pembridge said. “It’s early on in the season, and perhaps at this stage it might be seen as more important to get points in the league.
“But when you get to the latter stages, that’s when it gets exciting and the crowds get bigger. Look at the Final last year – Bolton and Middlesbrough. If they can get there so can Fulham, and that would be a very big thing for the Club. Hopefully we can get a good run in both Cups this year.”
Pembridge has absolutely no worries about how the team will fare for the rest of the season. As he said, the performances have been good even if the results haven’t, and morale and team spirit is still as high as ever. All it needs now is a few wins to get them back on track – hopefully starting on Wednesday.
“The mood in the camp shows that nothing has deteriorated here,” he said. “We’re still creating lots of chances, and I think you have problems when you’re not doing that.
“We might not have been winning, but we’ve been scoring goals and creating the opportunities, so I’ve no doubt the results will come. It’s very positive here; it always has been. We’ve got some very important league games coming up and we need to take points from those games – they’re both winnable and it’s vital that we start getting those wins.”