Fulham’s 1-0 Carling Cup win over Birmingham on Wednesday will surely have put the team in good heart as they prepare for their crucial league encounter against Tottenham on Saturday.
Things might not have been going brilliantly of late, but this result could well be the catalyst that turns things round for the Whites. The two men to thank for Wednesdays win were the two Welsh Marks – Pembridge and Crossley. Pembridge sealed the result with a superlative second half strike from outside the box, and Crossley pulled off save after world class save in one of his rare first team outings.
Afterwards the big goalkeeper was just pleased to have played his part in the victory, and the following morning he sat down at Motspur Park and happily surveyed the press plaudits arrayed in front of him.
“It’s always nice to have good things said about you,” he said. “To pick up the papers and see yourself in the headlines – I’d thought those days had gone to be honest.
“I really enjoyed the game, and from the first minute I was just busy. In the first half we were a little bit all over the place defensively, but I had one of those days that every time they got through I really felt that I was going to keep them out.
“After I’d made the first save with my foot, and then kept the rebound from Dwight Yorke out as well, I thought – hello, this is going to be my night – and it was!
“I knew a couple of weeks ago that I was going to play, and I thought to myself as I was sitting in the hotel before the game, that I was just going to go out and enjoy it. I’ve nothing to prove to anyone and I just wanted to go out and do the best I could.
“As it happened it just went very well. I probably made seven or eight saves out there, but it wasn’t just the saves, I was pleased with my all-round game. My only disappointment was that I usually kick the ball a lot better. I’m usually very reliable with my kicking, and even though I wasn’t bad I thought I could have done better.”
There was a moment in the first half when a full-bodied collision with Birmingham’s Emile Heskey looked like it was going to bring Crossley’s evening to a premature close. Fortunately for Fulham, the stopper, despite being badly shaken up, was able to continue.
“I don’t really know what happened,” Crossley said. “I thought I’d run into a brick wall to be honest! I think he had to go for the ball even though it was 60-40 in my favour, and our momentum meant that we went into each other.
“I ended up with pretty-bad bruises on both shoulders, so I think I must have gone into his knees. My right shoulder was a bit of a distraction for the rest of the game, but it’s nothing too serious.”
The other hero on the night was Mark Pembridge. It had been said that his right leg was only used for standing on, but his fantastic thirty-yard strike put the lie to that one.
“Believe it or not, in training about ten days ago, he rifled two past me with his right foot exactly the same as that one,” Crossley said. “But I must admit, as he was shaping up to strike it with his right foot I was going – no, no, pass it, pass it – and then it was in the back of the net!
“It was a great strike and a great goal. There’ve been quotes from the manager saying that he’s the type of player that does the dirty work for the team. He’s not going to catch the headlines like the Boa’s and the Steed’s and the Andy Cole’s, but he’s someone who’s going to do his job and do it well, and he’s been doing a brilliant job for Fulham.”
The draw for the next round of the Cup was probably just about as good as it could get, especially when you look at how many of the bigger teams have been paired against each other. For Crossley, it was a dream come true.
“It’s a great draw to get Forest,” he said. “Especially for me. I’d love to play in that game – I haven’t been back to the City Ground and played against them since I left, and I was there for a long time. I’ll keep my fingers crossed because I would really love to play in that one.
“I keep in touch with all the backroom staff who are still there from my time. I was there for thirteen years and regarded it as my home – I’ll probably move back there eventually.
“I was praying for that draw, and then I got a call from my dad saying – can you believe it, you’ve got Forest! I honestly thought he was winding me up!
“It’s a good tie for us – it’s a lovely big pitch, a great stadium and it’ll be a full house. It will be tough though, no doubt about it. They’ve found it hard this season, but they’ve got a lot of good young players and they’ll make it very difficult for us.
“For clubs like Fulham and Birmingham, the Cup is a path through to a UEFA Cup spot. Middlesbrough proved what it can do for you last year – it’s really buzzing up there. You look at the draw now, and really, the Cup’s anybody’s.”
For all sorts of reasons it’s been a difficult start to the season for the Whites. Crossley highlighted the importance of confidence, a fragile commodity at the best of times, to a team, and he’s hopeful now that Wednesday’s result will be the turning point of the season.
“We’ve got a tough month coming up,” he said. “But confidence in football is a big thing. We showed in the first half against Birmingham that our confidence was low, but a few words were said in the dressing room at half time, and the second half was a chance for us to turn our season around.
“Hopefully that will be the case now. We’ve got to take that second half performance into Saturday’s game. There’s absolutely no doubt that we desperately need those three points, but I’m convinced we can build on that performance and start climbing up the table.”
The key question now is whether Crossley will keep his place for Saturday. Whichever way it goes, his performance has posed a tricky problem for Manager Chris Coleman.
“That’s my job to give him that sort of headache,” Crossley said. “I know Edwin’s a fantastic keeper, one of the best in the world, but I want to play football as well. I know I’m number two, but I do want to play, so it will be interesting to see what happens.
“I’m not someone who makes a fuss; I just get on with my job – but it would be nice to keep the jersey.”