Fulham boss Chris Coleman isn’t allowing any discussion of the SW6 derby against Chelsea until after tomorrow night’s League Cup tie at Championship strugglers Nottingham Forest.
Coleman’s side are on a high following Sunday’s 4-1 away victory over Newcastle United, but the boss is fully aware that consistency has not always been their strong point.
“We’ve had a trend where we’ve got a massive result like that and then fallen off it again and it’s a tough game tomorrow. We’re not even talking about the weekend’s game against Chelsea who have quality. We’re talking about what will be a hard game.
“Albeit Forest are at the wrong end of the league in the first division, it will still be a hard game for us. Nottingham Forest will not be expected to beat us but it will be tough and we’ve got to keep the consistency going. What we’ve not got to do is go there and have a poor result. Then we are on the back foot for Chelsea on Saturday and you don’t want to be on the back foot against a team like that. We do have to make sure we don’t get carried away.”
The Fulham boss certainly has no intention of following the route of Arsene Wenger, Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho by fielding anything less than his strongest available line-up at the City Ground – despite the derby against the league leaders looming large.
“Arsenal and United, possibly Chelsea, maybe don’t play their strongest teams, though their second teams are strong enough, but this is a chance to progress in this competition.”
The only absentee from the team which beat Newcastle on Sunday is expected to be striker Collins John, ruled out for two weeks with a thigh strain.
That means that Fulham’s former Forest goalkeeper Mark Crossley, hero of the win over Newcastle, will again keep Dutch international Edwin van der Sar out of the side.
“While he plays like that, he is picking himself,” said Coleman of Crossley.
Fulham’s young boss brought in some of his fringe players for the 4-1 second-round win at Boston, but now he insists that a place in Europe next season is too big a prize to take chances with.
“We played a lesser team against Boston. No disrespect to them but it was early on in the season and we still delivered a team which was capable of getting the result, which we did. In the last round against Birmingham we fielded our strongest team and I’ll do so again.”
He needs only to look at last season’s finalists, Middlesbrough and Bolton, to see what the Carling Cup can do for a club outside the big three.
“It’s a good opportunity for us to get into Europe through this competition. Look at Middlesbrough, they are playing in Europe now, they are at the right end of the league and are playing with a lot of confidence because they won the Carling Cup. You can attract players when you are successful.
“Steve McClaren will the the first to admit that the reason he was able to sign the players he did was because of the success they had and that he was able to offer them European football. It does make it easier when you come to talk to players. Bolton got to the final and look at the way they have progressed this season. If we can manage to do well in this competition, particularly if we can get to the final, it does set you up.”