Chris Coleman was so infuriated by the Cottagers’ capitulation against Blackburn last Saturday he avoided his players in the following days – for fear of losing his temper.
Rovers propped up the Barclays Premiership table when they travelled to London last weekend but left the capital with three points under their belt thanks to a 2-0 victory over a shambolic Fulham.
Coleman gave his players the hairdryer treatment in the dressing room following one of the worst displays of his reign and also laid into them with a few choice words at the post-match press conference.
It represented one of the darkest moments for the Welshman since he replaced Jean Tigana in April 2003 and he revealed he had to shun the team as they prepared to meet Chelsea in the Carling Cup quarter-finals on Tuesday night.
“I had to get myself away from everybody during the gap between the Blackburn and Chelsea matches,” said Coleman, the Premiership’s youngest manager.
“I was an angry man and was up for a bit of confrontation but that wasn’t the time to do it.
“We needed to get the players relaxed a little bit and think about what they had to do against Chelsea.
“They didn’t need me walking around growling at people but that was the kind of mood I was in so I tried to separate myself from the players.
“It was hard to unwind but I tried to relax by walking the dog. If you’re too angry you can’t get your point across.”
Fulham were beaten 2-1 by Chelsea but their battling display against Jose Mourinho’s superstar line-up – which included plenty of invention and flair – earned them redemption in Coleman’s eyes.
“I was delighted with the response against Chelsea. It made me feel a lot happier. We lost and nobody likes to lose but it felt we were winners when we left the pitch – we’d just played the best team in the league and pushed them all the way,” he said.
“We asked the players to show enthusiasm and commitment and they did. We also played some really good football and created some great chances. I was delighted by the all-round response.
“But you can’t just ignore the performance against Blackburn, which was so poor, and then raise it 50 per cent against Chelsea – you need to show more consistency than that. I’ve been saying that all season and I don’t think it’s too much to ask.
“The problem with this club is every time we play a big team we’re up for it but when we play against sides who are like us we drop 25 per cent in performance. It’s not the first time it’s happened.”
Coleman will be praying it does not happen on Saturday when Fulham, bolstered by the return of defender Zat Knight from suspension, travel to Carrow Road to meet fellow Premiership strugglers Norwich.
The Canaries are draw specialists – nine of their 15 matches have ended all-square – but should they manage to register a rare triumph, they will leapfrog Fulham in the table and plunge the Cottagers further into the relegation mire.
Coleman said: “We’re in for a tough match against Norwich and we know we can’t produce another performance like we did against Blackburn – it must not happen and it’s as simple as that.
“Norwich haven’t won many games but they don’t lose a lot either so will be hard to beat. They will be thinking they can take three points from us but we believe the same thing.”