Chris Coleman believes he got a good deal from selling Steed Malbranque to Tottenham – and the Fulham boss is delighted with the progress his side have made since the midfielder’s departure.
Malbranque was the creative force at Craven Cottage before leaving in controversial circumstances nearly five months ago, but Coleman’s men are within sight of the Barclays Premiership top 10 despite losing the Frenchman.
“Of course he’s a good player and people were asking what we’re going to do without him,” said the Fulham boss. “Well, we’ve got more points this season than last season at the same stage.”
Coleman has also lost Luis Boa Morte to West Ham recently but the Fulham boss highlighted the team spirit he has forged since taking over in 2003.
“The guys have pulled together,” said the Welshman. “It’s a good example, when you have really good players for you and they are linked with other clubs, people think you’ll be in trouble when you lose them.
“We’ve lost both of them and are in a relatively healthy position in the league, although we’ll have to be judged at the end of the season.”
Malbranque established himself as a Premiership player at Craven Cottage after arriving from Lyon in 2001, but he left under a cloud after wanting to run his contract down with Fulham.
Coleman did not want the Frenchman leaving for nothing and a deal with Spurs was agreed in August for an undisclosed fee – reported to be around £2million at the time – and Wayne Routledge moved on loan in the other direction.
The clash between the two sides at Craven Cottage on Saturday is Malbranque’s first return to his former club and he is set for a hostile reception, although Coleman insists his clash with the midfielder was merely a difference of opinion.
Coleman said: “He wanted to stay for the remainder of the contract. Tottenham could afford to do that with Sol Campbell having paid nothing, we paid £5million for Malbranque and had to get back what we could. I think for us it was a good deal.
“We never had a massive fall-out, it’s just I had my opinion and he had his, and they were different. That’s why he ended up leaving.”
He added: “It’s fair to say I had a better relationship with Luis Boa Morte, but I didn’t have a bad one with Steed Malbranque.
“We offered him a very good contract, if he went there for less (wages) then you’ve got to respect that because he’s gone for football reasons.”
Malbranque, who has been played on the left for Spurs, will be up against former team-mate Liam Rosenior but there could be room behind the Frenchman for Fulham to attack.
“The problem with Steed is when he hasn’t got the ball, defensively. Going forward he’s excellent,” said Coleman.
Routledge is ineligible to play against his parent club, who may recall him to White Hart Lane this month.
Coleman, who has also distanced himself from a move for Hearts goalkeeper Craig Gordon, wants the England Under-21 winger to sign for Fulham on a permanent deal.
He added: “Tottenham want to take him back at the end of this month. It’ll be disappointing if he goes back and is not playing, even more so for Wayne. He’s a player we’d like to sign.
“He’s not happy – he wants to play football. Wayne knows we want to do a permanent deal but our price and their price are far away.”
Meanwhile, new Fulham skipper Michael Brown will be playing against his former club after signing for Coleman a year ago.
“He’s always flirting with a yellow or red card but if you take that streak out of him he’s not going to be as effective,” said Coleman. “I wouldn’t dare change his game, I’d ask for more of it if anything.”