This was Chris Coleman’s 50th Premiership win as Fulham manager. Despite the inevitable anxieties, he’s reached his half-century without grey hair – and without perm-enhancing drugs. “It’s not Grecian 2000 or anything,” Coleman stated confidently. “I promise you that.”
“I feel a lot older,” said Coleman reflecting on his time as Fulham manager. “We’ve come a long way as a club. If we stay up again this year, it’ll be our sixth season. We’re looking more and more like a Premiership club, rather than a club who are talked about in terms of relegation.”
It was Newcastle against whom he kicked off his managerial career as Fulham’s caretaker boss four years go.
His big moment came on April 17 2003 after Frenchman Jean Tigana had been told to clear his desk by Craven Cottage owner Mohamed Al Fayed. The controversial Egyptian immediately handed the reins to Coleman, ordering the ex-defender to prepare for the game against Newcastle two days later.
Coleman, still among the Premiership’s youngest managers, recalled: “I’d just finished playing so the players were still my team-mates and I had to disappoint a few people.
“But if you’re going to do it you have to do it your way. That way you have no regrets if it goes wrong.
“As a captain I was quite opinionated anyway so it wasn’t a problem for me to fall out with players. The big difficulty was getting them to see me not as a captain or a team-mate, but as a coach and manager, and that comes with time.”
During his time in charge Coleman has lost Louis Saha and Edwin van der Sar to Manchester United, Steve Finnan to Liverpool and Steed Malbranque to Spurs.
But he has still managed to keep the club in the Premiership and insists he has loved every minute of it. He went on: “It was sink or swim. It’s a ruthless league and when things are going wrong and the crowd are not happy you are the first one to get it in the neck.
“You can never know what it’s like until you are in the middle of it and you have to make big decisions. Nothing will tell you what happens when you’ve lost four on the bounce and the chairman wants to see you and you don’t know what to say.
“You have to be in the middle of it to understand all that. The longer you are in it the more experience you get and the fewer mistakes you make.”