Fulham’s players were left shaken by an aeroplane scare on their return from Portugal on Thursday night, manager Mark Hughes revealed on Friday.
The Cottagers’ plane, which was carrying them home from their mid-season training camp, was forced to turn back and land shortly after take-off due to a malfunctioning undercarriage. The squad then had to wait several hours before boarding another aircraft and returning home.
Hughes said: “In fairness to the people on the aircraft, they were very calm. Any anxiety there was – which we were made aware of after – didn’t show thankfully because we’ve got a few nervous fliers. The problem was with the undercarriage. It came down but it wouldn’t go back up. We got over it thankfully but it was a bit scary for some of the guys who are a bit nervous.”
Those players will quickly need to shake off any nerves as they have been booked on another flight on Sunday, which will carry them home after their Premier League game at Manchester City. Hughes hopes to see the benefit of this week’s four-day training camp when he returns to Eastlands for the first time since his sacking as Blues boss just over a year ago.
“I’ve always done it at every club I’ve been to,” he said. “There has always been a positive effect, so hopefully that will be the case again. It was good for the guys to get together. They’ve had a lot of games in the last couple of years, a lot of success. But they have never been taken away and, as a consequence, they really enjoyed it.”
He added: “I think the staff had a few beers. I don’t know about the players! Some of the guys had games of golf. Others went on boat trips and caught squid and other different types of fish. That wasn’t something that appealed to me, I have to say, bobbing up and down on the Atlantic. But it was a good break. I really enjoyed it.”
It is fair to say Hughes did not enjoy his final days as City boss, where he appeared a dead man walking for some time before eventually being sacked. Friday was the third time this season he had to answer questions about his demise, having been quizzed at his unveiling as Fulham manager as well as before November’s 4-1 defeat to City. Reiterating he felt no lingering bitterness towards his former club over the way he was treated prior to his departure, he nevertheless insisted he would have no qualms derailing their ailing title aspirations.
He added: “I know I can walk through the doors with my head held high and look everyone in the eye, because of the job I did there. Whether or not that can be said of some people there, that is for you to decide.”
City slipped eight points behind arch-rivals Manchester United following their recent derby defeat and Hughes wrote off their title bid.
“That was probably, from their point of view, the result that cleared their minds of what they can achieve this year,” he said. “They can focus on getting a Champions League place without the distraction of people saying they can still win the league.”
Hughes also defended his transfer policy while he was City boss, despite successor Roberto Mancini having discarded the likes of Robinho, Emmanuel Adebayor, Roque Santa Cruz, Craig Bellamy and Wayne Bridge. Insisting he signed three of their best players in Carlos Tevez, Vincent Kompany and Nigel de Jong, Hughes claimed he would rather have Bobby Zamora in his side than City’s new £27million striker Edin Dzeko.
Hughes, who is sweating on the fitness of Zamora for Sunday’s game, said: “Fit and well, who would you take? I would probably take Bobby.”