Date:Friday October 20 2006
Fulham fullback Moritz Volz may miss tomorrow's clash with Aston Villa due to some dodgy prawns!
'I ate home-made pumpkin and prawn soup and it had some disastrous effects,' the defender said. 'I'll never eat prawns again.'
THE record books show that Martin O'Neill finally hung up his boots at Fulham - but he admits his time there was so inconspicuous that neither he nor anyone at the London club will remember it!
The Villa boss sends his side out against Fulham tomorrow but there won't be any pulled heartstrings.
He joined the then Second Division side in late 1984 after a successful period at Notts County and then a brief stint at Chesterfield.
That followed a long and distinguished playing career at Nottingham Forest and Norwich City punctuated by a brief spell at Manchester City.
But a serious knee injury soon put an end to his career and scuppered his hopes of playing in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.
O'Neill joked: 'In terms of two reserve games, neither of which I finished, I don't think I would worry about too many heartstrings against Fulham tomorrow.
'Fulham would never have known of my existence, in fact I don't remember my existence at Fulham!'
He revealed how then manager, the late Ray Harford, had invited him to train.
'I was trying to get fit at the time because of Northern Ireland's involvement in the qualifiers. I'd played some of the games and was captain of the side leading up to World Cup qualification in 1984/85.
'Then I got injured in 1985 and thought that maybe that was it, but when we qualified for the World Cup it was worth trying to get fit.
'It was always a race against time and I went down to Fulham. I played a couple of reserve games and the knee buckled completely, and then that was it.
'It was a couple of reserve games with a couple of young lads who were 100 years younger than me! That was the height of it.'
Fulham finished ninth that season with Oxford, Blues and Manchester City promoted and Wolves relegated.
But O'Neill plays the whole chapter down.
He added: 'I never played a first-team game.'
Its good to see that he has had more luck as a manager than he ever had as a player then!!....LOL.
Throughout the summer leading up to the 2006-2007 Premiership season, experts and pundits alike were tipping Aston Villa for relegation. Between the mismanagement of David O`Leary and the penny-pinching ownership of Doug Ellis, things were in disarray for the Villa!
However, two weeks before the start of the season, Villa fans went from spirits down in the dumps to high in the sky with Martin O`Neill being appointed manager and Randy Lerner taking over as owner of the historic midlands club.
While it was thought O`Leary would be able to keep Villa from relegation, few anticipated he would guide the team to an unbeaten start to the 2006-2007 season as has happened for the Villans.
On Saturday that unbeaten run will be on the line when Fulham pays a trip north to take on Martin O`Neill and his sixth-place Villans at Villa Park.
A win for Fulham on Saturday would match last year`s total of seven points earned on the road. Chris Coleman`s side has already defeated Newcastle on the road and earned a draw at White Hart Lane in September.
The Cottagers currently sit in 10th place in the table on twelve points and will be looking to build upon their 2-1 win over Charlton Monday night at Craven Cottage. Goals from Brian McBride and a healthy Claus Jensen gave Fulham all three points and allowed them to jump into the top-ten.
Fulham will face a stern test in Aston Villa on Saturday. While Martin O`Neill has not brought in a lot of fresh, new faces to the club, he has instilled a winning spirit and mentality that has done wonders for the players and supporters alike.
O`Neill`s side has been fantastic playing in front of their home crowd this season. In the four matches at Villa Park, the Villans have won three and drawn one. The wins came over Charlton, Newcastle and Reading while the draw came last weekend against Tottenham.
A major reason why Aston Villa has gotten off to the flying start they have this season has been the play of Gareth Barry and youngster Gabriel Agbonlahor. Barry has been a key figure in the midfield and has been able to score goals and create for others quite frequently this season.
Agbonlahor, who just turned 20 last Friday, has created havoc for opposing defenses from both a striker position and a wide spot on the field. His pace and finishing have left many watching him to think he will be a star in the Premiership in the very near future.
While the two players mentioned have shined brightly thus far, it is the defense of Aston Villa that has been dominant reason why Villa remains the lone unbeaten team in the Premiership.
Between keeper Thomas Sorensen and defenders Olaf Mellberg, Liam Ridgewell and Jlloyd Samuels, the Villa defense has been airtight this season. In eight matches, the Villa defense has only allowed five goals.
If Fulham is to have any success on Saturday, they will need to find a way to crack this defense open and find the back of the net. Whether Chris Coleman trots out an attacking formation or a defensive unit on Saturday remains to be seen.
One would have to guess that despite the unbeaten record of Villa that Fulham will play an attacking formation and try to take it at Villa from the start. Between Michael Brown and the speedy Wayne Routlegdge in a wing position, Fulham will feel they can match Villa all over the field and might even be able to create some scoring chances for Brian McBride and Heidar Helguson on Saturday.
McBride, the American international, has recovered from an early season virus and scored a goal in each of the last two matches for the Cottagers. He seems to be in the right place at the right time of late. Looking at Brian`s track record at the club, he seems to score his goals in spurts and he might find the back of the net yet again on Saturday against a very stingy Villa defense.
Overall I feel this match will have little scoring and in fact might be decided by a little mistake made by one of the team`s defenses. In essence, despite both teams likely pushing the attack, I think it could turn into a defensive struggle.
While Villa might have the better defensive team, Fulham has shown that they can be strong defensively as well. Ian Pearce and Zat Knight have formed a solid partnership over the last few matches that has given Chris Coleman and the rest of the Fulham supporters belief that the defense can keep clean sheets on a consistent basis.
It should be a great match on Saturday and as a Fulham supporter I am cautiously optimistic for at least a point.
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