Writer: Ollie Sheehan
Date:Wednesday February 8 2006
Former Whites player Ray Houghton spoke yesterday of the need to “stamp out” costly errors in games if Fulham are to succeed.
He also went on to compare Antti Niemi to the great Peter Schmeichel whilst praising the forwards at manager Chris Coleman’s disposal.
The x- Republic of Ireland international knows all about top-level football having scored the winner against Italy in the 1994 World Cup finals to put Ireland through to the second round.
During his long and distinguished career he played for West Ham, Fulham, Oxford, Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and Reading. But he was best known for the years he spent at Liverpool where he helped them to two league titles and two F.A Cup triumphs.
When a player of his experience talks, you listen!
Speaking on Fulham’s website yesterday Houghton said: “Old Trafford was always going to be tough, and it's easy to look at the offside goal and feel hard done by. But I think that's almost too easy. Yes, the goal was clearly offside, but for me you have to look at the source, not the result.
“It's easy to say, 'great finish, nothing can be done about goals like that...' But I don't agree. You can do things to stop the ball getting into those situations to start with. It's these little things that can make such a big difference to a result.
“Often fans won't see it like that, but in my profession, I'm always looking to see how a situation came about - which means rolling the clock back maybe 20 seconds. If you can stamp these things out, that's how you'll get big results at places like Old Trafford.
“That aside, you couldn't fault Fulham's performance up there, especially going forward. You won't see many better headed goals this season than McBride's from Saturday, and Helguson is looking better and better with every game he plays too. He's not the tallest but he has a great spring on him.”
Houghton has great belief in the two Fulham forwards who, between them, have scored sixteen of Fulhams thirty-seven league goals this season.
“As a winger, I'd love to play with two individuals like McBride and Helguson - all I'd be trying to do is ping loads of crosses into the box, because if you can do that, you know those boys will make chances.
“They've both got a tremendous leap on them and they're brave with their heads too. Helguson in particular is a tough little player - he's not afraid to get hurt and he's not afraid to rough up opponents either and you need that in your side, especially when you've got games like West Brom and Bolton coming up.”
Houghton has been impressed with the way Fulham have been playing, and feels that with Coleman being so busy during the January transfer window- he brought in Simon Elliot, Antti Niemi, Michael Brown and Wayne Bridge- the club can now complete the rest of the season in good nick.
“I'm really impressed with Fulham's spirit in general at the moment. It's been terrific of late and you can see that the players believe in what they're doing which is great. The new additions to the squad will have played a part in that, giving everybody a big lift. It sends out the right message, and new faces can be a real kick start for the existing players.”
Houghton has saved his biggest praise though for Fulham’s latest goalkeeper, Antti Niemi, who in his eyes will do the job for Fulham.
He commented: “All of a sudden there's more competition for places which keeps everyone on their toes. And I'm really impressed with Niemi having seen him in a few games now. He is one of the rare breed who can make vital saves at the right time. As we saw against Spurs, that can be the difference between winning and losing. There are very few keepers who can do that - Schmeichel was one of the best at that, but Niemi showed that he can do it too.”
Houghton is confident that Chris Coleman has a good mixture of players in the side with a will to win. But he also warned, despite Fulham being 9 points clear of the relegation zone at the moment, that the Cottagers need to stay focused this season if they are going to avoid a relegation scrap.
“There's a little gap forming down the bottom now, but Fulham will have to be careful they don't get complacent and start thinking they're alright. I'm sure they will be, but to start thinking like that is a recipe for disaster at this stage in the season. It's all about keeping on top of the situation now. Even though Fulham lost on Saturday, Chris can feel incredibly satisfied that he's seen a bit of character. There's fight and spark there in his team, and not all of the managers in the Premiership can say that at the moment.”
Date:Wednesday February 8 2006
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