Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Fulham Ready to Go Back to School

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Fulham Ready to Go Back to School

Article excerpt


WHEN the French national team stand to attention for The Marseillaise, it is like a living advert for the country's youth academy at Clairefontaine near Paris.

Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and David Trezeguet are three of the famous graduates who have helped their country become World and European champions.

The system is the envy of coaches throughout the world, but two Frenchmen are preparing to share their country's treasured secret methods with the English.

Fulham manager Jean Tigana's short-term goal is winning tomorrow's FA Cup fifth-round tie at Walsall, but his long-term plans for success at Craven Cottage entail creating a club version of the Clairefontaine production line.

In assistant manager, Christian Damiano, he has the perfect man.

Damiano was one of the key figures in the French Football Federation's youth development set-up in the 1990s alongside Gerard Houllier. The club's impressive young striker Louis Saha is another product of the famous academy.

Damiano wrote many of the Clairefontaine coaching manuals and has adapted some for use at Fulham's Motspur Park training ground. It has helped the club's Under-18 team reach the quarterfinals of the FA Youth Cup for the first time in 17 years.

However, the radical changes Tigana wants would mean academy members living and being schooled privately onsite to make time for more football training.

The local education authority in Merton would have to make an exception to their rules to allow dormitories at the club's training ground in New Malden.

Fulham have an ambitious fiveyear plan, costing around [pound]5 million and Tigana - who has overhauled the medical and dental treatment at the club - is eager to make it work.

He said: "England are behind France with their youth set-ups but it is not only here - in Italy they are possibly behind England. In France, you build the school around the football club. …

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