Foxy Jeffers on the Scent of Greatness at Highbury; FOOTBALL Arsenal V Chelsea, FA Cup Quarterfinal, Highbury 5.15pm Tomorrow (Live on BBC1)
Stammers, Steve, The Evening Standard (London, England)
Byline: STEVE STAMMERS
FRANCIS JEFFERS doesn't hide when he evaluates the problems of his first year at Highbury. Now getting his chance to shine - "I am fit and it is like a jigsaw that is all coming together" - he admits he had a miserable start to his Arsenal career.
The 22-year-old, who joined from Everton in June 2001 for u7.5million, told Standard Sport: "Last season was awful. It was a bad, frustrating time for me. It all started in the September when I got a kick on my ankle at Derby County.
"I didn't think it was that serious, just a niggle. But I could never get fit and when you are not fit, the confidence goes. When you are not training and going into games for just 10 or 15 minutes, you don't relax and play your normal game.
"I got a medal for winning the Premiership and one for the FA Cup and I am proud to have those - no-one can ever take them away from me. But in my eyes those medals weren't really deserved because I didn't play a big part, I didn't really make a contribution. But I have played with world stars and now I want more of it."
He is likely to extend his run in the side tomorrow in the FA Cup quarterfinal against Chelsea because of a calf injury to Dennis Bergkamp and manager Arsene Wenger said: " Francis Jeffers is doing very well. He can complement Thierry Henry very well and could get another opportunity to play."
Jeffers wants the striker's position permanently and to do that he will have to displace one of Henry, Bergkamp, Sylvain Wiltord or Nwankwo Kanu. A year ago, that ambition would have seemed fanciful but not anymore.
Arsenal reached the quarterfinals by knocking out Manchester United at Old Trafford and Jeffers left the field to a standing ovation from the travelling fans. He said: "To be picked was just what I needed, it was
Arsenal beat Chelsea 2-0 in last season's Final. A meeting between the two usually means a good cup run for the Gunners. They have gone on to reach the final on four other occassions after meeting Chelsea in an earlier round, winning the competition in 1930 and 1950 and finishing runners-up in 1952 and 2001
a great buzz. It was a massive game and that day the team showed the quality of players we have got here.
We left Thierry out and Dennis did not even travel and we were better than them in every department.
"Without two of the biggest stars we gave United a lesson. …