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Last Updated: Friday, 2 May, 2003, 16:26 GMT 17:26 UK
Coping with the pressure
By Phil Harlow

WOMEN'S FA CUP FINAL
Charlton goalkeeper Pauline Cope
Cope has more than 50 Engand caps
Monday 5 May
Kick-off at 1300 BST

Charlton go into the Women's FA Cup final on Monday as overwhelming underdogs against a Fulham side that have not lost in two seasons.

But England and Charlton goalkeeper Pauline Cope told BBC Sport she is convinced her side can upset the odds - and put a dampener on Fulham's end-of-season finale.

Fulham are seeking an unprecedented treble after already wrapping up the Premier League and League Cup, but the Charlton players have been less than impressed to learn that Fulham have already planned their celebrations.

"We've heard that Fulham have already put out the itinerary for their dinner and they've got a gap there to congratulate them on doing the treble," Cope told this website.

"I find that pretty insulting and foolish on their part - we'll have plenty to say about that before the game on Monday!"

There's nothing better than Cup final day
Pauline Cope

The two teams have already met twice in the league with both matches ending in draws - the only points Fulham have dropped all season - and Cope insists that part-timers Charlton can overcome their full-time opponents.

"I think we might have a bit of a psychological advantage after those two games," she said.

"In the first game, they were 3-1 up and thought they were cruising to a win, and we nicked two goals at the end.

"And in the second, we were 1-0 ahead, nearly went 2-0 up and then they scored with 40 seconds left.

"We're evenly-matched teams. We'd be foolish not to think we can win but they are the pros and all the pressure is on them.

"To be fair, Fulham shouldn't be losing games. They're professionals and getting paid to do what all the rest of us have to do in our spare time."

Charlton keeper Dean Kiely
Kiely trains alongside Pauline Cope

Cope has recently started as a full-time girl's development officer with Charlton, and the job comes with one major perk.

"I'm in the best position in women's football in Europe. maybe even the world, because I get to train day-in day-out with Dean Kiely, who's one of the best keepers around," she said.

"We do see the men's players down at the training ground and they are always interested in how we're getting on. Scott Parker is always giving us encouragement, and Alan Curbishley and Keith Peacock keep across what we're doing."

Last season more than 2.5m people watched the final on television but Cope - with over 50 England caps and three FA Cup winners' medals to her name - will not be phased by the attention surrounding the match.

"Once the whistle goes and you get into the game, you forget about the crowd and the cameras anyway," she said.

"There has been a lot of media interest - it's great that we're getting the publicity really.

"I've been lucky enough to play for England in front of massive crowds, so it won't be the biggest crowd I've ever played in front of, but for most of our players it'll be the first time they've played in an FA Cup final.

"There's nothing better than Cup final day - for me, it's even better than playing for England."




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