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Last Updated: Friday, 16 May, 2003, 19:27 GMT 20:27 UK
Coleman's happy ending
By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer

Fulham's new manager Chris Coleman
Coleman guided Fulham to safety

Chris Coleman's appointment as Fulham manager is the happy end to a remarkable story of courage.

Coleman was a key defender for Wales and Fulham when he was involved in an horrific car smash in January 2001.

He suffered serious leg injuries and was lucky to escape death when his Jaguar spun out of control on a country road near Bletchingley in Surrey.

The crash cost Coleman his playing career for club and country after a brave battle to mount a comeback ended when he announced his retirement in October last year.

Coleman's retirement was a bitter blow for Wales and Fulham, who he had joined from Blackburn in a 2.1m deal in November 1997.

He ended his playing career after making 32 appearances for Wales, and also played for Swansea and Crystal Palace.

Coleman was a highly-respected figure at Fulham after playing his part in their rise to the Premiership - so it was a natural progression for then manager Jean Tigana to appoint him to his backroom staff.

But Coleman could not have foreseen the twist in events that put him on the managerial treadmill.

Tigana, seemingly weighed down by internal politics, left the club and Coleman was the choice to take temporary charge.

Now he has the post on a full-time basis.

It will be a hugely popular appointment in the wake of Coleman's outstanding performance as caretaker manager following Tigana's departure.

Fulham faced the grim prospect of relegation when he took over, but wins against Newcastle United, Everton and Charlton, as well as a vital draw at Chelsea, compiled an impressive CV.

Fulham chairman Mohamed Al Fayed
Al Fayed will be a hard boss to please

It also prompted an about turn by Coleman, who had steadfastly refused to be considered for the post as Tigana's successor.

He insisted: "I am not interested in the job. It is a nice opportunity until the end of the season and it will be a great experience, but I'm not interested in doing it permanently.

"It is way too early in my career for me to be full-time manager. I'll give it my best shot until the end of the season and enjoy it - but then that's it."

But a standing ovation after the final home game against Everton and a last day success at Charlton appear to have persuaded Coleman otherwise.

He will be a popular choice with players and fans alike, but faces a mammoth task to continue his early success.

Steve Finnan is heading for Liverpool in a 4m deal, while Anfield boss Gerard Houllier is also eyeing influential midfield man Steed Malbranque.

Coleman must also persuade Sean Davies to stay and decide how best to handle the 11m enigma that is striker Steve Marlet.

But if courage and commitment are a guide to a manager's future, Al Fayed's decision not to go for a headline-grabbing name may just be a wise one.


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