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David Healy: Christmas bonus is what we need now

Published 21/12/2007

Christmas is always a busy time for footballers. Don't feel too sorry for us though. We may go into work on Christmas Day, but any professional footballer who doesn't know he is in a privileged position should take a reality check.

It's always better when you are winning of course and everyone at Fulham knows the importance of picking up points over the festive period.

We are now exactly where we don't want to be - stuck in the relegation zone.

Last weekend we were playing Newcastle at Craven Cottage. Anyone who watched the game on Setanta will know the first half was a non-event but after the break we were on top and felt that we were going to win the game.

Then came the sucker punch right at the end with Joey Barton scoring from the penalty spot to give Newcastle the victory.

We were gutted in the dressing room afterwards. It was a really hard defeat to take.

Since then there has been talk about our manager Lawrie Sanchez being under pressure, but believe me everyone is under pressure in the Premier League, be it managers or players, all the time.

We just have to make sure we deliver for the rest of the season, starting tomorrow at home to Wigan.

They are in the relegation zone as well, so it is a massive match for both of us - and one that both teams will be desperate to win.

They are on a high after beating Blackburn 5-3 last weekend and with a new manager in Steve Bruce, they will feel things are on the up.

We must ensure they don't feel that way on Saturday night.

With regards to the four league matches coming up in the Christmas period it's not a case of setting a points target.

We just have to go into every match believing we can win it.

This is always such an important time of the season.

If you have a good Christmas, it really does set you up for the rest of the campaign. I know that from experience.

My ideal Christmas present would be a win over Wigan. And then we can take it from there.

Just in case you are interested, I'll be training on Christmas Day with the rest of the lads but I'll still get home for turkey because we are staying in London and playing away to Tottenham on Boxing Day.

I enjoy Christmas, although in our household like every other in the world, it's all about the kids.

My wife and I will be up very early on Chrismas morning opening presents with the children - then it will be off to training before returning for dinner.

Footballers, certainly us at Fulham, are allowed to eat what most people will be eating on the big day, but we aren't allowed to over indulge.

Fitness is everything around this time of year because the matches are coming thick and fast.

Here's hoping Fulham enjoy a great festive period and I want to take this opportunity to wish everyone back in Northern Ireland a fantastic Christmas.

I hope Santa brings you what you want.

Wenger's boys and United in control

In last week's column I wrote about how much I was looking forward to Grand Slam Sunday, especially Liverpool's match with Manchester United at Anfield.

I thought it would be a cracker.

Sorry about that.

It wasn't very entertaining, was it?

Still, Sir Alex Ferguson won't have been bothered though.

United left Merseyside with a win under their belts and that's all that mattered to Fergie.

He really has an amazing record there.

The atmosphere was hostile at Anfield, as it always is when United play there, and the game was played at 100mph but it lacked the quality you expect and normally get from the two teams.

When United scored through Carlos Tevez, who by the way is becoming more potent with every game, they seemed quite happy for Liverpool to come on to them.

It was as if they were saying 'let's see what you have got'.

And it has to be said United dealt with it pretty comfortably.

I know Liverpool fans felt very disappointed while United supporters, who knew their team hadn't actually played that well, were overjoyed.

Arsenal fans were feeling the same way a few hours later after they beat Chelsea 1-0.

I thought Chelsea would give them a tough game and I was right about that, but they missed Didier Drogba, and ultimately I think that cost them.

Out of the four top sides, Arsenal looked the best of them.

They play such attractive and open football and pass sides to death.

Even during the week at Blackburn when they had what was effectively their second team out in the Carling Cup, they played the same free flowing stuff.

They are a joy to watch.

And they are almost impossible to stop.

Arsene Wenger keeps showing that he is a brilliant manager.

When Thierry Henry left there were doubts, even amongst Arsenal fans, about the Gunners keeping pace with the top four.

But they are the side that are leading the race at the moment.

As I've said elsewhere, Christmas is a huge period for all clubs.

By the time we are through it, I'm sure Arsene's aim will be to still be out in front.

Fergie would love to overtake him, but at the same time he'll be quite happy if he is just in behind the leaders as United are traditionally strong in the second half of the season. All in all it promises to be some race.

Goals are banker at the Oval

Christmas time means a Big Two derby to fans of Linfield and Glentoran.

I've experienced the Boxing Day games and they are pretty special.

For a pure one-off match, this is the game the Big Two supporters want to win.

With both teams in title contention, next week's match takes on even more importance.

Cliftonville are top of the tree at the moment and are also smack, bang in the middle of what is an intriguing championship battle.

They play the Glens tomorrow in another big game, although none is as big as the Boxing Day clash.

And this year for those not able to be at The Oval, they can watch the game on Sky.

What a boost that is for everyone involved.

No doubt the television cameras will add extra incentive to the players.

After all, you never know who is watching.

If someone plays really well it could give them a chance of moving across the water.

For me, Linfield's Glenn Ferguson and Peter Thompson and Glentoran's Gary Hamilton are good enough to play in England or Scotland.

With all three playing on Boxing Day, I'm sure there will be goals.

Peter has been very impressive in recent weeks while Spike just keeps delivering.

It wouldn't surprise me if Glenn scores goal number 500 against the Glens.

He would love that.

But with Gary in the Oval side and the Glens having home advantage, I'm going for a 2-2 draw.

Belfast Telegraph

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