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Fans' Forum - Popovic and Cooper

March 18 2002

Glaziers Tavern

Glaziers Tavern

In what was surprisingly the best fans' forum since its inception, guests Tony Popovic and physio George Cooper kept everyone entertained ... writes Sam Hesketh

There were interesting, informative and funny comments along with stories about their experiences in football and with Palace in their relatively short careers.

Popovic was questioned first and he told the fans that he was delighted to be at Palace and, even though he had been injured quite a lot, he was really enjoying being at the club.

He said that as soon as he knew Palace were interested in him, he wanted to join us, to come to a "big club" and to experience living in England with his wife and child - he resides in Canary Wharf, he explained!

He said the Japanese league was more technical and the First Division was extremely physical where every player "wanted it". He added that the pitches in Australia are usually much better than in England because there is no winter over there, it is sunny all year round, and that ground sharing with Wimbledon doesnít help our pitch.

His injury he said was the first one of that type he had experienced in his career, both with his foot (earlier this season) and his current injury, which will keep him out for seven to eight weeks from when it occurred.

However, he is raring to come back to the first team and told us the play-offs are still in the mindset of the squad.

He added that his future was secure, that he had signed a three-year contract, which meant he has two years after this season and he was loving being a Palace player.

George Cooper was the surprise package of the forum and he said himself to me afterwards he didnít expect anyone to be interested in what a physio has to say, but was very happy that people were.

He started off by talking about his career, when he was a junior at Chelsea but never made the grade, so he took a degree in physiotherapy.

He started at Arsenal with the youth academy and got friendly with David Platt, who then offered him a job at Forest which he accepted, and then when Platt left, he had half a week(!) at Fulham before joining Palace.

He said a highlight of his career so far was going to Lazio with an injured Riccardo Scimeca when at Forest and being able to sample their top-of-the-range equipment.

He updated us on the injury situation of Kit Symons, saying he is pencilled in for a reserve game in midweek and that Curtis Fleming shouldn't be out a great deal longer.

He then spoke about Craig Harrison, paying tribute to his spirit and work ethic and also to the Mulleteers, who he said he had a lot of respect for when myself and Rob (Flying Eagle) spoke to him. Craig is off crutches and walking on his own, a sign of how far he has come, and George said it is all credit to Craig that he has come this far.

His final little talk was about how hard it is for a physio to make a snap decision, often when getting booed by the oppositions fans for taking too long, but he loves football and is just happy to be a part of it.

After the questions had been asked, George was happy to speak to myself and Rob about the current injury list and was kind enough to agree to pass on our best wishes to Harrison.

In short, he is a great addition to the backroom staff and was a pleasure to talk to. Poor Popovic, who had earlier been handed a didgeridoo and wasn't able to play it, did confirm that he had often "thrown a shrimp on the barbie mate" and was going to do so when he got home.

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