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Radzinski Matchday Programme Interview

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From the Fullham web-site:

Tomasz Radzinski speaks to the Matchday programme...

"No, not today thank you" is Tomasz Radzinski's polite response after he quickly peruses the lunch menu at the Motspur Park canteen. By-passing the chef's tandoori chicken and wild rice in favour of the more healthy fruit option, the affable striker sits down to talk abut his first couple of months as a Fulham player.

It's been almost seven weeks since he first walked through the front door of the Training Ground, but as he reflects on his early days in black and white it is quickly apparent that he is more than happy with his new job. Ever the professional though, it is the team situation, rather than his own, which comes first.

"I think for the team, after the first two weeks [of the season], it was going great. Getting four points out of six was, I think, the best possible start we could have imagined. Then unfortunately we had an off day against Middlesbrough, which was quite unfortunate. From there we went to Portsmouth and I think we dominated, except for maybe the first 25 minutes. If we were not 3-0 down by then I think we would have got all three points.

"Then of course we come to Arsenal, arguably the best team in Europe. We held up well, we scored a goal, should have got a penalty but then everything turned upside down and we lost the game."

After further lengthy analysis of events at the Cottage a couple of weeks ago we eventually switch subjects to Tomasz's own situation. "From my point of view I am still settling in. I'm still learning a different kind of football and am still living out of a suitcase - which is not ideal - but hopefully within the next two weeks I can move in to my new place and jumpstart my career at Fulham."

Used to playing as an out-and-out striker at Everton, Radz is still adapting to the variety of roles given to him by Chris Coleman, however it is a challenge he is clearly enjoying. "At Everton we used to play long balls and there were always two guys running after it so we would apply pressure from that" he said.

"With Fulham, because of the quality of the players we have, you build up the game from the defence, through the midfield and then you try to provide for the strikers. So it is completely different and it is not easy but I am learning every day. The most important thing is that wherever Cookie puts me in, that is where I am going to play and I have got to try and do my best. It is as simple as that."

Having never previously spent more than a single night in London either, the Polish-born Canadian international is also relishing the opportunities provided by life in the Capital. With pen put to paper on a new home with girlfriend Cathy, he'll soon be ditching the suitcase, however it seems that the Big Bus Company tour of the sights of London has yet to come!

"I've never been to see any of the sights, I haven't done Big Ben or Buckingham Palace" he admits. "But it will be much easier to do all that when I have got friends and family coming to stay, and I'll gladly go with them. I'm sure there will be lots of family and friends coming over now I am in London as well. Liverpool is very different to London in terms of what there is to see. Now that I'm here though I am overflowed with people wanting to come to London - and see games too, which is great."

Having lived in Poland, Germany, Canada and Belgium over the course of his 30 years, Radzinski is well used to the relocation process. Born in Poznan, Poland on December 14th 1973, he spent the first 12 years of his life living in a small town called Inowroclaw, an hour and half from his birthplace. With both his parents being physical education teachers he naturally built up an interest in a variety of sports during his childhood, but football was always the favourite.

"I first started to kick the ball as soon as I started to walk, when I was about one and a half I suppose" he recalls. "But I spent most of my spare time with my parents in gyms and things and doing all sorts of ball sports. You name it, I did it. Even basketball - although I wasn't the tallest player!

"I first joined a football club when I was around nine and started to play competitively. After that I played in the same team for three or four years - they were in the Fourth Division in Poland and I was playing as a youth player."

However, in his early teens, Radzinski's life changed dramatically. "When I was around 13 or so we emigrated to Germany. My parents were trying to find a better life for their children. It was the right choice for us though because we loved it there. We learned the language, stayed there for three years and made many friends - some of whom we still keep in touch with."

It was in Germany that the possibility of football as a career option first began to emerge for the young Pole. Playing with a junior team, he enjoyed a spell in a regional League and faced established teams such as Werder Bremen and Hanover.

However, just as things were beginning to take off for him, football was suddenly put on the backburner. "When I was 16 or so it became apparent that it wasn't going to be possible for us to stay in Germany, what with visa problems and so on. So the option then was to either move back to Poland or to emigrate further."

Further, it turned out, meant Toronto, and simply continuing his football career in Canada was by no means as easy as he and his family had thought. "I'd always wanted to become a footballer from my very early years and obviously the moves from one country to the other didn't help, but the moment we moved to Canada all the dreams more or less vanished" he said.

"Once we got there - it was some time around April - we expected the football season to be well underway but we opened the papers and were looking for results and team news and there was absolutely nothing. What we didn't know was that the football competition over there only starts in May and lasts just four or five months because of the winter."

However a combination of research and persistence soon paid off with Radzinski eventually joining a team called North York Rockets, who later became Toronto Rockets. Although the National League at the time wasn't professional it provided valuable experience for the 17-year-old striker and, he says, had the added bonus of taking him away from High School.

"Well, Canada is a big country, so road trips to play other teams would take a week or ten days" he smirked. "We'd be playing every three days, so more often than not I'd miss 10 days of school to play soccer - which was fantastic!"

It wasn't to last though. After two years, a lack of funds saw the National League fold and split in to provincial Leagues. Radzinski, however, continued to excel with the Rockets and, now a Canadian citizen, ably fought his way in to the national team.

At the age of 20 he traveled to Paris with the Canadian Olympic team. Keen to make the most of the rare opportunity, Tomasz made contact with a European scout through a member of the Polish press in Canada before he left - a move that ultimately paid off.

"Within three weeks" he says, "I was training with a team called Lokeren - a Second Division club in Belgium. But another team in the Premier League had also come in for me too - Germinal Ekeren - and after one game with them I signed a one-year deal. And the rest is history."

Radzinski played for Ekeren from 1994-98, scoring 40 goals in 104 appearances as a youth player, before Anderlecht took note of his obvious ability and swooped to sign him in July 1998.He spent three years with the Belgium giants and, as he admitted himself, it was the push needed to really launch his career.

"It was the jumpstart to my career really because Ekeren were only a small team. Actually when I was there I think I ended up scoring against Anderlecht every time we played them, and they ended up signing me! I have nothing but fond memories of my time there, and I still have many friends from Anderlecht. It was fantastic - and I was playing Champions League football of course."

However, despite the appeal of Europe's top competition, Radzinski wanted to be playing top class competitive football week in, week out - something that the Belgian League could not provide. Consequently he began to look towards England and the Premiership, eventually securing a £4.5 million move to Goodison Park in July 2001.

"It was a really good time at Everton" he says, "except in my first season when I was having so many injuries. I was out for two months and then back and then out again. But apart from that I had a fantastic three years there. The fans were great and the goals came at the right times."

But now fully ensconced in life at Fulham, Tomasz has high hopes for his time at Craven Cottage. "This club should be playing European football and that should be our goal" he says. "I am quite ambitious and I have played many European games in the past but not since I have come to England. But I think Fulham is the right club for me to do that again."

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