Daniel Smith speaks to former Fulham defensive midfielder, Martin Djetou. The French international made 66 appearances for the Whites across a two-year loan spell during our ground share at Loftus Road. Meaning that the popular Ivorian-born anchor man holds the record for most appearances without playing for Fulham at Craven Cottage…
DS – Which football team do you support and who were your footballing heroes as a child?
MD – My favourite team is FC Barcelona. When I was a kid, I loved watching Joel Bats play because I wanted to be a goalkeeper and like most people of my generation, I loved King Pele.
DS – How did you get your first opportunity in football?
MD – My big opportunity to become a professional football player came when I signed for Racing Club Strasbourg Alsace in 1992-93 when I was a teenager.
DS – You were selected for the preliminary squad ahead of the 1998 World Cup hosted in France but wasn’t one of the final 23. Obviously, France went on to win the tournament. Was it difficult for you to watch knowing how close you were to being part of that success?
MD – I was obviously disappointed not to be selected for the final list of 23. But despite that, I was a fervent supporter of the French team during the competition. I take this opportunity to congratulate the team and the technical staff who helped to defend our colours by winning this beautiful trophy. And to the class of 2018 for repeating this beautiful piece of history.
DS – You were born in the Ivory Coast, why did you choose to represent France instead?
MD – France were the first nation to offer me a selection and at the time, the coach of Ivory Coast didn’t realise that I was Ivorian.
DS – What’s your best memory of playing International football?
MD – My best memory was being capped against South Africa because it was a contribution to the Nelson Mandela Foundation which was an honour to be part of.
DS – How did you get the opportunity to sign for Fulham?
MD – I was playing in Italy at the time with Parma and Jean Tigana offered me the chance to join him at Fulham on loan. I knew Tigana well because I played for him at AS Monaco. I immediately agreed.
DS – What was your relationship like with Jean Tigana?
MD – Jean Tigana is a second father to me. He followed me for two years when I was at Racing Club Strasbourg Alsace. He then made me a proposal to join him at AS Monaco, where I won my first high level title: Ligue 1 Champions 1996-97. So I am very grateful to him for the success I’ve had in my career.
DS – You played as both a centre back and a defensive midfielder for Fulham, which position did you prefer playing in?
MD – My favourite position was defensive midfielder.
DS – What was your relationship like with Chris Coleman?
MD – Unfortunately we did not have the chance to spend a lot of time together because I had to go back to Italy when my loan deal expired. I only had a month to fix my problems out there and during that time, Chris Coleman had signed another player to replace me which meant there was no option of returning to Fulham for a third season which was disappointing.
DS – Do you remember your goal against Leeds United and how did it feel to score in the Premier League?
MD – Yes it was fantastic for me personally. Not only was this goal very important because it allowed us to maintain our form in the league, but in addition it was “at home” in front of our fans, so the emotion was stronger.
DS – Did you know that you hold the record for the most games played for Fulham (66 appearances) without playing at Craven Cottage?
MD – No, I did not know that. My only match at Craven Cottage in my whole career was playing for Bolton in 2005.
DS – Was your loan move meant to be a two year deal and did you want to stay permanently?
MD – Yes, I wanted to stay but the negotiation between Parma and I did not go well and failed. Loan deals are limited to 2 years, so I could not stay an extra year.
DS – What was your favourite match for Fulham?
MD – I had the opportunity to play in some very good matches (especially against Liverpool & Bolton) but I think the team I preferred playing against was Arsenal.
Plus, the Leeds game is special because I scored the winner.
DS – Who was the best player at Fulham?
MD – Steed Malbranque, he was very discreet but also a very talented guy but I have to add a second one, Edwin Van Der Sar. Edwin was a very, very big keeper and so important for us!
DS – Who were your closest friends at the club and have you keep in touch with anyone?
MD – My closest friends at the club were behind the scenes. Carmelo Mifsud, whom I still speak to regularly on the phone and Mark Maunders who is a funny, helpful and very charming boy!
DS – What are you up to now?
MD – I am a coach for the U16’s at Racing Club de Strasbourg Training Ground. Moreover, my dream would be to make an exchange between the training centres of Fulham and Strasbourg Clubs.
DS – Finally Martin, pie or pasty, which filling?
MD – Both! Now that I am no longer in ‘office’, I discover the pleasures of life! Like good food and wine!