STRIKER ON STRIKE!
Want-away Martin may be forced to play
FULHAM are ready to go to war with ‘on strike’ Chris Martin and make him play against Brighton & Hove Albion on Bank Holiday Monday.
The 28-year-old reportedly refused to board the team coach to Reading on Friday night in an attempt to push through a return to Derby County.
Martin wants to cut short his seasonlong loan from Pride Park and play for the Whites’ promotion rivals instead – but boss Slavisa Jokanovic has told him to forget it.
Fulham are well within their rights to say no with FA laws stating year-long loans can be cancelled only if both clubs and the player are all in agreement.
He could be thrust back into action at Craven Cottage in front of the club’s furious fans tomorrow and Jokanovic said: “He will stay with us and he will respect the contract. I expect Chris to be available.”
FULHAM went into battle with their forward Chris Martin on Friday night as the striker was told: Forget about returning to Derby County – you will play for us.
The on-loan 28-year-old reportedly went on strike on the morning of their ill-fated trip to Reading.
Martin, who committed to turning out for the west Londoners until the end of the season, has helped transform Fulham into serious Championship promotion contenders.
The Scotland international is said to be homesick and hasn’t settled in the capital – but his conduct has enraged Craven Cottage chiefs and their usually-mild manager after informing them he wants to return to Pride Park.
Serbian Slavisa Jokanovic has broken his pledge to not publically criticise any of his players by slamming the striker – and supporters face an anxious wait to discover if a reconciliation is on the cards. They host second place Brighton on Monday.
Jokanovic was furious after Friday’s match with Reading, a game which was abandoned at half-time due to fog – something else which enraged Fulham fans with the conditions not as bad as other matches which played to a conclusion that night. “We expect Chris Martin to be available to work tomorrow,” the manager said. “He is a Fulham player until the end of the season. “I am not sending Chris Martin back to Derby. He will stay with us and he will respect the contract. “We are not a train station – you cannot get out where you want. He is not going to play for Derby.”
The Rams ended their interest in Middlesbrough striker Jordan Rhodes on Thursday – and may have been banking on bringing their striker back to the east Midlands.
County boss Steve McClaren, 55, is said to be frustrated that Martin was ever allowed to leave by the man he replaced at the helm, Nigel Pearson, and is keen to get him back. Rules, however, state that all parties must be in agreement for a seasonlong loan to be cut short. Derby could face another blow with Newcastle leading the chase for Nottingham Forest midfielder Henri Lansbury. County were close to doing a deal with their bitter rivals for a player who is out of contract in the summer but the Magpies are in pole position with Forest unwilling to sell to their neighbours.
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HOMESICK: Chris Martin wants to return to parent club Derby County. Insets: Jordan Rhodes, left, and Henri Lansbury