Author Topic: Sunday Fulham Stuff (21.03.10)  (Read 3786 times)

White Noise

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Sunday Fulham Stuff (21.03.10)
« on: March 21, 2010, 06:27:58 AM »


Fulham boss not bitter

By Rob Shepherd, 20/03/2010

ROY HODGSON no longer affords himself the pleasure of the occasional cigar.

Shame really. After Fulham's stunning victory over Juventus he deserves the finest Havana has to offer.

Because by his own admission, Hodgson is enjoying the best season of a lengthy and celebrated managerial career.

After 34 years at the helm around the world, his achievements at Craven Cottage put him alongside Fulham legends like Johnny Haynes, Bobby Robson and the innovative Alec Stock.

Perhaps they'll cast a bronze of Hodgson, 62, to go alongside Haynes at the Cottage if this team actually wins something, either the FA Cup or Europa League.

And if not? Well, it will still rank alongside the outstanding campaigns of his stellar career.

"I've won titles at clubs in Sweden and Denmark, taken Inter Milan to a UEFA Cup final, managed the Switzerland and Finland national teams but, yes, this season has to sit up there," he acknowledged.

"One, it is back in my country. Two, it is the Premier League. Three, so many predicted what we have done this season was beyond us.

"But I still look back at my first-ever year as manager with particular fondness.

"It was what you might call a water-into- wine job."

Halmstad were a no-hope side in Sweden and had just averted relegation. But a 29-year-old Hodgson took over and led them to the Championship.

Having failed to make the grade as a player with Crystal Palace, Hodgson had trawled around non-league football and took his coaching badges early.

The only place he could find work, however, was in Sweden, first with Halmstad and then with Malmo, where three decades ago he was credited with helping the rise of Swedish football. But it was only when Hodgson led Switzerland to Euro 96 qualification and was then appointed manager by Italian giants Inter Milan that he came on to the radar in England.

Bitterness, though, is not in Hodgson's nature.

"Did I deserve a chance sooner in this country?" he asked. "Look, I think people get opportunities when they deserve them.

"We have got to get away from the word 'deserving' in top football management.

"You don't necessarily get what you deserve.

"Often you play well and lose. Or play badly and win.

"That's the game. When it comes to management if a chance comes your way you have to take it and make the best of it.

"You have to understand all the pitfalls, one of which is thinking you may deserve something.

"Yes, for me, it has been a long old slog.

"But it is overcoming knock-backs and confronting situations over the years that puts us managers in a better position to do the job."

One such knock-back came when Hodgson eventually did get a chance in England, at Blackburn in 1997.

In his first season, Rovers finished sixth but only three months into the next he was sacked as relegation loomed.

Hodgson recalled: "We started the campaign without our two main strikers, Chris Sutton and Kevin Gallacher. Colin Hendry was out, too. We couldn't replace them.

"That's not making excuses or moaning - it's just how it was.

"I'm afraid sometimes that's what it boils down to in management.

"Of course that can't be the case all the time.

"Obviously there are profiles and characteristics that are absolutely necessary to be a good manager over a long period of time.

"There are so many things that go into the melting pot, not least how fortunate you are early in your career.

"In trying to jump those hurdles, you might fall badly and never get up again. But if you have something behind you, you can get over those setbacks.

"I did that after Blackburn. I moved on to manage at Inter for a second time, then for a while at Grasshoppers in Switzerland, Udinese and with Finland.

"As a manager, it is important to make sure we don't regard ourselves as the centre of the universe."

Ever genial and polite, Hodgson refrained from citing Inter and former Chelsea supremo Jose Mourinho as a case in point, but he clearly thinks the hype which surrounds the self-proclaimed Special One is overblown.

"What I saw on Tuesday night was the better team, Inter, who had the better players who did better, and won," he said. "But people don't want that. They want to mystify. It reminds me a bit of that Peter Sellers character in the film Being There, Chance the Gardener.

"Here was a simple gardener who said something like 'After the sun shines there is always rain'.

"Or 'What appeared inflation became deflation', and everyone thinks he is profound.

"He rises from being a gardener to an advisor to the president.

"I do feel we have that a bit in this country when it comes to foreign coaches.

"I know it the other way around and, yes, you can benefit from that language barrier a bit and people not knowing all your background because you then have an allure of mystery.

"But I just hope people see older English coaches like myself and Harry Redknapp or, say, a younger one in Steve Bruce, and realise we are capable of doing the big jobs if they come along - whether that would be with the England team or Manchester United."

A couple of years ago Hodgson could have been forgiven for thinking the chance of managing in the Premier League had gone.

Certainly nights like the stunning 4-1 victory over Juventus, sealed by a brilliant late goal from Clint Dempsey, seemed a distant dream.

Hodgson, revealed: "I was on the brink of accepting a role with Inter Milan.

"Roberto Mancini was the manager of the club at the time but the president Massimo Moratti wanted me to be his advisor.

"My time with Finland was coming to an end and it was very tempting. It was basically a job for life but out of the blue I got a call from Fulham.

"I wouldn't say it was a gamble but it was a challenge compared to the job I had lined up in Milan because Fulham had started that season badly. They were deep in the relegation battle.

"I went back to Moratti and asked if he could excuse me from the promise I had given.

"He was absolutely fine. He understood the lure of a managerial job in the Premier League not only back in my own country but back in a part of London near where I grew up.

"It was a long, hard battle to stay up but we managed it and things have progressed from there."

One of Hodgson's few regrets in life is that his mother died long before his achievement in football was recognised in his own country.

"When I was at Inter I came home and took her to an Italian restaurant and she couldn't fully understand why so many people knew me and wanted to talk to me," recalled Hodgson.

"She didn't really understand the jobs I had done abroad. I'm sure she would be very proud now.

"Although, to be honest, even if I had ended up as a bus driver she would have thought I was the best thing since sliced bread."

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Re: Sunday Fulham Stuff (21.03.10)
« Reply #1 on: March 21, 2010, 06:35:28 AM »


By Garry Doyle, 20/03/2010

ASTON VILLA and Everton are set to bid for Kevin Doyle this summer after Mick McCarthy conceded he would sell the striker if Wolves were relegated.

Doyle, 26, has had a brilliant season under McCarthy and has strongly hinted he will stay if Wolves avoid the drop.

Doyle said: "Mick pulled me and a couple of others aside and told us that he planned to really strengthen the squad if we stayed up."

That eventuality would probably be enough to persuade Doyle to remain at Molineux but it won't stop Villa and Everton from making enquiries - as they both did last summer.

Tottenham Hotspur and Fulham were the other two clubs in pursuit then.

But both sides' interest has dwindled somewhat since - Spurs due to the number of strikers at their disposal, Fulham because of the increase in Doyle's value.

McCarthy has publicly said 'there isn't a price we can put on Kevin'.

But the former Ireland skipper also knows that in the event of a massive bid, particularly from Villa, he will face a battle to hold onto the striker, as Doyle, who is living and settled in Birmingham, would like to avoid moving house again if possible.

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Re: Sunday Fulham Stuff (21.03.10)
« Reply #2 on: March 21, 2010, 06:38:19 AM »


A DAY after their wealthy neighbours stood in penitent silence before a disgruntled oligarch, Fulham were having one hell of a party.

And if Roman Abramovich peeked next door, he should have been envious. Rarely has a victory been so widely relished.

For some time, Mohammed Al Fayed looked like an owner who would make Abramovich seem benevolent, benign.

Now he seems to have realised a manager should be left to manage. But no Chelsea manager has really been left to manage.

And if he has, he has to manage a team that seems unable to rid itself of its attachment to Jose Mourinho. John Terry, Frank Lampard, Petr Cech, Didier Drogba. Still wonderful players but Mourinho acolytes, seemingly reluctant to embrace new eras.Mourinho has long gone but his team remains. Yes, they will continue to compete for domestic honours.

But maybe the natural cycle for this group of players is over.

Maybe the dismantling process should have started when Manchester City put £30million on the table for Terry. The culling of seasoned internationals and the introduction of hungry, inexperienced players would undoubtedly diminish the short-term chances of continued success.

But it would give the club a dynamism that it patently lacks right now.It might even put the fun back into Chelsea.

And that is priceless. Just take a look next door.

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Re: Sunday Fulham Stuff (21.03.10)
« Reply #3 on: March 21, 2010, 06:41:14 AM »


Zamora is the anonymous hero of English football

Sunday March 21,2010

By Jim Holden 

BOBBY Zamora parks his car in a side street off the Fulham Palace Road and stops for a cup of coffee at Starbucks on the way to most home matches at Craven Cottage.

He’s always wearing his Fulham tracksuit but nobody pesters him as he waits patiently in the queue for his cappuccino. Nobody asks for his autograph. Nobody starts pointing at him and shouting, “Look, look, who’s there.”

Actually, nobody even turns a hair.

Zamora is the anonymous hero of English football. So, we should forgive the 29-year-old striker a wry shrug and a cynical grin when he hears that he’s being touted as a last-gasp call-up for England’s World Cup campaign this summer.

He’s not expecting it. He’s already booked his holidays in America at the time of the tournament; he’s more than confident he will continue to be totally invisible on his travels.

After all, it’s not so long ago that Zamora was being scorned and mocked by a foolish section of his own Fulham supporters.

He was so convinced his England chance had gone that he agreed to play a World Cup qualifier for Trinidad, the land of his father, at the start of this season, only to have to withdraw through injury.

And now? Well, wouldn’t it be the most heart-warming sports story of the year if Zamora’s burst of excellence for Fulham these last few months results in a place at the World Cup?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful for the unsung footballer, the unconsidered and undervalued forward, the player who has worked so hard in the shadows to prove himself, to have a tilt at the ultimate glory in the game?

There must be a possibility it will happen after England manager Fabio Capello watched Zamora inspire Fulham’s fabulous 4-1 pummelling of Juventus in the Europa League the other night.

He saw Zamora score the first goal and give Fabio Cannavaro such a torrid time that the veteran Italian defensive general was sent off.

Capello must have been impressed by Zamora’s performance on a significant night of football. He must have seen that the Fulham striker has better technique and close control of the ball than Darren Bent or Gabriel Agbonlahor or Emile Heskey. The World Cup door is suddenly open for the cappuccino hero.

This is not only because of his own fine play, but also because of the Achilles tendon injury that knocked former England captain David Beckham out of the tournament and sent zillions of TV reporters to set up camp outside an obscure hospital in Finland to bring us breathless commentary on every twist and turn of a routine sports injury operation.

It was the maddest of madhouses, and it obscured the far more important subject of who will now be the 23rd player wildcard pick of England’s 23-man squad.

Every World Cup manager has such a choice to make, and for Capello it was going to be the worldly experience and set-piece excellence of Beckham.

Now he has to think again – and is surely contemplating the option of a fifth striker in Zamora rather than yet another midfielder in a crowd already crammed with versatile players.

Fulham manager Roy Hodgson, the best Englishman not to be boss of the England national team in the past 20 years, would go for Zamora. His view is not artless club loyalty. Hodgson doesn’t do that petty stuff, and he knows the terrain as a former World Cup head coach himself with Switzerland.

He knows what it takes, and he knows that what Zamora offers above all else, the combination of physical strength and intelligent ball control, will be a precious asset for any World Cup side.

The fact that Zamora is on a hot scoring streak is a bonus. The fact he is that rarity in the modern game, a down-to-earth footballer, an ordinary bloke who goes quietly for a coffee in Starbucks, is altogether wonderful.

Doesn’t the England football team need a few characters like that rather than the celebrity cavalcade surrounding David Beckham, John Terry and Ashley Cole?

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Re: Sunday Fulham Stuff (21.03.10)
« Reply #4 on: March 21, 2010, 06:44:02 AM »

Man City fullback Garrido expects tough Fulham test

21.03.10 |

Manchester City fullback Javier Garrido expects a tough game against Fulham.

City are chasing a top-four spot and face a Fulham side on the crest of a wave after an astonishing Europa League victory against Juventus.

Garrido insists they need the victory.

He said: "They try and play good football and so do we, but they have definitely had the edge over the past three or four seasons.

"But there is no reason we can't win this game - we need a victory to keep the pressure on the teams around us.

"I think every team who plays us now wants to beat us because of what has happened to the club in the past couple of years.

"I think sometimes we have had a stronger mentality against the best teams and the results against Arsenal and Chelsea have proved that to be true.

"But we have to have that same focus against every team we play if we are to finish in the top four."

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Re: Sunday Fulham Stuff (21.03.10)
« Reply #5 on: March 21, 2010, 06:47:21 AM »

Bubbly? Juve got to be joking

Dave Kidd; Dean Jones

Dickson Etuhu has branded boss Roy Hodgson a party pooper - but insisted his Fulham team could not be happier.

The Craven Cottage club enjoyed the greatest night in their history on Thursday as Hodgson's men overturned a 4-1 aggregate deficit to dump mighty Juventus out of the Europa League. But within minutes of the final whistle, Hodgson was lecturing his team on the importance of today's visit from Manchester City - the club where Etuhu, 27, started his professional career.

Etuhu (pictured) said: "Champagne? Are you having a laugh? The third thing that came out of the manager's mouth after the Juventus win was Man City on Sunday! "There is no way our manager would let us take it easy. We don't get carried away with ourselves like that.

"My brother Kelvin is still at City but he's out with a bad ankle injury. I played against City last year and got a goal, which is a great memory. I played against Kelvin and our family was all there. I loved it, it was an emotional day. "Now our whole club is buzzing, we're playing a game every three days - and personally, I'm loving it. "City have got a great team, great players, match-winners. Everybody respects them, they could come here and they could be unbelievable. But we play against the best teams in the world every other week at the moment. "And who comes to Fulham and gets an easy ride?"

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Re: Sunday Fulham Stuff (21.03.10)
« Reply #6 on: March 21, 2010, 06:49:23 AM »

Roy's Fulham empire has Roman in ruins

Dave Kidd

Roman Abramovich has always craved global domination for Chelsea.

This week he does not even own the most glamorous club on the Wimbledon branch of the London Underground District Line.

Fulham's epic comeback against Juventus occurred in the same SW6 postal code as Chelsea's Champions League defeat by Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan.

Unadulterated glory at one end of the Fulham Road, bad-tempered, petulant misery at the other.

Chelsea may well win the double this season, while Fulham will probably end a glorious campaign in a state of potlessness.

Yet success is relative and Abramovich must be viewing his neighbours with a sense of envy.

Should he wish to learn any lessons from the poor relations down the road, the Russian might want to take on board one fact.

Nobody at Fulham claims to know more about football than their manager.

At Abramovich's Chelsea this has never been the case. Even the Portuguese bloke who won back-to-back titles saw his authority fatally undermined. And whatever happened to that fella, by the way? Sack Depending upon which of Abramovich's courtiers you are being briefed by this week, the Russian is either ready to sack Carlo Ancelotti or put an end to player power by handing his manager more authority.

There is no doubt the latter path is the one to take.

Fulham players readily talk about being mere cogs in Roy Hodgson's machine - undergoing relentless, monotonous training drills which have resulted in them handing out thrashings to Liverpool, Manchester United and Juventus.

As a team and as a club, Fulham has Hodgson's identity stamped all over it - intelligent, efficient, decent, a little old-fashioned, over-achieving on a monumental scale. Abramovich is desperate for Chelsea to have an identity of their own, yet the only recurring images of his club are of sleaze off the field and snarling lawlessness on it.

For the second successive year, the Blues were dragged kicking and screaming out of Europe. Unruly brats, spitting abuse at the referee, tears before bedtime.

In these pages today, John Terry makes an unwise outburst at German whistler Wolfgang Stark - and at the standards of European refereeing in general - which will hardly please Chelsea's Russian owner as he searches for the moral high ground. Disrespect is not a word that Terry should be bandying about after his last couple of months - even for those of us who take the unfashionable view that he should not have been stripped of the England captaincy for sleeping with the wrong person.

The bad behaviour we see on the football pitch is far more damaging than bedroom indiscretions off it.

While Terry was ranting, Frank Lampard spoke eloquently about the need to sign a fantasy player in the Lionel Messi mode. Terry himself made a similar point last year.

And despite Joe Cole's best efforts, Chelsea lack the genuinely world-class crowd pleaser who would endear them to a wider audience.

This is, remember, a club which has always adored its flair players - Gianfranco Zola, Pat Nevin, Alan Hudson.

Chelsea had been linked with Andrey Arshavin, from Abramovich's own backyard, and the Russian would have fitted the bill wonderfully.

But while Arsene Wenger was the only Premier League boss willing to stick his neck out, Chelsea lacked even a manager with autonomy in the transfer market.

They could have done a lot worse than re-signing Damien Duff from Newcastle for £4million last summer.

Hodgson was the only manager with the vision and the belief to gamble on reviving an outstanding talent.

Duff has been immense for Fulham, his performance against Juve a masterclass.

Looking over at Craven Cottage's Putney End on Thursday and seeing the words 'Fulham 4 Juventus 1' glowing from the scoreboard would have been a surreal moment for any home supporter.

Miracle In 1996, while Juventus were winning the European Cup, I looked over at the same end of the ground - then a crumbling terrace - and saw a dozen Torquay fans dancing the conga, after they had beaten Fulham in a Third Division match.

Such a transformation gives hope to any of the 82 clubs beneath Fulham in English professional football - and should scupper the sour-faced plotting of men like Bolton chairman Phil Gartside and his proposals for a franchise-based two-tier Premier League, with no relegation.

The Fulham story is not quite a miracle, though.

None of it would have been possible without Mohamed Al Fayed's considerable investment, while even Hodgson has not engineered a Premier League away win since the opening day of the season.

But the Hodgson era has been a triumph of excellent management and old-school commonsense.

Having 62 years on the clock no longer makes you scrappage-scheme material, so a bigger job may well present itself to the Fulham boss.

England, Liverpool, maybe even Chelsea.

Yet if we have learned anything at all about Hodgson, we would have to suspect that he is too damned sensible to fancy that particular gig.

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Re: Sunday Fulham Stuff (21.03.10)
« Reply #7 on: March 21, 2010, 06:56:41 AM »

I wouldn't swap Fulham for Man City cash, says Etuhu

Published 05:00 21/03/10

By Julian Bennetts

Dickson Etuhu left ­Manchester City before they became the richest club in the world.

But he insists no amount of cash could match Fulham’s Europa League success. The Nigerian came through the ranks at Eastlands before heading to Preston in 2002.

But after spells at Sunderland and Norwich he is a regular at Fulham and played the full 90 minutes as Italian giants Juventus were humiliated at Craven Cottage.

City head to West London today and Etuhu has warned his former club – who have his brother Kelvin on their books – that manager Roy ­Hodgson has told his side not to let their standards drop.
“Would I swap a night like the one we had against Juventus for City’s cash? Well, I’ve had a great career and it keeps getting better and better,” said Etuhu. “And the second thing that came out of Hodgson’s mouth, in the dressing room after ‘Well done’ was, ‘Man City on Sunday’.

“Do you think our manager would let us ease off against City? No way. There was definitely no champagne in the dressing room. It’s always nice to play against City, I’ve got a lot of friends there. I’m really looking forward to it.

“City have got a great team, great players, match winners. Everybody respects them but we are looking forward to playing them and testing ourselves.”

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Re: Sunday Fulham Stuff (21.03.10)
« Reply #8 on: March 21, 2010, 06:59:08 AM »

Spurs will be scared stiff of Fulham, says Konchesky

Published 05:00 21/03/10

By Julian Bennetts
Paul Konchesky reckons Tottenham will be scared stiff ahead of Wednesday’s FA Cup quarter-final replay with Fulham.

Roy Hodgson’s side enjoyed the greatest night in their history on Thursday as they crushed Juventus 4-1 at Craven Cottage to reach the last eight of the Europa League.

And left-back Konchesky is adamant Harry Redknapp’s men will be quaking in their boots as they battle to head to Wembley for a semi-final date with Portsmouth.

“What we’ve proved is that we can beat anyone,” said Konchesky, who scored for West Ham in the 2006 Cup Final. “I think Tottenham will be a bit worried about us now.

“By beating Juventus 4-1, everyone will look at that and then think it will be tough playing against us.

“We go into this game knowing we are just one win from Wembley. Why can’t we go and win at White Hart Lane?” And Konchesky has set his sights on a shock England call-up, with Ashley Cole sidelined with a broken ankle.

He won two caps in 2003 and 2005, but reckons Fulham’s stunning season could see him make a late bid for the World Cup. “The thought of getting into the England squad has crossed my mind,” said Konchesky, who would have caught the watching Fabio Capello’s eye with his display against Juventus.

“The team is doing really well, and if anything comes of that it’s a bonus – hopefully there will be a knock on the door for one or two of the English players here.”

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Re: Sunday Fulham Stuff (21.03.10)
« Reply #9 on: March 21, 2010, 07:17:27 AM »

Europa League finally steps out from the shadows

The round of 16 had goals galore and offered a welcome alternative to the Champions League

Just as the Carling Cup competition put this season's FA Cup in the shade, so the ugly duckling of the Europa League has just stepped out of the Champions League's enormous shadow to enjoy some fun in the sun.

It would not be strictly accurate to say that Thursday evening's entertainment and Friday morning's quarter-final draw knocked spots off the Champions League, because Uefa's main tournament is shaping up well this season, with six different countries represented in the last eight (although Internazionale are even less Italian than Arsenal are English, with a Portuguese coach and 11 overseas players in the starting line-up at Chelsea) and the world waiting to see whether Barcelona can become the first club to retain the trophy under the modern format.

The Champions League is not doing anything wrong, no more than usual anyway, it was more a case of the Europa League's last 16 providing plenty that was gloriously right, as well as enjoyably unexpected. It was not just a matter of Fulham coming back from 4-1 down against Juventus, stupendous as that was. The 4-4 draw between Werder Bremen and Valencia was a riot of twists and turns as well as goals, and Anderlecht's seven-goal thriller against Hamburg must have been a treat to watch even if a 4-3 victory left the home crowd disappointed.

Pedants may point out defences were at fault, key players dismissed and the pressure higher in the Champions League, but surely aggregate scores of 5-4, 5-5 and 5-6 are what the second‑string European tournament ought to be all about – bearing in mind that it is the second-string tournament, not the one with the pretentious signature tune and stupidly expensive squads. No one is fooling themselves that Fulham are kings of Europe or that Juventus are not in decline, though over the two legs the two teams were more or less equally matched, as happened in other ties, and open, attacking, even knockabout football is exactly what people want to see from teams in Europe with little or no interest left in the domestic league. One could almost forgive the Europa League its clumsy group stage and unfortunate obligation to scoop up Champions League rejects for a round of 16 so evenly contested.

In some ways it is a pity the tournament cannot be staged on a knockout basis from the start, as the old European Cup used to be, except there would be mismatches, good teams going out early and interest would only focus on the final stages. Just about the only downside to last week's splendid round of 16 was the fact that grounds were half-empty in Germany, of all places, yet the format of the competition is still new and once word gets around that a tedious gestation can produce some extremely lively knockout ties Uefa could be on to an unlikely winner.

If Fulham can beat Juventus they ought to have at least a chance of squeezing past Wolfsburg, so Roy Hodgson may be wrong to suggest the season cannot get any better. His side have just proved anything can happen, so they had better start believing it. There may be a semi-final or even a final to come, though it appears the strength is in the other half of the draw, where Liverpool are boxed in by familiar Iberian opponents.

There is a danger, it would seem, in dismissing the Europa League as a mere consolation prize. As soon as Liverpool were parachuted in they were installed as favourites, and it was even suggested Rafa Benítez would have to win to save some face and keep his job. While that may or may not be the case, the assumption that the Europa League is going to be a stroll for a team of Liverpool's calibre is clearly misplaced. They were not quite as comfortable against Lille on Tuesday as the final score suggested, and now just to reach the final they must overcome Benfica and then the winners of Valencia/Atlético Madrid.

Lille are fifth in their domestic league, like Liverpool, and so are Hamburg, the likely finalists from the other half of the draw. Benfica are top of the Portuguese league, Valencia are third in Spain, and only Atlético are slumming it in 10th. Four of Liverpool's five European Cups proper came in the days when they only played champions, though often they would be the champions of Switzerland or Belgium.

In 1977 when Liverpool conquered Europe for the first time, the teams they actually beat were Crusaders, Trabzonspor, St Etienne, FC Zurich and Borussia Mönchengladbach. A year later they beat Dynamo Dresden, Benfica, Mönchengladbach and Club Brugge. Times change, comparisons are difficult, yet it seems this season's challenge in the junior tournament may be harder. Liverpool will be pilloried if they fail and deemed to have done no more than the minimum should they succeed. Hodgson may be feeling like Rocky Marciano; Benítez is on a hiding to nothing.

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Re: Sunday Fulham Stuff (21.03.10)
« Reply #10 on: March 21, 2010, 07:20:10 AM »

Chris Smalling relishes taste of the high life

Fast learner: Chris Smalling, once of Maidstone United, will move to Old Trafford next season

By Jonathan Northcroft

Children were hoisted on shoulders. Old men thought they’d never see the day. A fan declaimed: “The mighty Juventus will never forget the day they came to Fulham!” His buddies laughed. Even on their greatest night, the Craven Cottage faithful were not about to do arrogance for real.

Leave that to other clubs. In 90 minutes of magic, the most bewitching moment came a heartbeat before Clint Dempsey’s winner went in. Up went Dempsey’s lob and there was a frozen instant when a whole stadium could see it was dropping into Antonio Chimenti’s net, except for Chimenti. The goalkeeper reached for the ball hopelessly, but it zeroed in onto its target, falling like a smart-bomb from the inky sky.

At full-time, embracing those who had humbled Juventus 4-1 — and, no, Juve will never forget it — was Chris Smalling. He was an unused substitute but his story contains as many miracles as Fulham’s Europa League campaign. Two years ago, Smalling was an amateur, playing for Maidstone United and Chatham Grammar School, and travelling around the country for trials. Now, via a deal struck in January, he is heading to Manchester United for a fee of £10m plus up to £2m of add-ons, making him the fourth most expensive English centre-half. He has a career total of three Premier League starts. Smalling could play against Manchester City at Craven Cottage today if Hodgson decides to rest either Brede Hangeland or Aaron Hughes, his first-choice central defensive partnership.

Smalling, who will remain at Fulham until May, was signed in July 2008, another Roy Hodgson genius act. Eventually, having impressed clubs on those trials (which included a brief stint at Chelsea), Smalling was a wanted young man but until then was planning for a different life. It was so nearly: “Football, you’re fired.” Inspired by Sir Alan Sugar, the nation’s favourite entrepreneur, Smalling envisaged university and a business career.
At school he took A-levels in economics, media studies and business, gaining three B passes. “I chose my five different universities and got accepted by all of them,” Smalling says. “I was going to go to Loughborough or Leicester, probably Loughborough, to do business management. A few of my mates wanted to be business people in the City and I saw myself doing the course at uni and going into a job [in business] I’d enjoy. Football’s something I always wanted to do but I’d have been more than happy to develop along the education route. Maybe at one stage I was looking more towards uni than playing. A lot of people when they’re grown up say uni was the best time of their life and I was aware of that and mates have enjoyed it, though a few need to get their heads down because they’ve been partying too much.”

Smalling still wants to do his degree, perhaps part-time once he has found his feet at United. “Football’s a short career and it’d be good looking to the future,” he concludes. Sir Alan, instead of Sir Alex, could have been his guide. “I’m a fan of The Apprentice,” Smalling says. “I watch it quite a lot and I found it great to see something from real life linked in with my subject. It was better than staring at a textbook, and you picked up bits and pieces listening to Sir Alan Sugar, seeing him giving the contestants a grilling.”

Tailoring your product to the market is a Sugar principle. Smalling, 20, is gentle, thoughtful, respectful, but he isn’t soft and showed that at Maidstone, playing in the Isthmian League when still at school doing his A-levels. “The centre-forwards there are as big as the centre-halves and when they see a young kid it’s an opportunity to pick on him,” he says. “I remember after my first match my legs were a bit battered and bruised and my back ached. I woke up the next day and thought, ‘How am I going to do this every week?’ But I got used to it. Maidstone helped in terms of growing up and handling the rough and tumble of the game, and most of the players I met had dropped out of the [professional] game. Knowing the other side of football makes me focused. I’ve seen where I could end up if I don’t make the most of my opportunities and I’ll certainly never take it for granted.”

But how had he slipped through league clubs’ nets? Until he was 16, Smalling was at Millwall’s academy. He left because, relying on lifts to get to training, the commute took up to two hours, and he would get home at 11pm “and just be knackered, go straight to bed and be up for school early the next day”. Clearly, it was no good when exams drew near.

Born in Greenwich, the move to Chatham came when his dad, Lloyd, died of cancer when Smalling was five and his mum, Theresa, left London to live closer to her family. “I don’t have too much of my dad in terms of memories and stuff like that but I’ve been very close to my mum and my brother, Jason, ever since. He’s a Man U fan, just turned 18, and is going to uni to study economics. Dad was a United fan and he’ll be looking down on me now and hopefully be proud.”

Lloyd was a keen cricketer and Smalling represented Kent at junior level, playing at Lord’s. He also played rugby at Twickenham for Kent schools. His second chance in football came after playing for England schoolboys at Wembley. Charlton and Middlesbrough wanted him but Fulham, who play Manchester City today, “just felt right”, partly because of a rapport with Hodgson, himself a former Maidstone player. “He’s like a football encyclopedia and he’s great at passing on messages. He likes his centre-halves to have discipline and rule number one is keeping a clean sheet,” Smalling says.

The Europa League, in which Smalling made his first Fulham starts, was a testing ground. His first Premier League start, in December, produced a precocious display against Chelsea. “You’re coming up against Didier Drogba, one of the best strikers the Premier League has ever had. When you’re in the changing room you see the teamsheet and you have to sit down for a bit. Then you’re walking out and see each of their players, world internationals, it’s just before kick off and you need to give yourself a minute to breathe,” Smalling says. “But after your first few touches, your first headers and you’ve made a tackle, you think, ‘I see these people every day, but they’re not invincible’.”

Arsenal wanted him and it was a wrench to turn them down because he is a fan, but he has a similar “gut instinct” about Ferguson to the one that drew him to Hodgson. In Smalling’s speed, ability on the ball and lean 6ft 4in frame, Ferguson sees something of Rio Ferdinand, and clinched the signing by travelling to sweet-talk after he played at White Hart Lane.

“I was nervous, thinking, do you say ‘Alex’ or ‘Sir Alex’, but he quickly got the conversation going. It did feel a bit unreal. A man who’s produced so many players and won so many trophies is sitting there talking to me. I never thought that would happen when I was at Maidstone, or even a year ago in Fulham’s reserves.” He knows that “no doubt there’ll be pressure because of my fee but when you get to the higher levels of the game, pressure is something you have to face and I’m just getting it younger than some. Hopefully by training and playing with those players [at United] I’ll learn how to handle it. My approach is I go there as a new player and need to get to know the staff and what they want, and the price tag will go to the back of my mind.”

Living in Manchester means being far from his family but he’s treating the act of moving somewhere new, getting a flat, as the same kind of adventure he’d have had going to university. Luckily he cooks. What would he make if Sir Alex popped round for dinner? Smalling giggles at the thought. “Erm, I’d do a bit of lamb, some dauphinoise potatoes. Though I’d probably want a bit of help from my mum so I could really impress him.” He shouldn’t worry. Being Chris Smalling is impressive enough.

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Re: Sunday Fulham Stuff (21.03.10)
« Reply #11 on: March 21, 2010, 07:25:23 AM »

Roy Hodgson and Fulham eager for Manchester City clash after Juventus victory

Managers often say that the pain of defeat lingers rather longer than any joy taken from winning, and so it is with Fulham's Roy Hodgson.
By Julian Bennetts

Published: 5:48PM GMT 20 Mar 2010

 No letting up: Ropy Hodgson has demanded his Fulham team show the same commitment against Manchester City as they showed against Juventus Photo: GETTY IMAGES
The 62 year-old had just masterminded the greatest night in the club's history, Thursday's astounding 4-1 Europa League victory over Juventus, but there were to be no celebrations, and no relenting in the demands he puts on his team.

"The second thing that came out of his mouth after 'well done' in the dressing room was 'Manchester City on Sunday'," laughed midfielder Dickson Etuhu. "Do you think our manager would let us ease off against City? No way."

Zebina blasts Juventus fans That is the way of Fulham. The rigid discipline that has characterised their success since Hodgson took charge in Dec 2007 is mirrored off the pitch.

Juventus and Shakhtar Donetsk could not live with the intensity of a team that is more than the sum of its parts, with Roberto Mancini's City the latest to travel to Craven Cottage.

And City old boy Etuhu is clear about what the visitors will have waiting for them.

"Who comes to Fulham and gets an easy ride?" he asked. "I'm looking forward to the game as I've still got a lot of friends at the club and my brother (21-year-old Kelvin) is still there, though he's injured at the moment.

"Would I swap a night like the one we had against Juventus for City's cash? Well I've had a great career and it keeps getting better and better. I'm not thinking about the past, I'm looking to the future."

And the future for Fulham could bring two cup finals. German champions Wolfsburg await in the Europa League last eight, but on Wednesday it is the FA Cup and a quarter-final replay against Tottenham at White Hart Lane.

Fulham have only won one match away from home in the Premier League this season, but the mood around Craven Cottage is unsurprisingly optimistic, with Paul Konchesky insisting that they should now be feared by all comers.

"What we've proved is that we can beat anyone," said Konchesky ahead of a game that will see the winners face Portsmouth at Wembley. "Tottenham will be worried about us going there now.

"By beating Juventus 4-1, everyone will look at that and think it will be tough playing against us. We go into this game knowing we are just one win from Wembley. The manager has said that every pitch is the same, it's just a different stadium, so why can't we go and win at White Hart Lane?"

For Konchesky there is the added incentive of a possible England call-up. The former West Ham left-back has won two caps for his country - the last of them in 2005 - but Ashley Cole's broken ankle and Wayne Bridge's international retirement have opened the door to players who were previously considered rank outsiders.

Indeed, Konchesky is now the only English left-back playing in the last eight of either the Champions League or the Europa League, and he admits he has considered the possibility of spending the summer in South

"The thought of getting into the England squad has crossed my mind," said Konchesky, who would have caught the watching Fabio Capello's eye with his performance against Juventus.

"The team is doing really well, and if anything comes of that it's a bonus - hopefully there will be a knock on the door for one or two of the English players here."

Europa League draw in full:


Fulham v Wolfsburg
Hamburg v Standard Liege
Valencia v Atletico Madrid
Benfica v Liverpool

Hamburg or Standard Liege v Fulham or Wolfsburg
Valencia or Atletico Madrid v Benfica or Liverpool

Quarter-finals: first legs April 1; second legs April 8
Semi-finals: first leg April 22; second leg April 29
Final: Wednesday May 12, Hamburg Arena

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Re: Sunday Fulham Stuff (21.03.10)
« Reply #12 on: March 21, 2010, 07:29:02 AM »
My Football Week - Chelsea's downfall heralds grim future

Last updated at 11:45 PM on 20th March 2010

As a student in London in the Seventies, I took to following Fulham because I liked underdogs and loved the stroll along the Thames to Craven Cottage.

I enjoyed watching Bobby Moore and Alan Mullery, George Best and Rodney Marsh. And John Mitchell.

I was there at Maine Road (having escaped a chasing around Moss Side by Birmingham City supporters) the night that ‘Mitch’ scored the last-gasp goal to put Fulham, a then Second Division side, into the 1975 FA Cup final. Now they have an even greater night to add to their history.
It was indeed an astonishing performance by the ever shrewd Roy Hodgson’s side to overcome Juventus, one that should give them great confidence for the FA Cup replay at Tottenham on Wednesday.

You have to take into account, however, the decline of Juve and Italian football in general. And with it come portents for the English game.

After ageing, antiquated Milan lost at Manchester United, the Turin side were insipid imitations of illustrious predecessors. Sandwiched between, to add to the delight at the southern end of the Fulham Road, Inter may have beaten Chelsea but that had much to do with being guided, in Jose Mourinho, by one of the five best managers in Europe.

Juve pushed and pulled, bit and scratched as Italian defences have always done. They have not, though, fully absorbed that the game and referees’ stricter interpretation of the laws have moved on. The increased pace and movement embodied by United and Arsenal have also left them behind.

The English may themselves be slipping, mind, even if from a high pedestal. After three remarkable years of having three Champions League semi-finalists, now they will do well to have one, with United against Bayern Munich and Arsenal against Barcelona in the last eight.

It may well be that a 50 per cent tax rate and the pound’s weakness against the euro is creating a gradual power shift away from the English, with Spain and Russia, who have CSKA Moscow threatening to reach the semis for the first time, the new highest payers.

That used to be Italy, before the financial collapse that followed their match-fixing and false accounting scandals of four and two years ago respectively.

The Premier League are, too, facing up finally to financial issues, embodied most by Portsmouth’s administration.

England’s big clubs will need to get their debt-ridden houses in order over the next couple of seasons to comply with new UEFA regulations.

Chelsea’s demise may have helped England’s cause for the World Cup, with John Terry and Frank Lampard likely to be a bit fresher, but we should beware.

Four years ago, shame and adversity unified the Italians and won them the tournament but papered over the cracks of their club game. England should be careful what it wishes for.

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Re: Sunday Fulham Stuff (21.03.10)
« Reply #13 on: March 21, 2010, 07:32:03 AM »
My sons all think I look like Roy Hodgson, which is not, I must confess, the greatest aesthetic compliment I have ever been paid. But in terms of character, then I’d take the comparison in a millisecond.

Watching his Fulham side destroy Juventus the other night was quite extraordinary. And the perfect reward for Hodgson’s consistent brilliance.

The man just quietly gets on with things in a superbly effective way. We never see him sloping into brothels, taunting rival managers, abusing referees or letting himself or his club down.

 Flipping marvellous: Fulham's win against Juventus was simply brilliant
Nor do we see his players disgracing themselves in the way that their neighbours do at Chelsea.
Roy Hodgson knows his football, respects the game, buys well and has neither ego nor fear.
Whatever my friend, Mohamed Al Fayed, is paying him, he should double it.

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Re: Sunday Fulham Stuff (21.03.10)
« Reply #14 on: March 21, 2010, 07:37:21 AM »


The FA has all the evidence it needs that Roy Hodgson is the man to follow on from Capello

Sunday March 21,2010

By Harry Harris 

IT HAS always been the case that Fabio Capello would be a short-term option for England.

His contract may not expire until 2012, but that’s a relatively short period of time in international football.

Such a situation would normally cause panic within the FA, but events over the last week will have helped confirm that they won’t have to look far for a ready-made replacement.

After masterminding arguably the greatest result and comeback in Fulham’s history against Juventus in midweek, the FA has all the evidence it needs that Roy Hodgson is the man to follow on from Capello.

Despite his public declarations about his commitment to the England cause, Capello’s position as England boss will be reviewed after the World Cup finals in South Africa. Capello hasn’t made up his mind about his immediate future and should he decide to go sooner rather than later – he’s already been linked with clubs – Hodgson is ticking all the boxes for the FA.

If you conducted a poll of the power brokers at Wembley, Hodgson would be immediately appointed.

English football needs an English manager, but only if the English manager is the right manager.

Hodgson has long been considered a safe pair of hands, but after the Europa League adventures at Fulham, he has become the inspirational figure that few thought he was capable of being.

Offline mike_f

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Re: Sunday Fulham Stuff (21.03.10)
« Reply #15 on: March 21, 2010, 09:51:47 AM »
Aliadiere caught up in transfer tug-of-war

JEREMIE ALIADIERE is facing a summer at the centre of a transfer tug-of-war between Birmingham City, Everton, Fulham and Stoke City.

The Middlesbrough striker is out of contract at the end of the season and though his current deal contains the option of a further 12 months, Gordon Strachan has opted against extending the agreement.

Though disappointed, the 26-year-old vowed to earn a new contract at the Riverside, only to break a toe in the 1-0 defeat to Cardiff City earlier this month.

That looks like ruling the Frenchman out for up to six weeks and he seems unlikely to figure again this season.

And while Aliadiere has struggled to make an impression on Teesside, his stock remains high – especially as a free agent – among Premier League clubs after glimpses of early promise during his time at Arsenal.

Boro blocked a loan move to Fulham at the end of last August, and the Cottagers are known to remain keen on the pacy forward.

But the Sunday Sun understands Roy Hodgson could face stiff competition for Aliadiere’s signature – with Birmingham, Everton and Stoke all interested.

The Teessiders have also been linked this week with Hamilton’s Czech Under-21 international keeper Tomas Cerny and Birmingham’s 36-year-old ex-Sunderland striker Kevin Phillips.

Meanwhile, Boro-born former referee Jeff Winter insists the club do NOT deserve to reach the Championship play-offs – and believes the side’s defenders must improve quickly or face the axe.

“In reality, Boro are just as good or bad as many other sides and the inconsistency at both ends of the field means that probably we just don’t deserve the chance of a Wembley play-off,” said Winter.

“We hear that there is inexperience in the defence but most of the players that have featured there have in excess of 100 games behind them, the majority in the Premier League.

“Some have got to learn rather quickly or, despite how popular they are with supporters, they are likely to be out the door as Gordon Strachan adds numbers and quality to his squad.”

Offline Lighthouse

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Re: Sunday Fulham Stuff (21.03.10)
« Reply #16 on: March 21, 2010, 02:29:16 PM »
Fulham boss Roy Hodgson insists the club must not overspend to try to break into the Premier League's top six.

The Cottagers finished seventh last term but Hodgson is adamant that ensuring the club's solvency is more important than moving up the table.

Hodgson, whose side are currently in 10th spot, said: "The club's existence is more important than short-term gain.

"It would be unwise of me to say that we should try to break into that top six by breaking the bank."

The 62-year old coach pointed to Portsmouth's situation as an example of what can happen if a club overstretches itself.

Pompey, nine points adrift at the bottom of the table, look almost certain to be relegated to the Championship after being docked nine points for going into administration.

"You have the short-term gain of Portsmouth winning the FA Cup (in 2008) which is really something that after years of moving between the top two divisions they thought maybe was beyond them, " added Hodgson.

"But when you see what happens as a result of it, with the club going into administration, that would bother me more than hoping or believing that Fulham could stay in the Premier League for years to come.

"The amount of money that the top teams are spending increases every year - not just the transfer fees but also wages.

 606: DEBATE
I was amazed at the article in the Express this morning and Mr Al Fayed's opinions about Man City. He thinks they are ruining the game, what a hypocrite

"I know the chairman (Mohamed Al Fayed) has done an article this week that in his view clubs should not really be living beyond their means and clubs should not be depending on sugar daddies in order to survive."

Al Fayed told the Daily Express that he had spent £280m since buying Fulham for £30m 13 years ago.

The Egyptian said Manchester City were "the worst for the game" and that their big-spending ways could drive other clubs to extinction.

"Seventy five percent of the clubs, they are begging and borrowing. There won't be enough clubs left if this continues to happen," said Al Fayed.

"I totally agree with that philosophy as well," continued Hodgson, who has secured Fulham's top-flight status for next term while also guiding to the last eight of the Europa League.

"The teams in that top six have a massive advantage over Fulham, and that is that they have a capacity of 60-70,000 whereas we have 23,000."

Al Fayed took over at Fulham in the summer of 1997 and has bankrolled the west London club through the big spending managerial eras of Kevin Keegan, Jean Tigana and Lawrie Sanchez.

But the arrival of Hodgson in December 2007 and a miraculous escape from relegation seemed to bring about a switch to acting with greater financial responsibility.

However, Al Fayed has not been afraid to support Hodgson in the transfer market with the club spending a reported £12m on striker Andrew Johnson in the summer of 2008.