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Wednesday Fulham Stuff...(05/05/10)

Started by WhiteJC, May 05, 2010, 06:24:23 AM

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Fulham's second string hoping to prove a final point against Stoke
Bjorn Helge Riise insists Fulham's first team hopefuls are determined to contribute to a spectacular season by securing a top-10 finish in the Premier League

On the fringe: Fulham's Bjorn Helge Riise (right) is set for a rare outing against Stoke City Photo: REUTERS
Fulham are gearing up for the Europa League final against Atletico Madrid at the Hamburg Arena next Wednesday and with his first-choice side set in stone, manager Roy Hodgson will nurse his resources carefully over the two remaining Premier League matches.

Only four of the side that completed the fairytale march to the final by beating Hamburg last week started Sunday's 3-2 victory over West Ham.

Hodgson is likely to give the second string another run out in Wednesday night's clash with Stoke City and Riise insists they are ready to answer his call once again.

"We live to play football so there was never any question of us not being up for it against West Ham," said the Norwegian. "For those of us that were on the bench against Hamburg it was a chance to show that we can play football.

"That was important to us and we don't want to lose games, especially in the last weeks of the season and especially when we have a final coming up. For us the aim is to get that 10th place and if we beat Stoke we will be close to achieving that."

Fulham are one point adrift of 10th place Blackburn but have a game in hand on Rovers. After meeting Stoke at Craven Cottage they end their campaign at Arsenal, who could yet be pipped to third place by Tottenham.

Riise is hoping to be involved as much as possible as the finishing touches are put to a season that is already the most successful in the club's 131-year history.

"It was nice to play 90 minutes against West Ham and to win," the Norwegian midfielder said. "A lot of the team haven't played much recently so to beat West Ham 3-2 was a very positive result. I enjoyed it a lot and hopefully I'll get to play a bit more in the last three games.

"Now it's important to beat Stoke to secure 10th place. To finish the season at the Emirates will be magnificent. I've never been there before but people tell me it's a great stadium so I'm looking forward to that.

"We want to be in that top 10 so that when we look at the table on TV we're there in the top half. And to achieve that after the season we've had, and getting to the Europa League final, would be a very good season."

Bobby Zamora is still struggling with an Achilles injury and is unlikely to play any part at Craven Cottage on Wednesday night, while the visitors will field Asmir Begovic in goal in place of the injured Thomas Sorensen.

Fairy tales and broken hearts

2 players, Zoltan Gera and Bobby Zamora, have been responsible for scoring or setting up 12 of Fulham's 15 goals en route to the UEFA Europa League final. The Cottagers' Hungarian midfielder and English striker have been central figures in the fairy tale success of a club that, as recently as 1996, finished just eight places off the bottom of England's fourth tier. This season, under the expert guidance of Roy Hodgson, Fulham have seen off the likes of Juventus, Wolfsburg, Hamburg and Europa League holders Shakhtar Donetsk to set up a shot at their first-ever major trophy against Atletico Madrid on 12 May. Sadly for Fulham, the match will not be staged at their Craven Cottage fortress, the endearingly old-fashioned stadium in which the Londoners have lost just one of their last 13 domestic and continental fixtures.

Lifelong Fulham fan happy to splash out for Euro glory

Lifelong Fulham fan Sarah Morris has run up bills of about £1,100 following her team's European odyssey this season - but she wouldn't have it any other way.

Fulham take on Atletico Madrid in the Europa League final on Wednesday, May 12, but trips to see Roy Hodgson's boys take on Roma, Basel, Juventus, Wolfsburg and Hamburg have already helped make this her most memorable campaign following the Mighty Whites.

The 38-year-old, whose extended brethren was named Fulham's family of the year a few seasons ago, said last week's win was a highlight.

"This is the best season in the 30 years I've been going to see Fulham play, no question," she said.

"The highlight has been Zoltan Gera's winning goal and the final whistle last Thursday night, but beating Juventus 4-1 at home comes pretty close."

Ms Morris had her arrangements for next Wednesday's final sorted within hours of Fulham's momentous semi-final victory over Hamburg, and plans to drive over with her relatives at a further cost of about £200 each.

She has already done her research on getting to the HSH Nordbank Arena by road, as that was on the cards for last month's semi-final, first-leg clash, before the volcanic ash cleared, prompting a last-minute decision to fly.

Throw in some spending money and Ms Morris will probably end up forking out close to £1,500 supporting Fulham in Europe, but that has bought her plenty of fond memories, such as bumping into Hodgson in Basel city centre on the day of the side's crucial final group match in Switzerland in December.

And, when it comes to describing the man who is Sir Alex Ferguson's pick for manager of the season, she cannot hide her admiration.

"He is God," she said. "We had a great night out after the game in Basel, too. That was the best trip as a whole - so far."

A hint that Ms Morris dares to believe there may be even better to come.

Fulham - Summer Concerns?
The inevitable result of success for a small club is the poaching of players (and the odd manager) by bigger clubs.
Will this fate loom over Fulham's summer?

The potential departure of Rafa Benitez has seen Roy Hodgson's name move front and centre as a possible successor at Liverpool. There is virtually universal admiration for what Roy's achieved at Fulham, and while some seem delighted at the prospect of having Hodgson bring his tactical brilliance to Anfield, others feel that Roy is not the calibre of manager for such a big club.

However, coaching moves sometimes have a domino effect!

Let's say someone like Martin O'Neill was tapped for the Liverpool job. Who would take over at Villa? While one might rightly argue that Liverpool is too big for Roy; no one could seriously suggest that Villa is too big.

All this may be irrelevant as Hodgson seems pre-ordained as the successor to Fabio Capello in charge of England should the Italian leave after the World Cup.

I'd venture that, if tempted at all, the England job is the one Roy is eyeing. For now, the Fulham faithful will have to hold their collective breath and hope the suitors are few and far between.

Regarding the players, the top of the list is certainly Bobby Zamora. After a slow start, which put him at odds with some of the fans, Zamora has been a revelation.

His 19 goals in all competitions has Fulham on the cusp of European glory, brought a credible FA Cup quarter-final appearance and may yet bring another top ten finish in the League.

His hold-up play has been as solid as ever. Zamora has been impressive enough to bring calls for inclusion in the England World Cup squad. His stock has never been higher.

One might argue that Bobby would be foolish to leave such a great situation or that Fulham would be foolish to sell such an important member of the squad, and while I understand those arguments, I don't think they hold water.

It was clear that Zamora felt disrespected by some of the fans early in the season and he let his displeasure be known. Nothing I've seen indicates that Bobby has 'forgiven' the fans and approaching 30-years-of-age he may be looking to cash-in on his great season by moving to a bigger club and a bigger weekly salary.

For Fulham, it's always difficult to avoid cashing-in on a sought after player. Let's not forget, the club was willing to let Zamora go to Hull for £5m. The package deal that brought Zamora and Pantsil to Craven Cottage was reportedly worth £6.3m.

I've read nothing clarifying how that sum was apportioned, but for the sake of argument, let's say Zamora's cost was £4.5m. I think an offer of £9m would be in-line with Zamora's present value, and I think Fulham would jump at the chance to double their money on such a deal.

Brede Hangeland would certainly be next on the list of players that might draw offers. In comparison to last season, Hangeland has been largely unheralded, but has been just as solid in the centre of defence.

Reportedly, Arsenal has shown the most interest in the tall Norwegian. The Gunners highest priority this summer will be solving their goalkeeping issues, but with William Gallas apparently headed for the exit, finding a strong central defender to partner with Thomas Vermaelen will be crucial, as well.

Hangeland seems content in West London and seems to have an allegiance to Hodgson. However, a chance to play for a club like Arsenal would surely be tempting.

As Manchester United were willing to pay £8m for Chris Smalling, one would think that a player of Hangeland's caliber would fetch somewhere between £10 - 15m.

Considering Fulham only paid £2.5m, offers in that range will be hard to turn away. All this is speculation, of course. Nothing could happen. Roy may sign another rolling one-year contract. Hangeland (or Fulham) might not be tempted by a big money offer. And, maybe there is no interest in Zamora, after all. We will have to wait and see.

Fulham - Hangeland Linked to Serie A Move!
With the rumour mill implying that the most likely bid for the services of Brede Hangeland is to come from Arsenal, one tabloid has another destination in its sports pages.

The Daily Star is running an article that suggests our Norwegian centre-back could well be playing his football in the San Siro with AC Milan.

The Italian giants are, if the reports are correct, targeting the Manchester United defender, Nemnaja Vidic, but if that transfer fails to materialise have Brede on a shortlist to stiffen up their backline.

Second best to Vidic, I`d tell them to stuff it Brede!

Fulham - Hamburg Countdown (May 5th)
As we continue our Europa League Final countdown, it gives us an opportunity to hear what our leading goals scorer, this season, has to say about his injury and the fine Europa League run.

Bobby Zamora`s scoring exploits, in the competition, have made Europe perfectly aware of his attributes, but an Achilles injury threatens his participation in the fixture.

In the second leg of the semi-final against Hamburg it was clear, from about the twenty minute mark that all was not well with Bobby with the forward eventually succumbing to the problem around the hour mark.

Roy Hodgson has already expressed his doubts about Bobby being fit for the final implying that the medical staff will have to work around the clock on him. But Bobby is more optimistic,

"It`s so sore and I`ve not been training at the same intensity, but I just hope the swelling will ease off before the final."

"I`ve known about the condition for a while and it has been really sore, but there`s time to improve before the final."

Clearly, a fit Bobby Zamora will be a huge advantage for a Fulham side that have revelled in the role of under-dog this season. Talking about Europe Bobby has enthused about the Thursday night speciality,

"Playing in Europe has been a big stage for the club."

"It singles us out, it`s the only football that`s on TV on a Thursday night. It`s great for our club to go out there and put in performances like we have."

"To beat the likes of Shakhtar Donetsk, Wolfsburg and Hamburg as well as Manchester United and Liverpool in the league is something special."

"In the last two years the manager has built a new team and last year was a learning curve, taking time for players to gel. This year we have been more the finished article.

Could that finished article see our hopes culminate in lifting our first trophy and a European one at that?


Fulham striker Erik Nevland expects Stoke to offer stiff resistance in tonight's race to finish inside the top 10.

Having qualified for next week's Europa League final against Atletico Madrid, the Cottagers are determined to also finish in the top half of the Barclays Premier League table.

Both Fulham and Stoke could propel themselves out of the bottom 10 if they win their two remaining matches.

And while Fulham may rest their big guns once again as manager Roy Hodgson nurses his resources ahead of the final at the Hamburg Arena, the second string are eager to do their bit.

"It's in our hands now and that's the way we want it," said Nevland.

"If we beat Stoke we have a good chance of securing our place in the top 10, so that's our aim for the rest of the season.

"Stoke will come here and do their best - they are always a difficult team to play against.

"They will do everything to get in the top 10 just as we will, so it will be an interesting game."

Roy Hodgson made seven changes for Sunday's 3-2 victory over West Ham and must now strike the right balance between resting his first choice line-up while ensuring they remain sharp.

"It was nice to get a win against West Ham and to get a positive result," said Nevland.

"After beating Hamburg nothing was really expected and you don't know how you will react after a night like that.

"But we reacted in the right way, played well and got the three points, which was important."

Bobby Zamora continues his battle with an Achilles injury and is unlikely to play any part against Stoke.

Fulham conclude their Premier League season at Arsenal on Sunday.

Talking tactics v Fulham

A DEFEAT for Fulham would end their chances of finishing ninth, but there's no point ignoring the fact that this game and Sunday's match at Arsenal is overshadowed by their Europa League final against Atletico Madrid a week today.
Roy Hodgson is expected to rest half his first-choice team tonight and leave out the other half at The Emirates.
Bobby Zamora is unlikely to be risked as he is nursing an Achilles problem.
Instead, expect USA star Clint Dempsey to partner Eric Nevland up front.
Stoke will name an unchanged back four of Andy Wilkinson, Robert Huth, Ryan Shawcross and Danny Higginbotham.
They were practically faultless against Everton on Saturday, as was goalkeeper Asmir Begovic.

PLAYMAKER Danny Murphy is likely to be rested, as are Simon Davies and Zoltan Gera, the pair who scored Fulham's goals in their Europa League semi-final victory over Hamburg.
Expect Fulham to line up with Dickson Etuhu as their holding midfielder behind three more attacking players.
Jonathan Greening plays in the centre of the three with Kagisho Dikgacoi on the right and Damien Duff on the left.
Stoke are set to name an unchanged midfield, which means Rory Delap on the right, Glenn Whelan and Dean Whitehead in the centre and Matthew Etherington on the left.

MAMA Sidibe's impressive return from injury at home to Everton on Saturday should guarantee him a place in the starting XI. Ricardo Fuller is his most likely partner in favour of Tuncay.
The exception to Fulham's rotation policy is goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer who always plays and has been superb this season.
Don't be surprised if Fulham leave out full-backs Paul Konchesky and John Pantsil tonight.
That opens the door for former Stoke loanee Stephen Kelly to play at right-back and on-loan Aston Villa defender Nicky Shorey to play on the left. Chris Smalling is expected to partner Aaron Hughes in central defence to give Brede Hangeland more time to recover from damaged ribs

Fuller going for goals at Fulham

RICARDO Fuller heads to Fulham tonight gunning for three goals in Stoke's last two games of the season.

Fuller, fresh from claiming Stoke's goal-of-the-season award for a third year running, wants to match last season's 11-goal tally after owning up to missing a few chances over the past nine months.

"I'm not really pleased because I've had more chances to score and should have done better," says the popular Jamaican, who is his own severest critic.

"I've managed to get eight, but now I've got two more games to equal my best. That said, the most important thing is the football club and where we finish in the league."

Fuller heads to London tonight with fond memories of the capital – notwithstanding that 7-0 beating at Chelsea 10 days ago – after his goal-of-the-season at West Ham to match the wonderful individual efforts against Aston Villa in 2008/09 and Wolves in 2007/08 to win those two previous goal-of-the-season awards.

And he reveals that illness and injury almost combined to prevent him getting on the pitch that victorious day at West Ham on March 27.

"I had the flu," he recalls, "and a few niggles with my back, my knees, my ankles and stuff because the training pitches have been hard.

"The gaffer convinced me to go on the bench and said he would give me 20 minutes. Then I came on, scored the goal and it was tremendous.

"It's nice getting goals playing away because it's harder than when you have the home supporters behind you."

So what does he remember of the goal in which he took out four defenders before wrong-footing England goalkeeper Robert Green for Stoke's second-half winner at Upton Park?

"I was just trying to nick it off the guy behind me," he remembers.

"Then I turned and saw two of them in front of me, but there was a gap between them and so I used my turn of pace to get between them.

"I managed to elude them and then saw Matthew Upson coming and did the same to him.

"I just had the keeper to beat now and saw him thinking I was going to go left, so I put it to the right. Simple."

So where does that goal rank in his all-time collection?

"I've had goal-of-the-season at Hearts, Preston and Southampton, and three years running here, but it's among the best I've scored," he admits.

Tonight's game at Fulham is Stoke's penultimate fixture before Sunday's visit to Manchester United and, having secured Premier League safety with half-a-dozen games remaining, Fuller is honest enough to admit that motivation inevitably becomes an issue. "It is quite difficult," he says. "When you've stayed up, you normally take your foot off the gas and you are trying not to get injured.

"But we do have pride to play for and that's the biggest thing in football. If you don't have pride, you don't have anything."

Stoke will trot out at Craven Cottage knowing the west London venue has provided a graveyard for the likes of Roma, Juventus, Shakhtar Donetsk, Wolfsburg and now Hamburg during Fulham's captivating journey towards the Europa League final in a fortnight.

"Fulham are a tough team and they play well on their own ground," Fuller acknowledges. "They will be on a high because of reaching a European cup final, but every game in the Premier League is difficult because it is one of the best leagues in the world."

Fuller will be hot-footing it home to Jamaica soon after the curtain closes on Stoke's season on Sunday, but not before donning his apron and rubber gloves to give his house here the quick once over.

"Normally I spend a week getting the house cleaned up," he laughs. "I've got to get the cooker clean – and the carpets. It will take me a week to do all that.

"Then I'll go home and spend most of my time with my friends, the people I've known since junior school and high school.

"Then I'll spend a week somewhere in the Caribbean and have a week in America as well. You get away from football, but football is always on my mind.

"This summer is important for me because I can give my legs time to recover while I'm watching the World Cup.

"I'll have to rest properly because I didn't rest last summer and maybe that's why I didn't get off to a good start this season.

"I need the rest now so I can get out of the blocks like a gun."

And his World Cup allegiances this summer? "If Jamaica aren't in the World Cup, then I usually say I want Argentina or England to win," Fuller says.

"Diego Maradona was my idol in football. A lot of Jamaicans support Argentina because they like to see the skilful players and Maradona got everybody going in Jamaica."

He also got us going a bit here in England once upon a time Ricardo, to which he wisely and hastily adds: "Obviously I support England as well. Because I play here and it's better for the league and better for the country if they win it."

Riise keen to make mark as Cottagers eye top half

BJORN Helge Riise insists Fulham's first-team hopefuls are determined to contribute to a spectacular season by securing a top-10 finish in the Barclays Premier League.

Craven Cottage is gripped with excitement over the looming Europa League final against Atletico Madrid at the Hamburg Arena next Wednesday.

With his first-choice side set in stone, manager Roy Hodgson will nurse his resources carefully over the two remaining Premiership matches.

Only four of the side that completed the fairytale march to the final by beating Hamburg last week started Sunday's 3-2 victory over West Ham.

Hodgson is likely to give the second string another run out in tonight's clash with Stoke, and Riise insists they are ready to answer his call.

"We live to play football so there was never any question of us not being up for it against West Ham," he said.

"For those of us that were on the bench against Hamburg it was a chance to show that we can play football.

"That was important to us and we don't want to lose games, especially in the last weeks of the season and especially when we have a final coming up.

"For us, the aim is to get that 10th place and if we beat Stoke we will be close to achieving that."

Fulham sit one point adrift of 10th-place Blackburn, but have a game in hand on Rovers.

After meeting Stoke at Craven Cottage they end their Premier League campaign at Arsenal, who could yet be pipped to third place by Tottenham.

Riise is hoping to be involved as much as possible as the finishing touches are put to a season that is already the most successful in the club's 131-year history.

"It was nice to play 90 minutes against West Ham and to win," said the Norwegian midfielder.

"A lot of the team haven't played much recently so to beat West Ham 3-2 is a very positive result.

"I enjoyed it a lot and hopefully I'll get to play a bit more in the last three games.

"Now it's important to beat Stoke to secure 10th place.

"We want to be in that top 10 so that when we look at the table on TV we're there in the top half."


FULHAM'S giant defender Brede Hangeland is a shock target for AC Milan – if the Italians do not land Manchester United star Nemanja Vidic.

Starsport revealed last month that AC Milan made the acquisition of a world-class centre-back their top priority over the summer – particularly if they lose Thiago Silva, 25, to Chelsea.

Vidic, 28, is the man the Rossoneri want to lead their defensive revamp and they are prepared to splash out £20m on the Serbian hardman.

But San Siro vice-president Adriano Galliani has instructed Milan's global scouts to draw up a shortlist of other targets if the move for Vidic fails.

Hangeland, 28, who signed a new long-term deal last year, has played a huge role in the Craven Cottage side's amazing passage through to the Europa League Final.

And Milan's scouts have been alerted to Hangeland's impressive European form.

Palermo's 21-year-old defender Simon Kjaer – who is a target for Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester United – is also on the Italian giant's shortlist.

Stoke Programme
Wednesday 5th May 2010

With our UEFA Europa League final on the horizon, Roy's boys run out at Craven Cottage for one last time on Wednesday evening as an unprecedented and unforgettable 2009-10 season draws to a close.

Stoke City visit SW6 for Fulham's penultimate game, with both sides looking to do all they can to secure a valuable top 10 league finish with just two points separating them.

The Whites will also be determined to make up for City's 3-2 victory at the Britannia Stadium in January, and confirm what has been another campaign of remarkable progression and achievement at FFC.

Fans heading to the Cottage for this exciting clash will also have the chance to get their hands on our award winning matchday programme, which once again contains 84 pages packed full of information, in-depth discussion, exclusive interviews and detailed coverage on your favourite club be you a Fulham regular or visiting Potter.

The essential matchday read, sleek in design and full of innovative features, includes:

• A message from Chairman Mohamed Al Fayed
• Exclusive insight from Manager Roy Hodgson.
• Danny Murphy's views as Club captain.
• 2009-10 Season in images.
• Erik Nevland's farewell interview in which the 32-year-old talks goals, great escapes and the UEFA Europa League final.
• A peek inside the opposition's camp with Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic.
• Expert Analysis from former Stoke goal machine Mark Stein.
• A look back in pictures at some of the past meetings between the two clubs.
• Match action from our monumental UEFA Europa League semi-final second leg defeat of Hamburg and Sunday's Premier League victory over West Ham.
• Development Squad manager Billy McKinlay reflects on another successful Fulham season in the Barclays Premier Reserve League South.
• Academy Director Huw Jennings discusses the past 12 months within the Fulham Academy and looks towards an encouraging future.
• Unprecedented fan interaction and tonnes of fun for younger fans too.
• Plus, so much more besides!

The brilliant matchday publication will be on sale in and around the ground from two-hours before kick-off.

If you miss your copy outside then look out for sellers on the Putney and Hammersmith Terrace, or at half-time from the programme room situated inside the Johnny Haynes Stand by Block E (opposite Turnstile 24).

Lucky Programme Numbers
Wednesday 5th May 2010

We are pleased to announce the lucky programme numbers from the past two home games were as follows:

V Hamburger SV semi-final programme: 02160
V West Ham: 04267

If you were the lucky buyer of either of these numbered editions then please email [email protected]| with a scan or photograph of the inside back cover as proof of your success.

For your chance to take part in the last Lucky Programme Number draw of the season, and win a signed home shirt, be sure to pick up your matchday programme tonight as Fulham host Stoke City.

Fulham v Stoke City

Don't miss the season finale at Craven Cottage when Stoke City visit SW6 on Wednesday 5th May (Kick-Off 8pm). Come down to the Cottage and show your appreciation to Roy and the boys in our last home game before the UEFA Europa League Final!

On-sale dates
Season Ticket Holders On sale
Fulham Club Members On sale
General Sale  On sale

Read more:

Lawrenson: Dalglish or Hodgson should replace Benitez after disastrous season

Liverpool FC legend Mark Lawrenson believes the club should replace Rafa Benitez with Anfield hero Kenny Dalglish or Fulham FC boss Roy Hodgson because this season has been "a disaster".

Lawrenson suggests Benitez's six year tenure at Liverpool FC has been a failure and intimates the Spaniard's reign has amounted to very little. He believes the club is not in a better situation then when Benitez first took the job, and therefore he must be adjudged a failure and replaced either with Dalglish or manager of the year favourite, Fulham FC's Roy Hodgson.

The Match of the Day pundit is fearful both Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard will leave the club this summer because they have a readymade excuse to do so. Liverpool FC failure to secure Champions League football enables the aforementioned pair to look elsewhere and Lawrenson hints he would not begrudge either of them the chance to do so. The Anfield hero believes the time is right to find a new boss to replace Benitez and he endorses the claims of Dalglish and Roy Hodgson, whose work at Craven Cottage this season could yield the Europa League Cup.

The Liverpool FC hero told "Liverpool's season has been a disaster and I fear the consequences will mean years outside the elite of the ¬European and English games."

"They are now just an ordinary team with a few extra-special players."

"And without ¬Champions League football to offer their biggest stars – Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard – or the prospect of investment to revive the challenge next season, vultures will soon be picking over the carcass of a ¬desperately poor campaign."

"They are not going to finish fourth. Look ahead to this time next year and there is no ¬guarantee Liverpool will be in the top four then either."

"The other worst thing for Anfield fans to stomach will be if Manchester City finish fourth. City are building a team and paying the wages."

"If City get fourth they could win the league within a couple of years. Man U and Chelsea will always be up there, and Arsenal are on the up too."

"So how do Liverpool get back into it? That is why they are at such a crossroads."

"With no Champions League football what does Gerrard do? What does Torres do? They now have an excuse to leave."

"They can afford it. If that happens you just think: "Oh my God." It is inevitable City will try to buy the both of them."

"Stevie G does not need an excuse. He has been Mr ¬Liverpool for years and has been fantastic. In recent games you look at him and he is looking around shaking his head thinking: 'What are we doing?'"

"Torres? People say he is loyal, but I have heard City will go seriously for both of them. So what happens next?"

Lawrenson believes Liverpool should try to sever ties with Benitez, and look to bring in Roy Hodgson or Kenny Dalglish.

He continued: "Rafa Benitez will go. He has his exit strategy ready. If Juventus want him Benitez should cut a deal with ¬Liverpool."

"Can a deal be done that says "Rafa, thanks but no thanks" and then the club can move forward?"

"They have to say it is not working. I have quite liked Benitez, but that is now six years and you have to ask whether they are any better off now than when he took over. No. Nowhere near."

"What about new owners? We could have them in six months. But six months eats into next season and it misses the August transfer window."

"Liverpool are fortunate Kenny Dalglish is around. He could take the reins for a few months and into next season."

"The irony is that Roy Hodgson would be the perfect fit for Liverpool. He would make the team difficult to beat but he also understands the other end of the operation that wins you games. With Benitez the glass was half-empty but with Hodgson it is half-full."

The former Anfield stalwart questions Benitez's ability in the transfer market, and queries the vast outlay on players like Glen Johnson. Lawrenson suggests the £18 million the Anfield club paid Portsmouth would have been better served on a striker.

He added: "This season has been ¬disastrous. There have been so many poor decisions relating to the team."

"Take one: Glenn Johnson, good full-back, but £17-18million? You could have kept Alvaro Arbeloa, say to him "you are not going to Madrid, you are staying", and go off and use the money to buy another striker."

"If Torres is injured David Ngog should not be starting and leading the line in a one-up-front situation. That has been the most fundamental and basic mistake Benitez has made all season."

"Dirk Kuyt is an honest hardworking player but he doesn't run past anyone and Ngog is inexperienced."

"People on Merseyside ask: do you throw more money at it? No. Benitez has wasted an awful lot. He has signed some poor players in the £10m-£11m category."

"So I think Benitez will go. Who comes in? Who would be ¬available with what little money there is to spend? With the Americans wanting out, how do you attract a new manager?"

"How would you go to Fulham and get Hodgson on those terms? That is where King Kenny comes in."

"He would be a ¬galvanising figure who has been there and done it. I would be surprised if he said no."

Mark Schwarzer backs Bobby Zamora for Europa final

Fulham will keep top-scorer Bobby Zamora wrapped in cotton wool tonight when they take on Stoke at Craven Cottage with a place in the top half of the Premier League at stake.

But goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer gave Fulham fans hope that their talisman will defy an persistent Achilles tendon injury and start next week's Europa League Final against Atletico Madrid.

Schwarzer, who played for Middlesbrough in the 2006 UEFA Cup Final, where Steve McClaren's side were beaten 4-0 by Sevilla, said: "Bobby will be out there on one leg if he has to be.

"You're talking about a European cup final. It's a big occasion — I've been fortunate to be there once before — and you'll do everything you possibly can to get there."

In the absence of Zamora it will be down to Clint Dempsey, one of the scorer's in Sunday's 3-2 win over West Ham, to lead the line again as Fulham seek to extend their unbeaten home run in all competitions to six against a Stoke team who were thrashed 7-0 at Chelsea on their last visit to London 10 days ago.

Winger Bjorn Helge Riise, impressive while making only his fourth Premier League start against West Ham, said: "We don't want to lose games, especially when we have a final coming up.
"The aim is to get 10th place and if we beat Stoke we will be close to achieving that."

Senegal's Diomansy Kamara Wishes Fulham Team-Mates Success In Europa League Final
Kamara is currently on loan at Celtic.

Senegal and Celtic striker Diomansy Kamara says he'll be in Hamburg to support his Fulham team-mates when they take on Atletico Madrid in the Europa League final on May 12.

But Kamara insists he has no regrets about trading a European final place for a barren spell at Celtic, where he is currently on loan.

He told the Sunday Mail: "I watched Fulham beat Hamburg on Thursday.

"It was unbelievable and they deserved to go to the final. I'm delighted for my old team-mates. They beat reigning champions Shakhtar Donetsk as well as Juventus, Wolfsburg and Hamburg. Now they can go and overcome the Spanish team.

"I am pleased because they have a good squad, a great team spirit and a top coach. But I don't feel any frustration that I'm not part of it. Maybe if I was there we wouldn't have made it all the way! I played three games earlier in the tournament and scored twice.

"I will go to Hamburg for the final but I don't consider myself a Fulham player. When I left in the transfer window I forgot about Fulham and have done my best for Celtic. Of course I still watch out for their results because I spent three years there and have a lot of friends at the club. But I don't feel I am a Fulham player.

"I will go back at the end of the season and see what happens. I have one year left on my contract but if I can stay here then I would be happy."

Fulham players hail the Hodgson factor
Published: Wednesday 5 May 2010, 14.39CET
Whether an "honest man" or wily "old fox", there is universal respect at Fulham FC for Roy Hodgson – the man behind their transformation from Premier League strugglers to European finalists.

Fulham FC's transformation from Premier League strugglers to European finalists has taken less than two years, and few have any doubts about who is responsible. Roy Hodgson, whether he is an "honest man" or wily "old fox", has ushered in a golden age at Fulham FC.

Sir Alex Ferguson joined a growing band of avowed Hodgson admirers when he last week claimed the 62-year-old was the only man in the running for the manager of the year award. "It is a miracle," the Manchester United FC chief said of Fulham's run to next week's UEFA Europa League final. "It is one of the best British performances of all time." And Sir Alex knows a thing or two about success on the continental stage.

As does Hodgson, who has accrued as much experience as he has air miles in the 34 years since the former English non-league player took his first role as coach at Sweden's Halmstads BK. After spells with FC Internazionale Milano and the Finnish and Swiss national teams, to name a few, he accepted a return to London (he was born in nearby Croydon) at the end of 2007. Fulham were struggling, and would come 14 minutes from relegation before clawing their way back – a Lazarus act re-enacted a few more times during this UEFA Europa League campaign.

The west London side have seen off UEFA Cup holders FC Shakhtar Donetsk, mustered a four-goal swing against Juventus and came from behind to beat 1983 European champions Hamburger SV in last week's semi-final decider. asks three of his players about the man with the Midas touch.

Danny Murphy, captain and midfielder
His contribution to the club in such a short space of time has been nothing short of amazing. He really has transformed the club, and the reason for that is because he's a knowledgeable man with his football. He treats people with respect and maturity and while they sound like obvious things for a manager, they're not I can assure you. He's an honest man. He's always there to talk to you and whether it be positive or negative, he will tell you how he's feeling, which is healthy I think – honesty is not always something that managers are good at.

In terms of his coaching he is a perfectionist. He works really hard on the training pitch with his other staff, to make sure the team plays the way he wants the team to play. We know our jobs; there's no question mark over what he wants from us, and I think you see the way we play, we are organised. He gets the lads playing, in terms of their commitment, hunger and work ethic.

Mark Schwarzer, goalkeeper
He's an old fox, isn't he? He's got a lot of experience from around the world, particularly European football, and I think that shows. Our style of football works really well for us in Europe, playing against European opposition, because of the way we want to play football, the way we close down our opposition, retain possession – we want to play the game in an effective way. Maybe not always the most entertaining way, but an effective way. The manager is obviously 100% behind that, and that's why we play like we do. He instils a great deal of confidence and he uses his experience to help the players along the way as well.

Aaron Hughes, defender
He has been around, all over the world; whether it's a national team or at a club level, he has seen a lot of different styles. He knows how different teams play and their styles, and has given us a platform to work off. He knows what he wants and how to get his players to do it. He likes us to play football in the right way, passing it around. At the same time, playing in the Premier League every week, you have to adapt sometimes, you have to be a bit more physical. When we defend, we defend well as a unit; everyone chips in and helps. When we attack we create problems for other teams – that has been big part of our success.

Final Retail Range

The Final Range
Fulham have the biggest match in their history to look forward to and fans can now commemorate this historic event with several items marking the Club's first ever European Final which takes place on 12th May in Hamburg.

A commemorative version of the Third Kit is now available for pre-order with a specially stitched inscription celebrating the Team's place in the UEFA Europa League Final.  Buy Today|.

Other items in our exclusive Final range include the one and only Official Europa League Final scarf| commemorating this historic fixture.  Pick one up at the either retail store at the match tonight and have it ready for the 12th May.

Also available are the UEFA Europa League Final t-shirt, pennant and fans can even pre-order the programme from the Final. Pick yours up today!|

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Fulham v Stoke preview
Battle for tenth at Craven Cottage

Fulham and Stoke clash on Wednesday as the battle for 10th place takes centre stage at Craven Cottage.

Four teams - Fulham, Stoke, Blackburn and Sunderland - can all finish in 10th and claim a top-half finish at the end of the season.

Fulham know victory for them would make it a two-horse as they would move five points ahead of Stoke and Sunderland with one game left.

But should it be a draw or Stoke win, then it will all go down to the last day of the season.

Fulham will no doubt have one eye on the Europa League final later this month and manager Roy Hodgson could rotate his side.

One player who will not be involved is Bobby Zamora, as he continues to battle his Achilles problem.

Hodgson could field the likes of Nicky Shorey and Stefano Okaka, who are ineligible to play in Europe.

Stoke captain Abdoulaye Faye remains an injury doubt for the game as he has a thigh strain.

Asmir Begovic will continue to deputise in goal for Thomas Sorensen, who is recovering from a dislocated elbow.

Striker Dave Kitson was left out of the squad for Saturday's goalless draw with Everton after he reacted to being substituted in the 7-0 defeat at Chelsea by walking down the tunnel and he looks unlikely to be involved.

Possible starting XIs

Fulham: Schwarzer, Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky, Murphy, Davies, Etuhu, Duff, Gera, Dempsey

Stoke: Begovic, Huth, Shawcross, Collins, Higginbotham, Delap, Whelan, Whitehead, Etherington, Fuller, Sidibe.

One to watch: Ricardo Fuller prediction: 1-2