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Sunday Fulham Stuff (09.05.10)

Started by White Noise, May 08, 2010, 11:30:04 PM

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White Noise


Surprise names in the frame

ZAMORA: Received an England letter

By Neil Ashton, 08/05/2010

FABIO CAPELLO'S England has been two years in the making and yet he will rip up the rulebook on Tuesday afternoon.

England's manager will cause something of a stir at Wembley, with some surprise World Cup candidates on the list of 30 players lodged with FIFA.

Bobby Zamora, his ankle injury permitting, will be one of them, informed by an official FA letter last week that he has made the provisional squad.

Zamora will join up with an England squad that will also include the shock names of Ledley King and Jamie Carragher.

They are there as cover for Rio Ferdinand and John Terry, the best defenders available as Capello focuses on winning the World Cup.

Capello has been ruthless, discarding some regular faces when he circled the names of King, Carragher and Zamora.

England's players really are playing for their places now, with friendlies against Japan and Mexico to come before Capello trims his squad to the final 23.

In his mind he has "18 or 19" names settled, but there is still time to break in to a squad which qualified for the finals with something to spare.

England's management gave Wayne Bridge one last shot at it, sending a text to the Manchester City left-back last Monday to ask if he had reconsidered.

He hasn't, taking the moral high ground in his dispute with former team-mate John Terry and maintaining that he will never play in the same side.

Capello swiftly moved on, settling on a group of players who will fly to Graz on May 17 for a week-long training camp in the Austrian Alps.

He will monitor their mental approach at the Schloss-Hotel, sizing up the players who can thrive in tournament conditions.

Zamora is desperate to declare himself fit, but still unsure whether he will make Wednesday's Europa League Final against Atletico Madrid. He has been troubled by his Achilles injury for several weeks, unable to train since he was substituted during Fulham's remarkable semi-final win over Hamburg last week.

England's medical team are in regular contact with Fulham's physios as they prepare to build a field hospital in South Africa.

At some stage, Zamora will require an operation on the condition, spending six weeks on the sidelines before he starts again next season.

England are convinced they can manage Spurs ace King's chronic knee condition during the tournament, massaging the affected area and getting him through a World Cup.

They want Carragher to be part of their reserve defensive pairing too, pleading with the Liverpool defender to reconsider his decision to retire from international football.

Carrgaher quit England in 2008 after he was overlooked by Steve McClaren for the Euro qualifier in Estonia, left out of the team at expense of King. He has not played since, insisting his international career is over after 34 caps.

That may be about to change after several meetings with Capello, convinced that this time he may be about to become an England regular.

Capello has other decisions to make over the weekend, scheduling several meetings with general manager Franco Baldini and some of England's numerous backroom staff.

He will name three keepers on Tuesday, with Joe Hart emerging as England's possible first choice after an outstanding season on loan at Birmingham.

Although he has only played once for his country, against Trinidad & Tobago in June 2008, Hart will get his chance during England's friendlies.

Robert Green played in the last game, against Egypt at Wembley in March, but his postion as England No1 is in jeopardy.

Hart's solid performances for Birmingham have earned him a place in the squad alongside David James.

Capello will use the next 48 hours to assess other options, with Scott Parker a potential addition to replace Gareth Barry.

The West Ham star has not been involved since the fateful 4-1 defeat against Croatia in Zagreb in 2007, but he is suddenly back on the radar.

Capello is reluctant to change his formation at this stage, preferring to find a replacement for Barry instead of bringing Steven Gerrard in from the left.

James Milner is another option in the centre of midfield after his successful conversion into the position this season under Martin O'Neill at Aston Villa.

The alternative is to name Joe Cole in the squad, a potential solution to the problem out on the left if Gerrard moved inside.

Capello recently admitted that Cole was "not the player I remember" but he does have tournament pedigree.

The Chelsea midfielder was one of two players, with Owen Hargreaves, to emerge with their reputations enhanced following exit at the 2006 World Cup.

But he has struggled to make an impact under Carlo Ancelotti at Chelsea despite making a full recovery from an anterior cruciate ligament injury.

Capello does like his unpredictability, his potential to offer something different. But his chances are no more than 50:50 with his direct rival Manchester City's Adam Johnson.

The Under-21 international has never played at the top level.

But, as several players will discover when Capello names his final 23-man squad on June 1, the caps count for nothing.

Instead it's all come down to quality.

White Noise


Winger could miss Europa League Final

By Garry Doyle, 08/05/2010

WHEN it comes to injuries, Damien has always been a bad omen.

Cursed with dislocated shoulders, broken feet, hamstring tears and now a damaged calf, Damien Duff is in danger of missing out on the biggest night in Fulham's history.

If that happens - although Fulham boss Roy Hodgson believes it won't - then sympathy for the Ireland international will be in plentiful supply, even from those who show little tolerance for footballers and their oversized egos.

That's precisely because Duff has always kept his ego firmly in check, resulting in the winger enjoying the rarest of experiences, namely respect from opposition fans and a word of praise from the world's self-appointed moral guardian, Eamon Dunphy.

"He has a humility about him," said Dunphy, "which all of our top sports stars have - DJ Carey, Tony McCoy, Brian O'Driscoll."

To be name-checked in that sort of category is quite a compliment given the success of the aforementioned.

But then again, people forget that Duff has had a successful career too, winning two League titles and two Carling Cups with Chelsea and Blackburn, and if he adds the Europa League to his collection on Wednesday, then he'll become the 13th most successful Irish player in history.

But will he get that chance?

"I'm hoping he will," said Hodgson yesterday. "But it's a decision we won't take until late on. The boy certainly wants to play. He wants it badly."

Wanting it badly has been the strength and weakness of Duff's career. Notoriously hard on himself when things go wrong, he took Newcastle's relegation from the Premier League last year personally - the 31-year-old has found life difficult when injury has visited.

That's why Fulham's remarkable journey across Europe this season has been a kind of redemption.

Duff said: "I was at a low point at the end of last season. So what I have experienced with Fulham is a world apart from the grind of a relegation battle.

"Newcastle was tough. I always loved the game, but I suppose when you're not happy, you carry that out on the pitch.

"Those times are now long gone and from a personal point of view, I wanted to get my career back on track and start playing the football I know I can produce. I needed to get my career going again."

He needed to do so because of the age he was at.

Having passed the 30-mark and been long forgotten as a key member of Chelsea's Mourinho years, the days of Champions League semi-finals and Premier League celebrations belonged firmly to the past.

At Newcastle, he managed only 61 Premier League starts in three years. But with Fulham he has featured in 50 competitive games already this season. It's a big difference.

"You can see it in his body language," said Giovanni Trapattoni. "He is a happy player, a happy man.

"People ask me about his age and whether I worry, but I say 'no, why should I?'. It is not as if he is in decline. He is playing as well now as ever.

"Damien has a big personality, a big heart, a big character. He is a winner."

Last November, though, he was cheated out of winning, along with every other Irishman when Thierry Henry's handball denied him a chance to go to a second World Cup.

And it was then that the world saw a real bite to his personality, which was always there in spite of the image of him sleeping his way through afternoons and evenings.

Then Duff said: "Do I think it's a conspiracy? Definitely. FIFA want the big teams in the World Cup, they want France in the World Cup and it may sound silly but they want teams sponsored by Adidas.

"Adidas sponsor the World Cup, they sponsor France. Michel Platini has a lot of influence as well."

The fact Adidas also sponsored Duff didn't deter him from hitting out.

He was an angry man and knew the implications of Henry's skulduggery

"At 31, this may be my last chance of getting to the finals," he said.

And now months later, he is getting to another final.

And okay, it is Fulham, a club he had no emotional attachment to prior to becoming their employee, who have brought him there.

And okay it the Europa League, which sounds more like a Norwegian pop band rather than a top-class soccer competition.

But when you have been through the mill as often as Duff has, it's a prize worth pursuing.

"As a footballer, you want to play regularly," he once said. "That's first and foremost.

"After that, you want to win. You want to look back on your career and count the number of medals you have won, not the amount of money you have earned.

"All I've ever wanted to do was play. And I'll continue to play until I drop, until the body completely gives up on me. If that is for The Dog and Duck in a pub league, then so be it."

For all its shortcomings, the Europa is not quite a pub league. Victory would carry meaning. For Duff, it could well be a last hurrah.

White Noise


London return appeals to midfielder

By Neil Ashton, 08/05/2010

STEVEN SIDWELL is on the verge of a cut-price move to Fulham after being told he can quit Aston Villa.

The midfielder has become increasingly disillusioned with life at Villa Park and will return to London in the summer.

Villa chief Martin O'Neill has made it clear he doesn't fancy a player he signed from Chelsea two years ago.

Although Sidwell's salary will cause Fulham a problem, they are hoping to sign him on a reduced deal from Villa.

Striker Andrew Johnson is Fulham's best paid player on £50,000 a week, but the club are reluctant to put others on a similar pay scale.

Sidwell has been commuting to Villa's training ground this season from his home in south London and wants a club in the capital.

Although West Ham is an alternative option, Hodgson has a knack of resurrecting careers.

Sidwell's has been at a standstill ever since he signed for Villa and he is desperate to get away after a frustrating spell in the Midlands.

Fulham are the first club to show a firm interest in the central midfielder and will open talks with Villa after the Europa Cup Final.

White Noise


Contract concerns at Craven Cottage

By Neil Ashton, 08/05/2010

FULHAM fear they will lose seven of their star players - plus Roy Hodgson.

Skipper Danny Murphy, keeper Mark Schwarzer, Simon Davies, Paul Konchesky, Zoltan Gera, Dickson Etuhu and John Pantsil all have just one year left on their existing deals.

Many of them are fretting over their futures but they have been told to wait until after Wednesday's Europa Cup Final against Atletico Madrid.

Hodgson has been targeted by Liverpool as a potential replacement for Rafael Benitez after steering Fulham to the most successful season in their history.

Fulham will be operating under increased expectations next season and the futures of key players must be resolved in order to do it.

The Fulham squad is very close-knit and they are keen to stay together.

But the club runs the risk of players signing pre-contract agreements next January and the club is running out of time.

Murphy has been inspirational again this season and Konchesky has resurrected his career at Craven Cottage after his career at West Ham came to a close.

Once considered to be a potential England left-back, he has rediscovered his form under Hodgson's careful management.

The Fulham chief has a remarkable record of spotting wasted talent and is responsible for turning around the careers of several stars.

He saved the club from relegation last season and led them to a mid-table finish plus that Europa Cup Final.

Hodgson has rebuilt the club from top to bottom and has established a core group of players who are desperate to stay together.

Schwarzer is another key ingredient to Fulham's success and Davies became a cult hero after scoring the equalising goal against Hamburg in the Europa Cup semi-final.

White Noise


Fulham boss still has big club ambitions

By Greg Gobere, 08/05/2010

ROY HODGSON has issued a "come and get me" plea to Liverpool.

Kop manager Rafa Benitez is considering walking out of Anfield in the summer to join Italian giants Juventus.

Hodgson yesterday dropped a huge hint that he is ready to replace him.

The Fulham chief - who we revealed last week is favourite for the Liverpool job - declared: "If the day comes when a big club wants me and I am available then I would be happy to do it.

"This, I guess, is my period and the speculation is rife around me at the moment, but it will be rife around someone else in the future."

Hodgson, 62, has become a wanted man after guiding Fulham to the Europa League Final - the unfashionable London club's biggest day in their history.

But he confessed that he has picked jobs in the past that have not been the best for his career.

Hodgson has managed high-profile sides Inter Milan, Blackburn and the Norwegian national team.

But he has also bossed more obscure teams Grasshoppers, Viking and the UAE.

"If you really want to be the guy who is involved in European Cup finals every year, you have to choose your clubs very carefully," he added.

"My fault in the past has always been that I can't bear not working so whenever I leave a job I have a tremendous tendency - probably not always intelligent of me - to jump at the first job that comes my way that sounds half-decent.

"I jump without thinking: 'How does this effect my position on the ladder of things?'

"If I was thinking like that I never would have taken the job at Grasshoppers.

"I haven't regretted it. That's the strange thing, but perhaps I should have done. I don't know.

"I've gone sideways, backwards and then upwards again. If you did a graph of my career it would look like a Kandinsky painting."


Murphy's, Pantsil's, Konchesky's, Gera's, Etuhu's and Schwarzer's contracts all expire in 2011, we've got plenty on time to sort out their contracts. Another example of poor journalism just to fill gossip pages.

White Noise


By Greg Gobere, 08/05/2010

FULHAM defender John Pantsil says he is not treating today's game against Arsenal as a mere warm-up for the Europa League Cup Final.

There is a big prize at stake when the Cottagers reach the climax of their fantastic journey against Atletico Madrid in Hamburg next Wednesday.

But the 28-year-old Ghanaian defender said: "We won't be thinking about Europe, so it won't be a distraction for us. If anything, we need to get a result against a big team like Arsenal to boost our morale for the final.

"Manager Roy Hodgson has told us the same thing. He isn't talking about anything else, just the next game.

"He has told us how important it is to do well against Arsenal for our spirit and morale next week.

"Arsenal is going to be tough because it's a home game for them and they need to give something to their fans this season.

"And the league is still important to us because we want to finish in the top 10. It won't be easy for either side."

Fulham v Atletico Madrid: Zoltan Gera eager to gain Europa League honours for Fulham
Fulham's dynamic Hungarian forward has found his spiritual home and relishing his freedom under Roy Hodgson.

Fulham's captivating run to the Europa League final has been about the collective. Roy Hodgson has assembled 11 individuals and through intense coaching, coaxed them into thinking as one.

Yet as this machine has ground its way impressively round Europe, one part has been outstanding: Zoltan Gera. In the 13 games it has taken to get to Wednesday's meeting with Atlético Madrid, the Hungary forward has scored six goals, including two in the famous win over Juventus and the goal that took them to Hamburg 10 days ago.

"I enjoy playing against foreign teams, I enjoy playing in Europe," he said. "Yes, I've scored a few important goals but you need the whole team. Maybe European football is a bit easier than the Premier League, I have more time on the ball. It's not as tight as in the Premier League."

Gera's guile will be essential if Fulham are to win the first major trophy in their history in the Nordbank Arena, the idea of which has Gera bursting with enthusiasm.

"This is a fantastic time to play for Fulham," he said. "Last season we got the best position for Fulham in the Premier League and this season we have got into a European final. At the moment I can't really imagine what we have done.

"I think in a few years' time I will look back and then realise what we have done. This is the best achievement of my career."

For all his heroics, he remains something of an enigmatic figure. Zolly, as he is known down at the Motspur Park training ground, is quite a strange man.

His bizarre use of the English language and his deliberate buffoonery have his team-mates in stitches.

His former team-mate Jimmy Bullard describes him as a "proper oddball and a very weird kid" who has "the weirdest banter of anyone I've ever come across". And that's coming from Bullard, who's mad as a bag of snakes.

"I like to have a bit of fun," he said. "I like to speak in the dressing room. I just want to have happy people around me. So if I see a few players that are down I try to make them laugh. My English isn't perfect so when I try to speak everyone finds it funny."

Gera's charisma is at work. As part of the Premier League's Places for Players scheme, he is down at the club's training ground to help promote Fulham's donation of £20,000 to Sports Action Zone charity.

The money is going towards building floodlights at the Lilian Baylis Community Hub in Lambeth, plagued by gang violence and one of London's most deprived boroughs.

The floodlights will give thousands more kids the chance to play and coach football in the evening rather than be out on the streets. It says everything about Fulham as a club that, despite having three games in a week on top of all the work of preparing for a major European final that they are taking the time to honour their commitment, as well as run a training session for local schoolchildren.

Gera does not need to be told about the risks teenagers are exposed to on the streets – it nearly cost him his career. From the age of 11, growing up in the Hungarian town of Pecs, he was in trouble, smoking and drinking and joining a local gang.

His parents' divorce sent him spiralling; he began using drugs on top of his drinking and started hanging out in gaming rooms. With his health deteriorating and football far from his thoughts, his father introduced Gera to a local church and his ensuing faith returned a structure to his life.

"Had I not found God, I would probably be a good-for-nothing drug-addict, or even worse, dead," he has written. Trying to get back to playing was a real effort and few thought he would recover enough to turn professional.

"I looked like a skeleton. I remember that I often had to stop training, because I had pain in my joints. And it took time for the pain to go away..."

Having come so close to losing everything, Gera was possessed with a determination to succeed. He worked his way up to playing for Hungary's top club, Ferencváros, captained his national side and got a move to England with West Bromwich Albion.

He moved to Fulham on a free transfer two seasons ago and, having just turned 31, is playing the best football of his career.

Much of this is down to Hodgson, who Gera describes as a "very, very clever" coach. The Fulham manager has moved Gera to playing in a free role behind the striker.

"I love this position, just behind Bobby Zamora," he said. "It's very good for me but I need to work hard because I need to get back to defend. I enjoy it – I get a lot of the ball, lots of touches, I get chances, I can score goals."

As Atlético may discover to their disadvantage.

My 5 Keys to Victory for Fulham Against Arsenal - Match Preview

Fulham play tomorrow against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. The game takes place at 4PM UK Time and 11 AM EST. The game will not be shown live in the U.S. The game will be shown on Fox Soccer Plus at 1 PM EST taped delay.  In the League, Arsenal currently sit 3rd. Fulham are currently in 12th.

This is an incredibly difficult match for Fulham to win tomorrow. The focus of the club is probably on this Wednesday's Final. I do expect the players for Fulham to give their best tomorrow. Fulham did use many replacements in the West Ham and Everton matches. I thought the players who did play gave tremendous effort. I expect the same effort tomorrow.  Below are "my 5 keys to victory for Fulham against Arsenal."   

1. Who will be in the lineup tomorrow?  I guess you could say this is the most important key to the match for Fulham.  Will Roy Hodgson make a few changes or many to the lineup tomorrow? In my opinion I do expect to see players like Jonathan Greening, Chris Smalling, and Kagisho Dikgacoi to play.

2. Fulham's strikers need to take advantage of any opportunity they get to score.  I expect the opportunities for Fulham to score tomorrow to be minimal. Erik Nevland scored against Everton on a mistake by the defense passing the ball back. He intercepted the pass and scored. They are going to probably need Arsenal to make some mistakes tomorrow. 

3. Fulham need to contain Robin van Persie and Andrei Arshavin. These players, I have been reading online that they should be starting. Both players can score goals and are extremely dangerous.  A player like Chris Smalling is going to have to step up and be solid on defense. At this point I have no idea who else Hodgson will start in back four.  I have a good feeling though that Smalling will be included. If the back four of Fulham can contain these two players for Arsenal,  Fulham can hang around in this match.

4.  Kagisho Dikgacoi and Jonathan Greening need to be solid in the midfield.  I would be completely shocked to see Danny Murphy and Dickson Etuhu to be playing against Arsenal.  Dikgacoi at times has played decent in the midfield . This could be his opportunity to shine. For Fulham again to have a chance,  they are going to need these players as well to step up their game.

5. Mark Schwarzer again will need to be exceptional . Now, I am going on the assumption that he will be playing tomorrow as the starting goalkeeper. Schwarzer has shown the ability to keep Fulham in matches. He will have to be razor sharp tomorrow against the attack I am expecting from Arsenal tomorrow.   

I guess you could say I am not terribly optimistic about the match tomorrow. The one thing I will say is when their have been many changes to the Fulham lineup, the players have stepped up their game. They don't beat themselves. Fulham are always a very disciplined club it seems no matter who is playing. Arsenal will have to beat them.   

Finally,  Please do check out the preview by Ted Harwood on SBNation' s Arsenal Fans site. He is the writer for the excellent site The Short Fuse.  He will give you the perspective from an Arsenal fan.

Hangeland fearless for final
Cottagers defender hopeful Hodgson will stay put

Fulham defender Brede Hangeland has vowed that the team will do everything in their power to win the Europa League trophy.

The Cottagers end their season at the Emirates Stadium against Arsenal on Sunday before travelling to Hamburg to face Atletico Madrid on Wednesday in the club's first European final in their history.

The Norwegian centre back was full of praise for the club's inspirational manager Roy Hodgson, but admitted that if they were to win the trophy, the 62-year-old could well depart Craven Cottage for a bigger challenge this summer.

"I hope Roy will stay for a long time. He's a great manager and we all enjoy working with him," said Hangeland.

"I haven't thought about whether success could cost us our manager and that certainly won't stop us from trying our best.

"It's bit of a fairytale for this club and I'd say it's mostly down to him. You could write a book about what makes him special."

Indeed, when Hodgson took over the club in January 2008, Fulham were languishing in the lower reaches of the Premier League, with a spirited fightback in the final games keeping them in the division.

Since then, the club have gone from strength to strength, hitting the top half of the table last year, qualifying for Europe, and sitting comfortably in mid-table despite their exertions on the continent this term.

"Roy's the main reason why we have come from battling relegation to playing in a European cup final," Hangeland added.

"He works very well with the team, his organisation is good and he has brought in some big players.

"I have learnt a lot from him tactically and about how to be a professional. He does all the work himself and doesn't tell others to do it. All the players buy into what he does."

The 28-year-old also stated how much his side were looking forward to the final, hailing the achievement of his team-mates for getting to this stage.

But the defender was adamant that Fulham were not there to make up the numbers, and would be more than a match for Atletico, who defeated Liverpool in the semi-final of the competition to reach this stage.

"Hopefully we can top what we've achieved by winning the final. When we started we didn't even think about reaching the final.

"The Europa League was almost a distraction to the Premier League but the closer you get the more you think about it.

"It would be massive to win the final, though it's great to have got this far.

"If we win it's a bonus and while we'll try to do our best, it's important to enjoy it."

Factbox: Former Harrods owner Mohamed al-Fayed

(Reuters) - Egyptian-born businessman Mohamed al-Fayed has sold prestigious London department store Harrods to the investment vehicle of the Qatar royal family in a deal reported to be worth around 1.5 billion pounds ($2.3 billion).


Following are facts about al-Fayed:


He was born on January 27, 1933, in Alexandria, where he founded his own company in 1956. From the 1960s he has lived primarily in the United Kingdom.


In a rancorous takeover in 1985, he beat mining giant Lonrho to purchase the House of Fraser, the holding company controlling Harrods.

Spurred on by Lonrho's Tiny Rowland, the government accused al-Fayed of having misrepresented his ability to finance the takeover.

Though he proved his solvency, his name did not appear on The Sunday Times annual list of the wealthiest people in Britain until 1997.

His relationship with the British establishment was further strained by his involvement in the "cash-for-questions" scandal that arose in 1994, after he said he had paid politicians to table parliamentary questions on his behalf.


Al-Fayed's son Dodi was killed with Princess Diana in a car crash in Paris in 1997.

Al-Fayed said in 2008 that he accepted the verdict of an inquest jury and was giving up his legal attempts to show the couple were murdered.

The inquest ruled that Diana and her lover Dodi were unlawfully killed by the grossly negligent driving of their chauffeur and paparazzi photographers pursuing them in a Paris road tunnel.

Al-Fayed had accused Queen Elizabeth's husband Prince Philip, Diana's former father-in-law, of ordering British security services to kill her and stop her marrying a Muslim and having his baby.


Al-Fayed has owned London soccer club Fulham since 1997. The team is appearing in the final of the Europa Cup against Atletico Madrid on Wednesday, the biggest game in its history

Fulham boss Roy Hodgson the history man as he prepares to lead Londoners into Europa League final

It is open day at Fulham and in some small corner of a Surrey field, the players speak about Roy Hodgson. For Danny Murphy, the manager is ‘calm’.
For Simon Davies, he is ‘never flustered’. And for Zoltan Gera, he is impeccably consistent. ‘It could be Accrington Stanley or Juventus, he prepares us just the same,’ he says. ‘Always the same.’.
A reporter senses a small hesitation, even deviation from the party line. Do you ever get bored, doing the same thing day after day? ‘Yes, to be honest. Sometimes,’ says the Hungary striker.

Hail to the chief: Roy Hodgson milks the fans' applause after Fulham's clash with Stoke

Then he adds: ‘But it’s working and I’m a professional. So I do it.’
Players rarely criticise managers, especially on the eve of a European final. But if they have reservations, they find ways of conveying their doubts. The Fulham players simply turn to the facts.
After emerging from the group stages of the Europa League, the coach has plotted
a path past the holders Shakhtar, Juventus, Wolfsburg and, in the semi-finals, Hamburg.
On Wednesday evening, back in Hamburg, they will face Atletico Madrid and they will be carrying more confidence than a side of Fulham’s status ought to possess.
Where Hodgson is concerned, the doubts have departed.
This week, his peers will surely fete him as manager of the year. At 62, it is a remarkable effort, and you sense that he is enjoying the attention rather more than he admits. He has always commanded respect but these days people seem to be listening a little more closely.
Thirty-four years in football management have equipped him with the courage to be self-effacing.
‘We go to football to see players. We don’t go to see coaches,’ he says. ‘Coaches should never take credit for individual performances. It’s the players who take credit for that. We try to make the environment so conducive to their way of playing that they thrive in it.’
There are many managers who would not subscribe to that view and not all of them are called Jose. But Hodgson has given it much thought and his demeanour on the bench suggests that he practises his preaching.

Huge week: Roy Hodgson and Jonathan Greening at training ahead of Fulham's Europa League final clash with Atletico Madrid

His CV is startling. He has coached club and national sides in Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, Denmark, the United Arab Emirates, Norway and Finland, as well as England.
The accent, initially suburban Croydon, has acquired all manner of interesting inflections on his travels.
But as he sits in his training top, the sweat of the morning session staining his face, you can understand why young men might be impressed by his self-assurance.
Wednesday’s opponents have flirted with the peaks of Europe for many a year, so might the air be a little rarefied for Fulham?
Hodgson is word-perfect in his rationale: ‘To get here we’ve had to beat good teams over 180 minutes. You can’t play badly for two legs and go through. One-off, anything can happen.
We’re talking about a single final, but our confidence is high, the players believe in what they do.’
Hodgson took Inter Milan to a UEFA Cup final back in 1997. How deeply does he regret the 13-year gap? Again, the answer is considered: ‘If you want to reach European finals, you’ve got to work for one of, say, 20 clubs.
'Quite often you find managers who get to five or six finals in their career. But that’s because when they leave one massive club, they join another massive club. Most of my career, with the one glorious exception of Inter, mine have not been those clubs.
‘If you really want to be the guy who says “My aim is to be in a European final every year”, you’ve got to choose your clubs very carefully. Jose Mourinho’s done very well, but if he wants to reach a few more finals, he’ has to be very careful where he goes.’

Fan-tastic: Fulham supporters love their manager Roy Hodgson

Hodgson’s words invite questions about his own future, about the speculation which links him with Liverpool and other, richer clubs than the one by the Thames.
The answer could have been read from a prompt-card: ‘If the day comes when a so-called big club want me, then I’d be very happy to do it. But if the question is “Are you putting yourself on the market to get the biggest club you can get?”, then the answer is “No I’m not”.
'I’ve signed a contract here, I’m happy at Fulham and until I hear otherwise, that’s where I’ll be working.’
Clearly he enjoys his Fulham experience and the attention it has brought him. He understands how the club work, their place in football’s pecking order.
‘The Premier League can’t have only Liverpools, Man Uniteds, Chelseas and Arsenals,’ he says. ‘There’s got to be others as well. Next season will be this club’s 10th successive season in the Premier League. I think that’s a fantastic achievement.

‘We’re in a very big group of clubs. We don’t pretend to be like the big four. We don’t have that wealth, that fan base. We’ll never be able to operate in the way they do. What we can do is to operate as well and as sensibly as we can within our means. And there are a lot of clubs like us: good Premier standard but maybe can’t be expecting to be in European finals every year.’
But this year, one of those clubs have made it. A fine coach has found the energy and imagination to conjure from his players performances which seemed beyond them.
He attempts to explain the limits of his contribution: ‘Coaches lead players to the water and the players decide whether they want to drink, or jump over the stream’.
For the first and only time, he sounds a little like David Brent. To his credit, he seems to realise it. A small blush flits across his face. It is all very Fulhamish. They deserve to make their own history in Hamburg.

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Hangeland vows to give it his all

Brede Hangeland insists Fulham will give everything to win the Europa League despite knowing victory could hasten the departure of Roy Hodgson.

Hodgson has been riding the crest of a wave since guiding Fulham into Wednesday night's final against Atletico Madrid at the Hamburg Arena.

The 62-year-old has worked miracles on a limited budget at Craven Cottage and has been linked with a move to Liverpool and the England job should Fabio Capello step down after the World Cup.

Fulham are desperate to keep Hodgson but Europa League glory would only make him more desirable to suitors.

"I hope Roy will stay for a long time. He's a great manager and we all enjoy working with him," said Hangeland.

"I haven't thought about whether success could cost us our manager and that certainly won't stop us from trying our best."

Hodgson's two-and-a-half year reign at Craven Cottage has ushered in the most successful period in Fulham's 131-year history.

He rescued the club from relegation in 2008 and the following season oversaw their highest top-flight finish with seventh.

This term they have reached the FA Cup quarter-finals and will end the Barclays Premier League against Arsenal on Sunday entrenched in mid-table before descending on Hamburg.

"Roy's the main reason why we have come from battling relegation to playing in a European cup final," said Hangeland.

"It's bit of a fairytale for this club and I'd say it's mostly down to him. You could write a book about what makes him special.

"He works very well with the team, his organisation is good and he has brought in some big players.

"Not necessarily big-name players, but good players who have made us strong as a team and I'd say that's what describes us.

"I worked with Roy at Viking Stavanger and got to know him well. He was doing the same stuff then that he does now, which proves that he believes in his football philosophy.

"I have learnt a lot from him tactically and about how to be a professional.

"He does all the work himself and doesn't tell others to do it. All the players buy into what he does."

Brede Hangeland hopeful of long Fulham stay for Roy Hodgson
Defender hopes success does not attract potential suitors...

Fulham defender Brede Hangeland hopes manager Roy Hodgson remains at the club for years to come in the wake of rumours linking the experienced boss with other teams.

Hodgson has garnered high praise over the last two years, steering Fulham from relegation candidates to Europa League finalists with limited resources at his disposal.

The former Switzerland and Inter boss has had his name mentioned in the Liverpool managerial saga but has moved to declare his commitment to his contract at Craven Cottage.

Hangeland attributes the club's change of fortunes to the man who brought him to the club.

"I hope Roy will stay for a long time," he said, according to Sky Sports. "He's a great manager and we all enjoy working with him.

"I haven't thought about whether success could cost us our manager and that certainly won't stop us from trying our best.

"It's a bit of a fairytale for this club and I'd say it's mostly down to him. You could write a book about what makes him special."

Fulham take on Atletico Madrid in the Europa League final on Wednesday and Hangeland believes achieving glory in Hamburg would be the icing on the cake of another progressive season.

"Hopefully we can top what we've achieved by winning the final. When we started we didn't even think about reaching the final.

"The Europa League was almost a distraction to the Premier League but the closer you get the more you think about it.

"It would be massive to win the final, though it's great to have got this far.

"If we win it's a bonus and while we'll try to do our best, it's important to enjoy it."

Hands off, Hodgson: Billionaire Fayed - I won't sell Fulham and Roy is staying

Roy Hodgson has been assured that Mohamed Fayed remains committed to Fulham after the shock news the club's owner is selling his flagship London store, Harrods, for £1.5billion.
With the club preparing for the biggest day in their 131-year history when they play Atletico Madrid in the Europa League final on Wednesday, Fayed yesterday sold the famous store to Qatar Holdings.

Ful of it: Mohamed Al Fayed remains committed to Fulham despite selling Harrords

Fayed, 81, is easing back from business life. He has bankrolled Fulham since taking the club from the bottom tier of the Football League in 1997 to the Premier League and this week's Europa League final.
'Just because you sell your house doesn't mean you will sell your car,' said a source close to Fayed, insisting the sale would have no bearing on Fulham, despite the fact the club owe £167.6million to companies owned by Fayed and made a loss of £6.8m last year.

Hodgson's heroics have made him one of the most sought-after managers and while it would be difficult for Fulham to stand in his way should Liverpool - or even England - offer him a job, Fayed is said to be determined to keep his inspirational manager at the club for next season and has just handed him a new rolling one-year contract.
Although Fayed used to support the club through loans from Harrods, those have been paid back in recent years and are now guaranteed by his own trust fund and his companies in the British Virgin Islands and Bermuda.

His sons, Omar and Karim, are both active members of the Fulham board and the team's resurgence under Hodgson is said to have rekindled his attachment to the club.

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World Cup 2010: Bobby Zamora to head list of new names in Fabio Capello's squad
Bobby Zamora. Adam Johnson. Jamie Carragher. Wayne Bridge. Ledley King. Owen Hargreaves. The uncapped; the retired; the dodgily kneed. All are welcome in Fabio Capello's broad church.

With two days to go before he names his provisional squad for World Cup 2010 in South Africa, every option is being examined as he tries different combinations in his 30-piece jigsaw.

Sources in the England camp have said that "there will be new players" in the provisional squad and that there could be some inclusions that would have seemed inconceivable a couple of weeks ago.

Capello will announce the 30-man squad at Wembley on Tuesday afternoon and those players will fly out to their training camp in Irdning in Austria on Saturday.

The England manager and his coaching staff will monitor the players closely over their two weeks in Austria, and check their match form in friendlies with Mexico on May 25 and Japan on May 30. The final 23-man squad must be named by midnight on June 1.

Zamora, his Achilles injury permitting, will be included. The Football Association sent him a letter last week requesting that he is available and Capello has been seriously impressed by the way he has performed in Fulham's run to the Europa League.

He has yet to be capped but is more mobile than Peter Crouch, and in better form than Emile Heskey and Carlton Cole. That he has played as a lone forward all season must count heavily in his favour.

What Capello will be trying to ascertain is whether he can play on the same wavelength as the likes of Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard, with whom Heskey has always combined well.

Hargreaves and Johnson could well be the beneficiaries of Gareth Barry's ankle injury. The loss of the Manchester City midfielder has hit the England management hard as they are short of cover in the holding position.

Michael Carrick has not been playing for United and has struggled to cope with big games while Tom Huddlestone is talented but inexperienced. Both will be in the provisional squad but Capello is keen to look at other options for the position alongside Frank Lampard in central midfield.

The most convincing is James Milner, who has played in central midfield for Aston Villa all season – Capello thinks he is the most improved England player of the season. That would free up a slot out wide: that will come down to a straight fight between Adam Johnson and Joe Cole, with the former probably edging it.

Capello used to value Cole very highly and is conscious that he was one of the few England players to perform well in Germany four years ago.

Yet he has struggled to get into the Chelsea team for a sustained run and his form has suffered. Capello is at Stamford Bridge for Chelsea's game with Wigan this afternoon. Cole has one last chance to convince the Italian he should be in the provisional squad. On recent evidence it will be a task beyond him.

The riskier choice is to select Hargreaves. He is the best English holding midfielder around but has only played a few minutes of football in the last 18 months, after coming on against Sunderland last Sunday. With a month to go, Capello might just take him in the 30 and have a close look at how quickly he can get match fit. Scott Parker is the only other realistic option.

It is with his defenders that Capello has the most difficult balancing act to strike. Rio Ferdinand's back problems, and the related injuries he has suffered this season, have been described as a "real challenge" by the England camp and while there was an optimistic prognosis from Manchester United's medical team, his fitness throughout the tournament cannot be relied upon.

King will be included in the squad. It seems bizarre to take a man who cannot train to a training camp but the Tottenham captain is in formidable form and Capello will be content to give him game time in England's friendlies with Mexico and Japan. In between he will stick to his Spurs programme of anaerobic work on the bike and in the pool. His Spurs defensive partner, Michael Dawson, is also a strong candidate.

With King only able to play once every six days and Glen Johnson having a calf problem, flexible cover is needed. That means a player who can play at full-back and centre-back – hence the efforts to get Carragher out of retirement.

A real European football enthusiast, Carragher likes the idea of working under Capello but is concerned about the public reaction. Two years ago, in his autobiography, he wrote that it hurt him less losing with England than with Liverpool. If he cannot be persuaded, then Phil Jagielka, Wes Brown or even fit-again Joleon Lescott could come in.

The England management team have pretty much conceded in their fight to get Bridge to end his self-imposed exile. The City left-back does not want to be in the same dressing room as John Terry after the scandal involving Vanessa Perroncel and, despite being asked to change his mind last Monday, he is sticking to his position.

With a full round of Premier League fixtures this afternoon, and several issues of fitness still to be decided, Capello is prepared to think on his feet.

The Fifa rules allow, in the case of serious injury, a replacement from outside the 30-man provisional squad as late as 24 hours before the first game with the United States in Rustenburg on June 12.

That means he will only take three goalkeepers to Irdning – Rob Green, David James and Joe Hart – with Paul Robinson on standby should anything befall them.

For many others, the hopes of going to South Africa will be killed off on Tuesday. Nothing is settled, but the likes of Ashley Young, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Darren Bent, Stephen Warnock, Lescott and, yes, Joe Cole must sense disappointment on the horizon.

England's likely provisional 30-man squad for the World Cup

Robert Green (West Ham)
Caps 9 Goals 0
David James (Portsmouth)
Caps 49 Goals 0
Joe Hart (Manchester City)
Caps 1 Goals 0
Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United)
Caps 76, Goals 3
John Terry (Chelsea)
Caps 59, Goals 6
Matthew Upson (West Ham)
Caps 19, Goals 1
Ledley King (Tottenham)
Caps 19 Goals 1
Michael Dawson (Tottenham)
Caps 0
Wes Brown (Manchester United)
Caps 23, Goals 1
Phil Jagielka (Everton)
Caps 3 Goals 0
Glen Johnson (Liverpool)
Caps 20 Goals 0
Ashley Cole (Chelsea)
Caps 77 Goals 0
Jamie Carragher (Liverpool)
Caps 34 Goals 0
Leighton Baines (Everton)
Caps 1 Goals 0
Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)
Caps 78 Goals 16
Frank Lampard (Chelsea)
Caps 77 Goals 20
James Milner (Aston Villa)
Caps 7 Goals 0
Michael Carrick (Manchester United)
Caps 21 Goals 0
Tom Huddlestone (Tottenham)
Caps 1 Goals 0
Theo Walcott (Arsenal)
Caps 9 Goals 3
Aaron Lennon (Tottenham)
Caps 15 Goals 0
Shaun Wright-Phillips (Manchester City)
Caps 30 Goals 6
Stewart Downing (Aston Villa)
Caps 23 Goals 0
Adam Johnson (Manchester City)
Caps 0 Goals 0
Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
Caps 58 Goals 25
Jermain Defoe (Tottenham)
Caps 39 Goals 11
Peter Crouch (Tottenham)
Caps 37 Goals 20
Emile Heskey (Aston Villa)
Caps 57 Goals 7
Carlton Cole (West Ham)
Caps 7 Goals 0
Bobby Zamora (Fulham)
Caps 0 Goals 0
Key dates

May 11: Provisional 30-man squad announced
May 25: England v Mexico (Wembley)
May 30: England v Japan (Graz)
June 1: Final 23-man squad announced.


ROY Hodgson will be an Aston Villa target if Martin O'Neill decides to quit.

Hodgson, 62, has become football's hottest property after leading a team of journeymen players to the Europa League Final.

And his man-management and ­tactical skills have not gone unnoticed with Liverpool, Juventus and now Villa once again sifting through an ­impressive CV that has criss-crossed Europe with glowing results.

Hodgson, who has managed Italian giants Inter as well as winning league titles in Sweden with Halmstads and Malmo, has tried to keep a low ­profile, leaving it to others to do the talking.

But he finally broke his silence yesterday to talk of the future.

He said: "If the day comes when a ­so-called big club comes calling, I will do it. But if you are asking me if I am ­using this moment to get a big club, then the answer is no.

"I am under contract here. I am ­happy, I have done things, achieved things I wanted to do. I can't stop speculation. I can't stop my name being linked to clubs like ­Liverpool. I guess this is my period."

Hodgson's comments will certainly alert Villa, where O'Neill seems to be going through an uneasy period in his relationship with the club.

Football's grapevine has been ­buzzing for weeks over the fact he has been thinking over his future.

Meanwhile, Hodgson's thoughts on his future have left Fulham hero Zoltan Gera horrified at the prospect of him quitting Craven Cottage.

Hungarian Gera, 31, who scored the goal against Hamburg to put them into Wednesday's final against Atletico ­Madrid, said: "Roy Hodgson has made me the player that I am now and I don't want him to go."

And Gera gave an insight into ­Hodgson's precise management style, saying: "When Roy arrived I knew it was the right decision by the club.

"His talk when he arrived was simple. He told us he wanted us to play his way and explained his methods.

"We listened because of all his ­experience. He made us sharper, he taught us the right things.

"He wanted players to be happy, play his way and to a system. It has worked perfectly.

"I know I speak for others when I say I don't want him to go but I can ­understand why other clubs would want him."

Now Gera wants to prove himself in a European final. "It is unbelievable what Fulham's success has created in my own country," he said.

"I speak to the media often but when I scored the winner against Hamburg in the last round the phone never stopped.

"My country has had a few football greats, such as Ferenc Puskas. It's nice to know we are still being talked about.

Former West Brom star Gera, ­nicknamed Zolly, was brought up in Pecs, the poorest part of his country's capital, Budapest.

And he added: "I have had to fight for ­everything, which makes this all the more enjoyable. I see no reason why we can't win the final.

Fulham tried to persuade the Premier League to bring forward today's trip to Arsenal by 24 hours to give them more time to prepare for the biggest game in their history.

Hodgson said: "We tried, we didn't use the media or other managers to put pressure on them. They said no, so we get on with it."

And rejecting talk he would field a weakened side ahead of Wednesday night's big match, he added: "I will put out a side that I feel is best for Fulham with a final a few days later.

"On Wednesday, Madrid will show the same nerves as us. The final is a 90-minute lottery. You need some luck – and you pray for it."


NEWCASTLE have made enquiries about Roma's former Liverpool defender John Arne Riise, 29.

But Toon face opposition from Fulham who have Riise's brother Bjorn Helge, 26, in their squad – an ace they are ready to use as bait.

The clubs' representatives have met and a deal is on the table but Fulham are keen to build on one of their best seasons which ends in a Europa League Final on Wednesday.

Norway international Riise wants a new challenge after a good season at Roma, who trail Jose Mourinho's league leaders Inter by two points.

Fulham boss Hodgson waves away praise for player development

Fulham boss Roy Hodgson has again waved away praise for his management this season.

He refuses to take the credit for prolonging the career of Fulham captain Danny Murphy, for drawing the best out of striker Bobby Zamora and rejuvenating Damien Duff.

Instead, he launches into yet another of those mixed analogies for which he is famed.

"Coaches lead players to the water and the players either drink or decide they want to jump over the stream," said Hodgson.

"That's what our job is. We prepare, orchestrate and direct but in the end it's not the concert director who plays the violin. It's the people themselves. A good director can help them by leading them the right way and getting their talent to the fore but coaches should never take credit for individual player performances. It is the players who have to take credit."

Up next: Arsenal (a)
by Dan on May 9, 2010

The end-of-season trek to the Emirates this afternoon is little more than a footnote in Fulham's ever-extending season. The life rather went out of the league campaign by the end of Wednesday's disappointing defeat to Stoke and Roy Hodgson must be sorely tempted to bench the first-team regulars for the final league fixture at Arsenal. The Fulham manager is already sailing fairly close to the wind with Bobby Zamora and Damien Duff, substituted at half-time against Stoke, serious fitness doubts for the eagerly-anticipated European final with Atletico Madrid.

If Hodgson held any feint hope of creeping into the top ten, it might have been extinguished by Matthew Etherington's clinical late strike in midweek. Stoke's strong display ensured they managed to leapfrog Fulham in the table and the Whites' chances of ending the season in the top half depend on an unlikely sequence of events that includes Fulham winning at Arsenal. Since a Fulham win in the red half of north London is unheard of, I think Roy might be justifying in giving some of the fringe players a run.

Of course, the true success of this campaign can't be measured by our placing in the league table. Hodgson's heroics after such an exhilirating Great Escape were rewarded with a European odyssey that stretched all the way from Vilnius to Hamburg with several stops across the continent inbetween. Roma, Shakhtar Donetsk Juventus, Hamburg and not even a cloud of volcanic ash could stall Hodgson's progress to the final. That he did it with the junior members of a still small-scale squad playing a full part makes the achievement all the more incredible.

Playing a second string side against Arsenal is always dangerous even if Arsene Wenger's team selections might have raised a few eyebrows themselves lately. Hodgson has been cleared by the Premier League of any wrongdoing after making drastic changes up at Hull earlier in the season so might feel free to tinker with his starting line-up once again. The calf injury Duff sustained after a brutal first-half tackle against Stoke might act as a reminder of the need to preserve Fulham's players for that date with Atletico.

Whoever Wenger picks, Arsenal will stay true to the principles that have made them England's best footballing side since the professor took up residence at Highbury. It's highly unlikely that Fulham will see as much of the ball as we did on our last trip – a 0-0 draw last year when the Whites matched their hosts pass for pass – but Roy won't want standards to slip regardless of how he shuffles his pack.

There might be recalls for Chris Baird and Nicky Shorey whilst Chris Smalling is almost certain to return to the heart of the defence. I can't see Roy risking Danny Murphy, who might be reaching veteran's status in terms of the Premier League, but remains so key to Fulham's chances of success and Jonathan Greening might get a go in his place. Bjorn Helge Riise could roam from the right in place of Duff and I'd like to see Nevland and Okaka get a chance to resume what looked like a promising partnership against West Ham.

MY FULHAM XI (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Baird, Shorey, Hughes, Smalling; Dikgacoi, Greening, Riise, Davies; Okaka, Nevland. Subs: Zuberbuhler, Kelly, Stoor, Etuhu, Murphy, Gera, Elm.